Expert Opinion

33 weeks ago the country voted, in an advisory capacity, to remove its cannula, jerk out its catheter and make a break out of the door marked “BREXIT”.

Almost 21 days have passed since the nation decided to jump of the EU bandwagon and reach away from the stars (of the European Union) and I feel no better about the decision.

As I’ve written before, I voted to remain in Europe.

Because of that I have been accused of so much rampant Liberalism that I have:

  • Rejoined the Liberal Democrats – may as well be hung as a Lion.
  • Signed numerous knee-jerk petitions.
  • Discussed valid “Leave” & “Remain” arguments post-Brexit.
  • Been accused of “Ageism”, “Socialism”, and of being too sensitive.
  • Been told to person-of-non-specific-gender-the-fuck-up and pull together to help the nation castrate itself.
  • Seen friends and families tear themselves apart over something that none of us have any control over.

I am still angry.

I am still disappointed/disenchanted.

I am still here & just as powerless as I was pre-referendum.

The nation of my birth is still in Europe and the people who campaigned for us to leave have still got no clue as to how we will survive post-Europe.

And so, as much as it makes no difference to the political process that was set in place months ago, we carry on and the people who, like me still give a fuck, scrutinise the arguments, write to our MPs and generally try to voice our “reason” to the world.

Which brings me to the point of this article… I’m no political pundit.

I’m no expert, I’m just a guy who’s spent 4 decades living in the foothills of the Pennines trying to defend himself against a thuggish world that don’t “get” people who actually understand “why” we rub the rocks together – as opposed to just rubbing the rocks together because “Durr! That’s what we do Doofus”.

So I suppose I am an expert.  Just not a political expert… anyway… SQL Server, business analysis, the works of Brian Lumley, the impact of British post-punk musicians on popular music and contemporary occult philosophy – I’m your guy.  The potential effects of British public opinion on the world’s economy – less so.

Which is just as well.

We are now balls-deep into the “Post Fact” age.

We’ve seen the two major political parties in the United Kingdom hosting leadership campaigns built on the back of popularity and gender, as opposed to actual policies.

The United States presidential election has been conducted no better and the aforementioned referendum actively discouraged the public from listening to the reasoned voices of experts.

pobgoveAt the beginning of June, almost a month before the nation went to the polls and decided to remove it’s nose, the former secretary of state of education – Pob Michael Gove stated that the British public had:

had enough of experts

Interestingly enough, he also stated that we should “count him out” of future leadership elections.  Like the other politicians involved in the Leave campaign, he backtracked on that pretty quickly once one the referendum was over.

Pushing the duplicity of politicians to one side, the thing that excites me now – and I mean genuinely piques my interest is that the world has changed… not just on a socio-political level… not just economically but inside.

It’s like the world is The Doctor and all of a sudden we’ve tuned in and The Doctor isn’t a crazy, bescalved, curly haired, grinning jelly baby freak… no the world is now some kind of sleek Cricketer with a hot American wife and a penchant for wooden spoons (and soup dragons).

A friend of mine recently said:

I think we have entered into a world of post fact politics. It is like people live in a world of magical reality.

And I think he’s really hit the Mankey on the nose with that statement.

The general public are now not only encouraged to ignore but are actively ignoring “expert” opinion… even I nearly wrote “so-called ‘expert’ opinion” just then.

Heck, I’ve even railed against experts in my “Church of Pfizer” posts.

“But why is this exciting Armaitus? The country of your birth is in turmoil, the economy is in ruins and the Sith elite have just taken power whilst the Jedi council devours itself from within.”, I hear you cry.

Well that’s an interesting question 700-plus-per-month-average-readership-people and one that I’m super happy to answer…

torqwoomada

I Torq-woo-mada

My friend is absolutely correct, we’re entering a world that – albeit unwittingly – accepts a magical reality.

The western world’s – or at least United Kingdom’s and United States’ – paradigm has shifted from a pro-science, pro-expert factual basis to one that I am led to believe is referred to, by the rest of the world, as “WOO“.

