Scattered throughout Northern Japan around the Yamagata Prefecture are two dozen mummified Japanese monks known as Sokushinbutsu, who caused their own deaths in a way that resulted in their mummification. The practice was first pioneered by a priest named Kuukai over 1000 years ago at the temple complex of Mount Koya, in Wakayama prefecture. Estimates of the number of self-mummified priests in Japan range between sixteen and twenty-four priests. Impressive though this number is, many more have tried to self-mummify themselves; In fact, the practice of self-mummification — which is a form of suicide, after all — had to be outlawed towards the end of the 19th century to prevent Buddhist priests from offing themselves this way. and yet the grand majority of priests who have tried to do this have failed. The reasons will take some explaining — but first, some background on the whole practice and the reasons for it.
Sokushinbutsu refers to a practice of Buddhist monks observing austerity to the point of death and mummification. This process of self-mummification was mainly practised in Yamagata in Northern Japan between the 11th and 19th century, by members of the Japanese Vajrayana school of Buddhism called Shingon (“True Word”). The practitioners of sokushinbutsu did not view this practice as an act of suicide, but rather as a form of further enlightenment. Those who succeeded were revered, while those who failed were nevertheless respected for the effort.
It is believed that many hundreds of monks tried, but only 24 such mummifications have been discovered to date. There is a common suggestion that Shingon school founder Kukai brought this practice from Tang China as part of secret tantric practices he learned, and that were later lost in China. Today, the practice is not advocated or practiced by any Buddhist sect, and is banned in Japan. The practice was satirized in the story “The Destiny That Spanned Two Lifetimes” by Ueda Akinari, in which such a monk was found centuries later and resuscitated.
So truely devote Buddhist priests are not afraid of death; but they don’t normally seek it either, as this too would be an abnormal obsession with the physical world. The priests that chose to practice self-mummification were usually all older men, who knew they had limited time left to their lives anyway… and since the practice takes years to lead to a sucessful death and mummification, it cannot be characterized as an attempt to reach enlightenment quickly as a normal suicide might be. Rather, the intended purpose of this practice for these priests is to both push their ability to disregard their physical selves to the limit of their ability, and to try and leave an artifact of this struggle that will stand as a symbol of their beliefs to those that are priests after them.
The practice of self-mummification seems somewhat macabre to today’s civilized population. However, for some sects of Buddhist priests, it was a form of further enlightenment. Many of these priests voluntarily went through a ten-year gruesome process of self-mummifying, belie ving that extreme physical pain and denial created an opening to a higher spiritual level, the ultimate attainment of “passing into the state of nirvana.”
The practice of self-mummification in Japan has its roots in the esoteric school of Shingon Buddhism called the Shingon-Shu, established in the Heian Period (794-1185). The founder of this new Buddhist movement was a monk named Kobo Daishi, also recognized as Kukai. Kukai’s teachings reflect an influence derived from Tantric Buddhism, which comes from the Great Vehicle Sect, called the Mahayana School. Between the years 804 and 806, Kukai studied in the rural province of T’ang in China, where he worked on mastering esoteric practices. After having studied in China, Kukai returned to Japan bringing with him the three theological building blocks that were the basis of the Shingon School.
The first was the idea of the all-powerful syllable, the meaning of which can be found in the etiological root of the word “Shingon.” Shingon is taken from the Chinese word “Chin-yen” (true word). Chin-yen is a transliterated form of the Sanskrit word for “mantra” (sacred noise making up the universe, such as the syll able “om”). The next theological seed was the most important iconographical symbol in esoteric Buddhism, the two Mandal as denoting the impermanence of life and the inevitability of birth and rebirth in the ever-moving wheel of Samsara. The third and most influential to esoteric Buddhism’s dev elopment in the Japan came back with Kukai in the translated form of two Tantric Buddhist scriptures known as the Machav airocana sutra, describing the relationship between man and the cosmic Buddha, and the Sarvatathagatatattvasamgraha sutra. These texts were especially helpful in giving Shingon the claws to dig into and plant the seeds of esoteric Buddhism’s fertility in Japanese religious history. Kukai transliterated these texts into the vernacular from Sanskrit. His transliterations played a pivotal role in the formation of the Shingon School. Long after Buddhists in the native country of India discarded the two sutras and the Chinese no longer practiced their rituals, the Japanese kept the practices alive.
