Tag Archives: Alternative medicine

Cosmic Cleansing

Does Homeopathy Work?

Ten Facebook Pages You Need to Stop Sharing From

By via dawnsbrain.com

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”. youtube graduate_250pxThe 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.

Recent Ridiculousness

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

World government, population control, fluoride hysteria, GMOs, illegal cancer cures, and chemtrails. This comment has it all.


#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.

Recent Ridiculousness

This from the woman who claimed to have cured all her allergies with acupuncture and “clean eating”.

Sample Fan Comment

On Facebook, it’s only a matter of time before someone pulls out the EO sales kit.

Continue Reading at DawnsBrain.com – – –

Controversial Texas doctor Stanislaw Burzynski goes before disciplinary board

By via USA Today

Stanislaw Burzynski, has treated patients with experimental, unapproved cancer drugs, at this clinic, in Houston. (Photo: Michael Stravato, for USA TODAY)

Stanislaw Burzynski, has treated patients with experimental, unapproved cancer drugs, at this clinic, in Houston.
(Photo: Michael Stravato, for USA TODAY)

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.

The medical board, like most of the medical establishment, paints Burzynski as a snake-oil salesman who hawks unproven therapies to desperate souls.

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.

Continue Reading at USA Today – – –

Pouring Cold Water on Cryotherapy

Questioning whether this new spa treatment provides all the medical benefits it claims.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

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.

frozen faceDon’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.

Continue Reading at Skeptoid – – –

(VIDEO) Banned by Food Babe: The Lady Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks

Bad Science Debunked

“Thanks for calling out the troll. I’ll make sure to get him”
–Vani Hari, when asked why she’s selling products containing the dyes Yellow 5 and Blue 1

I, Mark Alsip, am the troll referred to in Vani Hari’s quote (above). We had an interesting encounter yesterday on Periscope.  After being encouraged to ask questions, I very politely and respectfully queried Hari on three products she’s selling. I wanted to know why certain of her wares contain nearly a dozen different chemicals she’s specifically called out as “toxic”.

If you’re already aware of Vani’s tactics, you probably won’t be surprised I was banned instantly.  However, for those in the Food Babe Army (or the media) who don’t believe that Hari censors all dissenting comment and immediately bans those who point out her gaffes, presented below are video, screen captures, links to Food Babe’s product labels (with ingredient lists), and more…

View original post 481 more words

Belle Gibson 60 Minutes interview: From Whole Pantry to ‘whole truth’

“Do you accept that you’re a pathological liar?”

Belle Gibson 755Who 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.

Read More Wikipedia

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.

Belle Gibson 800But 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.”

Belle Gibson 806Gibson 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  .  .  .

Continue Reading . . .

Conspiracy Rumors Follow Apparent Suicide of ‘Anti-Vaccine’ And Alt-Med Autism Doctor Bradstreet

Emily WillinghamBy Emily Willingham via Forbes

“... some of Bradstreet’s supporters were speculating that his death wasn’t a suicide, but a conspiracy.”

“… some of Bradstreet’s supporters were speculating that his death wasn’t a suicide, but a conspiracy.”

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.

Continue Reading …

Are We Seeing the End of Homeopathy?

steven_novellaBy via NeuroLogica Blog

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:

Some Background

homeopathy 803_250pxHomeopathy 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.

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Investigation: Sosatec Wellbalancer (Debunking a quack product)

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.

Enjoy 🙂


By Good Thinking Society via YouTube

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…

Why reiki masters can’t lose

by Orac via Respectful Insolence

reiki 1225Regular readers of my not-so-super-secret other blog, where I write under my own name, know that last month Steve Novella and I published a rather nice (if I do say so myself) opinion piece in a peer-reviewed journal about what we called “clinical trials of magic.” In it, we argued that certain alternative medicine modalities are so incredibly implausible from a purely basic science viewpoint, on physics and chemistry considerations alone, that it is a waste of time and resources, not to mention unethical, to do clinical trials testing them. Two of the main examples we used were homeopathy (of course!) and reiki.

Reiki, as you recall, is a form of “energy healing” that I’ve discussed many times before. Its basic precept is that reiki healers, known as reiki masters, can, through a series of hand gestures that might or might not involve touching the patient and often involve symbols drawn in the air over the patient, tap into what they call the “universal source” and channel energy into the person being treated to heal them. You can probably see why I generally refer to reiki as faith healing that substitutes Eastern mystical beliefs for Christian beliefs. If you can’t see why, then simply substitute the word “God” or “Jesus” for the term “universal source,” and my meaning becomes obvious. Of course, reiki can get even more bizarre, particularly when it’s used in distant healing, which can only be likened (to me, at least) to intercessory prayer or when reiki masters claim to be able to send reiki energy into the past or the future. Yes, it does get even woo-ier than claiming to be able to channel healing energy.

reiki cat 139_300pxReiki is, without a doubt, far more a mystical belief system akin to religion than it is anything having to do with medicine. That much is obvious. That’s why I couldn’t resist a bit of amusement when I somehow (don’t ask how!) came across an article by someone named Tammy Hatherill, who runs Tammy’s Tarot and Healing entitled When Your Reiki Client Doesn’t Feel the ‘Energy’.

Wow. So reiki doesn’t always work? Who knew? Well, not exactly. Remember, reiki is a mystical magical belief system. Like a religion, it always works, and if it doesn’t it isn’t because the reiki has failed. You’ll see what I mean in a minute. First, savor the frustration of reiki masters who can’t get their clients to “feel it”:

It doesn’t happen to me very often, but on occasion it does. A client will say, “I don’t feel any different.” Or they may say, “In all honesty I didn’t feel the energy at all”.