When writing about the Church of Pfizer, I was attempting to put forward the proposition that Science was treated by the general public as a Religion.

The majority of the IFLS crowd wouldn’t know Science from Scientology; sheesh, wrap a fictional-factoid up in a handsome enough meme and your median common denominator would lap it up as Science regardless of whether it had an empirical evidential basis or not.

For the latter part of the 20th century and into the early cyberpunk years of the 21st, we’ve been living a transition from a scientific paradigm into something new – an Idiocracy of sorts.

There’s not much of a leap from the I-Fucking-Love-Scientific thinking of the Church of Pfizer to the pseudo-scientific thinking of those of us who choose to live in a magical reality.

To best explain this I can think of no better piece of work than Ramsey DukesS.S.O.T.B.M.E – An essay on magic.

You can see the author talk about the relevant elements of this piece of work here:

The basic principle that the pseudonymous Mr. Dukes puts to us is that you can perceive the general direction that Culture is taking along one of 4 paths.  He goes on to depict this using the following cultural compass:

dukescompass

He goes on to explain:

Thought is compounded of four elements which I call intuition, observation, logic and feeling.

Any practical method of thinking demands at least two of these four elements, one to serve as an input of impressions and the other to process them.

Artistic thought uses feeling and intuition, Religious thought uses intuition and logic, Scientific thought uses logic and observation, and Magical thought uses observation and feeling.

It really is worth (in my opinion) seeking out the works of Ramsey Dukes , he explains magical thinking in terms that are easily understood, without getting bogged down in any particular dogma.

In the context of what is happening in the world today, we appear to be moving from a Science/Religious direction towards a Science/Magic direction.

If you go back as far as the industrial revolution, you could choose to see the world shifting from an Art/Religion direction towards a Religion/Science world view.

Rather than thriving on the blind dogma of the Church of Pfizer, we are now being encouraged to cast out the words of Experts and go with “gut-feeling” and “why-the-hell-not”.  We are encouraged to make emotional decisions rather than decisions based on so-called facts.

None of this stops the truly Scientific world from turning.  Sure it may well influence the scientists that turn the Scientific world but no more so than, say Newton, was influenced by his ardent belief that Christ died for our sins – or Omar Khayyám‘s scientific advancements were influenced by the Koran.

Ramsey goes on to explain why he feels that magical thinking is a likely follow on to the scientific dogma that has been prevalent through my lifetime in the video below:

But why do I find this exciting?

Simple.  We’re living the change.  A genuine paradigm shift is happening, right now!

I know we’ve been told to stop them doing it but they are, they may well be doing it right now… This could be the year that they immanentize the eschaton!

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Church of Pfizer – Breaking the First Rule of Fat Club

Victoza-LiraglutideFor the last decade I have carried the clinical label of “Morbidly Obese“.

A decade ago I weighed in at over 20 stones; I had been piling on the pounds since the age of 25. A combination of living a lush lifestyle, holding down a sedentary office job and thriving on cortisol-inducing stress all culminated in the climactic crescendo of endocrine crash.

By October 2003 I had dropped 3 stone and suffered what were described later as “Osmotic Symptoms” – between you and me these were simply body-wide agonising muscle cramps caused by essential salts being flushed from my body as it tried to handle a fasting blood glucose level of 32 mmol/L (6 mmol/L is the norm).

I was rushed into hospital and diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (meaning that I rely on regular injections of insulin to survive).

For the last decade I have managed my condition as all diabetics must do – day to day and sometimes seeming to pull through by will alone.

It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of Sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.

Since then my weight has fluctuated between 17 and 20 stone, erring more towards the latter over the last year or so. Th weight dropping off as I exercise and then piling on when I stop.

Of course, medicine has played a large part in the management of my condition. As a Type 1 diabetic I have prayed at the alter of The Church of Pfizer for almost a full decade now. Insulin to make up for insulin I am not producing, Metformin (Glucophage) to help my body use the insulin and Pravastatin to deal with my high cholesterol.

