Western Medicine

Not long ago on Reptiles Canada, one of the members posted a piece about the wonders of fruit and the dangers (yes, dangers) of eating it AFTER MEALS (cue scary-voice)! It seems that the wundercure that is fruit turns nefarious if eaten on a full stomach. Also: drinking cold water after a meal causes cancer. Needless to say, I was not impressed. I replied that the piece lacked any sort of evidence and was simply making dramatic claims, and that I was sceptical. The piece also brought out some of the less informed among the board, who began extolling the wonders of organic and chemical free diets, as well as the evils of the food and drug industries. Of course, their primary complaint was "Western Medicine". My reply was perhaps more antagonistic than necessary, but thankfully several other members of the forum were able to state the case in more reasoned manners. The thread quietly died, and I won an argument on the interwebs. Obviously a huge life accomplishment.

Unfortunately the believers in food-magic couldn't leave it there, and a few days ago the discussion was kicked up again. Back into the ring they threw their despicable terminology, and we once more are rallied to the defence of science. 

All of the above is, of course, my long winded way of stating that I'm going to talk about the term Western Medicine, and why I hate it so much.

These proponents of Chinese/Herbal/Natural/Woo (CHNWoo) medicine would have us believe that this is a simple issue. There are those who trust the evil Western Medicine, which is a money-hungry industry, and those who put faith in the planet, chakras, xi, and magic plants. This, of course, is just another aspect of fanaticism being filtered through a persecution complex. They want to believe in the simplistic quick-fix of food-magic so badly that they invent an entire industry of greedy doctors who want nothing so much as to make money and indirectly kill babies.

Western Medicine is either a misunderstood concept or downright made up, depending on how extreme the opposition is feeling. It is supposed to be based around treating only the symptoms of illness, being corrupted by greedy corporations who are jealous of CHNWoo's true ability to heal. All of which is bollocks. Evidence based medicine is what CHNWoo supporters label as WM, and it has nothing in common with the latter. Evidence based medicine is a scientific process based around testing theories and applying them to practical applications in managing and curing human ailments. At times it treats symptoms, but the true focus is the eradication of illness through understanding its processes. Nor does evidence based medicine discriminate against natural remedies. If a substance in nature can be co-opted for healing the body, and can be shown to do so with empirical evidence, it becomes medicine. The reason that CHNWoo is not accepted by evidence based medicine is that... it's not medicine. Studies done on the majority of herbal remedies, acupuncture, chiropractic therapies, and -gag- homeopathy, consistently show that there is little to no effect. In the case of the more extreme CHNWoo such as homeopathy and water therapy (sorry... hydrotherapy) not only is there no measurable effect, but there is no scientific basis for the "remedies" themselves. If these absurdities were to actually be viable scientific therapies they would pass into the realm of real, evidence based medicine, and cease to be woo.

Hopefully this is more an informative piece than an outright rant. My ability to explain is far behind my ability to understand at this point, but hey, that's why I'm wasting my time here :P

On the Keeping of Tarantulas

When I mention that I have tarantulas, there are rare occasions where the first reaction is not an expression of befuddlement. These unlikely times I instead will be met with "Wow! I've always wanted a tarantula!"

Hearing such a phrase tickles me greatly, primarily because it means that I have just found someone who will listen to me rant about the astounding nature of theraphosid spiders. On a less egotisitical level I am pleased to know that yet another person may be sucked into the hobby.

Luckily for those so intrigued, keeping tarantulas is a simple matter, requiring only a small container and a suitable food source. All that remains is minimal effort and the joys of observance. The hardest part of the process comes down to deciding which species most piques your interest.

James Randi's Announcement

James Randi, magician-turned-prominent sceptic/atheist, and a hero of mine, has "come out" at the age of 81. This was greeted by a chorus of support, occasional condemnation, and a significant number of people saying it was unimportant and inconsequential.

While I want to side with those who yawn and say "so what?" I know that Randi's announcement is important and should be recognised. Of course it shouldn't matter that he's gay, but unfortunately, to the majority of people in North America, it does. Saying it's unimportant is only sweeping the issue out of sight in the hopes that the opponents of sexual freedom (sounds nefarious :P) will lose power.

For those to whom sexual orientation truly does not matter -and by the way, if your motto is "so long as they don't hit on me" then it does still matter to you- it is sometimes easy to forget how society at large still sees homosexuals (and other LGBT's). Even if we ignore the non-Western treatment of LGBT, which often still include death penalties, there is still a majority which is biased against those who aren't straight.

Despite how this may read I am not trying to cause guilt. This is just a reminder that we are not "over" the gay issue any more than we are over race or gender.

An Introduction to Tarantulas

Having talked about bugs and reptiles, I have only grazed the surface of kept animals that give common people the willies.

Few creatures on earth inspire undeserved fear than do spiders, and among spiders tarantulas stand as exemplars of terror. This is, of course, due to a lack of education among the masses, with a hearty supplement from media exploitation. Films are especially guilty of spreading misinformation and fear about spiders, and while fantasy is wonderful, when people don't know fact from fiction innocent creatures suffer. Such was the fate of sharks after Jaws, and spiders after Arachnophobia. Both are movies I enjoy watching, but abhor for the damage they've done to their associated animals.

In an effort to undo some of the harm that lack of education has done to tarantulas, I'm going to offer a primer on the large spiders.

First, what makes a tarantula?

Those who know me know that -to put it lightly- I get annoyed by pseudoscience. At least pseudoscience portrayed as real science. Fictional pseudoscience includes mad science, and that's just cool.

Many are the times my father and I have earned harsh remarks from my mother when bashing the church, and I have been embroiled in numerous debates-turned-arguments over spirituality and the harm even base mystical beliefs can have with a certain someone. I do think that over the last year or so my knowledge on these topics has grown along with my tolerance for those who espouse what I feel are ridiculous beliefs, but I do still need to consciously check myself often when someone mentions religion.

And then there's homeopathy. When mentioned at work I rarely have the will to resist a derisive snort, and often I'll chime in with an ironic comment about its efficacy and worth. Thankfully the majority of my fellow employees recognise now the true inanity of this quack treatment, but unfortunately I have not yet rallied myself to approaching the higher-ups. My comments are usually greeted with a knowing chuckle "oh, there's Kenneth being irate again".

Issues with religion aside, pseudoscience tips me off for one real reason: false hope that does harm.

Veterinary Insight: Cats and Dogs: Diet

Alt: What your friends won't tell you about owning a cat or dog.

This is just a thought I've had, a little bit of extra education for the pet owners among you. One of the things that I first noticed working at a veterinarians is just how little the average person knew about their pets, myself included. In an attempt to remedy some of that, while consolidating my own knowledge, I'm going to write a series of posts regarding the care of our fuzzy companions. Sure, reptiles are fun, but every so often I need to admit that not everyone is interested in them.

To kick off this set I'm going to present you with a bit of knowledge relating to those most constant companions: cats and dogs.


I've been thinking about the blog, really I have, but each time I've sat to write I've been too impatient to let an idea carry itself to fruition. I do have a post on veterinary ethics started, but it likely will not see the light of day for quite a while yet.

In a desperate attempt at keeping the blog going I'm going to delve into some of the projects I have in mind for the coming year, critter-wise. These range from simple to complex, and free to expensive. Some are dependent on time, others on cash-flow. In any case, I happen to think they're all quite neat and do bear some mention ahead of time, if for no other reason than to ensure that they keep my interest.