Forbidden Archaeology? Pseudo-archaeology and the Exaggeration of the Antiquity of Man

Some may be familiar with the woo-woo magazine, Atlantis Rising, but for those who are not, allow me to offer a brief introduction.

Atlantis Rising is a  popular magazine among mystery-mongers and significance-junkies that attempts to appeal to human curiosity as a weakness. Curiosity, of course, is generally a positive attribute in humanity, the cat notwithstanding, but AR seeks to exploit this character in such a way that the incredible is presented as probable. Often the authors of articles with topics like Atlantis, UFOs, and various supernatural and paranormal themes present spurious evidences or fail to consider alternate evidences that contradict the more sensational, woo-woo claim.

One such theme is the continued speculation that humans have a history that exceeds the currently accepted range of 150-200 thousand years. "Accepted" because of overwhelming physical evidence that has been consistent and predictable. Undoubtedly this would be a point that a significance-junkie or mystery-monger would happily zero in on: accusations of the establishment‘s reliance on predictable data and exclusion of anomalies is a common but fallacious criticism. They speculate on the exaggerated antiquity of man because this is an assumption that is necessary to support their claims of super-civilizations like Atlantis and Lemuria; and because of the romance that comes with the significance and the mystery of it all.

A recent issue of AR (March/April 2006) included an article on the Nabta Playa, by Mark Gaffney, and another on alleged human footprints in the ancient volcanic ash of the Valsequillo Basin of Mexico, by Michael Cremo. Gaffney is the author of Gnostic Secrets of the Naassenes that thinks Charles Hapgood is an "original and brilliant thinker" and that Hapgood’s pseudoscience is "essential reading ( 2006)." Cremo is the author of Forbidden Archaeology, a text of pseudo-academia that used out-of-context quotes mined from legitimate sources to paint a picture of human antiquity and accomplishment that exceeds what is truly evident.

In this post, we’ll examine the Nabta Playa. Perhaps I’ll get to cover the ‘footprints’ of Valsequillo in another.

Nabta Playa is the name of a site discovered in 1972 by Fred Wendorf of Southern Methodist University. One of the primary features is a calendar circle of stones used by Neolithic farmers to anticipate the winter and summer solstices. Artifacts dated absolutely by radiocarbon and relatively through seriation gave dates consistent with the Neolithic period. Despite the derision of Wendorf’s two-volume Holocene Settlement of the Egyptian Sahara, which Gaffney refers to as an interesting read with few answers," we’re able to see an evolution of monumental architecture from an early point. The placement of the stones at Nabta Playa reveals the ability of neolithic residents of upper Egypt to organize and manage public architectural products. Public architecture in antiquity didn’t’ occur without a need, either real or perceived. In the case of Nabta Playa, the real need may have been to aid in planting and harvesting crops. There may even have been a perceived need for ritualistic cult purposes.

Gaffney’s main interest in the Nabta Playa appears to be as "evidence of great antiquity," which he ultimately implies is an advanced civilization that can measure star velocities, distances, masses and positions of their planets at a period over 19,000 years ago! People in the region isn’t entirely implausible in and of itself, but the technologies of these people were limited and, until almost 9,000 years ago, they didn’t even have pottery. In the neighboring Levant, the period between 11,500-10,300 years ago is considered the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA). Pre-pottery.

Gaffney cites Brophy (2005) in support of the "ancient advanced civilization" speculation and reports that Brophy concludes the stones scattered on the Nabta Playa represent information of the masses, distances, velocities, and locations of stars other than our sun. I’ve yet to read The Origin Map, but if Gaffney is correctly reporting its contents, it would seem there are some major problems with Brophy’s scholarship. I have read Brophy’s work in Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry (Brophy and Rosen 2005), in which there is no mention of star velocities, companion stars and knowledge that couldn’t be reasonably expected in a pre-pottery neolithic culture.