What!!! How could the client not feel the wonderful and glorious energy that I felt and sensed whilst giving the treatment? How could they not ‘feel’ any different!!!

Please don’t despair, as the Reiki energy will still be working its magic and will still support the client on all the different levels (emotional/psychological/physical and spiritually.) Just because the client didn’t ‘feel’ anything doesn’t mean the Reiki wasn’t working.

reiki-cat 1104_250pxSee what I mean? If the patient doesn’t feel any different after the mystical magical glory that is reiki, it doesn’t mean anything at all. The reiki’s still working. How do you know? Well, you don’t. But if you’re a reiki master you do have a patter ready for your client before and after. Before, you basically tell the client that they will feel “something.” That something could range from tingles, colors, heat, cool, floating, heaviness, sleepiness, or peacefulness, to nothing at all. Convenient, isn’t it? I wonder what it would be like to be able to tell my patients that virtually any sensations they feel mean that the treatment worked—even if they feel nothing at all! Talk about a “can’t lose” setup. You really have to tip your hat to whoever thought of this scam.

Then, of course, there’s the after treatment patter for the mark client  .  .  .

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Is acupuncture really ancient Chinese medicine? Does it work? Is it safe?

Craig Good Skeptoid 02_90pxby Craig Good via skeptoid
Read podcast transcript below or listen here

This ancient Chinese medical tradition stretches back over 3,000 years, the wisdom of the ancients producing medically valid results even today. As in antiquity, slender needles are inserted at precise meridian points on the body and manipulated by a skilled practitioner. acupucture_chinese_medicine_300pxEach acupuncture point relates to a specific organ or function in the body, and the practice manipulates the body’s energy, or qi to manage pain and treat a host of conditions including allergies, asthma, headaches, sciatica, insomnia, depression, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, constipation, and even sexual dysfunction. Acupuncture is, in short, a venerable medical miracle.

Or is it? Let’s cast a skeptical eye at one of the most popular “alternative” medical modalities in the modern world.

Exactly how ancient is acupuncture? Not nearly as ancient as you may think. The first clue is right there in the hands of the acupuncturist: Those slender, flexible, stainless steel needles. The technology to make them didn’t even exist until about 400 years ago.

There are even more historical clues. The Chinese have long kept detailed records. When we examine them we do, indeed, find references to a practice called needling, but the earliest dates to about 90 BCE. The needles from that era were large, and the practice of needling refers to bloodletting and the lancing of abscesses, a treatment nothing like today’s acupuncture. Earlier Chinese medical texts, some reaching back to the 3rd century BCE, never even mention it. There’s no evidence at all that acupuncture is anywhere near 3,000 years old.

No matter. At least acupuncture is Chinese, right? Maybe not.

Chinese scholar Paul Unschuld thinks that the practice may have started in ancient Greece, with Hippocrates of Cos, and later spread to China. A fundamental feature of acupuncture, namely the special meridian points where the needles must be placed, can be traced to the medieval Islamic and European ideas of astrology mapped onto the body. This rather obvious link led researcher Ben Kavoussi to call acupuncture “Astrology with needles” He writes:

…for most of China’s long medical history, needling, bloodletting and cautery were largely practiced by itinerant and illiterate folk-healers, and frowned upon by the learned physicians who favored the use of pharmacopoeia.

funny_medical_acupuncture_poster-rd59e5d04896c4a0a8f114cb47de682b6_wvk_8byvr_512_250pxAccounts of Chinese medicine first reach Europe in the 13th century. None of them even mentioned acupuncture. Wilhelm Ten Rhijn, writing in 1680, was the first Westerner to reference acupuncture. But what he described bears little resemblance to the acupuncture of today. There was no mention of qi, which is sometimes translated as chi, or any specific points. He spoke of large gold needles that were implanted deep into the skull or womb and left in place for 30 respirations.

The first American acupuncture trials were in 1826, when it was seen as a possible method of resuscitating drowning victims. As Dr. Harriet Hall describes it, “They couldn’t get it to work and ‘gave up in disgust.’ I imagine sticking needles in soggy dead bodies was pretty disgusting.”

Even through the early part of the 20th century nobody spoke of qi or meridians. Practitioners merely inserted needles near the point of pain. In fact, qi used to refer to the vapor arising from food, and the meridians were called channels or vessels, which is part of acupuncture’s link to medieval astrology and vitalism.

So just when and where did meridians enter the picture, and qi finally become some kind of energy?

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Chiropractic manipulation of neck may cause stroke

Via Skeptical Raptor’s Blog

chiropractor 733_cropped_275pxI usually don’t dwell too much on chiropractic, because so many other bloggers mock them so well. Chiropractors are generally antivaccination, they practice junk medicine in areas in which they are not trained, and they are essentially quacks utilizing some mystical alternative medicine, taking money from people who think they’re getting real medical treatment.

Basically, chiropractic is the belief in the “vertebral subluxation processes” that purportedly can be used to treat and cure a vast range of diseases which have no scientifically verified connection to vertebral anatomy. It’s based on the same general type of pseudoscientific mysticism that one finds with acupuncture.

Of course, modern chiropractic has tried to divorce itself from the vertebral subluxation, and attempted to evolve into the slightly more mainstream chiropractic treatment technique that involves chiropractic 732_cropped_250pxmanual therapy, including manipulation of the spine, other joints, and soft tissues. Chiropractic treatment also includes exercises and health and lifestyle counseling. Barely anything more than a good masseuse would provide to an individual.

