Breatharianism: Just a lot of “hot air.”

Inedia (or Breatharianism) describes a person who does not eat or drink – ever.

These persons claim to live on prana (the highly energetic condensation of light.) This is apparently only possible when one has reached a higher state of Consciousness. It is supposed to be a step on the way to attaining perfection on the path of spiritual self-development.

This is a religious tradition – certain Catholic saints, Buddhists and Hindus claimed to have gone for long periods without any form of nutrition, and survived.

In the case of the Catholics, they apparently ate only the eucharist (the bread and wine that represent the body and blood of Christ.) As they were obviously eating something, we can count them out of this discussion.

The famous Buddhist example is Ram Bahadur Bomjon, who wanders around followed by strings of devotees, sits in pits and meditates, and apparently does not eat.

Discovery Channel filmed Ram for 96 hours continuously and did not observe him eat or drink (or move) during that time. Ram did not show any signs of dehydration, even though a normal person would die from kidney failure after four days without fluids.

In Hinduism, there are accounts of saints who “live by the rays of the moon and sun.” (Impossible in the case of the Moon as it does not emit its own light, it merely reflects the light of the sun and the earth.)

Jani

More modern examples, such as Therese Neumann (another Catholic who allegedly survived for years on nothing but wafers and alcohol – big deal, that is not air!), Prahlad Jani (65 years without food – just the nectar dripping from his palate…sounds like a serious case of post-nasal drip) and Wiley Brooks.

74-year old Mr Brooks is a nutcase of a particularly high order. The Breatharian Institute of America site promotes Mr Brooks’ seminars “The Empowered Ascension” and “Immortality” workshops.” For a mere USD 1 000 000.00 Mr Brooks will explain to you how you can clear your past life karma and negative energies, in preparation for the Ascension which will occur in March 2013.

I wish these crackpots would coordinate their dates…..exactly WHEN is the world going to end? Can SOMEONE give me a definite date please??

The list of famous Breatharians is fairly long, and the philosophy is a whole pile of New Age-y religious crap. The book “Life Style without Food” by Joachim M Werdin, downloaded for free, makes for very disturbing reading. Why does anyone buy into this delusional nonsense?

In the cases that were tested, like Jani, the observations were made over days, not years. I will concede that if a person is well-nourished they could survive for a few days without food and water, longer with some water.

It is impossible for a human being to simply decide to change from being a food-eater to a light-energy synthesiser. You can wish, and wish, and lie to yourself as much as you like – but you just can’t do it, sorry. After a few days you will need some water if you don’t want to die.  And after a few more days, you will have to eat some food.

Or you will start to look like this:

And after that, you probably will die, as some who have tried this Consciousness Raising Exercise have done already. People who encourage others to follow these insane ideas tend to deny responsibility for the deaths that occur.

They say that you must take responsibility for your own life – so if you read their book and believe their claims that you will reach a higher cosmic dimension if you sit and stare at the sun without food or water for days at a time, and you ultimately die, it’s your OWN FAULT!

Back in the real world, the cult of Breatharianism has been debunked – thoroughly, and not just once. A quick google search throws up dozens of examples. James Randi has been especially effective at demonstrating that Breatharians are lying about living on light – they eat and drink. You just don’t get to see them do it.

I feel sorry for people who are so desperate for a better existence they would try something like Breatharianism. The recent case of the Swiss woman who starved herself to death in this way  proves that this is an ongoing problem. Only rational thinking and education will put an end to these dangerous ideas.

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Photography: Dubai Creek and the Souks

The Dubai Creek and the Souks were closer to my expectations of a Middle Eastern city… The Arabian architecture, the people in traditional dress, and the incredible HEAT!

After a very pleasant morning wandering around the Dubai Marina, and an excellent breakfast in an outdoor restaurant (in the shade), we caught the Metro and headed for the Souks.

The Metro in Dubai is fully automatic, driver-less, spotlessly clean, perfectly safe and very well signposted. In spite of that, we still managed to get lost!

Well, not really lost – we were headed for the station called Dubai Creek, only to find out that was actually a water-park, and was closed. It was also in the opposite direction from where we wanted to be.

In case you’re ever on the Dubai Metro, looking for the Creek and the Souks, head towards  “Al Ras”.

