Friday, 8 June 2012

False testimony

If you lie in court you’ll get into trouble. Once you’ve sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and it’s then discovered that you lied you may well end up enjoying that special form of State hospitality called prison.

You might think that everyday life is different. We can lie a bit, can’t we? No, we can’t. Our laws are full of rules prohibiting lying, deceiving and deliberately distorting the truth. However the laws almost always talk about “knowingly” lying. Honest mistakes and ignorance can be overlooked in most circumstances.

But this doesn’t mean that lies don’t happen. Unfortunately, we’re surrounded by a complicated mixture of lies and sometimes deliberate ignorance.

There is a reasonably well-known fake university calling itself “Atlantic International University”. This so-called “university”, based in Hawaii, is not accredited by any recognised accreditation agency. This is what they say themselves on their web site:
“AIU has chosen private accreditation through the Accrediting Commission International (ACI) which it obtained in 1999, the ACI is not regulated or approved by the US Department of Education. Atlantic International University is not accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Secretary of Education.”
AIU is a fake university accredited by a fake organization. It’s as simple as that. Let me be more direct. Degrees from AIU are worthless and won't be recognized in Botswana, so don't waste your money.

Just a few days ago I received an email from someone who I assume works for, or is paid to promote this bogus establishment but who chose to remain anonymous. I’ve left the spelling and grammar intact.
“Your comments are completely wrong. The University is completley legitimate? How do I know? I went there! I have two degrees from US accredited institutions. AIU allows students to choose their wn program, own pace and flexibility to not operate within a confining system. The work is difficult, it is graded, checked for plagiarism and supported by advisors with great credentials. I understand a non-accredited degree is not for everyone, but to say this university is fake is fraudulent in itself. Wise up!!”
So I’m a fraud for calling them fraudulent? They themselves concede they aren’t an accredited university and they offer non-accredited, in other words, FAKE, degrees. So someone, not me, is either lying or is ignorant of how genuine universities operate.

I’ve also received a small number of emails, even phone calls, from people who have “invested” money in a variety of Ponzi schemes. The tragedy is that everyone except the victims knows they’ve thrown their money away and will never see it again. They might be given very small amounts back to convince them that the scheme is genuine but there’s no way they’ll ever see anything close to their initial investment. That’s how Ponzi schemes work. Initial investments from “investors” are used to pay earlier investors small premiums to make the whole thing look convincing. Nobody other than the creator of the Ponzi scheme actually makes any money.

I firmly believe that the people supporting bogus universities are stooges. They are probably even the same people who operate these fraudulent web sites. The willing victims of Ponzi schemes and their cousins, pyramid schemes, and even their even more remote relatives, multi-level marketing schemes, are in the pathetic grip of delusional self-justification. They can’t bring themselves to believe that they have been so completely foolish. They’re in complete psychological denial, often a denial so profound that they’ll continue to invest even more money, promising themselves, like gamblers, that one day soon it will all turn out right.

While I despise these schemes for the effect they have on people’s financial well-being, I have a special loathing for anyone who does the same with people’s physical health.

In Mmegi last Friday an “naturopathic doctor” wrote a piece entitled “Naturopathy: The holistic approach to health and disease” which included a variety of observations, suggestions and claims. For once I‘ll ignore the vacuous platitudes the article included (“Eating plants in the form of vegetables and herbs is linked to a circulatory system within the biosphere and the energy source of the sun”) and focus instead on some of the claims made in the article that, shall we say diplomatically, are patently false. For instance the article claimed that “a special energy - vital energy or vital force - guides the body's processes”. What evidence is there for this mythical “force”? None.

Later on the author claims that “acupuncture is an effective tool for pain as well as increasing energy in the body.” Again I have to ask where the evidence to support this claim can be found? In fact ALL the scientific evidence on acupuncture shows that it’s effects are no better than an equivalent placebo. In other worlds acupuncture is a sham and bogus treatment that offers no provable benefits at all. Other than that irritating absence of evidence there’s the fact that acupuncture is just so implausible. Acupuncturists claim to exploit so-called “meridians” that channel energy around the body. Fetch me a knife and a dead body and let’s see if we can find them, shall we? They’re simply not there.

My biggest complaint about these claims is that they are based on a simple, perhaps even deliberate, misunderstanding. The naturopath in Mmegi discussed “the modern lifestyle that comes with diseases like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and other ailments” as if to say that modern life caused these problems. What modern life and the benefits of modern science and medicine have given us is a life-expectancy and quality of health that our great grandparents would have dreamed of. Denying this is false testimony.

1 comment:

Kasey Chang said...

The fact that Hawaii is in the PACIFIC, not the Atlantic, should be enough of a clue that "Atlantic International University" can't generate a proper name. :D