Despite this evolution of chiropractic to the point that some health insurance companies actually pay for the procedures, chiropractic is a typical pseudoscience–make outlandish claims, minimize or ignore the risks, and make money off of those who think, or want to believe, that it works.

It’s appalling that some people, many who think that vaccines are dangerous (they’re not), believe that a chiropractor, who has very little real medical training, should manipulate the neck of a baby to treat some imaginary, or even real, condition. It boggles the mind.

So, what does real science say about chiropractic?

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Natural News comes out with a load of heavy metal rubbish on flouride

Via Open Parachute

The web site “Natural News” is a prime source of information for alternative and “natural” health enthusiasts. It promotes a lot of misinformation on fluoridation and is often cited by anti-fluoridation propagandists. So – no surprise to see a recent campaign in social media promoting a Natural News article Natural News exclusive: Fluoride used in U.S. water supplies found contaminated with lead, tungsten, strontium, aluminum and uranium.

The article was dutifully tweeted ad nauseum and of course local anti-fluoride campaigners also dutifully and uncritically promoted it. But no-one actually looked at the data in the article to see if it was in any way meaningful or supported the claims of contamination being made. In fact, it is just another example of the sort of misrepresentation I referred to in the article Fluoridation: emotionally misrepresenting contamination. That is, people getting hysterical about contamination  data which actually show very low levels of contaminants.  Getting hysterical about numbers just because they are numbers without any understanding of what they mean.

Lead researcher – the Health Ranger

Little Mikey Adams in his “forensic food lab.”

Little Mikey “Health Danger” Adams in his “lab.”

Mike Adams, who calls himself the Health Ranger, wrote the article which pretends to be a scientific investigation of contaminants in 6 samples of sodium fluoride obtained from Chinese sources. He reports the maximum and average values of a number of contaminants. Of course he uses parts per billion (ppb) because that gives him larger numbers by a factor of 1000 than the usually used parts per million (ppm). I will convert his values for readers and compare them with values found in Australia and New Zealand for contaminants in fluorosilicic acid, the most commonly used fluoridation chemical (actually fluorosilicic acid is also the most commonly used fluoridation chemical in the USA – so its strange that the “Health Ranger’ didn’t analyse that).

The table below compares “the Health Ranger’s” analytical values with those for fluorosilicic acid reported in my article  Fluoridation: emotionally misrepresenting contamination. Also included are the regulated maximum values for these two fluoridation chemicals. I have included  .  .  .

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5 Things I’ve noticed about… Andrew Wakefield

The LockeBy The Locke via The Soap Box

In 1998 then Doctor Andrew Wakefield published a study in the medical journal The Lancet that claimed that the MMR vaccine causes autism, which was later found to be not true but still lead to a worldwide increase of measles cases, and in the end destroyed Wakefield’s career.

Andrew Jeremy Wakefield

Andrew Jeremy Wakefield

There are many things that I’ve noticed about Andrew Wakefield (none of them good) and I’ve come up with about five different things.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about Andrew Wakefield:

5. He committed a terrible fraud.

I’m sure that everybody is aware that his aforementioned “study” was retracted in 2010 by The Lancet after a long investigation by the British Medical Journal and journalist Brian Deer. The investigation showed that not only had he manipulated the data in his study, it also found that he had patented his own measles vaccine a year before publishing his study, and that the study was funded by lawyers who sued vaccine manufactures.

To better understand how Wakefield manipulated the data in his study, please watch this video by Youtube science vlogger C0nc0rdance:

As awful as his fraud was it would not have been as bad as it became if it wasn’t for the fact that so many people took his study seriously and decided not to vaccinate their children because of it. This has directly resulted in the world wide increases of measles and mumps infections and infections from other diseases as well because many people were not vaccinating themselves or their children due to fear of any vaccines, a fear that was brought on by Wakefield’s study, which has also lead to numerous unnecessary deaths.

As for Wakefield himself his fraudulent study lead to his own career being ruined and his name being struck off the UK medical register, making it illegal for him to practice medicine in the United Kingdom.

4. He turned parents into paranoid liars.

One of the direct results of Andrew Wakefield’s study is that many parents have become paranoid of vaccines and have chosen not to vaccinate their children despite being legally obligated to do so in many places before they enter them into school, and the fact that it’s just good common sense to do so.

vaccine 840_250pxInorder to keep their children in school while at the same time keep them un-vaccinated parents will often lie to health officials and school officials about either their religious or philosophical beliefs inorder to get a vaccine exemption for their child.

Other things that some parents will do inorder to fool health and school officials is that they will go to a fake doctor (ex. Naturopath, Homeopath) and get them to write up an exemption from getting vaccinate for their children, or write up they vaccinate the child when really they didn’t.

These types of actions are dangerous not only to the children whose parents did not vaccinate them, but also to anyone that couldn’t get vaccinated for a legitimate medical reason, or those who the vaccine didn’t immunize them for some reason.

3. He’s become the Lord Voldemort of science and medicine.

Much like Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter book series Andrew Wakefield’s name is something you don’t use in a discussion about science and medicine, unless he is used as an example for when bad or fraudulent research is taken to seriously by the public.

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BBC Fail on Acupuncture Documentary

steven_novellaby via BBC Fail on Acupuncture Documentary

Alternative Medicine’s best friend, and in my opinion largely responsible for what popularity it has, is a gullible media. I had thought we were turning a corner, and the press were over the gushing maximally clueless approach to CAM, and were starting to at least ask some probing questions (like, you know, does it actually work), but a 2006 BBC documentary inspires a more pessimistic view.

acupucture_chinese_medicine_300pxThe documentary is part of a BBC series hosted by Kathy Sykes: Alternative Medicine, The Evidence. This episode is on acupuncture. The episode is from 2006, but was just posted on YouTube as a “2014 documentary.” Unfortunately, old news frequently has a second life on social media.