After the air-conditioned comfort of the Metro station, the heat outside was impressive. I reckon it was about 35 C, in the shade….. another tip: take a wide-brimmed hat and a dark coloured umbrella if you’re walking outdoors, unless you want a serious tan in five minutes flat!

We walked along the Creek to where the water taxis were operating. These are very interesting; wooden craft (I hesitate to call them boats) for short trips up and down the Creek. They are obviously well-regulated because each taxi has a cover, a number, two fire extinguishers and two life belts.

Canon 60D, 20mm prime lens, f/6.3, 1/400 sec, ISO400

Unfortunately, each one normally transports at least 10-15 passengers!

Canon 60D, 20mm prime lens, f/6.3 1/400sec, ISO 400

As you can see, these taxis sit pretty low in the water, and there is nothing to to stop you falling in the water. I would definitely not take my toddler on one of these! (If you look carefully at the water-taxi on the left in the picture above, you will see two prams – those mothers are obviously more brave than I would be….)

Fortunately, there are no waves and hardly any wind.

Further down the road, we came upon the boats offloading goods for the many Souks.

Canon 60D, 20mm prime lens, f/2.8, 1/400sec, ISO100

(with HDR processing in Photomatix, and a Sepia tone added)

Life on board one of these vessels can’t be easy….

I loved the ornate deck on this one – note the carved wooden roses!

(Cropped from the photo below)

We had driven past this same boat two days earlier, which was a “Sunday” so no-one was working, and I noticed that all the cargo had been stacked on the pavement. Being from crime-ridden South Africa, my first thought was “That’s stupid – that stuff won’t be there tomorrow morning!” But I was wrong – two days later that pile of goods was still sitting there in the baking sun.

Canon 60D, 20mm prime lens, f/5.6, 1/125 sec, ISO100

Across the road, we entered one of the Souks. It was a lot cooler under the woven ceiling. The market was typical of most markets I’ve seen – mainly Chinese and Indian goods, very cheap, but great fun to browse through.

Canon60D, 20mm prime lens, f/2.8, 1/30sec, ISO320

I could have spent hours wandering around the markets, but we were running out of time. We had an appointment for a trip to the Burj Khalifa observation deck. I wasn’t going to miss that for the world!

In my next post on Dubai, I will share photos of our Desert Safari.

Photography: Dubai UAE – Architecture and the Marina

I’ve just returned from a week’s holiday in Dubai, and have chosen some of my favourite photos to share on this blog. These are mainly of the modern buildings around the Dubai Marina – most of which are less than 10 years old.

When you walk around this area, you notice that the buildings are all in shades of pale khaki, blue and grey. It’s surprising how beautiful high-rise buildings can be!

Canon 20mm lens – f/9 for 1/400 second at ISO800

We walked around the Dubai Marina quite early in the morning, having caught a bus to the Metro station, and the train from there to the Marina. The Marina is full of luxury yachts, as you would expect. I didn’t see many people around – it was pretty warm, about 30 degrees C by 10 am.

Canon 20mm lens – f/5.6 for 1/250 second at ISO250

A closer look at some of the yachts – dream on, guys! We will NEVER be able to afford one of these babies…

Canon 20mm lens – f/9 for 1/400 second at ISO 1250

Now here’s something you don’t see every day – this brand new building TWISTS a full 90 degrees between the base and the top – I’m dying to see how they finish it off… it just begs to go around at least another 90!

Canon 20mm lens – f/11 for 1/250 second at ISO1000

We took the ferry from the Marina out around the Palm Island, at sunset. I took this shot on the way back. The light was just right….

Canon 20mm lens – f8 for 1/125 second at ISO400

Back on solid ground, we took a walk around the gardens of the magnificent Royal Mirage Hotel. This photo was taken from their private beach, looking towards the Palm Island, with the causeway between the mainland and the Island on the right.

Canon 20mm lens – f 2.8 for 1 second at ISO1600

And finally, because I can’t resist it, here’s a photo with my crazy Canon 7-15mm lens. This is the Palace Hotel, near the Burj Khalifa – at the other end of town from the Marina. (See my previous blog of photos of the Burj and Downtown Dubai for more photos of the Palace Hotel at night.)

