Dr Axe and the misguided fear of pork.



Recently I was reminded of the taboo of eating pork held by some Muslims, Jews and Seventh Day Adventists. I was given a link from Dr Axe, warning against eating pork. I wasn’t expecting much but I was hoping the Dr would provide some scientific basis for his claims. Unfortunately he even struggled with basics like properly citing scientific sources. At best he has demonstrated his ignorance of basic academic work at worst he is being wilfully misleading and lying. I have outlines some of his claims and responded below.

“The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that more than 100 viruses come to the United States each year from China through pigs.

See if you can find evidence for this statement anywhere on the CDC website or in any CDC publication. The author does not link to any of this information, which is odd since it wouldn’t have been a hard thing to do. My guess is this not what the CDC says but an exaggeration of something their site or a plain lie.

“Of course, you’re probably familiar with H1N1, better known as ‘the swine flu. This too is a virus that has made the leap from pig to human.”

Yes true, pigs can transmit swine flu to humans. However you cannot get swine flu from eating pork. The transmission was originally from people in contact with live pigs and then the virus was passed from human to human.  Also the same dietary guidelines that disallow pork consumption in the bible also allow for poultry consumption. The avian flu is transmittable from chickens to humans, but I’m yet to find an Adventist, Jew or Muslim sharing any fear mongering article about chicken consumption with me. Actually some vegetarians might lol

“Did you know that pigs carry a variety of parasites in their bodies and meat? Some of these parasites are difficult to kill even when cooking. This is the reason there are so many warnings out there about eating undercooked pork.”

Actually it’s incredibly easy to kill these parasites when cooking them unless you have a very poor knowledge of how to cook meat. In fact you get warnings about not undercooking chicken due to salmonella poisoning and not undercooking fish due to botulism. But again, I’d be surprised to see a fear mongering article about fish or chicken. 

“One of the biggest concerns with eating pork meat is trichinellosis or trichinosis.”

If you are concerned about this just consider the following from the CDC “During 2008–2010, 20 cases were reported per year on average. The number of cases decreased beginning in the mid-20th century because of legislation prohibiting the feeding of raw-meat garbage to hogs, commercial and home freezing of pork, and the public awareness of the danger of eating raw or undercooked pork products. Cases are less commonly associated with pork products and more often associated with eating raw or undercooked wild game meats.” So don’t eat raw or undercooked game meats.

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel good about eating anything that I first have to kill off its worms to eat.”

If its the ick factor that stops the author then he also needs to consider that the CDC also gives instructions on how to cook poultry to prevent trichinellosis. So he might want to consider not eating chicken either. Also again his fish needs to be cooked properly to prevent him from being harmed by botulisms and his vegetables need to be washed for the same reason. But that doesn’t seem to be mentioned.

“Pigs are primary carriers of:
-Taenia solium tapeworm
-Hepatitis E virus (HEV)
-PRRS (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome)
-Nipah virus”

Regarding Taenia solium tapeworm. According to the CDC “Humans can become infected with these tapeworms by eating raw or undercooked beef (T. saginata) or pork (T. solium and T. asiatica).” The dietary guidelines don’t have a problem with beef, so what does this prove about porks uncleanliness? Nothing much.

Regarding HEV, according to the CDC “Hepatitis E virus is usually spread by the fecal-oral route. The most common source of infection is fecally contaminated drinking water. In developed countries sporadic outbreaks have occurred following consumption of uncooked/undercooked pork or deer meat. Consumption of shellfish was a risk factor in a recently described outbreak.” So unless you are again consuming undercooked or uncooked pork, you should be fine.

PRRS (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome): Cannot find evidence showing that this can be passed on to humans though it is present in pigs.

Nipah virus: Yes it can be passed on from close contact with pigs. Outbreaks have also occurred from people eating raw date palm sap infected by bats. Again no suggestion that eating pork will do this.

Menangle virus: Again, can be passed to humans but from close contact to pigs, no evidence to suggest eating pork will do this.

So all in all, an article like many others I’ve read that rely on cherrypicking facts and for some bizzare reason trying to twist those facts to make it seem like consuming pig meat is bad for your health.


7 Extremely Poor Reasons Why Religion is a Form of Mental Illness

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I recently read 7 reasons Why Religion is a Form of Mental Illness. It’s unfortunately a claim we hear within the atheist community and it demonstrates a very poor understanding of mental illness.