First, let me point out that Sykes is a scientist (a fact she quickly points out). She is a physicist, which means that she has the credibility of being able to say she is a scientist but has absolutely no medical training. It’s the worst case scenario – she brings the credibility of being a scientist, and probably thinks that her background prepares her to make her own judgments about the evidence, and yet clearly should have relied more on real experts.
She does interview Edzard Ernst in the documentary, but he mainly just says generic statements about science, rather than a thorough analysis of specific claims. I wonder what gems from him were left on the cutting room floor.

The documentary does get better in the second half, as she starts to mention things like placebo effects, and the problems with the evidence-base for acupuncture. But she follows a disappointing format – setting up a scientific premise, then focusing on the positive evidence. There is a clear narrative throughout, that acupuncture is amazing and surprising.

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Facebook needs to start enforcing it’s own rules!

The LockeBy The Locke via The Soap Box

Yesterday I saw something on Facebook that really p*ssed me off!

Granted I see lots of things on Facebook that p*ss me off (sometimes on an hourly bases) but the things that usually get my teeth grinding are just rude, or offensive, or ignorant, or all of the above. What I saw wasn’t neither rude nor offensive, but it sure was ignorant, and it was definitely dangerous.

GMO insulin_400pxWhat ticked me off was an infograph posted on Green Med Info’s Facebook page concerning a “study” about “GMO” insulin (which all insulin is) that claimed that certain people with type 2 diabetes can develop type 1 diabetes from injecting insulin. (Link to original post here)

While people with type 2 diabetes can develop type 1 diabetes over time there are usually several factors that can cause this, such as a person’s diet, or whether they exercise, or if they take the medication that has been prescribed to them, or genetics. Insulin is not one of the causes. Infact it could prevent a person with type 2 diabetes from developing type 1 diabetes.

What gets me so angry about that post isn’t just the sheer ignorance of it, or how outright dangerous it is for the people at Green Med Info to promote something like this (because despite the fact that it promotes quackery and fraud medicine, better known as alternative medicine, people do listen to and take “advice” from that page) this type of “info” could kill a person with type 2 diabetes if they take it to seriously and decide to stop taking insulin. Either that or result in a person developing type 1 diabetes, or slipping into a diabetic coma, or losing a body part. The very worst thing that could happen is that the parent of a child with type 2 diabetes reads that and decides not to give their child insulin and what I listed above happens to that child, and there is little they can do about because they are at the mercy of their parent (unless they tell a teacher or family member about what their parent is doing and that person gets the authorities involved).

Now, back to the original reason why I’m writing this.

I, along with many other people reported this post to Facebook hoping that the social media website would take down the post due to the fact that it could cause some people to do something that was dangerous and hazardous to their health, and warn Green Med Info not to post something like that again.

Facebook has done nothing.

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10 Lies Anti-vaccers tell

The Lockeby The Locke via The Soap Box

The anti-vaccination has caused alot of harm over the years with their fear mongering and lies. These lies have caused parents to become to afraid to vaccinate their children, and themselves as well, despite the danger in not doing so.

The following is a list of ten lies the anti-vaccination movement has told, and why they are just bogus:

10. Studies indicate that vaccines cause autism.

autism einstein 02_250pxWhile there are “studies” that claim that vaccines cause autism, only one of these so called studies have been published in a well respected, peer reviewed scientific and medical journal. That study, the Wakefield study (which was published in The Lancet in 1998) was retracted in 2010 after it had been discovered that the main author of the study, Andrew Wakefield, had committed fraud. On top of that the findings in the study itself had been long since discredited and disproved before the formal retraction.

The studies that followed since the Wakefield study that claim that vaccines cause autism have never been published in any credible medical or scientific journals. The only places that these studies have ever been published are either in non-credible pay-for-publish journals, or websites that promote alternative medicine and/or conspiracy theories.

9. Signs of autism show up in children only after they have been vaccinated.

As the old skeptics’ saying goes “correlation does not equal causation”.

Just because a child starts to show obvious signs of autism after they have had their vaccinations, it’s far more likely that they were showing signs of autism before they received their vaccinations and that no one noticed simply because the child was to young to show any noticeable signs of autism to anyone but trained professionals.

8. Adverse reactions to vaccines are common, often severe, and can cause death.

Guess which child was vaccinated.

Guess which child was vaccinated.

Actually only about one out of every 300 people will have adverse reactions to vaccines. Most of the time these adverse reaction are mirror, short lived, and are more annoying than debilitating.

Occasionally a person will have a severe adverse reaction to a vaccine, some of which can be fatal, but these types of adverse reactions are very rare, only about one to two out of every million people. You have better odds dying in a car wreck to get a vaccination than you from the vaccination.

7. Vaccines have never been shown to be effective against reducing the spread of disease, and has even been shown to increase the spread.

I’m sure smallpox and polio would disagree. Actually alot of diseases would disagree because it’s been proven time and time again that anytime vaccines were in wide spread use the rate of infections of a disease that the vaccines are meant to protect against will go down dramatically, sometimes even eliminating a disease in an area.

6. Natural immunity is superior to immunity via vaccination.

Life before vaccinations

Life before vaccinations

If you try to get natural immunity from a disease (i.e. getting infected and sick from said disease) there is a pretty good possibility that the disease that you hope to make yourself or your child immune from will actually kill you or your child, or atleast cause a permanent disability. Also in many cases it takes several weeks for this form of immunity to happen, during which time you will be sick as heck.