And that really is a point that cannot be made more strongly: pre-pottery neolithic. Human culture has a very consistent progression in the archaeological record. In the Near East, pottery was a technology first developed during the Neolithic. It’s certain that other, less durable, technologies were long in existence, such as leather working, weaving, and, most certainly, stone tool making. Of these, only the stone tool industries are durable enough to survive. Leathers, cloths, woven plant materials, modified gourds and such simply don’t last, though there are some indirect evidences of these technologies to be found in later pottery styles that look like gourds or have functional features that might be found on leather pouches. There are also woven patterns impressed into clay or dirt or left as residue on rock that give hint to the technologies of weaving and cloth. Microlithics can reveal early agricultural efforts through analysis of striations called silica-glass on lunates, small, half-moon shaped lithics that can be used as a series of "teeth" affixed to a branch or, more likely, an antler to create a sickle.

Nowhere in the archaeological record, however, is there any evidence that neolithic peoples were able to measure and record the electromagnetic spectrum of a star to determine its redshift, nor are there any fossil interferometers discovered in the neolithic for determining the sizes of stars. Also not indicated is the mathematical skills needed to calculate stellar mass. Mathematical skill requires writing and writing wouldn’t be invented for a few thousand more years, well after pottery.

Gaffney writes,

Brophy believes information about the relative velocities of stars, and their mases, may also be encoded in the placements [of the stones at Nabta Playa]. And he thinks that smaller companion stones lying near the base of some of the large megaliths probably represent companion stars, or even planetary systems. Unfortunately, this cannot be tested at present because astronomy is not yet able to observe earth-sized planets across the reaches of space.

His implication is clear: there existed a civilization that was somehow more advanced than modern man yet unable to provide any durable artifacts. No metals, no ceramics and no glassware exist for this fictional civilization. Their stones and their bones as well as the bones of their cattle remain, but nothing that suggests that there existed anything other than a civilization whose most advanced technologies included microlithic stonework, a skill to be sure. For all intents and purposes, the people of this civilization were novice at agriculture and the stones they put into place at Nabta Playa were used to mark solstices and provide ritual use. According to Gaffney, Brophy has plotted stones outside of the circle which he claims represent on-the-ground analogs of star positions from up to 19,000 years ago. In the Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry article, Brophy and Rosen conclude the megaliths may have been constructed "more than 8,000 years ago."

6,000 to 7,000 BCE isn’t an unreasonable date to expect for the inhabitants to devise ritual and functional methods of anticipating the rainy seasons which followed the solstice as rains became increasingly erratic. The people of the Nabta Playa region developed pottery at around 8800 years ago and domesticated ovicaprids and perhaps bovids at around 8100 years ago. But at 17,700 BCE, about 19,700 years ago, the region was still arid, perhaps more arid than it is today (Wendorf and Schild 2000). There would have been no reason to care about the solstice or positions of the stars as there was no agriculture and probably no one willing to inhabit the desert.

One is left to wonder why, if Brophy wrote The Origin Map in 2002, why doesn’t he reassert his claims in Satellite Imagery, which was submitted for publication in peer review a full two years later? Moreover, if the assertions in The Origin Map are solidly evidenced, why doesn’t he cite it as a scholarly source in the journal of his peers? Could it be that even Brophy realizes his work is fringe at best, kooky at worst?

References (2006). Reviews Written by Mark H. Gaffney (Chiloquin, OR USA). Found on 7/30/06.

Brophy, Thomas G. (2002). The origin map : discovery of a prehistoric, megalithic, astrophysical map and sculpture of the universe (with foreword by Robert M. Schoch and afterword by John Anthony West). New York : Writers Club Press

Brophy, Thomas and Rosen, Paul (2005). Satellite imagery measures of the astronomically aligned megaliths at Nabta Playa. Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, 5(1), 15-24.

Gaffney, Michael H. (2006). The astronomers of Nabta Playa: new discoveries reveal astonishing pre-historic (sic) knowledge. Atlantis Rising, March/April, pp. 42-43, 68-70.

Wendorf, Fred and Schild, Romuald (2000). Late Neolithic megalithic structures at Nabta Playa (Sahara), southwestern Egypt. Found at


ArtiFACTS: Recent News in the Field of Archaeology

A 400 year-old well in Virginia’s Jamestown is yielding artifacts that include a Scottish pistol, a leather shoe, and a plaque that reads, “James Towne.” The well, covered and filled with trash before 1617, ended up part of an addition to the first Virginia governor’s house and it may be that the well was the one described in Captain John Smith’s journal, which was dug as early as 1608. Preservation was very good in the oxygen-deprived final resting place of the artifacts in the well, which also includes plant material, seeds, and pollen as well as fabric, leather, metal objects, bones and ceramics.