I’m an atheist and a skeptic so I find this claim disappointing. The skeptic in me wants to take some time to debunk this claim, but really not much time is required.

First of all what diagnostic criteria are the people making this claim using?  If you look at either the DSM V or the ICD-10 you won’t find a single mental illness that is comparable to religion.  The author of the article lists the following as signs of a mental illness:

* Hallucinations
* Delusions
* Denial/Inability to learn
* Inability to distinguish fantasy from reality
* Paranoia
* Emotional abuse
* Violence

If we took these to be symptoms, what mental illness would we be diagnosing a person with? I think the only way we could claim these symptoms equalled a mental illness is if we just made up our own diagnosis.

I hope that whoever makes this claim is engaging in hyperbole if they also want to claim to be making a rational claim. I challenge them to use their skills to find a single mental illness that religious belief would fall under.



via 7 reasons Why Religion is a Form of Mental Illness.


From little things, big things grow.

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Couldn’t you sell your service without mysognistic slogans?

Questions for Us

A few days ago, I went to pick up my 11 and 7 year old daughters from a holiday stint with my parents.

As we greeted each other with hugs, my 11 year old did not hesitate in telling me, with great concern, that she saw something terrible when she was in the car with my dad – a van that said all girls were sluts who want to try it just once.
I was stunned because only the day before I had put up images (again) of the type of messages that the car-hire business Wicked Campers revels in, on my social media pages – including (and especially) the one my daughter saw.


So it’s official – something I personally called out has encroached and touched my family directly.

I was livid and went to make a complaint on the Advertising Standards Board.
The first thing you have to…

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4 Simple Attitudes for Deeper Mindfulness

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Mindfulness practice free of these attitudes tends to lose it’s vitality and become yet another stale routine you’ll probably end up ditching.

After practicing mindfulness for awhile, you might notice that there are certain attitudes that either come from mindfulness practice or help deepen it. Mindfulness practice free of these attitudes tends to lose it’s vitality and become yet another stale routine you’ll probably end up ditching. So try cultivating the following attitudes and note the effects it has on your mindful moments.

1. Acceptance

Mindfulness practice isn’t about perfection. In fact there’s bound to be something that turns up in the moment that you won’t like.  Instead of engaging in a struggle to get rid of these things, prep yourself beforehand so that you come into the moment with an acceptance of what turns up. You are simply there to observe things without the burden of active resistance.

2. Flexibility

Mindfulness doesn’t have to be about focusing on just your breath while sitting in the full lotus. We’re not all cut out for that. You can mindfully walk, talk, eat, sit or lay down. You can focus on your breath, your thoughts, your body and your surroundings.  Allow yourself to explore your experience while being mindful and in this way you can keep a sense of vitality in your practice.

3. Curiosity

Rather than going into the moment buying into preconceived ideas about what will happen, could you be curious about what will turn up this time round? Try looking at your experience with a strangers eyes. Treat each time you come to mindfulness practice as a journey you are about to commence and you may find yourself curious, rather than fearful of what shows up.

4. Compassion

Be gentle with how you respond to yourself before, during and after mindfulness practice. If you find it difficult to be mindful or things don’t go as planned during practice, think about how you would treat a good friend who talked to you about the same struggles. Think about the gentle ways in which you would allow them to have their experience and also nurture them so they can continue along their way. Now turn this inwards and enjoy the benefits.




Love the remarried, hate the sin


“Most evangelical churches have remarried leaders. No one speaks of loving these remarried people but hating their sin.” – Ken Wilson

‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ had for a long time seemed like a fairly inoffensive slogan to me. However, recently while reading C.S. Lewis’ Marriage and the Gay Marriage Controversy, I saw the above quote and it got me thinking; where is the backlash and scrutiny for people who remarry?

A long while back I was surprised to find that Jesus addresses the issue of divorce in Matthew 19:8-9 (ESV) when he says “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”  Take a minute to think about how many church members, including leaders, would fall into the category of having remarried due to reasons other than sexual immorality. Maybe even you fall into this category, aware or unaware of the sin you’ve committed. Now think about most large churches; surely they contain as many (if not more) members who have divorced for reasons other than sexual immorality and remarried, as they would members who were lesbian, gay, bi or transgender.