On the other hand immunity via vaccination is much faster, doesn’t leave you sick, and is far, FAR less likely to kill you than getting immunity from a disease by getting infected by that disease.

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“You might be a domestic terrorist if . . .”

A look into conspiracy theorist claims
about what makes a person a terrorist

by The Locke via The Soap Box

Recently in one of skeptics groups that I belong to on Facebook someone posted this picture they found on a conspiracy theorist group:

You might be a domestic terrorist if

Apparently conspiracy theorists believe that because some people believe or do certain then that makes them a “terrorist”.

This picture is one of the most blatant examples of persecution complex that I have seen in a while and kind of shows the mindset of a conspiracy theorist.

I’m going to go through all of these claims and explain why believing in these things does not make you a domestic terrorist:

You raise/grow your own food

Why would this make you a domestic terrorist? The answer is it doesn’t.

"Definitely a terrorist - I saw a garden in his backyard."

“Definitely a terrorist – did you see the size of that garden in his backyard?”

Millions of people across the country grow their own food in one way or another, be it either in small plots as a hobby (as my dad does) and as a way to have fresh fruits, herbs, and vegetables, or in greenhouses, or in large fields that provide enough food to feed their entire family. Heck, even the White House has it’s own vegetable garden.

If growing your own food made you a domestic terrorist, then why wouldn’t the government just go around to everyones’ houses and destroy their gardens and green houses? Or pass laws that make it illegal to grow your own food? They wouldn’t because growing your own food is harmless and effects no one.

Oppose GMOs

Opposing GMO foods does not make you a terrorist. It might make you someone who doesn’t understand the science behind GMO foods, or someone who has embraced anti-GMO propaganda, but not understanding science or embracing some group’s claims without questioning them doesn’t make you a terrorist.

If opposing GMO foods made you a terrorist then there would be no organic foods in any grocery store or farmers market anywhere, and no laws meant to either label GMO foods or prevent them from being grown or sold would ever be proposed, much less passed.

Prefer natural medicines

"Is that a cinchona tree i'm feeling?"

“Is that a cinchona tree i’m feeling?”

If this was true then how come the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a official United States government agency that researches and promotes things like natural medicines, even exists?

While the government does restrict multiple types of alternative and natural medicines, this is only because some of them are dangerous, or the manufactures claim it can do something when infact it cannot.

If natural medicines made a person a terrorist then all forms of alternative medicine would be illegal and people who sale it or even promote it would be going to prison.

Refuse vaccinations

Refusing vaccines does not make you a terrorist as there no laws that say that you have to get vaccinated. However, it does make you dangerous to others, as well as your own self as it puts you at greater risk for getting infected with a disease that could kill you, as well as spreading said disease to others who either weren’t vaccinate because they also choose not to (or their parents choose not to have them vaccinated) or a person whom couldn’t get vaccinate for various medical reasons, or someone whom did get vaccinated but the vaccine did not take affect for some reason.

"Is that a Ron Paul bumpersticker?"

“Is that a a Ron Paul bumper sticker?”

Have a Ron Paul bumper sticker

This does not make you a terrorist, it just makes you someone who likes Ron Paul and refuses to accept the reality that he’ll never be President, and someone who doesn’t know when to take a bumper sticker off of their car.

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5 Things I’ve noticed about… Autism cure promoters

autism water
By The Locke via The Soap Box

Autism cure promoters are people who claim they “cure” people with autism.

The claims made by these people are very conversational, both in their claims about autism and it’s causes, and what they say can cure autism.

Now there are a lot of different things I have noticed about autism cure promoters, but I’ve narrowed it down to five different things.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about autism cure promoters:

5. They’re closely aligned with the anti-vaccination movement.

VaCCINE-no-Autism_200pxAutism cure promoters and the anti-vaccination movement are pretty much like peas in a pod. Anti-vaccers often promote these so called “therapies” that the autism cure promoters claim can cure a person with autism, and autism cure promoters also tend to publish on their websites anti-vaccination movement propaganda, mainly in the form of claims that certain chemicals in vaccines can cause autism.

Some of these promoters also like to use certain words that the anti-vaccination movement also uses inorder to sell their therapies to people with autism or have autistic children, such as “vaccine damage”, “vaccine injury”, or “autism epidemic”.

They also ignore the fact that such words are not only incorrect and misleadinf, but very insulting to people with autism. Ofcourse they’re not actually promoting their therapies towards people with autism, they’re really promoting them towards parents of children who have autism and just want their kids to be normal.

4. They exploit the fears and desires of parents with autistic children.

For some parents when a child is diagnosed with autism it can be devastating to them, and the fact that there is no way to cure autism can make that devastation to them even worse. autism einstein 02_300pxThen comes along someone who claims they can do things that the medical industry cannot do and can “cure” their child of autism, and if they don’t know any better they may take that person up on their offer.

A person who is misinformed about what autism is and what causes autism, mixed with both the fear of what will happen to their child and how their life will turn out due to their autism, combined with their desire to have a “normal” child, would be very temped by someone whom claims they can cure their child of autism and give them a chance at a normal life and be willing to pay whatever price they can inorder to do so.

The people who are promoting these so called autism cures know this and know that they can exploit these fears and desires to sell people products and services that scientific research has concluded are useless at curing autism.

3. They’re trying to give a simple solution to a complex issue.

Autism is a neurological disorder, and like all neurological disorders it’s complex without any simple solutions.

Autism cure promoters try to make it look like autism is caused by toxins in the body, and that by removing these toxins a person whom has autism one can be cured of autism.

While some toxins can cause neurological disorders, all legitimate scientific research has shown that autism isn’t one them.

