Charlie Sheen is HIV positive. As was revealed on the Dr. Oz show, when diagnosed his viral load was 4.4 million. After six months of the a standard anti-HIV cocktail his viral loads were undetectable.
This does not mean he is HIV negative or free of this virus. As part of the viral life-cycle it goes into hiding inside of cells. It is undetectable while hiding, and also cannot be eradicated by medications. This is a major challenge to curing HIV, or even pushing the efficacy of our current treatments further. Researchers are looking into ways to force the virus out of hiding so that anti-retroviral medications can go to work.
With current anti-HIV treatment someone who is HIV positive can expect to live an almost normal life expectancy free of any major complications of the disease and will not go on to develop AIDS from the virus. The big challenge now is to get this modern medicine to those who are HIV positive in the third world, or to those who cannot afford it.
Interestingly, Charlie Sheen, who has all of the advantages of wealth in a Western industrialized country, opted for third-world treatment of his HIV. He recently went off of his anti-HIV medications and instead decided to rely on the ministrations of an unknown doctor in Mexico making bold claims.
This prompted an on-air intervention by Dr. Oz and Sheen’s own doctor (which was ethically dubious but good television, I guess), after which Sheen reported he would go back on his medications.
Of course, most HIV patients who are lured to Mexico with the promise of a miracle cure will not benefit from a personal intervention by Dr. Oz. Hopefully they will benefit from watching that episode, but if history is any guide (unfortunately) the exposure is likely to lead more people to the Mexico charlatan than warn them away.
Why People Seek Charlatans
The Sheen episode raises a fascinating and important question – what is the allure of the lone maverick making bold claims? Often the answer provided is desperation, but what makes the Sheen example so interesting is that desperation was not a factor. He was effectively in remission from his HIV with undetectable loads. He still has to take medications for the rest of his life, but that seems a small price to pay for taking a horrible deadly disease and transforming it into a benign chronic condition with a normal life-expectancy and quality of life. The situation did not call for desperation.
Don’t go on a juice cleanse. And please don’t do a colon cleanse.
It seems everyone’s on a detox for the new year, and don’t we all need one? Our bodies are full of toxic chemicals. It would be great if we could just purify ourselves with a few smoothies, right?
Tough luck. Detoxes are bullshit.
It’s easy to get drawn into the marketing of detoxes or cleanses (the two are basically interchangeable these days, both terms are used by those who shill them); they’re everywhere, doesn’t that make them scientific? Some of them claim to help you lose weight, some say they treat diseases, and some just … make you less toxic? Align your chi with your wallpaper? Organize your closet and tell your BFF that yes, her passive-aggressive Facebook status messages about her ex have been lame since about two minutes past the age of 15?
But they don’t work. Why? The answers lie in science, and according to the way our bodies work, detoxes could actually cause you harm. Here’s why you should suppress the urge to try out that next miracle cleanse.
Green Juice Will Not Purify You
Who doesn’t want to think that a delightful mixture of kale, twigs, tree sap, unicorn tears, and whatever Gwyneth Paltrow is raving about this week can make you pretty? It’s glitter in a bottle. Right? Wrong. For one, most green juices are just sugar water. Suja Juice’s Green Supreme has 42 grams of sugar, no iron or B vitamins, and minimal protein. At $6.99 to $8.99 per bottle, you’re getting …. juice. Similarly, BlueprintCleanse, Juice From The Raw, and JUS by Julie are not magic keys to weight loss and well-being. All are cold-pressed, organic, and sell at astronomically high prices with vague promises of making you less gross.
Lumosity to Pay $2 Million to Settle FTC Deceptive Advertising Charges for Its “Brain Training” Program
The creators and marketers of the Lumosity “brain training” program have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges alleging that they deceived consumers with unfounded claims that Lumosity games can help users perform better at work and in school, and reduce or delay cognitive impairment associated with age and other serious health conditions.
As part of the settlement, Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, will pay $2 million in redress and will notify subscribers of the FTC action and provide them with an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing.
“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”
According to the FTC’s complaint, the Lumosity program consists of 40 games purportedly designed to target and train specific areas of the brain. The company advertised that training on these games for 10 to 15 minutes three or four times a week could help users achieve their “full potential in every aspect of life.” The company sold both online and mobile app subscriptions, with options ranging from monthly ($14.95) to lifetime ($299.95) memberships.
A new study out of Australia looked at 26 different Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) products purchased from stores. They performed three types of analysis: heavy metal screening, toxicological analysis, and DNA sequencing. They found that 92% of the products tested had at least one type of contaminant.
This adds to a growing list of studies and revelations about how poorly the supplement industry is regulated, and raises further concerns about the overall quality of herbal and supplement products.
A 2008 study found that about 20% of ayurvedic herbal products contained heavy metal contamination, often at levels high enough to be toxic.
“Although we were able to authenticate almost half (48%) of the products, one-third of these also contained contaminants and or fillers not listed on the label. Product substitution occurred in 30/44 of the products tested and only 2/12 companies had products without any substitution, contamination or fillers.”
A 2014 study published in JAMA found that half of the product recalled by the FDA for being adulterated with banned drugs were dietary supplements, including up to one third of products purchased online. Further, when the FDA followed up they found that 6 months after they had issued a recall for adulterated supplements, two-thirds were still on the market and still contained the banned drugs.
A friend of mine shared an eyebrow-raising article on Facebook. The linked story was along the lines of “private planes stolen by terrorists in the Middle East, and an attack is imminent”. The sensible people among his friends good-naturedly mocked him. They ribbed him about how ridiculous the prediction was. And all you had to do was consider the source.
My friend had shared the story from a notoriously crackpot Facebook page. The post lacked any merit, save a few tenuous and unrelated pieces of actual news. This behavior was typical of this particular page. Often, these types of pages hook you with a kernel of truth, and then wrap it in layers of idiocy.
When confronted, this friend said, “well, we’ll see who’s right in time.” The prediction by Natural News has failed to become reality almost a year later.
The Facebook fan pages below have a habit of spitting scientific inquiry and reason in the eye. They also have an unreasonably high number of fans who share their inanity. Shares from the following pages deserve a serious eye roll and shaking of one’s head.
#10 Alex Jones
Facebook fans: 856K
What He Says About Himself
“Documentary Filmmaker, Nationally Syndicated Radio Talkshow & Prisonplanet.tv Host – Free video/audio stream”
What He Really Does
Mr. Jones uses a ton of hyperbole, conspiracy theories, and a loose connection to reality, to whip up fear and loathing in his audience.
Whatever your feelings are on using legislation to increase vaccination rates, you won’t find any legitimate support for implications that vaccines contain toxic doses of chemical. Nor that there are aborted fetal cells in any of the shots we get.
Sample Fan Comment
#9 Food Babe
Facebook fans: 938K
What She Says About Herself
“Vani Hari started FoodBabe.com in April 2011 to spread information about what is really in the American food supply. She teaches people how to make the right purchasing decisions at the grocery store, how to live an organic lifestyle, and how to travel healthfully around the world. The success in her writing and investigative work can be seen in the way food companies react to her uncanny ability to find and expose the truth.”
What She Really Does
Ms. Hari, the “Food Babe”, parrots Dr. Mercola and cobbles together cherry-picked blurbs from questionable studies and Wikipedia. She uses the term “investigation” to excuse the fact that she often gives medical advice without having any education in the life sciences. She picks the weirdest ingredients to go after.
Sample Fan Comment
On Facebook, it’s only a matter of time before someone pulls out the EO sales kit.