These secret teachings spread to a variety of places.“Esoteric Buddhist history was practiced from India to Central Asia, Ceylon, China, Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Nepal, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and Tibet.” By the seventh or eighth century, secret Buddhist rituals, like self-mummification, reached an apex and developed in regions of Japan.
How to be a self-made mummy
Scientific study of the mummies and the process that created them only began in the early 1960’s. It was generally expected that the mummies studied would show signs of having been mummified after death by other priests, in much the way Egyptian mummies — and almost all other mummies on Earth — have been created. The first step in that process is the removal of the internal organs, because the bacteria in these begin the process of decomposition within hours of death; with these removed, it is relatively easy to prepare, dry, and preserve the remainder of the body. But x-rays discounted this expectation… the internal organs were intact, which meant that mummification had been accomplished in some new way that scientists had not yet encountered. So the process itself was next investigated.
The actual practice was first pioneered by a priest named Kuukai over 1000 years ago at the temple complex of Mount Kooya, in Wakayama prefecture. Kuukai was founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, which is the sect that came up with the idea of enlightenment through physical punishment. There were three steps in the process of self-mummification that Kuukai proposed, and the full process took upwards of ten years to lead to a successful mummification.
The first step is a change of diet. The priest was only allowed to eat nuts and seeds that could be found in the forests surrounding his temple; this diet had to be stuck to for a 1000 day period, a little under three years. During this time, the priest was to continue to subject himself to all sorts of physical hardship in his daily training. The results were that the body fat of the priest was reduced to nearly nothing, thus removing a section of the body that easily decomposes after death.
In the second stage, the diet became more restrictive. The priest was now only allowed to eat a small amount of bark and roots from pine trees (mokujiki). This had to be endured for another 1000 day period, by the end of which the priest looked like a living skeleton. This also decreased the overall moisture contained in the body; and the less fluid left in the body, the easier to preserve it.
Towards the end of this 1000 day period, the priest also had to start to drink a special tea made from the sap of the urushi tree. This sap is used to make laquer for bowls and furniture; but it is also very poisonous for most people. Drinking this tea induced vomenting, sweating, and urination, further reducing the fluid content of the priest’s body. But even more importantly, the build up of the poison in the priest’s body would kill any maggots or insects that tried to eat the priest’s remains after death, thus protecting it from yet another source of decay.
The third and last step of the process was to be entombed alive in a stone room just big enough for a man to sit lotus style in for a final 1000 day period. As long as the priest could ring a bell each day a tube remained in place to supply air; but when the bell finally stopped, the tube was removed and the tomb was sealed.
When the tomb was finally opened, the results would be known. Some few would be fully mummified, and immediately be raised to the rank of Buddha; but most just rotted and, while respected for their incredible endurance, were not considered to be Buddhas. These were simply sealed back into their tombs. But why did some mummify and some not? This is the tricky part of the whole process.
It is not clear if this is part of the process as set down by Kuukai, but in Yamagata is a sacred spring. This spring is on a mountain called Yudono, which is in fact the third sacred mountain of the three I visited in 1998. Many of the priests in the area considered both the water and the mineral deposits from this spring to have medicinal value, and may have injested one or both previous to their entombment. An analysis of the spring water and deposits revealed that they contain enough arsenic to kill a human being! Arsenic does not get eliminated from the body, so it remains after death… and it is toxic to bacteria and other micro-organisms, so it eliminated the bacteria that started the decompostion of the body.
The importance of such psychoanalysis can be observed in Richard Payne’s discussion of Shingon’s four ritual stages of self-transformation of the mind called Shindo Kegyo. In his discussion, he us psychology as a tool for analyzing this four-pronged ritual transformation. “Clearly, ritual must be more than a mechanical technique (such as simple breathing exercises might be).” The practitioners of such rituals report elated feelings of connection to generations of previous worshipers.