While the actually cause of autism is still technically unknown, most scientists who study autism agree that it’s  .  .  .

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5 Things I’ve noticed about… Mike Adams

by via The Soap Box

Mike Adams, the creator of the website Natural News, and one of the biggest promoters of alternative medicine there is, also known as non-science and non-evidence based medicine.

Now many things have been said about him and the way he acts, and I myself have noticed a few things about him as well.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about Mike Adams:

5. He’s a conspiracy theorist.

mike adams straight-jacket 02Mike Adams, despite the fact that his website, Natural News, constantly writes about stuff related to medicine (by that I mean bad mouthing science and evidence based medicine and promoting alternative medicine, no matter how ridiculous or dangerous it is) is neither a doctor, nor a scientist. He is a conspiracy theorist who promotes just about every conspiracy theory there is, although he mainly promotes “big pharma” conspiracy theories.

Even if he was an actual doctor or scientist with a legitimate degree in either science or medicine it still wouldn’t matter, because what he’s promoting is non-science based medicine, as well as other types of conspiracy theories besides just the big pharma ones, and he’s using fear mongering and paranoia inorder to promote these things, as well as bash science and evidence based medicine.

Pretty much his only “connection” with the health industry is his self appointed title of “The Health Ranger”, and that his website is used as an example by those in the health care industry and those who promote science based medicine as what a bad science website looks like.

4. He’s against all forms of science based medicine.

Mike Adams isn’t just someone whom believes that there are a few types of science based medicines and medical techniques that are bad for you. Nope, he’s against them all, Natural News's Facebook page.no matter how much scientific evidence there is showing that something works, like chemotherapy, or vaccines, or drugs that help fight HIV (which he thinks doesn’t exist in the first place).

It almost seems like anything that’s accepted and promoted by a valid and respected medical organization is automatically viewed by Adams as dangerous and part of a conspiracy. I bet he would even tell people who come to his website not to use homeopathy, acupuncture, or chiropractic “medicine” if several legitimate medical associations were to come out and say that this stuff works and works well. Infact I bet he would claim that people in homeopathy, acupuncture, or chiropractic “medicine” were hiding the fact that their stuff doesn’t work, and that they were sending out shills, or just using brain washed idiots to spread disinformation and make threats to try to scare off people who questions them, and even go so far as to sue people who criticize them…

Hopefully you see the irony in the that last sentence there.

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Your Body’s Energy Fields

We are constantly bombarded with marketing references to your body’s energy field. Is there such a thing?

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

body-energyfield_250pxYears after Skeptoid’s original episode #1 on New Age Energy, talk of energy fields — particular the human body’s energy fields — continues to permeate pop culture. A quick Google search for “human energy field” yields an avalanche of New Agey sciencey-sounding results: biofields, noetic balancing, auras, chakras, cleansing and activating your fields, bioenergetics, science unlocking the secrets, luminosity, sensing, negative energy, positive energy, and the human bioelectromagnetic field. Does the human body indeed have any characteristic that can be reasonably described as an energy field?

Although most of the usage you’ll hear of the term sounds like something from Deepak Chopra which is clearly without any factual meaning, the idea that a living body has some measurable effect on its immediate environment is not necessarily an unsound concept. Our bodies generate heat, we have mass, fluids move within us and millions of electric signals are constantly being transmitted through our nervous system. Might we not actually produce an energy field?

Molecular structuresA useful place to begin is with definitions, namely those of “energy” and “field”. Energy is a measurement of something’s ability to perform work. A liter of gasoline has chemical energy stored in molecular bonds that, when broken, produce an exothermic chemical reaction. Put it into the engine, and this reaction will cause the engine to run, converting stored chemical energy into kinetic energy. We can precisely quantify the amount of energy stored in that liter of fuel. A basic unit of energy is called the joule, and a typical gasoline contains about 42 megajoules of energy per kilogram. A typical alkaline AA battery contains about 9,000 joules. The calories of chemical energy that my bloodstream absorbs when I eat a Power Bar charge up my muscles enough to dig some specific, and measurable, amount of dirt in my garden.

That’s all that energy is: a measurement of work capability. But in popular culture, “energy” has somehow become a noun. “Energy” is often spoken of as if it is a thing unto itself, like a region of glowing power, that can be contained and used. Here’s a good test. When you hear the word “energy” used, substitute the phrase “measurable work capability.” Does the usage still make sense? Remember, energy itself is not the thing being measured: energy is the measurement of work performed or of potential.

OK, so that’s energy, a measured, quantified amount of work capability. So let’s wipe the slate clean and look at what a field is.

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Earth Day Festival 2014: How was the Woo?

by The Locke via The Soap Box

Last Sunday, April 26, I went down to my town’s annual Earth Day Festival to check out everything that was there, just like I do every year.

Last year I was appalled by the amount of pseudoscience and alternative medicine woo mixed in with all of the legitimate booths and displays promoting legitimate environmental causes and advice [read about it here] to the point where they pretty much overshadowed what the Earth Day festival was suppose to be about.

The worst offender last year of course was a booth promoting Anti-GMO conspiracy theories.

Fortunately that person wasn’t back this year, but still there were people back again promoting the same woo, including the Astrology and Tarot Card reader from last year  .  .  .


.  .  .  and the chiropractors from last year are back as well  .  .  .


.  .  .  but I have some new ones for this year, starting with this one:


Now I admit at first glance this one wasn’t that bad, even through it had nothing to do with environmentalism.

Creating art can help relax a person and cut down on stress. That’s the good part about what’s being presented there.

Then there’s the woo.

They also promote past life regression and trauma healing, clearing of curses, negative spirits, and other stuff of the like, and how to protect yourself from such things, all while using nature and spiritual energy.