I love anything having to do with brain functions. Enjoy
Houston doctor Stanislaw Burzynski – a rock star in the alternative medicine world – has spent decades fighting state and federal regulators, who often have taken a dim view of his claims to be able to cure the terminally ill patients no one else can help, using unapproved medicines available only from him.
The Texas Medical Board has repeatedly tried and failed to shut Burzynski down, arguing that the pugnacious Polish immigrant puts patients in danger by marketing unapproved and potentially risky cancer drugs of his own invention.
Burzynski’s latest battle begins Thursday, at a disciplinary hearing in the state capital.
Yet that disdain hasn’t deterred patients from around the world from seeking care at his Houston clinic.
Now, Texas medical officials are trying a different tactic.
Questioning whether this new spa treatment provides all the medical benefits it claims.
One of our most abundant renewable resources is bogus medical therapies. About every day, someone thinks up a new one: sometimes invented from whole cloth, sometimes extrapolated from a real therapy, sometimes tweaked from an old tradition. Today we’re going to look closely at one such spin-the-wheel-and-create-an-alternate-therapy: cryotherapy.
Don’t confuse this with medical cryotherapy, the freezing off of tissue, usually called cryoablation. Alternative cryotherapy is a hijack of an actual medical term repurposed to refer to the use of what they call a cryosauna, the opposite of a regular sauna. Rather than applying ice to a specific body part, a cryosauna is used for what they call Whole Body Cryotherapy. It’s a small room for one or more people, cooled by liquid nitrogen to extreme temperatures, usually about -125°C/-200°F but sometimes advertised as low as -170°C/-275°F. You have to wear special slippers to protect your feet since you can’t touch anything in there, and you have to wear a mask to avoid frostbite to your pulmonary system. You stay in for no more than three minutes.
What is the medical claim? Unfortunately, as it is with so many alternative therapies, cryosaunas are claimed to cure just about anything the proprietor says, and they all have different spiels. Most all of them say it treats inflammation, skin conditions, and aids in workout recovery. There are several spas, plus chiropractors and other alternative practitioners near me who offer cryotherapy, according to Yelp.
Almost all of the customer reviews are raving. Here are some samples:
“My inflammation almost immediately decreased and I felt a huge wave of euphoria similar to a runner’s high.”
“Felt great afterwards. Will try again to see if I have any lasting effects.”
“I feel euphorically energized after each session and I have noticed that my tendinitis has gotten better after 2 sessions.”
“I feel so good afterwards. I can tell this cryotherapy is helping to heal my body!”
Why do these people feel so good unless there’s something to cryosauna therapy? Is it possible their reaction comes from something other than genuine treatment of some medical condition? The evidence shows that it probably is.
From the video description:
What was once known as Miracle Mineral Supplement, but for legal reasons had to change its name to Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), is a 28% sodium chlorite solution in distilled water currently being sold online as a cure-all tonic. Jim Humble, the man who coined the name and who is also the self-styled Archbishop of his own church (Genesis II), believes that once “activated” by an acidic solution, MMS can be used to cure people of our most feared illnesses including HIV, cancer, and malaria.
In reality MMS is a harmful mixture of toxic compounds that is being aggressively marketed online as a panacea to very sick and unconsenting children. Put simply, it’s the worst kind of woo and should be avoided at all costs.
MISTAKE! i mixed up chloride and chlorite at the start.
Update: 11/02/2015: Related Link: Man Who Sold Industrial Chemical As “Miracle Mineral Solution” Sentenced To 51 Months In Jail (consumerist.com)
By Carrie Poppy via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – CSI
These are two of my own responses on public forums regarding the above infographic:
The guy who made this infographic (Former pharmacist Niraj Naik) is a well known quack, believing in things like:
- “sound healing” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZTqRvWTRCk),
- “scientific prayers”,
- “spiritually awakening sounds”,
- “Ayurveda” – a “5,000 year old system of natural healing”,
- “Trypnaural meditations. Trypnaural meditations feature an advanced form of brainwave entrainment using isochronic tones.”
He is a self-described “marketing expert.” He’s no different than Food Babe, he sells pseudoscience and makes outrageous claims as a way of self-promotion to make money.
His first claim is utter BS:
In The First 10 minutes: 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system. (100 per cent of your recommended daily intake.) You don’t immediately vomit from the overwhelming sweetness because phosphoric acid cuts the flavour allowing you to keep it down.
- There is no “recommended daily intake” of sugar.
- According to the American Heart Association (http://tinyurl.com/momm5hu), “sugars are not harmful to the body, our bodies don’t need sugars to function properly. Added sugars contribute additional calories and zero nutrients to food.”
- The average 12oz can of Coca Cola has 39 grams of sugar. Ingesting this amount of sugar will NOT make you vomit – with or without phosphoric acid. As an example, most candy bars (see image below) have comparable amounts of sugar and WITHOUT any phosphoric acid and we don’t see people projectile vomiting in candy stores. This is ridiculous.
The galvanic skin response
I was recently asked to look into a product called Zyto technology. This is an electronic device that you place your palm on top of so that it can read your “galvanic skin response” (GSR) to specific stimuli. It then uses your responses to prescribe a specific treatment.
By Emiliano Tatar, MD via philly.com
Unfortunately, it is essentially nothing more than distilled water and its use as a replacement for conventional medicine can, in some cases, be dangerous and even fatal. Last March, Hope Delozier, an 18-month-old Pennsylvania resident developed an ear infection. Her parents, who avoid conventional medical practices, tried to treat her with Homeopathic remedies. Hope soon died after the infection spread to her brain. Most tragically, this was completely preventable with inexpensive antibiotics.
The practice of homeopathy has been around since the early 19th century (invented by Samuel Hahnneman). It relies on several basic tenets. The two most important ones are “like cures like” and “potentiation.” Like-cures-like is the idea that, for example, if I eat plant X and it makes me feel warmth, then the plant has a substance that can cure a fever. Potentiation is the idea that the more dilute a substance is the more powerful it becomes medically. There is no other place in modern science where these principles are accepted except for in homeopathy. There is no reason to believe that “like cures like” and the idea of ultra-dilution making something more powerful flies completely against the laws of physics and chemistry.
“Do you accept that you’re a pathological liar?”
Who is Belle Gibson? Via Wikipedia:
Annabelle Natalie “Belle” Gibson (born October 1991) is an Australian … alternative health advocate whose marketing platform was founded on her fraudulent claims of having … foregone conventional cancer treatments to positively self-manage multiple cancers through diet and controversial alternative therapies.
In early March 2015, after media reporting identified Gibson’s apparently fraudulent claims of charity fundraising and donation-making, further media investigation soon revealed that Gibson had also apparently fabricated her stories of cancer, and lied about her age as well as other details of her personal life and history.
via news.com.au (Australia)
BELLE Gibson’s interview with Tara Brown took a tense turn last night, as the hard-hitting reporter confronted the disgraced wellness blogger with fresh evidence suggesting she knew all along that she didn’t have a brain tumour.
Brown hammered shamed health guru, asking, “Do you accept that you’re a pathological liar?”
Gibson replied: “No.”
Gibson, who, in April, was forced to admit that she lied about having brain cancer and cured it through natural means, was offered no reprieve from Brown who was clearly fed up with her storytelling.
“You don’t have a good record on telling the truth, do you?” Brown put to her.
Sitting face-to-face with Brown, Gibson teared up as she told how she “lost everything” after her cancer confession came to light.
But Gibson maintained that she didn’t deceive her followers or the public. She argued that she had been deceived. Gibson said she was told by an immunologist and neurologist, ‘Mark Johns’, that she had terminal brain cancer after he diagnosed her using a ‘frequency’ machine in her home several years ago.