The process of self-mummification is broken down into three 1,000-day periods. Each period is characterized by physical and mental changes caused by phase-specific austerities and excruciating pain. The process is not some mystic secret, but rather a calculated scient ific means for ridding the body of material that cannot cross over into nirvana. In the first phase the priest is restricted to a diet of only nuts and grains surrounding the temple complex.During this time the practitioner endures extreme hardships, such as meditating under icy cold mountain streams for hours on end. “Japan is a mountainous country.” Therefore, most of the Shingon temple complexes are in the proximity of large sacred mountains.During the second phase of the process, the fat matter that causes the body to decompose is greatly reduced. Upon entering the second one thousand-day period, the priest’s body fat is near zero. In this stage, the diet is restricted even fu rther to only miniscule amounts of pine bark and roots from pine trees.
After this stage, the priest is like a “skin-covered skeleton.” The dehydration helps in preservation of the body. Towards the end of the second stage, “A special tea is made from the sap of the urushi tree.” This sap is used as a lacquer for furniture. The tea is a poisonous concoction that causes vomiting and sickness that further decrease the moisture in the body, but more importantly, its build up in the system prevents insects from speeding up the decomposition process. This, in turn, helps the self-mummification process by protecting the to-be mummified priest from natural elements. Upon entering the final stage, the priest is given a bell and then sealed in his tomb where a tube is inserted into a small opening in the top. Every day, he rings the bell.
Eventually, when the ringing stops, the tube is removed. At the end of the last 1000-day period, nearly ten years a fter starting, the tomb is opened and the results are seen. Out of the thousands who have tried to complete this decade long process, most are decomposed, and thus, have failed in their efforts. Only a select few actually achieve this fascinating but grisly transformation. The priests who triumphed in their endeavor are said to be one with the cosmic Buddha. While the people who tried and failed are praised for their fervor, they are not thought to be Buddha. Therefore, they enter back into the wheel of Samsara. One of the questions scientists pose is why some bodies decompose while others mummify. “In a place called Yamagata, there is a sacred spring on a mountain called Yudono.” In this area, there have been reported higher levels of mummification success. It was in the same area that Kukai first pioneered this practice in Japan. Many of the priests from this prefecture reported drinking water before entombment.
Why Scientific Peer Review is a Sham
Today Science is up on a pedestal. A new god has appeared; his high priests conduct the rituals, with nuclear reactors, moon-probing rocket ships, cathode tubes and laser beams. And their territory is sacrosanct; laymen are denied entry. – Bruce Cathie
In recent years the defects in the peer review system have been the subject of a profusion of critical editorials and studies in the literature. It is high time that the world took heed of what the critics are saying, not least of all because of the medical and health ramifications.
The notion of peer review has long occupied special territory in the world of science. However, investigation of suppressed innovations, inventions, treatments, cures, and so on, rapidly reveals that the peer review system is arguably better at one thing above all others: censorship. This can mean censorship of everything from contrarian viewpoints to innovations that render favored dogmas, products, or services obsolete (economic threats).
The problem is endemic, as many scientists have learned the hard way.
In truth, the systemic failure of peer review is one of science’s major, embarrassing open secrets.
As Dr David Kaplan tells us, “[P]eer review is known to engender bias, incompetence, excessive expense, ineffectiveness, and corruption. A surfeit of publications has documented the deficiencies of this system.”
Australian physicist Brian Martin elaborates in his excellent article Strategies for Dissenting Scientists:
Certain sorts of innovation are welcome in science, when they fall within established frameworks and do not threaten vested interests. But aside from this sort of routine innovation, science has many similarities to systems of dogma. Dissenters are not welcome. They are ignored, rejected, and sometimes attacked.