Canon 7-15mm lens – 8mm focal length – f/10 for 1/400 second at ISO200

Next time, I will share photos of the Dubai Creek, the Souks and some little ocean-going Dhows you won’t believe people are brave enough to sail in all day 🙂

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P.S. If you’ve recently been to Dubai, or if you live there, I’d love to know what you think of the city’s modern architecture. Please feel free to leave a comment.

 

Faith versus Medical Science

The husband of a colleague of mine has been very ill, and was admitted to a hospital yesterday for tests. I understand he has seen various doctors already, including a neurologist, but there has been no definite diagnosis as yet.

It sounds as though he might have had a stroke, or be suffering from epilepsy, or possibly a tumour – I’m not a doctor, so I can’t speculate. He was admitted to quite a good hospital, they ran some tests, and have decided to transfer him to a better hospital in Pretoria, for further tests. His doctors are obviously taking his plight seriously, and are investigating every angle. I truly hope they can find out what is wrong, and treat him successfully – for the sake of his wife and children.

I asked my colleague today how she was handling the stress, and during our conversation she got quite emotional… who wouldn’t be emotional in her situation? I tried to reassure her, telling her she should be grateful for the doctors, nurses and hospitals, for the sophisticated medical equipment and treatments available – they will do everything in their power to diagnose and treat him.

(If he’d been born in the Middle Ages, he might have been subject to all sorts of horrendous “treatments,” any one of which might have killed him! Blood-letting was particularly popular….. Fortunately, medical science has evolved since then!)

Sometimes an illness is too far advanced to be treated successfully, and sometimes there is no known cure…. Holding back her tears, my colleague said “All I can do is have faith in God to help us.”

That got me thinking: why would anyone think that God can make a difference in this situation? If God cared, wouldn’t he have prevented her husband getting sick in the first place? If he was powerless to prevent the illness, couldn’t he have used his omnipotent superpowers to guide the doctors to make a quick diagnosis, instead of putting this family through this torture?

Of course, the True Believer will respond that this man’s illness, and the pain and anguish of his wife and children are all part of some “Divine Plan.”

I can’t imagine what Plan would consist of such cruelty – clearly this god is a bit of a sadist – but assuming that is correct and there is a Plan of some sort – what point would there be in praying to him for help? He clearly has his mind made up already!


Here’s an interesting thought experiment: take 100 religious people and 100 non-believers. Inject them all with a bacterium which is normally fatal. Isolate each group on a separate island, with food and shelter, and give the atheists the antibiotic known to be effective against the bacterial infection.

Don’t give the religious group any antibiotics – instead send out a worldwide news release, asking people of the same religious persuasion to pray for the religious group to be healed by their god. Naturally, there will be a massive response and the heavens will positively ring with the desperate prayers of the faithful.

Come back to each island in 3 months time, and count the survivors.

Any guess as to which group will have the greatest number still living?

Most people would admit that the group of non-believers would have the most survivors, because the gods don’t really answer prayers. (Ask any religious person you know if they would volunteer to be in the religious group, and I can guarantee they will come up with a really good excuse to not participate!)

My colleague would be better off putting her confidence in the doctors and hospitals who are actually DOING something to help her husband. These people and institutions are REAL  i.e. they can be shown to actually exist

You don’t have to have “FAITH” in them. You can hate and distrust them if you want to. They will still do their very best, apply their knowledge and experience, use their diagnostic tools, and try to help regardless of how you feel about them. They don’t need you to worship them. They WANT to cure your illness, and all they ask is to be reimbursed for their time and skill.

If you need to be convinced of the terrible HARM that can come from relying on faith that a god, any god, will heal you – read this! You can pick up any newspaper on almost any day and find similar stories. Faith is not an effective medical treatment!

I’m not referring exclusively to the christian version of faith healing here – most religions claim that their god has the power to heal, and works through humans, animals or even inanimate objects. (Even bits of rock are supposed to be able to heal – see my article on the Atlantean Power Crystals.)

I feel deep compassion for people who are deceived by faith healing. It’s not their fault – they have been brought up to believe it. They have probably never heard an alternate view – and even when they do, they tend to reject such views outright because they have invested too much in their religion already. It’s a hard habit to break, apparently.