“He went to my home and did a series of tests. There was a machine with lights on the front. There are two metal pads, one below the chair and one behind your back, measuring frequencies and then he said to me that I had a stage four brain tumour and that I had four months to live.
“At the time, I believed I was having radio therapy. When he gave me medication, I was told it was oral chemotherapy and I believed it.”
As the hour-long interview continued, Gibson insisted she was telling the truth about “my reality”.
“I’ve not been intentionally untruthful. I’ve been completely open when speaking about what was my reality and what is my reality now,” she told Brown.
“It doesn’t match your normal or your reality.”
Gibson said she believed “Mark” for years that she was living with the burden of a terminal illness, however her evidence didn’t stack up with the evidence at all and 60 Minutes has not been able to find any record of a ‘Mark Johns’.
After the interview, Gibson handed over her medical records to 60 Minutes which showed that she had a brain scan at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne in 2011, two years before she started to market her sob story to the public for profit and adulation.
Gibson said that she had that brain scan because she started to doubt the diagnosis ‘Johns’ had given her but that the scans had been directly sent to ‘Johns’ from the hospital. Johns then showed her a scan with brain cancer.
However, her medical records from the Alfred stated that she had a 40-minute consultation with a neurologist there who told her that her brain scans were clear. But the reason she went to the Alfred for scans was . . .
“California Gov says yes to poisoning more children with mercury and aluminum in manditory [sic] vaccines,” Carrey wrote. “This corporate fascist must be stopped.”
Carrey didn’t stop there. Continuing:
They say mercury in fish is dangerous but forcing all of our children to be injected with mercury in thimerosol is no risk. Make sense? I am not anti-vaccine. I am anti-thimerosal, anti-mercury. They have taken some of the mercury laden thimerosal out of vaccines. NOT ALL! The CDC can’t solve a problem they helped start. It’s too risky to admit they have been wrong about mercury/thimerasol. They are corrupt. Go to traceamounts.com watch the documentary and judge for yourselves. If you really care about the kids you will. It’s shocking!
Carrey linked to the Web site for “Trace Amounts: Autism, Mercury, and the Hidden Truth,” a 2014 documentary that examines “the role of mercury poisoning in the Autism epidemic.” (Low doses of the preservative thimerasol, which contains mercury, are not harmful, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; however, it is not used in most childhood vaccines “as a precautionary measure.”)
“It was a rare moment in the spotlight for a group that has been increasingly shunned and chastised,” the Los Angeles Times wrote of the film’s premiere in February. “Though anti-vaccine proponents say they are doing what they believe is best for their children, pro-vaccine parents argue that choosing not to vaccinate puts the overall health of a community at risk.”
Those who insist vaccines are dangerous or may cause autism drew ire in California earlier this year after a measles outbreak at Disneyland in Anaheim.
Also See: Jim Carrey bent on ruining his career with dumb Twitter rant about vaccines (Doubtful News)
Just created this meme, please share far and wide
Jeff Bradstreet, who has been described as a “controversial autism researcher,” has now become the center of conspiracy rumors after reports of his apparent suicide. His death is said to have followed on the heels of a raid by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of his Bradstreet Wellness Center in Buford, Georgia (update 27JUN2015: the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency is reported to have aided in the raid). A fisherman found Bradstreet’s body in a North Carolina river on Friday, June 19. Authorities in Rutherford County, North Carolina, state that he had a gunshot wound to the chest, “which appears to be self-inflicted,” according to the local newspaper, the Gwinnett Daily Post. The Post also reports that
“By Wednesday night, some of Bradstreet’s supporters were speculating that his death wasn’t a suicide, but a conspiracy.”
That speculation has spread like a virus through the community of people who are mourning the loss of a man whom they viewed as a courageous crusader against mainstream medicine and who believe, as Bradstreet argued, that the mercury in vaccines causes autism (the evidence emphatically indicates otherwise). According to his website, Bradstreet, whose own son is autistic, embraced a number of unproven or untested interventions for autism, including using stem cells in an overseas study he chronicles, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which the FDA cracked down on in 2013. He was known for his use of chelation therapy.
by Laurie L. Dove via HowStuffWorks
For 10 years, Nancy drank diet soda — sometimes as many as four or five a day. Otherwise, she ate and drank in moderation, exercised regularly and got plenty of sleep. Then one day, as Nancy picked up her glass of diet soda, it slipped from her fingers and crashed to the floor. Shocked, Nancy tried again, only to discover her hand wouldn’t properly respond. The problems subsisted for weeks, then her legs began to buckle and her vision to blur. Eventually, Nancy’s doctor diagnosed her with multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease that affects the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.
Desperate to know more about MS, Nancy scoured the Internet for answers. She learned MS usually strikes between ages 20 and 40, that it affects women more often than men and that scientists don’t yet understand its root cause (source: WebMD). Then she came across an obscure message board and realized she might have a clue after all. There might be a link between aspartame and MS. Wasn’t that the ingredient in all the diet sodas she’d had over the years?
While the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation stops short of saying aspartame — or any additive, for that matter — is 100 percent safe, it doesn’t subscribe to the notion that aspartame causes MS. Aspartame was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in carbonated beverages, and other beverages and foods in the 1980s. After a volley of complaints from consumers experiencing everything from insomnia to diarrhea after ingesting carbonated beverages containing aspartame, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated aspartame’s use and concluded there wasn’t any evidence that it caused these symptoms. More to the point, the CDC failed to find a link between aspartame and the onset of MS (source: Guthrie).
The idea that aspartame causes MS most likely stems from a supposed first-hand account of an aspartame expert that has persisted on the Internet and in chain e-mails since the 1990s. Although this article is frequently attributed to the author “Nancy Merkle,” nobody has ever come forward to take credit and the article contains no citations (source: Guthrie).
The FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research refuted the claims made in the account, which linked aspartame to a number of diseases and maladies, including MS. According to the FDA, aspartame is one of the most frequently tested food additives and there’s no evidence to support a link between aspartame and MS (source: Hattan). That’s good news for Nancy and others who drink diet beverages and opt for “low-cal” foods containing aspartame.
Several years ago, during a lecture on Science-Based Medicine, I noted that if there were one medical pseudoscience that was vulnerable to extinction it was homeopathy. Homeopathy is perhaps the most obviously absurd medical pseudoscience. It is also widely studied, and has been clearly shown to not work. Further, there is a huge gap in the public understanding of what homeopathy is; it therefore seems plausible that the popularity of homeopathy can take a huge hit just by telling the public what it actually is.
Further, homeopathy is in a precarious regulatory position. Homeopathic products are presented and regulated as drugs, but clearly they are not, and they are also not supplements, herbal drugs, nutrition-based, or natural products. They are simply fraudulent drugs riding a wave of ignorance.
In the last few years homeopathy has had a rough time. While the industry is still growing, there are signs of clear trouble on the horizon. Let’s review:
Homeopathy is a 200 year old pre-scientific system of medicine based upon magical thinking. It is mostly based on two notions, the first of which is that like cures like. In other words, a substance that causes a symptom can cure that symptom in extremely low doses. There is no scientific basis for this, despite the desperate attempts by homeopaths to invoke vaccine-like analogies, or their new favorite, hormesis.
The second notion is that you make a remedy more powerful by diluting it to extreme degrees. People have fun making comparisons, such as the need to drink a solar-system’s worth of water to have a 50% chance of getting a single molecule of active ingredient. No problem, say the homeopaths, homeopathic potions contain the magical “essence” of what was previously diluted in them. It’s turtles all the way down.
Medical students and residents frustrated with bogus advice from doctors on TV have, for more than a year, been asking the American Medical Association to clamp down and “defend the integrity of the profession.”