Electric universe researcher and Big Bang critic Wal Thornhill (a REAL scientist) stated plainly in our GFM Media interview that the peer review system amounts to censorship. Fellow independent scientist Gary Novak agrees scathingly:
“Peer review is a form of censorship, which is tyranny over the mind. Censorship does not purify; it corrupts…There is a lot of junk science and trash that goes through the peer review process.”
Brian Martin asks us rhetorically:
What do [scientists] have to gain by spending time helping an outsider? Most likely, the alleged discovery will turn out to be pointless or wrong from the standard point of view. If the outsider has made a genuine discovery, that means the outsider would win rewards at the expense of those already in the field who have invested years of effort in the conventional ideas.
Herein lies the problem in moving science forward and shifting paradigms. A paradigm is only as malleable (or mutable) as the minds and egos invested in it.
The Problem of “Experts”
The reality is (as any real scientist will tell you) that scientists are prone — just like lay people — to being cathected to their pet theories and opinions, especially if they have been visibly rewarded or publicly obtained accolades or financial remuneration as a result. Scientists, like laypeople, have susceptible emotional bodies and often fairly hefty egos — partially due to their “expertise” and academic titles, qualifications, theories, etc.
Once those hefty egos — belonging to people generally known as “experts” — rise to positions of power and/or influence, they can calcify the flow of scientific progress as well as the understanding of new discoveries or theories — particularly if they end up acting as “peer reviewers” at high levels in prestigious publications. In that capacity, too many become mere gatekeepers and seek not to facilitate innovation or vital new Copernican-scale revelations, but to maintain the status quo which got them there in the first place.
Dr Malcolm Kendrick comments in his excellent book Doctoring Data that, “by definition, anyone who is an ‘expert’ in an area of medicine will be a supporter of whatever dogma holds sway.”Close study of power dynamics in medicine bears this out. The players with the deepest pockets have the funds to buy all of the “experts” they need to sell a bogus product or ideology to an unsuspecting public.
Consider the following words from The Lancet’s editor Richard Horton (pictured below):
The mistake, of course, is to have thought that peer review was any more than a crude means of discovering the acceptability — not the validity — of a new finding…We portray peer review to the public as a quasi-sacred process that helps to make science our most objective truth teller. But we know that the system of peer review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily fixed, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish, and frequently wrong. (emphasis
Peer review, as a “quasi-sacred” process that somehow supposedly transcends the foibles and follies human nature has taken on sacred ritual status. Has the paper been blessed by the Peer Review Priest? Peer review is held to be more than just pragmatically useful and functional (which clearly it is not, generally speaking) — it is held as a transcendent, almost magical, organizing force occurring in the heavenly ivory towers of Science, which somehow avoids falling prey to human weaknesses by virtue of those humans’ lofty qualifications as “scientists” or “experts.”
Scientists, of course, aren’t quite human — they are something more, something pure, something that the layman can never be. Students undergo a magical alchemical process as they proceed through educational institutions and emerge transformed from their chrysalis with their doctorates, masters, stethoscopes and equations. They are the Chosen Ones, the purified, the holy, the redeemed, the righteous. They do not have to answer to the lowly non-scientific peasantry – let alone unbelieving heretics.
It is clear, however, that not only is the popular view of peer review misleading, but the most prestigious publications are some of the very worst offenders. Significant scientific publications — for example, the journal Nature — have a well documented history of prejudice against findings or hypotheses that run contrary to established scientific dogma.
Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in May 2000, Canadian-based researcher, David Sackett, said that he would “never again lecture, write, or referee anything to do with evidence based clinical practice,” over his concern that “experts” are stifling new ideas. He wants the retirement of experts to be made compulsory and I think it’s a brilliant proposition.
Sackett says that “…progress towards the truth is impaired in the presence of an expert.”
Trusting “experts” in oncology, for example, is generally a very good way to artificially speed one’s trip to the grave, particularly if one has metastatic cancer (allopathic medicine is notoriously ineffective in that realm). And yet “experts” are now on a rarified level that perhaps only popes and celebrities can understand — they are virtually demigods today.