***Venture Smith***
In Connecticut, an excavation is underway at the grave of Venture Smith, a slave turned landowner for whom a legend was built around. Green Party candidate for Attorney General, Nancy Burton, filed an injunction to stop the excavation, stating that she was doing so on behalf of the “dissenting” family members of Venture Smith, though she legally represents none. The goal of the excavation is to uncover DNA and forensic data that can help historians learn more about the legendary figure.

A good overview of this story can be read in this article, Digging for Clues to Freed Slaves Origin. a couple of quotes from the article:

Our connection to Venture is very special, and we’d like to know as much about him as we can,” said [Coralynne ] Jackson [a Smith family member] who lives in Hartford. “That includes where he’s from, because that’s where we’re from. Knowing that tells us a little bit more about who we are. That’s something that was stolen from most slaves.

Venture Smith is one of the most well-documented survivors of the North Atlantic slave trade. He was born Broteer Furro around 1729, kidnapped by slavers in western Africa when he was just a boy, and then lived in servitude first in Rhode Island, then New York and finally Connecticut.

In 1765, Smith bought his freedom from a Stonington family, and later bought the freedom of his wife and children. He eventually bought about 110 acres of land in Haddam Neck, where he cut timber and farmed. Before he died, Smith told his story to a local teacher, who published it.

Read more about Venture Smith at this Wikipedia article.

***Maya King Discovered at Waka’***
Project Leaders Hector Escobar and David Friedel (an archaeologist from SMU) and their team have discovered what may be the tomb of the founder of the royal dynasty at Waka’, a Maya site that is known in modern times as El Peru. The site was originally discovered in the 1960s by oil prospectors and has since been the focus of looters who invaded the site, cutting up stelae for easy transportation and sale. “Elevator shaft” sized tunnels were carelessly dug by looters in search of royal booty, but Escobar and Friedel have beat them out. In recent years, the site has been excavated by the Proyecto Arqueológico Waka’, a joint American-Guatemalan effort to excavate and preserve the cultural treasures found there.

That hasn’t stopped looters from continued attempts to plunder Guatemala’s cultural history for a quick profit, however. Just the day before the tomb was discovered, looters invaded the tunnels in an attempt to steal whatever artifacts they could. The next day, archaeologists discovered the jewel encrusted remains of a king, perhaps even that of K’inich Balam, the Sun-Faced Jaguar who was married to a royal princess from Calakmul, capital of the royal dynasty of Kan, the snake people, in a marriage that forged an alliance between Calakmul and Waka’. More likely, according to project leaders, this is the tomb of an earlier king, possibly the founder of the dynasty that ruled Waka’ before the Calakmul alliance when Waka’ was 700 year trading partner of Tikal. It was the betrayal of K’inich Balam that caused the eventual destruction of Waka’ by Tikal and the desecration of stelae and monuments.

Learn more about El Peru and the Waka’ site as well as the helpless plight of the preserve to defend against looters, illegal loggers and the like in this video at the Archaeology Channel.

***Political Archaeology: Iranian artifacts to be looted from The Oriental Institute and Sold?***
In the linked story above, you’ll read of the attempt by attorneys of victims of the 1997 suicide bombing in the Ben Yehuda marketplace in Jerusalem to seize artifacts on loan from Iran in order to sell as a means of compensating for their losses.

In 2003, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina awarded $425 million in damages to the victims families to be paid by Iran. Obviously, the court had no ability to compel a sovereign nation to pay, so assets within the United States were located and liquidated, including a $400,000 ranch home in Lubbock, TX that once belonged to the shah. Next on the list are the Persepolis tablets, thousands of 2,500 year old unbaked clay tablets from which a wealth of cultural information is being obtained by the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.

This is a serious threat to cultural resource management, which could set a dangerous precedent. This is not a house or a boat, or a bank account or some other capitalistic resource of a foreign government. The Persepolis tablets belong to the world. They happen to be curated by the Iranian government, which has extended that curation to an esteemed and respected academic institution. If these precious artifacts are allowed to be looted by the courts and sold, there’s not a government in the world that wouldn’t hesitate to allow their cultural resources to be loaned to our museums and academic institutions. Would Egypt be willing to risk allowing the King Tut artifacts to tour American museums? Would the future government of Iraq allow American universities to examine cultural artifacts from the cradle of civilization? Even in the country? Would such a move make it difficult for American archaeologists to gain access to such sites and obtain permits to excavate?