In other words instead of addressing any real things that can cause stress in a person’s life, they’re just claiming that it’s supernatural forces, and use “techniques” they claim to get from Shamanism to “cleanse” a person of these supernatural forces.

The next offender of promoters of woo that I saw there was  .  .  .

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Acupuncture & What They Don’t Teach in Medical School

Via Skepdic.com

Another improperly done and ineptly reported acupuncture study has appeared. Julie Medew is the health editor for The Age, an Australian newspaper with an online presence. She authored an article yesterday with the headline:

Acupuncture as effective as drugs in treating pain, trial shows

acupucture_chinese_medicine_300pxThe headline is accurate but falsely implies that acupuncture was effective, which most people will probably take to mean that acupuncture, by some as yet undiscovered means, really relieves pain. Many people will also jump to the conclusion that this is a good thing because drugs have side effects and acupuncture doesn’t. Is that true? It’s not obviously true or intuitively true. We need evidence before we should accept such a claim. Many people will also jump to the conclusion that this is a good thing because acupuncture is cheaper than pain pills. Is that true? If it is, it is not obviously true or intuitively true. Where’s the evidence?

Anyway, the study was done by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s [RMIT] school of health sciences in conjunction with emergency physicians at four hospitals. I’d never heard of RMIT until yesterday. The website says it is a university and the health sciences webpage says:

The School of Health Sciences engages in teaching and research in Complementary Medicine, Nursing and Midwifery, and Psychology.

We recognise that many of the greatest advances in Science are made at the intersections of disciplines. With our strong interdisciplinary approach we have set our sights on establishing an evidence base for the quality, safety and effectiveness of interventions for the ageing population and those with chronic diseases. Our research findings inform clinical teaching and advance the treatment of patients.

acupuncture 835_225pxOne can only hope that the quality of research in other areas investigated by this institution is superior to that reported on by Ms. Medew. According to her, the “randomised controlled study of about 550 patients” gave acupuncture to some and a”strong oral analgesia, such as Endone, Panadeine Forte, Voltaren and Valium” to others. Medew reports that Dr Michael Ben-Meir “said it showed acupuncture offered the same level of pain relief as analgesic drugs when patients rated their pain one hour after treatment.” You read that right. The conclusion that acupuncture is as effective as pain pills was based on asking the patients about their pain level one hour after treatment. Was there a group of patients in the study who were give a dummy pain pill or fake acupuncture? No, but there was a group given both acupuncture and a pain pill. Guess what? After one hour, their reported pain level didn’t differ from those given only acupuncture or only a pain pill.

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It’s been a bad month for Anti-vaccers

by The Locke via The Soap Box

Andrew Jeremy Wakefield (Quack)

Andrew Wakefield

The Anti-vaccination movement has had a pretty bad past month, and I would feel sorry for them too if it wasn’t for the fact that their propaganda (which is mainly based upon a long since dis-proven and fraudulent study by Mr. Andrew Wakefield that was published in 1998 in The Lancet, and formerly retracted in 2010) has scared parents into not getting their kids vaccinated, which has caused numerous deaths and unnecessary illnesses, as well as permanent injuries.

First is the news reports of multiple outbreaks of measles in several communities in the United States and Canada. Many of the people who have gotten infected are young children who were deliberately not vaccinate, the results of which have been directly attributed to causing these outbreaks.

Guess which child was vaccinated.

Guess which child was vaccinated.

Suffice to say there has been quiet a bit of backlash against the Anti-vaccination movement, which they rightfully have coming to them. Also, since these outbreaks first started making the news there have also been multiple articles published telling parents why they need to ignore the Anti-vaccination movement and vaccinate their children, which I feel is sort of sad because it shows we as a society have to publish numerous articles about why you need to vaccinate your children and make them immune to diseases that could kill them because some parents have been scared into not doing so.

Then there is ofcourse what happened to the cult… I mean group formerly known as the deceptively named Australian Vaccination Network, which is now known as the still kind of deceptively named Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network.

What happened to the group is that it finally changed it’s name after it lost an appeal against the New South Wales Office of Fair Trading, which had ordered the group to change it’s name in 2012 due to group’s deceptive sounding name. Shortly after the group changed it’s named, it also  .  .  .

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10 reasons why AIDS Denialists and the Anti-Vaccination Movement are a lot alike

By via The Soap Box

AIDS Denialism and the Anti-vaccination movement. Two groups that promote what many scientists and and doctors and skeptics alike consider to be the two most dangerous and deadly types of pseudoscience there is. In fact many skeptics have debated which one is more deadly!

Regardless of which one is more deadly, both of groups have an awful lot in common, and I’ve come up with about ten different things that both groups have in common:

They become very upset when someone questions their claims.

HandletheTruth_225pxAnti-vaxxers and (as I have learned in the past few weeks) AIDS denialists really do not like it when someone questions what they are claiming. It doesn’t matter how nice you are to them, or how many facts you present to them, if you question their claims they will become very anger and start throwing around accusations and insults and start spamming people with a bunch of propaganda. This is of course annoying at best, and usually just something that gets them blocked on an internet site, but sometimes they take it to the next level and start doing the next thing on this list…

They use intimidation tactics.

AIDS Denialists and Anti-vaccers just seem to love to use intimidation tactics. Many times these intimidation tactics can be a benign type, like fear mongering and emotional appeal, which is used to sway people who might be on the edge of whether to believe them or not over to their side, or it can be an aggressive type, like death threats, or threats of lawsuits, or harassment, which is used in an attempt to frighten people away from questioning their claims, or to stop skeptics from debunking them.