In the main, “experts” are those people in the establishment who espouse the mainstream dogma and reify the politically correct belief structures. “Experts” are lionized because the world that made them experts promotes and validates them when they affirm the already established (and profitable) beliefs — and the media is complicit in this. If you want to be horribly misled on any number of important issues, just head straight to just about any mainstream news media outlet and listen to the establishment’s “experts.”
Is it not time to get the crusty, rigidified, and corrupt Old Guard out of the way so we can let science move forward?
Is Most Research Just Bullshit?
Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Marcia Angell is the former Editor-in-Chief at the New England Journal of Medicine, where she spent twenty years poring over scientific papers, saturated in the dubious practices that pervade the world of medical research. She states bluntly:
It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.
Most “experts” in medicine are, psychologically speaking, simply engaged in well-paid groupthink and confirmation bias exercises, vigorously affirming and defending their ego’s (lucrative) construction of the world. To paraphrase physicist Max Planck, medicine, like science, “advances one funeral at a time.”
Once the public has accepted the scientific establishment’s truths, narratives, and designated “experts” then researchers who yield findings deviating from the accepted norm can be immediately branded as crackpots, lunatics, fringe nuts, pseudo-scientists and so on, regardless of how meticulous their methods, and irrefutable their results.
The media is crucial in this control dynamic because it sells the establishment’s reality.
Thus is the politically correct status quo maintained.
Peer “Review” Lets Garbage Through — and Lots of it!
“Peer review” censorship exemplifies the neophobia in the world of science which serves to protect the status quo rather than improve knowledge by weeding out dubious epistemologies and results, as it is meant to. This supposed mechanism of “quality control” has resulted not only in the dismissal of much important and credible research, but it has also let fraudulent research –and lots of it! — be published at the same time. Papers that appear to support fashionable ideas or entrenched dogmas are likely to fare well, even if they are badly flawed — or outright rubbish!
David Kaplan, a professor of pathology at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, has stated that,
Peer review is broken. It needs to be overhauled, not just tinkered with. The incentives should be changed so that: authors are more satisfied and more likely to produce better work, the reviewing is more transparent and honest, and journals do not have to manage an unwieldy and corrupt system that produces disaffection and misses out on innovation.
Is it any wonder that John Ionnidis reported in his famous 2005 paper that, “Most research findings are false for most research designs and for most fields”? Given the already outlined problems, is it really surprising that, in Ionnidis words, “Claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias”?
Dr. Marc Girard, a mathematician and physician who serves on the editorial board of Medicine Veritas (The Journal of Medical Truth), has written,
The reason for this disaster is too clear: the power of money. In academic institutions, the current dynamics of research is more favourable to the ability of getting grants — collecting money and spending it — than to scientific imagination or creativity.
In general, peer reviewers — generally not time-rich — don’t try to replicate experiments and rarely even request the raw data supporting a paper’s conclusions. Who has the time for all that? Thus, peer review is, according to Richard Smith writing in Peer review in health sciences,
thought to be slow, expensive, profligate of academic time, highly subjective, prone to bias, easily abused, poor at detecting gross defects, and almost useless for detecting fraud. (emphasis added)
What about fake peer review? This is where the corrupt and abysmal becomes the theatre of the absurd. For example, Berlin-based Springer Nature, who publishes the aforementioned Naturejournal announced the retraction of 64 articles in 10 journals in an August 18th statement in 2015. This followed an internal investigation which found fabricated peer-review write-ups linked to the articles.
The purge followed
similar discoveries of “fake peer review” by several other major publishers, including London-based BioMed Central, an arm of Springer, which began retracting 43 articles in March citing “reviews from fabricated reviewers”.
Yes, that means reviewers that don’t exist — recommended as “reviewers” by the people submitting their work for review. Imagine writing a paper and being able to nominate a non-existent person to review your work, and the contact email supplied to the publisher for this purpose is actually one you made up, which routes the paper back to you (unbeknownst to the publisher), so that you can then secretly carry out a (favourable) review of your own work under a pseudonym!