Here is a video by Derren Brown, which explains how faith healers deceive people into believing they have special powers.  Here is James Randi’s expose of Peter Popoff who received radio transmissions through a wireless earpiece during his healing crusades, feeding him information about the audience who had filled out prayer cards before the performances….. Fortunately, this charlatan is no longer in the faith healing business!

Trickery and fraud by faith healers has been exposed many, many times – read James Randi’s excellent book “Faith Healers” for more infamous examples. If so many faith healers are using these tricks, how do you know if any one faith healer really does have Special Powers?

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence!

So far the evidence is stacked high and wide against faith healing.

Supernatural claims are outside of the realm of scientific study, but some scientists have tried to measure the effects of prayer and found them to be largely absent or negative. I found some interesting articles, mostly reaching similar conclusions:

“Meta-studies of the broader literature have been performed showing evidence only for no effect or a potentially small effect. For instance, a 2006 meta analysis on 14 studies concluded that there is “no discernable effect” while a 2007 systemic review of intercessory prayer reported inconclusive results, noting that 7 of 17 studies had “small, but significant, effect sizes” but the review noted that the three most methodologically rigorous studies failed to produce significant findings.” from Wikipedia

Prayer is often credited with rather unmiraculous benefits, such as recovery from heart surgery which would most likely have happened anyway, especially if the patient is in intensive care, receiving medication and expert nursing 24/7.

I think the real “miracle” is the dedication of the nurses, the intelligence of the doctors and the persistence of the researchers. We are living in an age of amazing advances in medical science – why does anybody bother with the Sky Fairy and his Associates?

Photography: Dubai, UAE – Burj Khalifa and Downtown Dubai

When I mentioned that I was going to Dubai for a short holiday, my friends said “Oh, fantastic! You’re going to Shop till you Drop!”  I gather most people think of Dubai as one big shopping Mall! Well, apart from gifts for my family and friends, a book, a bag for my iPad, a few t-shirts and a Canon 7-15mm f4 Fisheye lens, I didn’t do any shopping….. For me, this was the ultimate Photo Safari, and I’d like to share some of my images here.

When you drive around Dubai you are immediately struck by how everything is so MODERN and CLEAN. Many of the buildings are less than 10 years old, and there are many  more under construction.

The Burj Khalifa, completed in January 2010, is the world’s tallest man-made structure (almost 830 metres!), and is situated on Sheikh Zayed Road in Downtown Dubai. We had booked online to go to the observation deck, which is at 425 metres (just over half-way up the Burj.)

Don’t worry, it doesn’t really bend like that – the only way to get the whole building in the frame was to use my Canon 7-15mm f4 Fisheye lens – 1/400 second at f10, hand-held

The view from the deck is mind-boggling! Having driven around Dubai for two days before going up the Burj Khalifa, I knew just how tall the buildings in that area are – and yet from the observation deck they look like toys!

Looking north: the Trade Centre. (Canon 20mm f2.8 lens – 1/250 second at f6.3 hand-held)

The view directly downward: The Palace Hotel and the magnificent musical fountains. (Canon 20mm f2.8 lens – 1/500 second at f9, hand-held)

If you enjoy photography, I recommend that if you are in Dubai you take a trip up the Burj Khalifa. Take your widest lens, as well as a zoom lens, so you can get shots like this:

(Canon 70-300mm f1.4-5.6 zoom lens –  1/500 second at f9, hand-held)

After our visit to the Burj, we had dinner at an outdoor restaurant, with views of the musical fountains. As the sun set and the light faded, the Burj and surrounds became even more exciting to photograph!

Looking back at the Burj, from the Palace Hotel (Canon 20mm f2.8 lens – 0.8 sec at f11 with a tripod)

The Burj Khalifa, seen from the Palace Hotel (Canon 20mm f2.8 lens – 0.8sec at f11 with a tripod)

The stunningly beautiful musical fountains! (Canon 20mm f2.8 prime lens – 1/6 second at f13 with a tripod)

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Dubai: it’s clean, the people are kind and friendly and I felt safe wherever I set up my tripod. There was so much to see and do I could happily have spent another two weeks there….. I’ll be back!

Next time, I will share my photos of some of the architecture, and the Dubai Marina.