Now the AMA is finally taking a stand on quack MDs who spread pseudoscience in the media.
“This is a turning point where the AMA is willing to go out in public and actively defend the profession,” Benjamin Mazer, a medical student at the University of Rochester who was involved in crafting the resolution, said. “This is one of the most proactive steps that the AMA has taken [on mass media issues].”
The AMA will look at creating ethical guidelines for physicians in the media, write a report on how doctors may be disciplined for violating medical ethics through their press involvement, and release a public statement denouncing the dissemination of dubious medical information through the radio, TV, newspapers, or websites.
The move came out of the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago this week, where representatives from across the country vote on policies brought forward by members of the medical community.
Mazer and fellow medical students and residents were prompted to push the AMA after noticing that the organization was mostly silent during the recent public debates about the ethics of Dr. Oz sharing unfounded medical advice on his exceptionally popular TV show.
“Dr. Oz has something like 4 million viewers a day,” Mazer previously told Vox in an interview. “The average physician doesn’t see a million patients in their lifetime. That’s why organized medicine should be taking action.”
I’ve frequently written about the “arrogance of ignorance,” a phenomenon that anyone who’s paid attention to what quacks, cranks, or antivaccine activists (but I repeat myself) write and say beyond a certain period of time will have encountered. Basically, it’s the belief found in such people—and amplified in groups—that somehow they can master a subject as well or better than experts who have spent their entire professional lives studying the subject on their own, often just through the use of Google University and the echo chamber discussion forums that they frequent with their fellow cranks. Thus we have, for example, the rambling clown car of antivaccine bloggers over at the crank blog Age of Autism declaring that, contrary to the mountains of evidence otherwise, vaccines cause autism, “brain damage,” autoimmune diseases and all sorts of mean and nasty other conditions. Skeptics quite properly point out that (1) there is no convincing evidence from well-designed and well-executed studies to support these links; (2) there is a lot of evidence from well-designed and well-executed studies that there is no link between vaccines and these conditions given that such studies invariably are unable to detect differences in the prevalence of these conditions associated with vaccines (or, in the case of the mercury militia, thimerosal-containing vaccines); meaning (3) the most parsimonious explanation for these results is that there almost certainly no link. What is the response? Antivaccine cranks will invoke the pharma shill gambit and all sorts of dire conspiracies on the part of the CDC, big pharma, the FDA, and the World Health Organization (WHO) to “suppress” smoking gun evidence that vaccines cause autism.
This is a well-known phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, a phenomenon whereby people who are unknowledgeable or incompetent about a topic hold an unjustifiably elevated estimate of their own knowledge base on the topic. In the antivaccine movement, the Dunning-Kruger effect tends to take the form of parents who think that their University of Google knowledge trumps the knowledge of physicians and scientists . . .
Many readers will remember facilitated communication (FC). Back in the early 1990s, a new treatment came rushing onto the scene making promises that were enormously attractive to parents of children with autism. Proponents of FC claimed that many people diagnosed with autism were actually suffering from a physical rather than a cognitive disability. Trapped inside their faulty bodies were high functioning—and in some cases exceptionally intelligent—people. All that was required to free the person inside was to create a communication pathway.
That pathway turned out to be someone else’s guiding hand. Equipped with a keyboard and a facilitator who supported and steadied the communicator’s hand, children and adults who had never spoken a word began to type out full sentences and, in some cases, poetry and novels. Many psychologists and special education professionals were so taken with the results that they began to question their basic understanding of autism. The media quickly seized on the phenomena, reporting heartwarming stories of recovery from the prison of disability. Word spread rapidly, creating a strong demand for training, facilitators, and keyboards.
Then things turned ugly. Some of the messages typed out by communicators included serious accusations of child sexual abuse. Judges ordered parents removed from their homes, and children were placed in protective care—all based on the testimony of previously mute children and adults with autism who were now using FC. Suddenly it became very important to determine who was doing the typing—the person with autism or the typically functioning facilitator. Shockingly, the question of authorship had never been examined . . .
A Los Angeles middle school has turned WiFi off in a classroom to accommodate a teacher, Anura Lawson, who believes she has electromagnetic sensitivity. Now Lawson is petitioning to have WiFi turned off in every classroom in California. That’s what you get for catering to pseudoscience – more pseudoscience.
Electromagnetic (EM) sensitivity is a controversial disorder; well, controversial in that the scientific community has investigated it and concluded that it does not exist, but some individuals still believe they have it. Like many spurious disorders, the symptoms are mostly non-specific. Lawson claims she experienced, “dizziness, migraines, and heart palpitations,” while her daughter claims that her “brain was running slower.”
Such non-specific symptoms can be the result of anything stressing out the system: poor sleep, lack of physical activity, an unrecognized chronic illness, anxiety or depression. They may also be purely psychological. There are no specific symptoms or objective signs to indicate that there is any pathology present. Once treatable pathology has been ruled out, it’s best to focus on treating symptoms and improving quality of life.However, there are many fake or dubious diagnoses out there to place a label on patients with such non-specific symptoms. These labels have changed over the generations, but apparently have always existed. Today there are several popular fad diagnoses for non-specific symptoms, including candida hypersensitivity, multiple chemical sensitivity, chronic Lyme disease, adrenal fatigue and EM sensitivity.
Giving someone a dubious diagnosis can be harmful. It may lead to unnecessary treatment, may delay or prevent making a correct diagnosis of an underlying disease, may delay or prevent optimal treatment, is often expensive, perpetuates false ideas about health and disease, and fosters mistrust of medical professionals, often to the point of conspiracy theories.
There have been a number of provocative studies of what is now called idiopathic environmental intolerance with attribution to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF).
By Debra Kelly via Listverse
The main goal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is to, theoretically, keep us safe from all those nasty diseases that they have locked away in their labs, their clean rooms, and their biohazard vaults. But, people are people, and people are naturally suspicious of anyone with that many nasty tools at their disposal. This has led a some pretty wild theories about just what’s going on behind the closed doors of the CDC.
10 • The Coffin Stockpile
The CDC is located in Atlanta, Georgia, and that didn’t go unnoticed by people who had also seen what looked like a huge stockpile of coffins sitting in a field along Interstate 20, outside Madison, Georgia. Throw in proximity to the airport, and the rumor mill started turning.
According to the conspiracy theorists, the field was the site of coffins that the CDC was stockpiling in preparation for what they were calling a “high-casualty event.” Most recently, that was the massive Ebola outbreak, when conspiracy theorists realized that not only were the coffins still there, but there was also a page on the CDC website dedicated to the handling and disposal of the bodies of people who had died from Ebola. The site absolutely does specify that special caskets were required for burial. (Originally, they were called “hermetically sealed caskets,” a term that was replaced with “metal” caskets in a January 2015 update.)
There are a couple of huge problems with the whole theory. For one, the caskets are not actually caskets; they’re burial vault liners, which are placed inside the grave in areas that are prone to ground conditions like flooding. The heavy liners keep soil from shifting and collapsing into a wooden casket. Also, the burial vaults don’t belong to the CDC, FEMA, or any other government agency; they belong to the company that manufactures them, Vantage Products. The field in Georgia is just where they store them, and there’s nothing fishy about it, as their manufacturing facilities are located nearby.
9 • The Man-Made AIDS Virus
The idea that AIDS was a man-made virus unleashed on an unsuspecting population really got its start in an East German publication, allegedly sponsored by the KGB, called AIDS: USA Home-Made Evil. The 1986 work of two scientists, the pamphlet argued that the American government had used their Fort Detrick, Maryland, laboratory to combine a sheep virus with a human one to create AIDS.