There’s no denying that the victims and families of the victims of the suicide bombing that occurred in 1997 deserve compensation. There’s no denying that the Iranian government should be required to compensate if they did, indeed, sponsor the terrorists who conducted the bombing. But there is far more at stake in this case than seizing the assets of a foreign nation. Indeed, art and cultural assets should never be subject to such disputes. Nothing good can come from the looting of cultural artifacts, even if the looting is legally sanctioned.

I’ve Been Tagged! The Book Meme!

Afarensis hit me with the Book Meme. It comes at a time when I was trying to find something quick to post while I try to finish a couple other blog posts I’m working on, so great timing!

1) One book that changed your life?
A Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, by Carl Sagan. I read it years ago and still find myself browsing through it from time to time. I find this has been my most recommended book over the years as I introduce others to critical thought and science.

2) One book you have read more than once?
Both Demon Haunted and Broca’s Brain (Sagan), but also Moby Dick.

3) One book you would want on a desert island?
FM 21-76, The U.S. Army Survival Manual.

4) One book that made you laugh?
Big Trouble, by Dave Barry.

5) One book that made you cry?
Tewa World Space, Time, Being, and Becoming in a Pueblo Society, by Alfonso Ortiz.
Okay, I’m being silly. This ethnography made me want to cry, it was so difficult to read, but I couldn’t actually think of a book that made me cry. I’m sure that there are many that have moved me emotionally. Melville, Dickens, Steinbeck… all authors capable of doing it. But I just can’t think of a specific instance with any where I may have teared up.

6) One book you wish had been written?
The Sea Peoples: Our Exploits, Our Motivations, Our Origins, a collection of essays by the Sea Peoples.

7) One book you wish had never had been written?
Genesis. I was tempted to say Godless, but even white trash has a right to free speech.

8) One book you are currently reading?
Who reads just one at a time?

Map of Bones, by James Rollins.

The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts, by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman.
Facing the Ocean: The Atlantic and Its Peoples 8000 BC-AD 1500 by Barry Cunliffe

9) One book you have been meaning to read?
Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind, by V. S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee

10) Now tag five people –
Okay… Coturnix at A Blog Around The Clock, Silkworm at Defending Science, Martin at Salto Sobrius, Kristine at Amused Muse, and Clark at Unintelligent Design.

Tag! You’re each it! And if they follow their Technorati and SiteMeter links they’ll know it.

By the way, the links to Moby Dick and the U.S. Army Survival Manual are to the full texts.

Tangled Bank #58

The Tangled Bank is up at Salto Sobrius a fellow archaeology & skeptic blogger. Go see!

Artifacts from the Getty Returned to Greece

Two artifacts alleged by Greek authorities to have been stolen and illegally marketed ultimately to The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles are to be repatriated to Greece, a request that the nation has had for over a decade now for a total of four artifacts. The J. Paul Getty Museum has only agreed to return two of the four, which are alleged to have been stolen from an excavation storeroom and smuggled out of Greece to end up at the Getty. Pictured here are the two artifacts destined to be returned: a 4th century BC inscribed tombstone and a 5th century BC marble relief.

The remaining two artifacts are, perhaps the more important, and not on the Getty’s list to be returned: a 2,500-year-old solid gold funerary crown, and a marble torso of a young woman known as a kore. The funerary wreath is part of an on-going Greek criminal investigation, which includes that method of acquisition the Getty utilized.

This news article at Zante’s news page provides some interesting information on the criminal investigation.

More on the topic of antiquities trade later….

Review: Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures, Part 1

As many who are critics and fans alike are aware, Kevin Trudeau, scam artist extraordinaire and mongrel of multi-level marketing, has a new book out, which is titled, More Natural Cures Revealed: Previously Censored Brand Name Products That Cure Disease. This one is a follow-up to his previous work of pulp fiction, Natural Cures "They" Don’t Want You to Know About.

I wrote a critical review of Trudeau’s infomercial in which he provided some very bogus information (known by critical thinkers as "lies"), which you can find at this link.