It’s being done, folks, this is not a joke.
In response to fake peer review some publishers have actually ended the practice of author-suggested reviewers.
And now for the Conceptual Penis…
Recently two scientists performed a brilliant Sokal-style hoax on the journal Cogent Social Sciences. Under the pen names “Jamie Lindsay” and “Peter Boyle,” and writing for the fictitious “Southeast Independent Social Research Group,” Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay wrote a deliberately absurd paper loosely composed in the style of “post-structuralist discursive gender theory” — what exactly that is they made no attempt to find out.
The authors tell us:
The paper was ridiculous by intention, essentially arguing that penises shouldn’t be thought of as male genital organs but as damaging social constructions…We assumed that if we were merely clear in our moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, we could get the paper published in a respectable journal. (emphasis added)
And they did. After completing the paper, and being unable to identify what it was actually about, it was deemed a success and ready for submission, which went ahead in April 2017. It was published the next month after some editorial feedback and additional tweaking. To illustrate how deliberately absurd the paper is, a quote is in order:
We conclude that penises are not best understood as the male sexual organ, or as a male reproductive organ, but instead as an enacted social construct that is both damaging and problematic for society and future generations… and is the conceptual driver behind much of climate change.
In plain English, they (seemingly) argued here that a penis is not a male sexual organ but a social construct; the “conceptual penis” is problematic for “gender (and reproductive) identity,” as well as being the “conceptual” driver of climate change. No, really. How this ever got published is something to ponder. The paper is filled with meaningless jargon, arrant nonsense, and references to fake papers and authors.
As part of the hoax, none of the sources that were cited were even read by the hoaxers. As Boghossian and Lindsay point out, it never should have been published. No one — not even Boghossian and Lindsay — knows what it is actually saying.
Almost a third of the sources cited in the original version of the paper point to fake sources, such as created by Postmodern Generator, making mock of how absurdly easy it is to execute this kind of hoax, especially, the authors add, in “‘academic’ fields corrupted by postmodernism.” (emphasis added)
The Spectacular Success of Hoax Papers and Non-existent Authors
In April 2010, Cyril Labbé of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, used a computer program called SCIgen to create 102 fake papers under the pseudonym of Ike Antkare. SCIgen was created in 2005 by researchers at MIT in Cambridge in order to demonstrate that conferences would accept such nonsense…as well as to amuse themselves.
Labbé added the bogus papers to the Google Scholar database, which boosted Ike Antkare’s h-index, a measure of published output, to 94 — at the time, making Antkare the world’s 21st most highly cited scientist. (emphasis added)
So a non-existent scientist has achieved the distinction of being one of the world’s most highly cited authors — while “authoring” papers consisting of utter gibberish. Congratulations are certainly in order. In February 2014 it was reported that Springer and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), were removing over 120 such bogus papers from their subscription services after Labbe identified them using his own software.
Going back at least as far as 1996 journalists and researchers have been getting spoof papers published in conferences or journals to deliberately expose weaknesses in academic quality controls. “Physicist Alan Sokal (of the famous Sokal Affair) succeeded in the journal Social Text in 1996,” while Harvard science journalist John Bohannon revealed in a 2013 issue of Science that he had duped over 150 open-access journals into publishing “a deliberately flawed study.”Bohannon organized submission of the flawed study (technically, many different but very similar variations of the study) to 304 open access journals worldwide over a period of 10 months. 255 went through the whole editing process to the point of either acceptance or rejection.
Any reviewer with more than a high-school knowledge of chemistry and the ability to understand a basic data plot should have spotted the paper’s shortcomings immediately. Its experiments are so hopelessly flawed that the results are meaningless.
The hoax paper was accepted by a whopping 157 of the journals and rejected by only 98. Of the 106 journals that did conduct “peer review,” fully 70% accepted the paper.
If peer review was a transparent and accountable process, according to Gary Novak,
there might be a small chance of correcting some of the corruptions through truth and criticism; but the process is cloaked in the darkness of anonymity…Due to the exploitive and corrupt process, nearly everything in science has official errors within it…[A] culture of protecting and exploiting the errors creates an official reality which cannot be opposed.
