Sunday, April 09, 2006

Scientologists - Letter to Sunday Standard 9/9/2006

Outsa Mokone

The Editor
The Sunday Standard
P/Bag 351


9th April 2006

Dear Mr Mokone

I was very surprised to see the article published in the Sunday Standard on 9th April entitled “Scientology paints Botswana yellow” which covers the efforts this bizarre cult is making to convert people in Pandamatenga.

You make very veiled suggestions about me in the article, even though I am not named. As far I can recall only two people or organisations have written anything negative about the Scientologists in the Botswana press. I was one and the other was the Sunday Standard. You refer to “vitriolic letters to the editor write-ups”, which can only have been the ones I wrote. If you don’t have the courage to name me then please let me do it for you. What persuaded you at the Sunday Standard to fall for their propaganda? Have the alien ghosts the Scientologists believe in got to you?

My impression of your article is that it has been lifted directly from Scientology propaganda. 17 of your 24 paragraphs contain quotes directly from the Scientologists or flattering statement written to them from their gullible admirers. Only one paragraph even suggests that their may be any reasonable critics of this ridiculous cult, namely the very sensible German Government.

I wonder how many of the people in Pandamatenga really know what the Scientologists believe in? How honest have they been? Maybe I can fill in the gap they left?

One of their core (and confidential) beliefs is only made available to those who have paid enough and reached what they call “Operating Thetan Level 3”. This is that 75 million years ago Xemu, the Emperor of the Galactic Federation, decided to cure his over-population problems by murdering excess aliens by bringing them to Earth and killing them with hydrogen bombs. The souls of these people were then brainwashed with a "three-D, super colossal motion picture" for 36 days. These souls managed to escape and now haunt our minds and cause all our mental health problems. At the same time apparently this Xemu guy implanted both Christianity and Islam in our collective memory.

I am NOT making this up! Court records from the USA prove this and I would be very happy to make copies available to anyone interested. Oh and do the cult mention that before he founded his own religion L Ron Hubbard was a failed science fiction writer?

You appear to have breached your own “accuracy test” in publishing the article. Your own standards state that you must ask yourself “what absolute proof do I have that the story is correct”. Much of what you wrote in the article is absolutely false. For instance towards the end you refer to “how successful it’s drug treatment programs are” when the only scientific research into Narconon, the Scientology drug treatment program, showed it to be a catastrophic failure.

This study was conducted in Sweden in 1981 and the Scientologists claim that it showed 76.8% of 61 drug abusers they treated were drug-free four years later. However if you examine the report you find that only 14 of the 61 actually completed the Narconon program. Of those 14 only 4 said they hadn’t used drugs since. That’s a real success rate of just under 7%. That is not a success by anyone’s standards.

Incidentally your readers may have noticed that it’s not even possible to have 76.8% of 61 drug abusers without cutting them into pieces. It doesn’t come to a whole number.

In February 2005 the California State Superintendent Jack O'Connell urged all schools to drop the Narconon program after research concluded that it offers inaccurate and unscientific information and is seen by most as just a recruitment wing of the Church. In 1989 Everett R. Rhoades, M.D., the US Assistant Surgeon General said of Narconon that it “cannot be considered medically sound”. In 1991 the Board of Mental Health of the State of Oklahoma declared that Narconon “is not medically safe”.

I must also say that I am genuinely outraged that the cult has persuaded our police officers, teachers, customs officers and community leaders to lend them their support in their official capacities. Maybe we should ask Government if these officials were in fact authorised to endorse the actions of this cult?

Yes, people may think I have some grudge against the Scientologists. Yes, I suppose I do. Maybe my problem is that they were founded by a lying, cheating, apartheid-supporting, drug-abusing fantasist who constructed a church to make money from the gullible and the naïve. How can the cult he founded deserve any respect when they still idolise and canonise this now deceased drug-crazed madman?

I would like to end with a few quotes from the lunatic Hubbard himself that give a flavour of the true beliefs and ethics of the Scientology cult.

“Make money. Make more money. Make other people produce so as to make more money.”

Regarding critics of the cult he said “May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any

Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed”

And my personal favourite, written in 1952: “The only way you can control people is to lie to them. You can write that down in your book in great big letters. THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN CONTROL ANYBODY IS TO LIE TO THEM.”