I thought it prudent to review his first book, Natural Cures, especially since in his latest work of admitted fiction, Trudeau instructs his readers to read it if they haven’t already. I spent the better part of two or three afternoons in my local Barnes & Noble, sucking down coffee (of course) and making notes from their copy of Trudeau’s nonsense. I refused to actually pay for it.

The following is my brief review on Natural Cures "They" Don’t Want You to Know About.

Trudeau structures his book in 15 chapters and three appendices:

  1. I should be dead now
  2. What’s wrong with health care in America?
  3. It’s all about money
  4. Who are "they"?
  5. Why are we sick?
  6. How to never get sick again
  7. Why people are fat
  8. How to lose weight effortlessly and keep it off forever
  9. How to read food labels
  10. Not convinced?
  11. Frequently asked questions
  12. Still not convinced?
  13. "Natural" cures for specific diseases
  15. The Solution

Appendix A. Free Bonus Materials: Newsletter articles
Appendix B. No-Hunger Bread: a true FDA horror story
Appendix C. How to find a health care practitioner


As is the case with all con-artists that wish to avoid legal problems due to their bogus "self-help" books, Trudeau begins with a disclaimer:

Before you read this book you had better check with your medical doctor, your friends, your politicians, your priest, your rabbi, your psychic, and anyone you feel is smarter than you, and see if you can get permission to read what I have to say.

Trudeau sets his tone of the book right from the beginning. He seeks to appeal to the natural human tendency to root for the underdog, but I hope, as I construct this criticism of his work, that it will be revealed that Trudeau is anything but an underdog. He is a con-artist. A fraud. Indeed, his "books" are frauds perpetrated on the real underdogs: the consumers that Trudeau pretends to be and advocate for. Trudeau is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing, which seeks to fleece the pocketbooks of people with a genuine need to find solutions in healthcare.

And so the tone of the book is begun, the affronted underdog, oppressed by "the establishment" who is restricting his rights to free speech. He then goes on to impart that everything in the book is his "opinion" and anything done by the reader without medical supervision is done at their own risk. The book, he maintains, is for "educational purposes only" and only a medical doctor can prescribe medications, punctuated by Trudeau’s commentary of "how sad!"

The "educational purpose" of Natural Cures would seem to be on how a con-artist is able to appeal to hopes and fears of his mark in order to get them to spend $30 on a book and potentially hundreds more on junk newsletters and a subscription website.

Kevin Trudeau Should be Dead.

Or at least that’s what the title of his first chapter would indicate. In it, Trudeau begins with a personal anecdote of being diagnosed with a heart problem: mitral valve prolapse (MVP). This heart condition, which Trudeau calls a "severe" condition, took days to get diagnosed by "three of the top heart specialists in America" who used "the most advanced medical diagnostic devices" was discovered by a single new age nutbar (Dr. Yiwen Tang of Century Center in Reno, NV) with a magical meridian energy device (the "Dermatron ") was able to find his MVP in just a few seconds! Moreover, it was a "natural, inexpensive, quick and painless" treatment that cured him. A "treatment" so secret and "forbidden" in America, that it is illegal!. But Trudeau claims that just two months after his "treatment," further diagnosis by doctors (real ones, apparently) revealed no heart problem.

Folks, this is how the book begins, and it continues in exactly the same bullshit fashion throughout. Let me explain:

Mitral valve prolapse is a common heart condition which affects up to 25% of the population. Those that have MVP typically have a minor problem with their mitral valve that allows small amounts of blood to leak back in the heart when the valve doesn’t properly close. Even the most novice of nurses trained to listen for it can hear the tell-tale "clicking" that accompanies the normal heartbeat and certainly any medical doctor could diagnose the condition in only a few seconds with a simple stethoscope (simple but definitely the only "advanced diagnostic device" needed!). You see, mitral valve prolapse is also known by its more common name: heart murmur; a late-systolic murmur to be exact.


CORRECTION: I’ll leave the incorrect information in the paragraph above intact. Wondering if I was right about the ease with which MVP is detectable (I based my assumption on a conversation I recall with a nurse I once worked with a few years ago), I asked a pediatrician to fact check for me. That pediatrician is Clark Bartram over at Unintelligent Design, and I owe him a big thank you for setting me straight. I should have asked him sooner!