The whole idea was taken a step further by Dr. William C. Douglass, who wrote AIDS: The End of Civilization and claimed that the German scientists were right, and the World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC were responsible for the introduction of the virus into the human population. He claimed it wasn’t hard because it was spread through pretty much any kind of casual contact that you could think of, including mosquitoes.
Strecker Group head Dr. Robert Strecker also jumped on the conspiracy bandwagon with some even more impressive theories. According to him, the CDC is actively spreading the AIDS virus, which is actually a hybrid between a cow virus and a human one, and there are six different types of AIDS viruses all engineered in what he vaguely suggested might be a partnership with the Communists. His theories, works, and poorly made amateur videos went on to inspire Dr. Alan Cantwell, who pointed the finger at the CDC for what he believed were clear political motivations for their active spread of AIDS.
According to Cantwell, the CDC is the instrument of a genocide targeting America’s gay population. One of his fellow theorists goes, amazingly, a step further and suggests that this incredible attempt at genocide calls for nothing less than martial law and a revocation of civil liberties while the whole problem is sorted out.
8 • The CDC, Mercury-Tainted Vaccines, And Autism
The battle over whether parents should or shouldn’t vaccinate their children is an ongoing one, and there’s a pretty fascinating story on the conspiracy theorists’ side. In 2005, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. published an article in Rolling Stone linking the big pharmaceutical chains with the government’s tendency to hide potentially dangerous effects.
According to Kennedy, the CDC held a meeting at the Simpsonwood Conference Center, that he described using words and phrases like “isolated” and “complete secrecy.” It was invitation-only, and only top officials from various parts of the government were invited—from the FDA, the WHO, and everyone from a who’s-who list of drug companies. They were under strict orders not to discuss anything.
The whole meeting allegedly had to do with findings released by a CDC epidemiologist that linked mercury-based vaccines with a high rate of autism and other developmental problems like delays in speech and hyperactivity. According to the data, vaccines were responsible for raising the instances of autism to one in 166 cases—up from the normal one in 2,500.
The rest of the conference, Kennedy says, was spent discussing how to cover everything up. He says that the transcripts of the super-top-secret meeting (which he acquired through the Freedom of Information Act) detail the damage control mode that all the representatives went into. Data was reworked, and the CDC was more than happy to lend a helping hand in getting rid of the mercury-based vaccinations, not by destroying them but by selling them and exporting them to other countries.
The transcripts convinced Kennedy that the dangers of vaccinations were real, pointing out that other countries, including Russia, had banned the mercury-based additive from vaccinations decades ago. He goes on to say that the clear conflict of interest and the connections between the CDC and the financial interests of the drug companies make it clear that something needs to be done.
The story hasn’t had an easy run of it. Originally, it first appeared in both Salon and Rolling Stone. Salon retracted the story, while it remained up on the Rolling Stone site in a pay-only section, until disappearing in what they called a “redesign error.” The article then reappeared, and Rolling Stone denied that they had purposely removed it, even though there were no links to the article anywhere, and search terms turned up nothing.
According to Kennedy, there are two doctors that have had access to the information he did: Mark and David Geiers. The Geiers themselves are controversial at best, promoting what they call a cure for autism that involves chemical castration. Mark Geier’s medical license was suspended for promoting this “cure,” and David Geier, who wasn’t even a doctor, was charged with practicing medicine without a license.
By J. Francis Wolfe via Listverse
There is very good reason for all of humanity to have a healthy curiosity relating to near-death experiences. Death is the one experience we are all guaranteed to ultimately share. The field of science has therefore made numerous attempts to explain the near-death phenomena that so many people have independently described.
10 • The Temporoparietal Junction May Be Responsible For Out-Of-Body Experiences
Among the more common elements of near-death experiences is the distinct feeling of an individual having left their worldly body. Those who have had an “out-of-body” experience often report floating above themselves while being able to see their body and the people surrounding them. There have even been a few reports in which those who have had an out-of-body experience can identify objects and events occurring during times in which they were considered clinically dead, but there have also been studies demonstrating that this all could be due to damage in the temporoparietal junction of the brain.
The temporoparietal junction is responsible for assembling the data collected by the body’s senses and organs to form the perception of an individual’s body. When this part of the brain is damaged, it is possible that this results in the “out-of-body” experience that so many people have reported.
Though the experience may appear to be incredibly vivid and real, scientific studies have been able to reproduce this phenomenon without bringing the subject close to death, simply by electrically stimulating the temporoparietal junction of the brain.
9 • Excess Carbon Dioxide May Create The Tunnel And White Light
Nearly every individual who has had a near-death experience discusses the existence of a bright, white light and a tunnel that seems to lead to the afterlife. The white light seems to take on an otherworldly quality and is often accompanied by an overwhelming sense of peacefulness and welcoming.
A 2010 study of patients who had heart attacks revealed that there may be a correlation between this type of near-death experience and the level of CO2 in the blood. Out of the 52 cardiac patients studied, 11 reported a near-death experience. The levels of CO2 in the blood of those 11 patients were significantly higher than the patients who did not report having a near-death experience.
The feeling among researchers is that the excess CO2 in the bloodstream can have a significant effect on vision, which leads to patients seeing the tunnel and the bright light.
8 • Lack Of Oxygen To The Brain Causes Hallucinations
Many near-death experiences include the presence of long-dead friends and relatives appearing and perhaps even guiding the individual as they pass from the world of the living to the afterlife. Memories from every part of life are recalled in rapid succession, and there is an overwhelming sense of comfort, yet it appears that scientific research has provided an explanation for this phenomenon as well.
While excess CO2 has an effect on vision during a near-death experience, a lack of oxygen to the brain also plays a contributing role. It is well known that oxygen deprivation can lead to hallucinations and may even contribute to the feeling of euphoria that is often reported. While the sample size available to researchers is limited, studies have indicated that individuals who reported a near-death experience during cardiac arrest also had lower levels of oxygen.
Researchers believe that oxygen deprivation could well result in people “seeing their lives flash before their eyes” or being transported to a place where they are surrounded by friends and relatives who have long since passed on. This remains just a theory, however, as the other available research seems to indicate that multiple factors contribute to the near-death experience, which include the aforementioned CO2 levels as well. It makes sense in this regard that near-death experiences are commonly reported by those resuscitated following a heart attack, as a heart attack occurs when blood is blocked from reaching the brain.
By Yvette d’Entremont via gawker
Vani Hari, AKA the Food Babe, has amassed a loyal following in her Food Babe Army. The recent subject of profiles and interviews in the New York Times, the New York Post and New York Magazine, Hari implores her soldiers to petition food companies to change their formulas. She’s also written a bestselling book telling you that you can change your life in 21 days by “breaking free of the hidden toxins in your life.” She and her army are out to change the world.
She’s also utterly full of shit.
I am an analytical chemist with a background in forensics and toxicology. Before working full-time as a science writer and public speaker, I worked as a chemistry professor, a toxicology chemist, and in research analyzing pesticides for safety. I now run my own blog, Science Babe, dedicated to debunking pseudoscience that tends to proliferate in the blogosphere. Reading Hari’s site, it’s rare to come across a single scientific fact. Between her egregious abuse of the word “toxin” anytime there’s a chemical she can’t pronounce and asserting that everyone who disagrees with her is a paid shill, it’s hard to pinpoint her biggest sin.
Hari’s superhero origin story is that she came down with appendicitis and didn’t accept the explanation that appendicitis just happens sometimes. So she quit her job as a consultant, attended Google University and transformed herself into an uncredentialed expert in everything she admittedly can’t pronounce. Slap the catchy moniker “Food Babe” on top, throw in a couple of trend stories and some appearances on the Dr. Oz show, and we have the new organic media darling.