Over the past couple of years I have endured an ongoing battle with my health care team over my condition. My health care team believe I am not a Type 1 diabetic at all but Type 2 (meaning I am producing some insulin but my body cannot use it). The only evidence given for this seeming to be my inability to maintain a healthy weight.

Victoza PenThe battle peaked towards the end of 2012 when my diabetic “specialist” decided to put her money where her mouth is and put me onto a trial course of GLP-1 (Glucagon-like-peptide).

Pitched as some kind of Panacea, GLP-1 is a weight loss medication with the surprising side effect of increasing insulin production in Type-2 diabetics. Type-1 diabetics may benefit from the weight loss side of the medication but would see no other benefits.

At the same time that I started the process of titrating up to a full dose of Victoza-Liraglutide (the trade name of this new sub-cutaneous Sacrament) I also signed up to the local Weight Loss Program – Kirklees Weight Management (lovingly referred to as Fat Club by my fellow losers).

I started the full course of Victoza 3 weeks ago and Fat Club 2 weeks ago and frustratingly enough the Victoza seems to be working – I must be Type-2, the priests were right all along.

I have reduced my insulin intake by more than 50% and appear to be losing over 2kg a week. The Victoza isn’t pleasant but I’m accustomed to the nausea and other gastric symptoms that arise from the daily injections.

So far the fat club appear to be offering sound advice but I have to admit that I am eating smaller portions mainly because the Victoza helps me feel satiated and slows my digestion down so that I am not hungry.

I haven’t felt this good since I tried the hypno-band the other year. Fat Club have given me a target of 6.2kg to lose over the 12 week period; 2 weeks in and I’ve lost 4.6kg.  I’m out walking more and seem to be energised towards losing more weight.

Victoza-para-Emagrecer-Funciona-3I’m sure this will level out at some point – at this rate I’d be looking at being back to 16/17 stone by the end of the 12 weeks, something my GP has advised against.  Not that the process stops there.  This isn’t some kind of Slimming World fad diet – it’s a total change to my way of life – again.

That being said, I do feel like I’m cheating somehow, there should be rules about the use of performance enhancing drugs at Fat Club.

Church of Pfizer – Crisis of Faith

Atorvastatin

I had my 6 monthly check-up with a diabetic specialist today.

I say a diabetic specialist because, once again, it was a completely different person altogether.

Since my diagnosis as a Type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetic, back in 2003, I have seen several different diabetic “specialists” – all no doubt very highly qualified and all possessing their own unique take on the treatment of my condition.

The lady I saw today was one of the more engaging specialists that I have seen; young, confident and powered with an eagerness to help me manage my condition.

There was just one problem… my notes.

All that any new specialist has to work with are the notes left by their predecessors.  Predecessors that cannot even agree on a diagnosis for my condition, let alone a treatment.

I take both subcutaneous injections of insulin and oral metphormin/glucophage tablets to manage my condition.  The latter is predominantly used for Type 2 diabetics, as I carry extra weight around my middle; my metabolism is so poor as to prevent my body using the insulin that I inject well enough without the pills… just like Type 2 diabetics.

This is further complicated by my body’s lack of insulin.  My pancreas packed in insulin production years ago… just like Type 1 diabetics.

So you can see where specialists get confused.  There isn’t a Type 1.5, Type 3 or even some funky Type X that they can label me with.

But that’s the real problem isn’t it?

How many diabetics do conform to the text book definitions? We’re all unique as human beings.

Every specialist I have seen has a completely different take on the situation.

I even remember the one that re-branded me as Type 2 – just like that!  His reasoning being that I am overweight and overweight people are Type 2 diabetics not Type 1.  Not only that, that’s unfair, apparently I am too old to be Type 1, this chap believed that Type 1 diabetics were all diagnosed early on in life and not at 28 as I was.