As it turns out, MVP is bit more complicated than most heart murmurs: “There are a number of cardiac issues that can lead to a murmur and not all murmurs are pathologic. Also the click is not always present, nor is a murmur. It is often an incidental finding with no significance (Clark Bartram).” He also noted that, while even skilled nurses and doctors might not be able to diagnose MVP with a stethoscope, as I so wrongly stated, the condition is easily detected by echocardiogram, which still makes Trudeau’s anecdote of taking weeks to be discovered through the most advanced diagnostic equipment a bit of balderdash.

Also provided was a new source of information, eMedicine, which notes: “In the US: MVP can be identified by echocardiography in 3-4% of the general population, and it is identified in 7% of autopsies.” The MV Prolapse site I linked to above gave a figure of 5-20%.

Trudeau says that physicians told him that the condition was "incurable," which is true if what is expected in the definition of "cure" is something that can be ingested or consumed to change the body’s physiology. But in cases that are serious, the mitral valve can be operated on, replacing the valve itself, thus "curing" the individual. The valve itself is faulty and a hereditary condition. Yet Trudeau claims to have a magical cure that he refuses to share with the world.

This magical cure is as much bullshit as the diagnosis he alleges to have received from the new age nutbar. Trudeau claims that the "Dermatron Machine" was able to diagnose his MVP. The only truth Trudeau offers in this chapter appears to be that the "Dermatron " is illegal and so is the treatment he claims: cellular injection therapy. There are good reasons.

The Dermatron

A good source of information on this quack device can be found at (Barrett 2005). From Dr. Barrett’s article there:

Proponents, claim these devices measure disturbances in the body’s flow of "electro-magnetic energy" along "acupuncture meridians." [1] Actually, these devices are little more than fancy galvanometers that measure electrical resistance of the patient’s skin when touched by a probe. The device emits a tiny direct electric current that flows through a wire from the device to a brass cylinder covered by moist gauze, which the patient holds in one hand. A second wire is connected from the device to a probe, which the operator touches to "acupuncture points" on the patient’s other hand or a foot. This completes a low-voltage circuit and the device registers the flow of current.

The information is then relayed to a gauge or computer screen that provides a numerical readout on a scale of 0  to 100. According to Voll’s theory: readings from 45 to 55 are normal ("balanced"); readings above 55 indicate inflammation of the organ "associated" with the "meridian" being tested; and readings below 45 suggest "organ stagnation and degeneration." The size of the number actually depends on how hard the probe is pressed against the patient’s skin.

Such devices aren’t complicated or magical. Nor do they do what their proponents claim. Not a single valid study has been conducted that demonstrates that they work. And it would be a simple experiment for the proponents to validate. Simply set up a double-blind experiment using both ill and non-ill subjects of whichever disease or ailment the proponents of the device are most comfortable with and record the results. Either it will detect and cure or it won’t.

Trudeau’s fans will doubtlessly note that he doesn’t indicate in chapter one that the device "cures" but others do elsewhere, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that the con-artist Trudeau is willing to support these claims if it furthers his own agenda –which, clearly, is to pad his wallet.

Devices similar to the Dermatron are used and claimed by other alternative medicine nutbars such as Hulda Clark, author of The Cure for All Cancers, and the idea was born of Reinhold Voll, a 1950s acupuncturist. The circuitry of modern devices of this sort are simple square-wave oscillators with a one or two resisters and capacitors and a potentiometer to give an oscillation, all running on a small battery of, perhaps, 9-volts. Clark’s claim is that such a device is able to cure cancer and provides instruction in her book to build such a device for minimal cost.

One wonders why there are no documented cases of cured cancer. That is, unless you buy into Trudeau’s crap. Trudeau uses a logical fallacy (among many, many others) called poisoning the well by setting up the reader to believe that the reason such claims aren’t validated is because "Big Pharm," the government, and medical doctors are suppressing it. And he expects you to believe it.

Never mind that going public with verifiable evidence for cures that can cheaply and quickly solve problems like cancer and MVP would make instant heroes and celebrities out of the doctor, government official, or pharmaceutical engineer that can validate them. Never mind that there are peer-review and oversight entities that would prevent such things. Never mind that even if most of the thousands of people who work in these fields were actually dishonest, that there would be almost zero chance that all of them are. Surely one of the "honest" government, pharmaceutical, or medical personnel is able to go public with evidence that a simple, $15 square-wave oscillator can dowse or divine what ails you and even cure you of cancer!