But reader beware. Here are some reasons why she’s the worst assault on science on the internet.
Natural, Organic, GMO-Free Fear
Hari’s campaign last year against the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte drove me to launch my site (don’t fuck with a Bostonian’s Pumpkin-Spice Anything). She alleged that the PSL has a “toxic” dose of sugar and two (TWO!!) doses of caramel color level IV in carcinogen class 2b.
The word “toxic” has a meaning, and that is “having the effect of a poison.” Anything can be poisonous depending on the dose. Enough water can even be poisonous in the right quantity (and can cause a condition called hyponatremia).
But then, the Food Babe has gone on record to say, ” There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever.” I wonder if anybody’s warned her about good old dihydrogen monoxide?
It’s a goddamn stretch to say that sugar has deleterious effects, other than making your Lululemons stretch a little farther if you don’t “namaste” your cheeks off. However, I implore you to look at the Safety Data Sheet for sugar. The average adult would need to ingest about fifty PSLs in one sitting to get a lethal dose of sugar. By that point, you would already have hyponatremia from an overdose of water in the lattes.
And almost enough caffeine for me.
Joni Mitchell was hospitalized this week, but the songwriter has been sick for years. She has described her debilitating illness as “a slow, unpredictable killer–a terrorist disease. It will blow up one of your organs, leaving you in bed for a year.” Yet doctors have described this same illness as an internet meme, a delusion spread online.
Mitchell is talking about Morgellons disease, a condition where people report their skin crawling with parasitic, foreign fibers, often sprouting out of sores and lesions, in addition to fatigue and other health problems associated with itching skin. Morgellons is emphatically not accepted by the medical community. In fact, many doctors and researchers credit the internet with creating the conditions to spread Morgellons self-diagnoses as a kind of digital folie a deux. “It seems to be a socially transmitted disease over the Internet,” mass delusional specialist (yup, that’s a thing) Robert E. Bartholomew told the Los Angeles Times in 2006.
In 2008, a panel of doctors answered questions about Morgellons for the Washington Post. Dr. Jeffrey Meffert explicitly pinpointed the internet and digital communities as the reason why the idea of the disease caught on, saying the disease “has only existed as long as high speed internet.” Skeptics don’t see Morgellons as a virus, but see it as a misbelief gone viral.
In 2012, the U.S. Center for Disease Control investigated Morgellons and concluded that it is psychosomatic. A CDC spokesperson told me the center is no longer tracking reports of Morgellons since it published the study.
Many doctors believe that people who self-diagnose with Morgellons have delusions of parasitosis and infestation, and are inflicting their abrasions on themselves. In other words: It’s all in their heads.
People who identify as Morgellons patients—or “Morgies”—are upset by this assessment. So where do people go when they feel like the medical community rejects them? Online.
Also See: Morgellons (Wikipedia)
Glyphosate (Monsanto’s Roundup) is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses that are known to compete with commercial crops grown around the world. It has several advantages over many herbicides in that it breaks down in the soil into non-toxic organic molecules, reducing or eliminating contamination of groundwater and lower soils.
Monsanto has developed genetically modified (GMO) grains that are resistant to glyphosate, so that agriculture can apply the herbicide to kill the competitive weeds while not harming the crop. This allows farmers to suppress the weeds while allowing better production out of the grain crop.
Whatever the benefits of glyphosate, GMOs and the herbicide are tied together in many minds. And there has been an ongoing effort by many people to claim that glyphosate causes cancer. But let’s look at the science, because maybe we’ll get some information.
What’s this about cancer?
The famous (or is that infamous?) study from Séralini, which claimed that glyphosate and GMO corn caused cancer in rats, is quite popular with the anti-GMO forces. For many reasons, including bad statistics, improper experimental design, and bad conclusions, the article was retracted by the journal.
Because that article was retracted, it doesn’t actually count because it really doesn’t exist (but to be fair, it was eventually, re-published in a very low ranked journal). This story is frighteningly similar to the story of that cunning fraud, Mr. Andy Wakefield, who wrote a fraudulent, and ultimately retracted, article about vaccines and autism. I guess Séralini is the Wakefield of the GMO world.
There are better studies out there–maybe.
By Thom Scott-Phillips via Gizmodo
Anti-vaccination beliefs can cause real, substantive harm, as shown by the recent outbreak of measles in the US. These developments are as shocking and distressing as their consequences are predictable. But if the consequences are so predictable, why do the beliefs persist?
It is not simply that anti-vaxxers don’t understand how vaccines work (some of them may not, but not all of them). Neither are anti-vaxxers simply resistant to all of modern medicine (I’m sure that many of them still take pain killers when they need to). So the matter is not as simple as plain stupidity. Some anti-vaxxers are not that stupid, and some stupid people are not anti-vaxxers. There is something more subtle going on.
We all have what psychologists call “folk” theories, or “naïve” theories, of how the world works. You do not need to learn Newton’s laws to believe that an object will fall to the floor if there is nothing to support it. This is just something you “know” by virtue of being human. It is part of our naïve physics, and it gives us good predictions of what will happen to medium-sized objects on planet earth.
Naïve physics is not such a good guide outside of this environment. Academic physics, which deals with very large and very small objects, and with the universe beyond our own planet, often produces findings that are an affront to common sense.
As well as physics, we also have naïve theories about the natural world (naïve biology) and the social world (naïve psychology). An example of naïve biology is “vitalistic causality” – the intuitive belief that a vital power or life force, acquired from food and water, is what makes humans active, prevents them from being taken ill, and enables them to grow. Children have this belief from a very young age.
Naïve theories of all kinds tend to persist even in the face of contradictory arguments and evidence. Interestingly, they persist even in the minds of those who, at a more reflexive level of understanding, know them to be false.
It seems that the regulation of supplements, homeopathy, and “natural” products in Canada is as bad as the US. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC, the equivalent of NPR and PBS in the US) recently conducted a demonstration of just how worthless and deceptive the regulations are.
They created a fake treatment called “Nighton” which they claimed treated fever, pain, and inflammation in children and infants. They then applied to the government for a Natural Product License. On the application they checked all the appropriate boxes and submitted as evidence copied pages from a 1902 homeopathic reference book. That was it. Five months later their fictitious product was approved as “safe and effective.”
What this means is that when the Canadian government approves a natural product as safe and effective, it is completely meaningless. It is essentially a license to lie to the public about a health product.
It is reasonable to assume that many if not most of the public, if they see a product on the pharmacy shelf with the label, “licensed as safe and effective for fever, pain, and inflammation,” with an official government issued product number, that some sort of testing and quality assurance was involved.
The situation is identical in the US. Companies can market homeopathy products or supplements without providing any evidence that the product is safe, and can even make health claims (as long as they don’t mention a specific disease by name) again without the need to provide any evidence. In essence, in the US or Canada a company can put anything in a pill or bottle (as long as it doesn’t contain an actual drug), then without any testing market their random assortment of vitamins, herbs, or just water (in the case of homeopathy) with specific health claims. Pharmacies are happy to sell these fake products side-by-side with real medicines.
This is nothing short of a scandal.
I intensely dislike all forms of medical quackery. Of course, my passionate, full-throated, defense of the scientific consensus on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines is fairly obvious. There are literally mountains of evidence that support my skepticism of the antivaccine beliefs.
But there’s more junk medicine out there than the pseudoscience pushers running around the vaccine world. One of my favorite ones is homeopathy. It is a scam that tries to convince people that a vial of nothing more than water (and sometimes ethanol) has some magical medical properties. And it’s expensive water, much more expensive than some bottled water that claims it’s bottled at the source of some glacier in the Alps.