It’s also interesting to consider what conditions are necessary within our legal system for divorce. Are they in accordance with what Jesus teaches us? No. But despite this we find no mass protests against unbiblical laws for divorce and remarriage, few sermons being preached about the evils of unbiblical remarriage and it’s not often you hear “Love the sinner, hate the sin” directed at someone who remarried without having established their ex-partners sexual immorality.  However, we find all these things directed at the LGBT community, including organizations like the National Organization for Marriage who’s purpose is to oppose marriage equality.  Given this, it’s understandable if people from the LGBT community feel like they have unfairly been targeted for criticism. Maybe if people insist on loving the sinner and hating the sin for LGBT folk they can start to practice the same for their remarried family, friends, church family or themselves. Or maybe instead we could lose our obsession with letting our LGBT family, friends and church family know how sinful they are and instead spend some time in contemplation of how we could better treat each other.


Mindfulness: What it is, what it isn’t

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“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness is probably one of the best summaries of what mindfulness is. In fact Jon Kabat-Zinn does this so well that people are often left thinking there has to be more to it. The reality is that the concept of mindfulness is simple, so to expand on that idea and make it easier to understand what it is, sometimes it helps to understand what it isn’t.

What it isn’t

1. Analyzing: That means during mindfulness practice you aren’t trying to solve or figure out anything. Of course after you’ve finished your mindfulness practice you might want to try this, but the minute you engage with the mental task of analyzing things you are no longer being mindful.

2. Being calm: Sure many people report that mindfulness allows them to feel calm, but that is a product of the mindfulness and not the mindfulness itself. In fact if you are paying attention to something that is unpleasant such as pain, then you might notice that you struggle to feel calm. That is ok, if you are just paying attention to this you are still being mindful.

3. Having an empty mind: Again, some people find this happens after a great deal of practice, but this is a possible product of mindfulness not the mindfulness itself. You can have a mind that is buzzing with thought and still watch those thoughts mindfully.

4. Zoning out: Mindfulness is actually about paying attention not letting your attention wander. Gently bringing yourself back to paying attention is part of the skill of being mindful.

5. Meditating: Mindfulness meditation is only one way of achieving mindfulness. In fact mindfulness is just a way of paying attention that you can bring to almost anything. You can walk, exercise, eat, sit, stand and dance mindfully (just to name a few).


Can ritual deepen and extend your mindfulness?

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“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”

Three times a day for three minutes at a time I would practise mindfulness meditations. Very basic meditations that centred around observing my own thoughts. Initially begun as a means of experimenting with one of the interventions taught in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, but kept because of the benefits received from the ritual. I didn’t expect that three minute blocks would do much, but a simple way of explaining the experience is with the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote: “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” It was if the focused three minutes could leave a mental aftertaste that lingered in the rest of my life.

After a few months I began to notice that I didn’t find myself so stuck with taking thoughts literally. The ceaseless chatter of the mind became apparent to me and I began to find that some of the thoughts that used to cause me anguish just seemed like all the other ones that didn’t. Naturally I found myself internally motived to continue this simple ritual and I lasted between 6 months to a year like this. But eventually I started to find other things to do, the usual work/life intrusions and so I talked to another psychologist about ways to flexibly apply mindfulness to my day to day without needing the ritual. He gave me a few pointers on opportunistically noticing when you are about to make a choice and using that as a way of noticing your own experience mindfully. It turned out to be an easy and flexible way to drop some mindfulness into my day. However four weeks later fusion with my own thoughts has been building, which got me thinking. Is this the problem with abandoning ritual? Maybe taking the time for purposeful action is part of what leads to the longer lasting effects of what you are trying to achieve.

I used to be religious so I have experienced how long lasting the effects of the rituals such as church services can be. If I attended a good church service I’d often have the experience of transcending the daily grind and notice the after effects well into the week. However that sort of effect wasn’t as lasting if I engaged in the same rituals sporadically and opportunistically over the year. The rhythm of having a fixed time to take part in prayer, worship and fellowship seemed to provide the content of those rituals with a deeper power. Now that I’m no longer religious I don’t find church to be the kind of place I’d seek out. But I wondered if something similar had occurred with my mindfulness practise? It seemed that when I abandoned ritualised mindfulness the depth of the mindfulness and length of its effects suffered. I’m thinking now that I will go back to the ritual of meditating and I’ll even go a step further to make sure it is more ritualised than before. I am toying with the idea of having a set time during the day to practise, using a mindfulness bell app I have that chimes to begin the exercise and to end it, and also having a spot to practise the mindfulness in my office or house. I will be interested to note the results and will post them here over the next couple of weeks. If you have any thoughts from your own experiences, please feel free to share.


Addict or simply human?