The very next check-up I had, I saw a new specialist who said:

No! You can’t be Type 2, you take insulin.

You can probably see, now, why I am so frustrated with the situation.

Eight years on and I’m struggling to keep myself healthy.

Don’t get me wrong, the support infrastructure is there for me… it just doesn’t work.

How can I be expected to know what to do when the specialists themselves can’t even agree with each other?

The fact of the matter is, I’ve lost my faith in the Church of Pfizer.  I was born and raised a scientist, albeit one with a firm belief in certain paranormal fields but a scientist none-the-less.

Church of Pfizer

Blind Obediance

Marketing Led Trust in Others

Healthcare Privatised

Even my GP and practice nurse disagree with the specialists – and I have far more faith in the doctor that I’ve seen for 10 years and the nurse I went to school with than the steady stream of people leaving medical school and progressing up the ladder.

I’ve asked time and time again to have my check-ups with the GP but the last I heard from him on the matter was a stern warning that my HbA1C had risen from 7.2 to 7.9 and that I should speak to my diabetic nurse immediately.

Well I spoke to my diabetic nurse today and she said 7.9 was fine.  Of course I should aim to get it as close to normal as possible but 7.9 was nothing to lose sleep over.

Contrary to this, the practice nurse at my GP’s surgery took my blood pressure last week and recorded it as normal.  We even talked about how this was never the case when I went for my hospital check-up.  She laughed and said not to worry, a lot of people have bad blood pressure readings at hospital.

Sure enough today, my blood pressure reading was high enough that the specialist wanted to start me taking more sacrament from the Chruch of Pfizer – not to mention resuming my daily consumption of Atorvostatin to keep my cholesterol down; despite the risk of liver failure that accompanies the drug.

The justification for all of this was the stark warning of early mortality due to heart disease.  A lengthy monologue on the dangerous combination of Diabetes, High Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure and a stressful working environment served to bully me into accepting medication that I have serious doubts over.

Atorvostatin

Sanguine Analysis

Cholesterol, Five Point Six

Bullied to Obey

Thankfully, she agreed to defer to my GP.  My blood pressure will prove to be normal at the GP’s surgery and so that’s one less sacrament to minister to myself.

I know I’ll never be rid of diabetes; it is a life-long condition – it will kill me one day – the trick is keeping that day as far in the future as possible and balancing it with a reasonable quality of life.

All I want is to get settled back into a routine where my diabetes is in control so that I can concentrate on other areas of my life.

I’ve been at this for a month now, with a different appointment every week, each one resulting in more and more confusion and often in further appointments.  There is light at the end of the tunnel but it is growing harder and harder to get by without blowing up at the confusion, stress and anxiety caused by it all.

Church of Pfizer – 5 a Day Keeps the Pills Away

I was horrified to read this morning that:

Eating more fruit and vegetables has only a modest effect on protecting against cancer

As a Type 1 Diabetic, I’ve seen my fair share of dietitians and conducted my own research into the dietetic benefits of certain foodstuffs; when it comes to fruit & vegetables, cancer is the least of my worries.  There are so many other benefits to eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, that I think this is scaremongering media at its worst.

The story has got me thinking though.  Why release the study now when there are far more newsworthy events to report on?  I still don’t know what happened with the digital economy bill yesterday, for instance.

The headline itself has massively negative connotations; the link to everybody’s favourite medical nightmare, Cancer being the greatest part of it. The big C is guaranteed to stir butterflies in the belly of anyone and to be told that eating my “5 a Day” will not protect me from its ravenous clutches? Well, it makes me want to throw out the fruit bowl straight away. Some people (you can tell I have a low opinion of some people) will even misinterpret this as to think that eating “5 a Day” therefore gives you cancer!

