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Yes, There Are Crystals

March 17, 2020

We’re having what I am calling a zero-tolerance attitude toward fake medicine profiteering during this crisis. So when our own Nick Little found his beloved Wegmans store hawking homeopathic products during all the disaster-prep shopping, he was having none of it, and sent a message to the CEO:

“As you are well aware, we are currently in the midst of a global viral pandemic,” the letter continues. “To promote and encourage the use of what can only be described as snake oil in this situation is one of the most irresponsible things I can imagine. People rely on your pharmacy for their health needs. People will, as a result of your profit seeking actions, rely on homeopathic products to treat and prevent COVID-19, and go about their regular activities with a false sense of security that they are protected, and that they cannot pass this virus on to their family, friends and colleagues.”

Who is the one person you’d want to talk to for some real talk on a viral outbreak? Paul Offit, of course. So Felipe Nogueira got Dr. Offit on the video chat machine for the CFI Free Thinking blog. Straight-talk example:

I can’t imagine that a vaccine would be ready for phase 3 efficacy trial within two years. … The notion of cure is not really the right one for viruses. It is possible to treat bacterial meningitis and bacterial pneumonia; you kill those bacteria and the patient gets dramatically better, but that is not the way antivirals work.


President Trump appeared to actually take the virus somewhat seriously for the first time, and goodness, Fox News just turned right on that dime with him. Business Insider reports on the flipping of the switch from “DEMOCRAT HOAX” to “um this is serious”:

After weeks of echoing President Donald Trump’s optimistic assurances that the impact of the coronavirus on the US would likely be minimal, Fox News hosts are now admitting that the pandemic might be a pretty big deal after all. … On Friday, the president declared the coronavirus a national emergency. And by Monday, the network’s top hosts had shifted their tone as well. …

… Sean Hannity, who reportedly serves as an informal adviser to the president, last week said on radio that the claims that the coronavirus is a “fraud,” perpetrated by the deep state to suppress dissent and depress the US economy, “may be true.”

But by last Friday, Hannity struck a very different tone, acknowledging the scale of the crisis faced by the US — and hailing the measures taken by Trump.

“Tonight, we are witnessing what will be a massive paradigm shift in the future of disease control and prevention,” he said on his show, “Hannity.”

Al Donato at HuffPost explains why skeptics should have some patience with folks who want to turn to “traditional” medicine during the crisis:

Shutting down coronavirus myths doesn’t take much work, but think twice before you take your mom to task for being gullible. There are perfectly logical reasons why someone would put their faith in home remedies, according to psychology expert Steve Joordens. Understanding why a family member puts their faith in garlic can lead to more productive conversations than chastising them. … It’s easy for people to latch onto solutions that feel familiar, such as believing a household ingredient can cure what ails them. …

… before you start laying into your loved one’s beliefs, take into account what motivates their support for the alternative treatment and what the health product in question is. There’s a difference between a family member who is over-enthusiastic about turmeric — a spice with proven immunity-boosting benefits — and a family member who keeps drinking silver because Pastor Jim Bakker convinced them to buy it.

It’s not just fake medicine and a viral infection we need to worry about, but also fake information and a malware infection. Dan Goodin at Ars Technica reports on email, app, and web scams designed to trick you into getting a computer virus, stealing your identity, or ransoming your private information. Humanity!

Courtney Mares of the Catholic News Agency talks to the Religious Freedom Institute’s Tom Farr about when one’s religious liberty to attend church services is trumped by a health emergency:

The religious freedom advocate explained that any government exercising its authority in such an extraordinary fashion should abide by the following criteria to ensure religious freedom:

“Such decrees may not be employed arbitrarily, for example, to target a particular religion or religion in general. They must be public, clear, and transparent. They should be preceded by consultation with the religious communities involved.”

Decrees banning religious freedom also “must be grounded in overwhelming evidence, available to all, that public health would be severely endangered without such a decree. They must be time-limited, with a clear and public expression of when the ban will end,” Farr told CNA. … Farr said that such banning large gatherings, if not specifically targeting religion, is understood to be within the government’s prerogative at a time of crisis.

Whatever, says the New Life Christian Center in Austin, Indiana, which is defying advice about not gathering in large groups, and is even encouraging people to touch each other, which I definitely thought Christians weren’t supposed to do.

Whatever, says the Thomas Road Baptist Church, run by the Falwells, which held a big conference about MEN with BIG MEN being MEN.

Dead fake psychic Sylvia Browne is popular again, thanks to Kim Kardashian pointing out that dumb “prophecy” about a pandemic. Andrew Whalen at Newsweek reminds people who the hell she was, notes our own Ben Radford’s recent debunking of said prophecy, and, thankfully, lists 27 instances of Browne getting things wrong, “sometimes with tragic consequences.”

Priorities: the UFO Festival in Roswell, scheduled for July 3 to 5, is not being cancelled. Why? Aliens don’t carry the coronavirus, obviously.

Emily McFarlan Miller at RNS reports on the New Age concept of Astral Travel, which I guess turns us all into Doctor Strange:

Astral travel, Acab explained, involves projecting one’s consciousness outside of the physical body. It can include travel to another physical place or to what she called “energetic dimensions that exist beyond the physical.”

It’s not just something that sounds like it came out of a “Star Wars” movie.

“The heart of astral travel is about shifting our consciousness beyond the physical,” she said. …

… And, yes, there are crystals — a few available for sale at the back of the studio and others that were positioned on a cloth-draped altar alongside burning incense and other items to support people’s practice during the astral travel workshop.

Of course there are crystals.

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.