With best regards

Richard Harriman

Friday, April 07, 2006

Sceptical about... Alternative Health

Everywhere we look there are offers of so-called alternative or complementary health products and services. There are homeopathic remedies in health shops, reflexologists that cure our illnesses by fooling around with our feet, people that sell us crystals because they channel energy and, well, the list is almost endless and seems to be growing every day.

So am I going to say that it's all rubbish and that people are wasting their money every time they buy one of these remedies?


Well, OK, perhaps not all of them. I may be sceptical but I'm not totally dismissive. I DO realise that many of the mainstream medicines we consume came from what you can call "natural" origins. Penicillin for instance was discovered when samples in a laboratory were infected by an air-born mould. Warfarin, commonly used to treat heart conditions, is found in many plants such as sweet clover and even in liqorice.

So I'm not against the idea that tomorrow scientists might discover that another so-called natural remedy does actually contain chemicals that cure disease and boost health. It happens all the time. Scientists all over the world are examining traditional remedies and finding amazing things.

What I AM against though is some of the more ridiculous claims that have absolutely no scientific basis.

A good example is homeopathy. The idea behind homeopathy is quite simple. An ailment can be treated with minute quantities of substances that produce similar symptoms to those of the ailment. Quite how this works is never explained although homeopaths no doubt want us to think that it's a bit like vaccination where an inert form of a dangerous infectious agent is given to the patient so he or she can form a resistance to it.

However, homeopathy and vaccination are completely different. One has a scientific basis and can be proved to work and the other? Well, no evidence I'm afraid, other than those "experiments" conducted by homeopaths themselves and they aren't exactly renowned for their scientific credentials.

Oh and one other difference between homeopathy and vaccination? One actually contains an active ingredient and the other doesn't. Homeopathic "remedies" are produced by repeatedly diluting a sample of the supposedly active ingredient. A homeopath may take a 1% solution of the active ingredient, perhaps a plant extract in water or alcohol and dilute it further several times. After being diluted to 1% each time you can quickly work out that after 10 dilutions only 1 atom in every hundred billion billion will be of the so-called active ingredient. And the most common forms of homeopathic remedy are actually diluted in this way thirty times. There is simply nothing left from the original ingredient. There's nothing there apart from water or alcohol.

So how do homeopaths claim it works? Well, if you have scientific background, sit down before reading further.

Apparently the water in which this ingredient once resided "remembers" that it once met the substance in question. Homeopaths talk seriously about "the molecular memory of water". And there was me thinking water was just hydrogen and oxygen and not something that remembered previous visitors.

Want another absurdity? Homeopaths believe that the more diluted the liquid becomes the more effective it is. And another? The principle of homeopathic "succusion" states that the remedy becomes even more effective still if you thump it against the heel of your hand or a leather pad. I promise you I am NOT making this up.

Homeopathy is nonsense. It flies in the face of all that we have learnt over the last couple of thousand of years in the fields of chemistry, physics and biology.

So what about all of you who have taken a homeopathic remedy and felt better afterwards? Were you imagining it? Was your mind playing tricks on you?

I don't think you were imagining it and I don't think you've gone mad. It just wasn't the little phial of water you drank that made you feel better.

So what was it? Well, there are three possibilities. Firstly you may have just got better! It happens. People just get better. Their bodies fight an ailment and win. Our bodies are usually pretty good at it. They have had millions of years to develop an immune system after all.

Secondly, there's the intervention effect. Sometimes just deciding to take action about your health brings about an effect indirectly. You start eating properly, taking exercise and looking after yourself better and this might involve you starting to take homeopathic remedies. Why assume it's the remedy that did it? Maybe all that extra fruit you ate that kept the colds away? At least fruit contains Vitamin C, something that actually does something!

The last possibility is the one that people often dismiss but is actually one of the most remarkable things that can happen in medicine. A truly remarkable effect that should never be dismissed or thought of as somehow second rate. The placebo effect. Just the action of taking medication can bring about an improvement, even if the medication is no more than a sugar pill. Nobody quite knows how it works but it does.

So why not embrace these possibilities instead of assuming that the homeopathic remedy you bought did something when it cannot possibly have done so?