I have to ask myself.  “Why put  a negative slant on eating fruit & vegetables?” Surely, the existence of other benefits mean that it is wholly irresponsible to be discouraging folk from eating a healthy diet?  Maybe that’s the point? Maybe the “5 a Day” message has begun to hit home and people are becoming healthier for it?  A healthy population may be good for the health service but where does it put the pharmaceuticals – the very people who fund this kind of research?

If more people are healthy then less people are worshiping at the altars of the Church of Pfizer. I’ve blogged about the Church of Pfizer before, that lofty conglomerate of pharmaceutical companies and scientific institutions whose word we take as gospel when it comes to scientific studies. Could this news be a way of making less people healthier? A drop in public health would certainly seem to increase the money spent on health care, and the pharmaceutical companies are the only ones who benefit there.

So what are the benefits of eating your “5 a Day”? If its not going to stop you dying of cancer, what will it do?

The NHS have this to say about your 5 a Day:

Fruit and vegetables are part of a balanced diet and can help us stay healthy…

… the health benefits of getting five 80g portions of fruit and vegetables every day.

They go onto give five reasons to get five portions

* Fruit and vegetables taste delicious and there’s so much variety to choose from.
* They’re a good source of vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamin C and potassium.
* They’re an excellent source of dietary fibre, which helps maintain a healthy gut and prevent constipation and other digestion problems. A diet high in fibre can also reduce your risk of bowel cancer.
* They can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
* Fruit and vegetables contribute to a healthy and balanced diet.

Well the point regarding “some cancers” may be contested but the rest are fairly valid. Not being ones to side with the scientific wisdom given by the Church of Pfizer, the UK government are likely to stick to their guns on the overall benefits of eating your five a day, they collate more information on the benefits here.

It is worth adding that the UK is actually taking the World Health Organisation’s minimum recommendation of 400g per day.  Some countries actually advise their citizens to consume more!

Church of Pfizer – Science as the New Priesthood

As discussed earlier, the original discussion that led to the naming of “The Church of Pfizer” was one on that started with my perceived similarities between Science and Religion in the late 20th/early 21st century. The discussion was held in the summer of 2007 and so maybe a little outdated with regards my writing style.

The overall discussion burst, alien style, out of the chest of a discussion on the supernatural and people’s beliefs in the paranormal. The latter subject being one that I was loathe to comment on at the time; discussions on paranormal topics often start out friendly enough but usually devolve into either side shouting “Prove It”, “Don’t want to prove it” at each other whilst throwing rocks around and grunting.

I inadvertently began the flame war I was hoping to avoid by responding to a poster’s tongue-in-cheek comment on religion and backing up a comment someone else had already proposed:

‘Science’ is the new church and even less open or accountable than the old one. Scientists are the new priesthood. Neither should be accorded implicit respect or faith.

My repsonse:

I see little difference between religion and the basic understanding of paranormal lore – however I do ascribe to the propositions put forward by former Eton math tutor (by nom de plume) Ramsey Dukes, that society’s guiding forces can be divided into four cyclical aspects – Science, Religion, Art and Magic(k).

I also genuinely believe that we are moving out of a Religious/Science paradigm (Therefore scientists WERE the new priesthood – look at the way the New Inquisition (American Medical Association) disposed of Wilhelm Reich and his Orgone projects) into a Science/Magickal paradigm. (Some would argue thate we are moving out of an Art/Acience paradigm, I’d disagree) – viva Generation Hex!

Looking back, I cringe at my fanboy references to Uncle Ramsey and Saint Bob, like I can’t think for myself without falling back on the works of published authors.

Following this, a fellow poster responded on the side of the rational minded scientist:

Calling scientists “the new priesthood” is nonsense. Science actively pursues knowledge of reality and when new theories or facts emerge, the old theories are dropped or modified. In religion and superstition the seeking out of facts is actively discouraged. You are supposed to have faith i.e. you are to believe things whether there is proof of them or not and indeed even if there is a mountain of evidence against them.