Cellular Injection Therapy

Yes. It’s illegal. And for good reason since the concept involves injecting cellular material from other species of animals into people.

Again, Dr. Stephen Barrett (2003) offers some well-researched information, useful to the lay-person who may be deceived by con-artists and fraudsters who care about your money and not your health as they claim. I’ll include Barrett’s citations.

  • A 1957 survey of 179 West German hospitals revealed 80 cases of serious immunological reactions, 30 of them fatal, in cellular treatment recipients (Gelband et al 1990).
  • In 1975, the AMA’s consumer magazine Today’s Health described how two men died from gas gangrene following injections of fetal sheep cells at the New Life Clinic near Fort Meyers, Florida, operated by Robert A. Peterson, Jr., D.O. The article noted that: (a) Peterson falsified the cause of death on the death certificate in an attempt to conceal what had happened, and (b) in Germany alone, 35 deaths had been traced to practitioners who had tried to use Niehans’s technique; and (c) Peterson subsequently had his license revoked and was indicted for mail fraud and tax evasion (Lindemann & Cubbison 1975)
  • In 1981, allergic reactions to calf thymus tissue derived from 5-day-old animals were reported in a study of patients with histiocytosis X (Osband et al 1981).
  • During the 1980s, cases were reported of polyradiculitis, leukoencephalitis, Guillian-Barré syndrome, immune complex vasculitis, encephalopathy, and a blistering skin disease resembling bullous pemphigoid (de Ritter et al 1987; Goebel et al 1986; Bohl et al 1989).
  • In 1987, the British journal Lancet reported on the death of a popular female athlete who had received several hundred injections of various cell preparations. She had developed a painful nerve condition, had been given dipyrone (a dangerous drug), and had gone into fatal shock (Lancet 1987).

In closing of this portion of my review, I’ll add that there are good reasons why the Dermatron and "cellular injection therapy" are both illegal. They’re harmful. They’re sole purpose is to deceive those that are desperate for health care and take their money, regardless of the risks to their health or the shams they’re based on.

Throughout his book Trudeau condemns modern Western medicine and uses another logical fallacy, which is the appeal to the ancients or tradition. Trudeau maintains that alternative treatments, cures, and lifestyles are healthier and more advantageous and gives whole lists of "problems" with modern medicine, health and hygiene (many if not most items are simply wrong, out of context, or out-right lies). No one can deny that there are improvements that can be made in modern healthcare, and let us hope this will always be the case… who would want to live in a society where healthcare and medicine are rigid and unchanging where progress is absent? But it cannot be overlooked that modern Western medicine works. The average lifespan of cultures where Western medicine has not been introduced is far, far less than that of Western societies. Anthropological and archaeological evidence is very clear. Earlier humans had lifespans of about 40-45. In some African nations where Western medicine has yet to be consistently introduced, the average lifespan is about 35 even today.

I’ll continue this with additional parts, reviewing other chapters of Trudeau’s book of pseudoscience, lies and deception if this one gets a lot of hits and comments (good or bad).



Barrett, Stephen (2003). Cellular Therapy.

Barrett, Stephen (2005). Quack "Electrodiagnostic" Devices.

Bohl J et al (1989). Complications following cell therapy. Zeitschrift fur Rechtsmedizin 103:1-20.

Gelband H et al (1990). Cellular treatment. In Unconventional cancer treatments. Washington, DC, U.S. Government Printing Office, pp 97-98.

Goebel HH et al. (1986). Fresh cell therapy followed by fatal coma. Journal of Neurology 233:242-247.

Lancet (1987). Cell therapy suspended. Lancet, Aug 29, p. 503.

Lindeman B, Cubbison C: (1975). Cellular therapy: A shabby clinic offered rejuvenation but delivered death. Today’s Health 53:36-41.

Osband ME et al. (1981). Histiocytosis-X. Demonstration of abnormal immunity, T-cell histamine H2-receptor deficiency, and successful treatment with thymic extract. New England Journal of Medicine. 304:146-153.

de Ridder M et al. (1987). Two cases of death following cell therapy. Deutsche Medizinische Wochenshrift 112:1006-1009.