What is homeopathy?
But let’s back up a bit, and explain the “science” of homeopathy, because a lot of people, mostly Americans, conflate homeopathy with natural medicine, like herbal medicine. It isn’t. Basically, homeopathy, known as the “law of similars”, relies on belief that “let like be cured by like”, and is a term coined by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician who was appalled by the state of medicine at the time, the late 1700’s. And frankly, the state of medicine at that time was pretty bad, so any new idea might have been worthy of trying. However, when Hanneman was alive, basic scientific knowledge was missing. Cell theory and germ theory were a few decades from even a basic understanding.
Homeopathic potions are prepared by serially diluting the original substance (could be anything from diseased tissue to arsenic to snake venom plus mercury) with shaking and forceful striking on an elastic body, which they term succussion. Each dilution followed by succussion is assumed to increase the effectiveness. Homeopaths call this process potentization. So far, it’s just merely diluting and shaking, so nothing much there. But the level of dilution is such that there is only a tiny possibility of any molecule of the original substance showing up in solution.
The dilution is precisely described by Hahnemann. The first dilution is one part to 99 parts water. Then, one part of that first dilution is then diluted in another 99 parts water. Each of these dilutions is called 1C, so two dilutions would be called 2C, with one part of the original similar diluted in approximately 10,000 parts water.
But it doesn’t stop there. Homeopathy uses >30C dilutions, which means that the final dilution is simply water with an almost 0% probability of including even 1 molecule of the original similar.
by Gordon Bonnet via Skeptophilia
In yesterday’s post, I stated that I hated hoaxes worse than I hate outright scientific ignorance. In response, a loyal reader sent me an article referencing a survey in which 80% of respondents said they favored mandatory labeling of foods that contain DNA.
I kept looking, in vain, for a sign that this was a joke. Sadly, this is real. It came from a study done last month by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics. And what it shows, in my opinion, is that there are people out there who vote and make important decisions and (apparently) walk upright without dragging their knuckles on the ground, and yet who do not know that DNA is found in every living organism.
Or maybe, they don’t know that most of what we eat is made of cells. I dunno. Whatever. Because if you aren’t currently on the Salt, Baking Soda, and Scotch Diet, you consume the DNA of plants and/or animals every time you eat.
Lettuce contains lettuce DNA. Potatoes contain potato DNA. Beef contains cow DNA. “Slim Jims” contain — well, they contain the DNA of whatever the hell Slim Jims are made from. I don’t want to know. But get the picture? If you put a label on foods with DNA, the label goes on everything.
Ilya Somin, of the Washington Post, even made a suggestion of what such a food-warning label might look like:
WARNING: This product contains deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The Surgeon General has determined that DNA is linked to a variety of diseases in both animals and humans. In some configurations, it is a risk factor for cancer and heart disease. Pregnant women are at very high risk of passing on DNA to their children.
Despite the scary sound of Somin’s tongue-in-cheek proposed label, there’s nothing dangerous about eating DNA. Enzymes in our small intestines break down the DNA we consume into individual building blocks (nucleotides), and we then use those building blocks to produce our own DNA every time we make new cells. Which is all the time. Eating pig DNA will not, as one of my students asked me a few weeks ago, “make us oink.”
But this highlights something rather terrifying, doesn’t it? Every other day we’re told things like “30% of Americans Are Against GMOs” and “40% of Americans Disbelieve in Anthropogenic Climate Change” and “32% of Americans Believe the Earth is 6,000 Years Old.” (If you’re curious, I made those percentages up, because I really don’t want to know what the actual numbers are, I’m depressed enough already.) What the Oklahoma State University study shows is: none of that is relevant. If 80% of Americans don’t know what DNA is, why the fuck should I trust what they say on anything else even remotely scientific?
My Michael Van Duisen via Listverse
Most of the treatments on this list are prescribed by proponents of so-called “natural medicine.” However, more often than not, they are simply quacks, a term derived from the Dutch word quacksalver, which means “hawker of salves.” Tim Minchin, an Australian comedian and musician, summed it up best: “Do you know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work? Medicine.” That’s not to say that research into alternative medicine shouldn’t be done; rather, once a form of alternative medicine has been proven ineffective, it should be discarded as a viable treatment.
10 • Laetrile
A chemical sibling of amygdalin, a substance commonly found in the pits of apricots and other fruits, as well as almonds, Laetrile is often purported to greatly assist in the treatment of cancer. First created in the middle of the 20th century (the exact origins are unknown), it was allegedly synthesized by a man named Dr. Ernst T. Krebs Jr. However, at least a dozen separate experiments have been done on the substance, with no anti-tumor evidence produced.
The most common rationale for the reason for Laetrile’s “effectiveness” is that cancer cells have a certain enzyme which is not as present in regular, healthy cells. Therefore, the medication, which basically consists of cyanide poisoning, affects only the cancer cells. However, this is categorically false, and a number of cases of death due to cyanide poisoning have been documented. Because of this danger, and due to the fact that it is ineffective as a treatment, Laetrile has been banned from being transported into the US, though it is still used throughout the world.
9 • Colloidal Silver
Colloidal silver is a popular treatment for a number of serious illnesses, such as cancer, HIV, herpes, and other bacterial and viral infections. Basically, a colloidal substance consists of microscopic particles suspended in a liquid. It’s usually taken orally, although some colloidal silver products are salves or injections. (In fact, topical drugs containing silver have been shown to actually benefit burn victims.) Research has been done to examine the claimed effectiveness of oral colloidal silver treatments, but so far no benefits have ever been observed.
The most common side effect of the oral ingestion of colloidal silver is the buildup of silver in a person’s body tissues, which normally results in a condition known as argyria. Usually untreatable and irreversible, argyria doesn’t pose a serious health risk, but it does create a cosmetic problem: The sufferer’s skin, eyes, and internal organs will all become discolored, normally a sickly blue. Excessive amounts of colloidal silver can also result in kidney damage and various neurological problems.
8 • Yohimbe
Extracted from the bark of a species of evergreen tree native to western Africa, yohimbe has long been a traditional aphrodisiac for the local inhabitants. Touted by “experts” as having beneficial antioxidant properties designed to prevent heart attacks, it can actually lead to medical complications, including increased heart rate or kidney failure. Brought over to Europe at the end of the 19th century, Western medicine used the extract for treating impotence, a popular idea which persisted until other medications, such as Viagra, were introduced.
Unfortunately, the evidence for whether or not it even helps with impotence is spotty at best. Numerous trials have come up with either inconclusive or contradictory data. That not only makes it worthless as a treatment for its primary use, it turns it into nothing more than a potentially life-threatening placebo.
I just love when this kind of woo quackery gets totally exposed as a fraud. In this case it’s a bogus product called Sosatec Wellbalancer. This video features Richard Saunders of the Australian Skeptics.
Sosatec Bionics Ltd sell pendants and products (“Wellbalancers”) to protect against what they claim is harmful radiation emitted by mobile phones and WiFi – claims which are highly questionable. The scaremongering around mobile phone radiation provokes unfounded health fears in the general public. We witnessed David Bendall (CEO and founder of Sosatec) supposedly demonstrating the effects of his product, using physical demonstrations which we felt were, at best, misleading.
We have reported Sosatec’s claims to the Advertising Standards Authority.
Read Sosatec’s full response and find out more at http://goodthinkingsociety.org/good-t…
Fad diets pop up on a regular basis. I believe that is because they are so easy to manufacture and there is a ready made market for them. Add to that the fact that it is difficult to lose weight. There is also a great deal of misinformation out there about diet and health, so the environment is very friendly to pop pseudoscience.