Returning specifically to the arena of (mainstream) medicine, a quote in PLoS Medicine, states:
“Journals have devolved into information laundering operations for the pharmaceutical industry”, wrote Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, in March 2004. In the same year, Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, lambasted the industry for becoming “primarily a marketing machine” and co-opting “every institution that might stand in its way”…Jerry Kassirer, another former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, argues that the industry has deflected the moral compasses of many physicians, and the editors of PLoS Medicine have declared that they will not become “part of the cycle of dependency…between journals and the pharmaceutical industry”.
In the words of John Ionnidis, “Most scientific studies are wrong, and they are wrong because scientists are interested in funding and careers rather than truth.”
If most studies are wrong, and most scientists are more interested in their own careers and funding than getting at the truth — while journals daily allow bogus and flawed pharmaceutical research to be published and promoted — then why would anyone in their right mind believe the claims made by doctors about the efficacy of products based upon “peer review” or pharmaceutical “studies”? What does a term like “safe and effective” even mean in this world of deception and subterfuge?
Clearly the problem of corruption and conflicts of interest have been increasingly on the radar of professional academics for some time now, so much so that it has been the subject of an increasing number of harshly critical articles and editorials. Conveying the depth and breadth of deception to the “uninitiated,” however, presents a unique challenge. And it isn’t just conflict of interest and corruption to blame for the failure of peer review, there is human bias, shoddy review work, fake reviewers and fraud, and varying other human interests to factor in.
At the very least we need to cease indoctrinating students into the dogma that all good things have been peer reviewed, and the converse: anything that has not been peer reviewed is clearly blasphemous and crafted by the unholy hands of sinners. In the meantime, the public needs to be warned: peer review is largely a sham and will not protect you or your family from medical pseudo-science or dangerous pharmaceutical products. Your doctor’s word should not be blindly trusted, especially when we know that doctors rely absurdly heavily on information (read: propaganda) provided by the pharmaceutical industry itself (can you say “conflicted”?!) in developing their views and opinions.
I can’t help but cringe when I hear people ask if a study has been “peer-reviewed.” The response this question most often deserves is simply, “Who cares?”
The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. — Richard Horton, Offline: What is medicine’s 5 sigma? The Lancet, 11 April 2015, thelancet.com (Horton is editor of The Lancet)
About the Author
Brendan D. Murphy – Co-founder of Global Freedom Movement and host of GFM Radio, Brendan D. Murphyis a leading Australian author, researcher, activist, and musician. His acclaimed non-fiction epic The Grand Illusion: A Synthesis of Science & Spirituality – Book 1 is out now! Come and get your mind blown at www.brendandmurphy.net
“What a wonderful job of collating and integrating you have done! Every person in the field of ‘paranormal’ psychology or related topics should have this book as a major reference.” – Dr. Buryl Payne
“A masterpiece…The Grand Illusion is mind-blowing.” – Sol Luckman, author of Potentiate Your DNA.
“You’ve written the best synthesis of modern science and esoteric science that I’ve seen in 40 years of study in that area. Brilliant!” – Michael K. Wade
Please visit – www.globalfreedommovement.org
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Marijuana Arrests Outpace All Violent Crime
Reminder: the war on drugs is still in full effect.
It may be easy to forget with more and more states turning to legalized recreational and medical marijuana. It can get lost when we hear so many government officials responding to the opioid crisis with calls for compassionate treatment instead of harsh punishments.
But it is happening nonetheless.
Although felt daily in communities across the country, this fact only seems to break into the general consciousness every now and then. A reminder came earlier this week when the FBI released new crime statistics showing a 1.6 percent increase in marijuana-related arrests in 2016 compared to 2015.
The figures represent a change in the overall trend, with marijuana related arrests declining steadily since 2008, and even hitting a two-decade low in 2015. But the numbers still show over 650,000 arrests made in an endless pursuit to rid the country of a non-lethal drug.