Gorillas Get Sodium From Tree Bark

I remember my Primate Evolution class and the mention that Gorillas chew bark and spit it out. The hypothesis, according to my professor, was (if I remember correctly) possibly they do this for some nutrient they cannot get elsewhere.

As it turns out, new research has shown that decayed wood provides over 95% of the gorilla’s dietary sodium.

Sodium is important for the healthy functioning of living organisms, and is involved in muscle contractions, regulating blood pressure and maintaining water and acid-base balance, among other things.

Read more in this Livescience article.

Point of Inquiry: a don’t-miss Podcast

If you download podcasts on a regular basis, this is one to add to your iTunes list. If you’ve never downloaded a podcast before, or if you don’t use iTunes, click one of the links in the following paragraphs to read more and download an MP3 file that you can play on Winamp, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, or any other MP3 compatible media player.

Point of Inquiry is a weekly podcast produced by the Center for Inquiry (CFI), "a think-tank devoted to promoting science, reason, and freedom of inquiry in every field of human interest." From the Point of Inquiry website, CFI’s research areas are:

1. Pseudoscience and the paranormal (bigfoot, UFOs, psychics, communication with the dead, cryptozoology, etc.)
2. Alternative medicine (faith healing, homeopathy, belief in "healing touch," the efficacy of prayer, etc.)
3. Religion and secularism (church-state separation, the effects and proper role of religion in society, the future of secularism and nonbelief, etc.)

The show is hosted by DJ Grothe, who has lectured at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, UCLA, UC Berkeley and others on topics of education, humanism and secularism, and he has interviewed some of the most interesting luminaries in the fields of science and philosophy and critics of pseudoscience and the paranormal.

Some recent shows:

James Randi – Science Magic and the Future of Skepticism
Grothe interviews James Randi, author of Flim Flam! , The Truth About Uri Geller, and The Faith Healers in a discussion that takes place after Randi’s recent heart problems. It’s good to here The Amazing Randi back in proper form, speaking out against the bunk in faith healing and future of skepticism. In this interview, Randi recounts his early involvement in the skeptical movements after being expose to local faith healers (and his run-in with the law as he tried to expose them as an adolescent skeptic!). He gives a brief overview of his successes in debunking con artists like Uri Geller and Peter Popoff, who, Randi reveals, is back in action with a program of faith-healing on BET -fleecing money from willing believers.

Joe Nickel – Psychic Detectives
In this interview, Joe Nickel, the author of Psychic Sleuths and regular contributor to Skeptical Inquirer, discusses the motivations and methods of so-called psychic detectives who claim to assist the police in solving crimes. Points covered include the reasons why police investigators are often reluctant to discourage or deny assistance from "psychics," even if they don’t believe they’re genuine. Nickel also discusses Alison DuBois, for whom the fictional television show Medium is loosely based.

Daniel Dennett – Breaking the Spell
A wonderful interview with philosopher Daniel Dennett, author of Darwin’s Dangerous Idea and, more recently, Breaking the Spell, which was the main topic of the interview. Dennett discusses the scientific study of religion and justifies how and why religion can and should be studied. Dennett’s book, for those that haven’t read it, is also high on my recommended reading list. He makes a solid case for the illogical nature of religious dogma and explores the human instinct of religiosity from a scientific perspective.

Richard Dawkins – The Root of All Evil?
Finally, Groethe interviews Richard Dawkins, author of The Ancestor’s Tale, The Devil’s Chaplain, and The Selfish Gene. The main theme of this discussion centers around Dawkins’ recent BBC production titled The Root of All Evil? in which Dawkins explores the failings of religiosity from a skeptic’s perspective. Dawkins discusses the two part documentary’s production and highlights some of those he interviewed. I watched both parts of this documentary in full, but it’s not yet available in the United States, and may not ever be. You can see a clip below.

There are many, many more interviews available at Point of Inquiry and these are just a few of my many favorites. Visit them and download your podcasts today! And, once you have, share with us here what your favorite shows were and why.

The 38th Skeptic’s Circle

… is up at The Skeptic Rant. Enjoy a Skeptic Cola like the Quack Quencher, Woo Brew, Scam Sipper and Creationist Tonic.

Tangled Bank #56

…is up at e3 Information Overload, E-Resources for Engineering Education.

Click on over and find links to some of the best in science blogging.