If you want to create your own fad diet, here is a handy formula. These things pretty much write themselves.
#1 • You need a catchy title, usually taking the form of “The blank Diet.” You can fill in the blank with almost anything. For example, a recent fad diet is called “the bulletproof diet.” This doesn’t say anything about the diet itself, it’s just a catchy phrase, a brand. You can fill in the blank with a title that does reflect the diet itself, but this is optional. Creating a catchy title is actually the most creative work you have to do in making a fad diet.
#2 • Make outrageous claims of success. The bigger the lie, the more people are inclined to think that it’s not a lie because no one would be that audacious. So just come up with a very impressive figure – a pound a day, 10 pounds a week, or whatever. In reality, on a healthy weight-loss diet people will lose about 1.5-2.5 pounds per week maximum, depending on their current weight, fat percentage, and other variables. Also, weight loss itself is not the ultimate goal, just a marker. People really want to reduce fat and build muscle. Following waist size is also a good measure, and perhaps better. Using the scale is helpful to make sure you are staying on track, however. Liberally use the world “miracle,” although admittedly Dr. Oz has tainted this word a bit by overusing it.
#3 • Testimonials. Personal stories, starting with your own, are the bedrock of fad diets. Don’t worry if there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support your claims – fad diets are not about evidence. They are about selling a narrative, one in which people struggled endlessly to lose weight, but then started the X diet and the weight just fell off. Testimonials can be very compelling, even though they are almost worthless as evidence. Actually, that is their advantage for you as a fad diet marketer, because you can find testimonials to support whatever claims you wish to make.
#4 • The Secret. Your fad diet has to have the secret or key to weight loss. Make this as compelling as possible, using . . .
There is an ideological subculture that is motivated to blame all the perceived ills of the world on environmental factors and corporate/government malfeasance. Often this serves a deeper ideological drive, which can be anti-vaccine, extreme environmentalism, or anti-GMO. The latest environmental bogeyman making the rounds is glyphosate, which is being blamed for (you guessed it) autism.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup. It has been widely used for about 40 years, and with the introduction of GM crops that are Roundup resistant, its use has increased significantly in the last 20 years. It has therefore become a popular target for anti-GMO fearmongering.
Glyphosate is one of the least toxic herbicides used. It inhibits the enzyme 5-enolpyruvylshikimic acid-3-phosphate synthase which interferes with the shikimic pathway in plants, resulting in the accumulation of shikimic acid in plant tissues and ultimately plant death. The enzyme and pathway do not exist in animals, which is why toxicity is so low. Still, chemicals can have multiple effects and so toxicity needs to be directly measured and its epidemiology studied.
Experimental evidence has shown that neither glyphosate nor AMPA bioaccumulates in any animal tissue. No significant toxicity occurred in acute, subchronic, and chronic studies.
Therefore, it is concluded that the use of Roundup herbicide does not result in adverse effects on development, reproduction, or endocrine systems in humans and other mammals. For purposes of risk assessment, no-observed-adverse-effect levels (NOAELs) were identified for all subchronic, chronic, developmental, and reproduction studies with glyphosate, AMPA, and POEA.
As pesticides go, glyphosate has very low toxicity, and any dose a person is likely to get exposed to is well below the safety limits.
We’ve all seen the ads, banners, commercials and books hyping the benefits of “brain training,” offering games and puzzles that promise to keep your brain in tip-top shape as you age. Diseases such as dementia are terrifying, and millions of people do their best to stave it off though online games, crossword puzzles and so on.
As a recent Scientific American column noted, “cognitive training — better known as ‘brain training’ — is one of the hottest new trends in self improvement. Lumosity, which offers web-based tasks designed to improve cognitive abilities such as memory and attention, boasts 50 million subscribers and advertises on National Public Radio. Cogmed claims to be ‘a computer-based solution for attention problems caused by poor working memory,’ and BrainHQ will help you ‘make the most of your unique brain.’” It all sounds very impressive and scientific.
While it’s important to stay both mentally and physically active in our later years, there’s little evidence that most of the commercially-sold brain enhancement methods or pills do any good. In fact the scientific community pours cold water on these fanciful myths.
In late October the Stanford Center on Longevity and the Berlin Max Planck Institute for Human Development gathered many of the world’s leading cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists to examine these brain games and programs. It then issued a statement that read in part:
A Professor of psychology from Victoria University sheds some light on the conspiracy theories surrounding illuminati.
By matt stewart via Stuff.co.nz
You don’t have to be mad to create conspiracy theories, but it certainly helps, new research suggests.
Just believing in them indicates you are more likely to be paranoid or mentally ill, a Victoria University study shows.
Widely held conspiracy theories range from harmless ones, such as the belief that the Moon landings were faked, to more dangerous delusions such as the one in Nigeria that polio vaccines were a Western plot to sterilise people. That led to vaccination crews being murdered and thousands dying from disease.
Clinical psychologist Darshani Kumareswaran is delving in to the psychology of conspiracy belief, and has found some believers are likely to endorse far-fetched plots in an effort to make sense of chaotic situations beyond their control.
Kumareswaran, who graduated from Victoria with a PhD in psychology this week, wanted to find out what made people more likely to believe in, or come up with, conspiracy theories – and whether the process was linked to mental illness.
Avid conspiracy theorists can put themselves under intense psychological strain with their tendency towards paranoid thinking and delusional beliefs, causing mental strain even when a conspiracy theory turns out to be a verified plot.
She also looked behind the common public image of the conspiracy theorist as a crackpot.
Despite evidence of verified conspiracies, such as the Watergate scandal, the public viewed conspiracy theorists in as negative a light as they did convicted criminals, she said.
“For the label to be so negatively rated by the public is quite a powerful finding.”
Study participants were asked to recall a situation in which they had no control, describe it in detail, and write it down. They were then put in a “psychological space” in which they felt powerlessness and were given 24 pictures that looked like snowy television screens.
Half featured obscured objects such as a chair or tent, the other half nothing.
Those who scored highly on a form of psychopathology known as schizotypy were more likely to see an object in the images where there was none, indicating they were more likely to make connections between unrelated things.
“I also found that someone who creates conspiracy theories is more likely to have some form of psychopathology, or mental illness such as . . .
by Gordon Bonnet via Skeptophilia
At what point do homeopaths and other purveyors of woo non-medicine cross the line into committing a prosecutable act of medical fraud?
I ask the question because of a recent exposé by Marketplace, a production of the Canadian Broadcasting Company, called Vaccines: Shot of Confusion. In this clever sting operation, mothers were fitted with videocameras on visits with their children to homeopaths. The videocameras recorded, predictably, the moms being given lots of advice about the (mostly fabricated) dangers of vaccination, and how little pills with no active ingredients were a better choice.
One mother was even told that “measles is virtually harmless for children over the age of one.” This would have come as a shock to my grandfather’s two sisters, Marie Emelie and Anne, who died of measles in 1902, five days apart, at the ages of 22 and 17, respectively.
Not to mention the one million children who die annually from the disease, and the 15,000 a year who are left permanently blind from its effects.
The homeopaths in the video call today’s children “the sickly generation.” And admittedly, there are some medical conditions that have increased in incidence in modern times (asthma, allergies, and autism come to mind). However, it has been thoroughly demonstrated that none of the diseases which have increased are caused by vaccines (nor, by the way, are they treatable using sugar pills). Further, given that there used to be epidemics of diphtheria, typhoid, measles, mumps, and other infectious diseases that killed thousands of children, you can only claim that this generation is “sickly” if you ignore historical fact.
Know of anyone in the last fifty years who has died of diphtheria? Nope, me neither.
It seems to me that we have crossed some kind of threshold, here.