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“I see the addict as a seeker, albeit a misguided one. The addict is a person in quest of pleasure, perhaps even of a kind of trancendent experience – and I want to emphasize that this kind of seeking is extremely positive. The addict is looking in the wrong places, but he is going after something very important, and we can not afford to ignore the meaning of his search. At least initially, the addict hopes to experience something wonderful, something that transcends an unsatisfactory or even an intolerable everyday reality. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in this impulse. On the contrary, it provides a foundation for true hope and real transformation.” ~ Deepak Chopra


I am surprised to find myself in agreement with some of the sentiment of what Deepak Chopra says here, in fact being the natural skeptic that I am, I am surprised to be agreeing with anything he says. Nevertheless there is a gem of wisdom in here that I find it hard to ignore, which got me thinking about what separates the ‘addict’ from the rest of humanity. Obviously a key difference is that the ‘addict’ repeatedly engages in patterns of behaviour that center around a substance or activity, despite the adverse effects of doing so. We often assume that this is due to something faulty within the person and in some cases we go as far as stating “they’ve got an addictive personality”. But I wonder, is addiction fuelled by a more common human experience?  

Think back to peak moments in your life and ask yourself what drove you towards those moments. A desire to rise above suffering, experience peak emotions and to achieve states of being that might be an improvement on what we are currently experiencing seem like reasonable answers. It is incredibly common to want to experience things like ecstasy, optimism, euphoria, calm, focus, confidence and the many other positive things people can have while engaging in ‘addictive behavior’.  So maybe in our search to find a better experience, some of us end up finding ways to do this that add to our suffering and this is incredibly easy to do. Our world is full of industries that have million dollar marketing budgets to convince you that they have the best method for experiencing the peaks of human existence. Is it little wonder that some of us may test out their claims and come away worse for wear? It seems highly likely that if millions of dollars were thrown at enticing people to engage in experiences they want to have, then some of those people wouldn’t want those experiences to end. So is a person in this predicament really deserving of then being labelled an addict with all the baggage that comes with that label? Or could we take that label a little less seriously and instead focus on accepting that we are talking about human beings just doing what human beings do: seeking? 


Are you tokenly engaging the LGBT community?

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I recently read that the SDA church, my former church, are hosting a summit in South Africa in March 2014, at which they will discuss ‘alternative sexualities”. Notably absent from the discussion are SDA members who are gay and have reconciled their sexuality with their faith. Instead the only people being asked to represent the LGBT community are a group of ex-gay speakers, who unsurprisingly have found ‘liberation’ from their homosexuality through Jesus Christ. I tried to think of a comparable example of how I could go about tokenly engaging with a community of people I wished to understand. Let me know if you think the following example will do:

I’m an atheist and therefore I don’t believe that gods exist. But I am very curious about Hinduism. In fact I’d love to understand the central claims of Hinduism and the minutiae of life as a Hindu . So in a fit on inspiration I decide I will learn as much as I can about Hindus, but I decide against talking to a variety of practicing Hindus. Instead I decide to focus my energies on one specific group of people: ex-Hindus. In fact I go one step further and decide the only ex-Hindus I want to talk to are ex-Hindus who, like me, have also decided gods don’t exist. Using the information from only this group of people I will decide things like what the central claims of Hinduism are, what it’s like to live as a Hindu and how to engage with Hindus in respectful discussion about their faith.

I’m assuming I don’t need to lay out the potential pitfalls and bias inherent in this approach. I will say that I don’t see much of a difference in the process given above and the one employed by the SDA church in South Africa. But all that mess aside, I still find hope after reading a recent report by The Public Religion Research Institute. Results from a survey they conducted show us something interesting about Christian’s perceptions of their fellow church members.

“Regular churchgoers (those who attend at least once or twice a month), particularly those who belong to religious group that are supportive of same-sex marriage, are likely to over-estimate opposition for same-sex marriage in their churches by 20 percentage points or more.”

If you’re a Christian and support LGBT folk, you could be sitting in church biting your tongue about LGBT inclusion without realizing you are surrounded by people who would support you. Maybe a conversation in favour of greater LGBT inclusion is happening right now in your church, but unfortunately it’s occurring between smalls groups of people and it’s behind closed doors. Imagine the effect it could have if these pockets of people all began to talk to one another, gradually building momentum until the SDA church couldn’t hold an event with only ex-gay speakers without incurring a serious backlash from it’s congregation. All we’d have to do is talk. Isn’t that within our grasp?