Unlike the priesthood, scientists aren’t handed money by the public nor would people accept scientists dictating how they should behave in their private lives e.g. whether they should use contraception. The great majority of people disregard science and understand nothing about major issues like evolution, quantum theory and relativity, even though they are happy to enjoy the fruits of science. Most scientists are not well paid.

When a scientist makes a statement about some topic, if you disagree then you are perfectly at liberty to check his research or undertake your own and prove them wrong. In religion, if you do this you are a heretic or blasphemer. If society would allow them to do it I have no doubt that the religious establishment would love to persecute anyone who disagrees with them as they do still in many Muslim nations.

My response to this is both lengthy and studded with my feeble attempts to avoid slipping into a fundamentalism of my own; whilst other responses were shorter:

No but they do a very good job at been “holier then thou”.

Also the subject of funding and money. Most scientists will tend to come to the conclusions that match the views of their pay masters.

My own response follows, edited to remove names and to better fit into a wordpress format. I’ve tried to keep editing to a minimum, to keep the feel of the original rant.
Click here to see the whole thing

Church of Pfizer – Origins

I heard a radio advert for yet another “Stop Smoking or the Bunny Gets It!” advert this morning; like most adverts it finished with some hastily-spoken-at-low-volume audio fine print:

Brought to you by Pfizer

Well that’s what it sounded like anyway, it could have been anything considering the speed of the sound-byte. Either way it reminded me of a flame war conversation that was held on the British Horror Film Forum a couple of years back, during which I coined the term “the Church of Pfizer” as a catch all way of referring to the New Inquisition – or more clearly stated, the dogma and beliefs of devout followers of Science (with a capital S).

The term appeared in reference to the medication I take on a daily basis to manage my Diabetes and associated complications;

I am a type 1 diabetic. I self-administer 2 subcutaneous injections of a mixed human analog insulin a day to “live”. I lived for years beforehand without my twice daily prayer rituals to the Church of Pfizer and have only the word of a venerable “specialist” to state that I need it.

I appreciate that out of the context of the original discussion, this sounds a little facetious. The original discussion had started when I supposed that the 20th century could be seen to have evolved into a Science/Religion paradigm and that Scientists were the new priesthood (an idea put forward far more eloquently by the dearly missed St. Bob).

The point really comes from a discussion that I had with my GP shortly after being diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic. To keep my cholesterol levels down, I am prescribed 10mg of Atorvastatin (Pfizer) to be taken orally every night. When my GP saw that I had been prescribed that particular “brand” of statin he exclaimed surprise. I probably shouldn’t have picked up on it but I did. Asking for an explanation, my GP kindly offered me one.

He explained that he would have prescribed an alternate statin; when asked why, he explained that his favoured brand had been tested on a demographic of around 10,000 men of all ages in the North of England from the 1960’s onward and that the results showed that the statin had a positive preventative effect on the complications of high cholesterol (such as Heart Disease).

My GP went on to explain that the statin I had been prescribed had been tested for a short period in the 1990’s, on a demographic of around 1,000 middle aged men and women on an island in the Mediterranean. The studies showed that the statin was highly effective at rapidly reducing blood cholesterol counts but there was not yet any evidence as to whether it was as efficacious as other statins with regards long term complications.

(I should add the caveat that the exact details of the conversation are lost to the mists of time, this is just the crux – facts and figures may be out but the point is the proportional difference between studies)

We discussed this at length and both agreed to keep the prescription as was, the Hospital presumably having its own reasons for the prescription.

I’m a scientist at heart, I studied Molecular Biology at University and work in computing (which, granted, can have its arcane moments); I also maintain an open mind to new ideas and have recently found myself sympathetic to zeteticism. That being said, the rising fundamentalism within the Church of Pfizer does worry me. We the public take everything for granted; in my case I assume that my doctors are right and the pills and needles are essential to a healthy life (despite the fact that they can no longer agree on a correct diagnosis of my condition). There are other concerns, that should become apparent when I resurrect the discussion from the BHF. I may actually edit it (to protect the innocent) and post it here for posterity.