To put everything in perspective, the FBI says, “Nationwide, law enforcement made an estimated 10,662,252 arrests in 2016. Of these arrests, 515,151 were for violent crimes, and 1,353,283 were for property crimes.”
So police arrested more people for marijuana than they did all violent crimes combined.
Again for the people in the back: at a time when more states are legalizing marijuana because they no longer consider it a crime, we are still arresting more marijuana users than violent offenders. To be clear, this country would be thrown into sheer chaos if people committed violent crimes at the same rates they use marijuana. So the fact that arrests for those crimes are lower can be seen as a positive sign in at least one regard.
But the statistics still speak to how law enforcement agencies use our tax dollars and where their priorities lie. It’s a question of resources, both in terms of time and money. In 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union found that marijuana arrests cost taxpayers around $3.6 billion in 2010 alone.
How much better could society function if that same $3.6 billion were used to combat property crimes and violent crimes? Or better yet, diverted to other social programs that look to curb recidivism and lower crime rates in the first place? We as citizens have a right to know and decide how our tax money is spent, and if marijuana is a problem, how many people consider it a $3.6 billion problem?
While it’s unclear what caused the uptick in arrests, the fact is they’re still happening. Prevailing attitudes towards marijuana have been changing for years, and in all likelihood they will continue to change as the country as a whole takes a more relaxed attitude toward the drug. Yet every day people are being arrested and forced to pay the penalty for something that may not even be a crime a few miles away. However this news moves you, remember, the war on drugs is far from over.
FBI: Marijuana Arrests Outpace All Violent Crime was last modified: February 19th, 2018 by
Dystopian Robot Tailor Makes Terrible Shirts
A Tailored Task
Machine learning and artificial intelligence have been used for several exciting tasks in recent years, including helping fight against mental illness, discovering new exoplanets, and teaching AI systems new languages.
There’s one task that AI hasn’t mastered: making clothing. It probably seems a little mundane compared to exploring the universe, but for most of us, finding a good shirt is more useful than finding a new planet.
A California-based clothing company has been trying to help AI make the move from the fabric of the cosmos to just…well, fabric. Original Stitch lets users create their own button-up dress shirts. The company once tested a service that claimed to be able to make accurately-sized dress shirts using nothing more than a photo of a similar shirt for reference.
Considering that many of us buy clothes online simply hoping they’ll fit, the concept was a savvy one. Even if we get the shirt and it doesn’t fit, how many of us would admit that we ended up just keeping the shirt, rather than trying to wrangle what was required to ship it back?
While it sounded good in theory, as Bloomberg’s Pavel Alpeyev and Jason Clenfield found out, Original Stitch’s ambitious goal to use AI to make shirts ultimately wasn’t up to the task. According to the pair, the first shirt they ordered was “too tight around the chest and too long in the sleeves.” The second (presumably made with the aid of a higher quality photo of the desired shirt) had similar issues. The third attempt couldn’t be buttoned up at all. Given it’s true that some people do wear shirts unbuttoned — but if you bought a shirt expecting to button it up, its inability to do so is understandably disappointing.
A Stitch in Time
Perhaps unsurprisingly, once it was established that the service wasn’t succeeding, it was taken down. As of December when the company shuttered the service, Original Stitch founder Jin Koh told Alpeyev and Clenfield that the service is obviously “still in beta.”
Koh is currently working on an improved version of the computer-vision software behind the service, which could be released later this year. Instead of using one photo, the updated version will require three: one of the desired shirt, another of the wearer’s chest, and the third photo of the wearer’s chest from the back.
For the user, it’s a little more work than the first iteration of the service (imagine asking a friend to take a picture of your back). If it works, having the ability to buy tailored clothes online would likely be appealing — especially if it eliminates the need for going to the store and trying on clothes in the dressing room, for those who dislike doing so.
We’ve known for a while that automation is expected to impact many industries in the years to come, but who could’ve ever guessed tailors would be at risk of being replaced by robots?
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