They claim to do research.

Dr Evil research copy_225pxBoth AIDS Denialists and Anti-vaccers will often say that they have done their own research into the claims that they are making, and then through this so called research they will claim that they have come to a conclusion, and then proclaim that their conclusion is correct and that all others are incorrect. This is of course if they’re not simply claiming that the contradictory information isn’t apart of some “big pharma” disinformation propaganda campaign to “slander” Anti-vaccers and AIDS Denialists. And that’s another thing…

They think there is some kind of big pharma conspiracy.

Many Anti-vaccers and AIDS Denialists sincerely believe that not only what they believe is true, but they also believe that pharmaceutical companies also know “the truth” and that they’re keeping this so called truth hidden from the public so that people will keep buying their products, products that Anti-vaccers and AIDS Denialists believe that no one actually needs and sincerely believes is dangerous.

The reasons why these two groups claim that the pharmaceutical companies are keeping this so called “information” hidden is because if people knew “the truth” (i.e. their truth) that they would no longer buy anything from these pharmaceutical companies and they would go out of business. That, or according to some Anti-vaccers and AIDS Denialists, vaccines and HIV medication is part some kind of NWO/Illuminati plot.

They have no problem censoring people.

censorship 1018_500px_250pxEver make a comment on an Anti-vaccer’s or AIDS Denialist’s page or comment section for a Youtube video, and said comment either criticizes what they are saying, or debunks what they’re saying? Well then you probably know that not many people are going to see it because most administrators of such sites will usually remove such comments pretty quickly… and probably ban you. While this type of censorship is bad they do have every right to do it because they have every right to control the content that is on their webpages.

Some of these people will take the censorship of people who disagree with them to the next level and actually try to get entire webpages and videos from various social media websites removed, either by flagging a webpage or a group or a video as inappropriate or harassing, or even by sending out bogus DMCA takedown notices (which is illegal).

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Essential Oil Claims – The Dangers Keep On Coming

Eric HallBy Eric Hall via Skeptoid

Today I am going to focus specifically on one essential oil blog which came to my attention through a Facebook post about making your own “dry shampoo.” Why did I click on it? Sigh. Well, I did. I ended up at an essential oil seller making not just bogus claims, but downright dangerous claims. doula1_250px Of course, this seller protects herself with the standard FDA fake medicine disclaimer. Let’s look at a few of the more dangerous suggestions on the site.

Let’s meet Dana. Dana says she is doula and certified by DONA international. A doula is basically a coach for the birthing process. It does not signify any medical training. Yes, before you comment, I know there are nurses and other medical professionals that also serve as doulas. But she does not reveal any medical training. So in essence, she is a coach for the birth. She says:

My mission is to provide women with the information they need to make confident decisions about their labor, the emotional support to motivate them to the next level and the physical comfort to embrace their birth experience.

Based on the information on her website, she isn’t doing a great job of informing.
Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 8.00.25 PM_250px

Let’s look at the information on how to become a “home healer,” which turns out she admits simply means you use lots and lots of the product she is selling. She starts by selling an over $150 “family physician kit.” I find this claim to be dangerous, as well as a bit insulting. Being a physician requires medical education and years of training. To call yourself a physician is a bit like calling myself a professional hockey player because I occasionally shoot the puck around. Here are a few of the claims of the oils in this kit:

You may have already heard me talk about how I only ever use doTERRA’s essential oils, because they are 100% certified pure therapeutic grade. This makes me feel great because I know that what I’m putting in/on my body and my family’s body, is safe and natural. There are no synthetics or fillers in the doTERRA oils and they are highly potent and effective.

What does 100% certified therapeutic grade mean? It turns out the phase is a registered trademark of doTERRA. The great irony is the proponents of these oils claim “big pharma” is shady. snake oil_300px I can only imagine how they would feel if “big pharma” reviewed their own science without any FDA or peer review – because that is exactly what doTERRA is doing here. They have no science or any details on what this process means. In other words, it is nonsense.

The next claim is that what you are putting in your body is safe and natural. These are fake (alternative/homeopathic/natural/naturopathic/etc) medicine buzz words. Just because it is natural doesn’t make it safe all the time and in every case. And natural is another weird word. Usually in fake medicine circles as “coming from a plant,” it has no real meaning since the chemicals in the oils are still processed to make them “100% certified therapeutic grade.” So is that natural?

The statement about highly potent and effective is interesting. Because one of my problems with these oils is that because they come from plants, and there is no oversight as to how the oils are processed, the potency is a bit of an unknown.

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What Are 250 Million Americans Infected With?

Mike Rothschildby Mike Rothschild via Skeptoid

Even for weird internet ads, this one is especially disgusting. It looks like it was drawn in crayon by a six year old, and shows three equally icky images. One is a “white coated tongue” sticking out, another is a naked guy with rashes all over his body and arrows pointing at him listing all sorts of ailments, and the third is someone sitting on a toilet, apparently suffering from constipation. And the text reads “250m Americans infected” with an arrow that invites you to “learn more.”

The ad in question. The crudeness is on purpose, to make you curious.

The ad in question. The crudeness is on purpose, to make you curious.

On the surface, this looks like just another “one weird trick” ad, using cheap animation and ugly art to promise secret knowledge of miracle products at low, low prices. But “250 million Americans” infected with something is a lofty claim, even for the internet. Is there anything to be concerned about regarding this apparently horrible plague? And could YOU be infected with…whatever it is?

As per the other “one weird trick” ads, clicking on the link is going to give you a lot of information, but none of it with any value. Like many of the other ads of this genre, this ad takes you to a half-hour animated video drawn in the same crude style as the ad. The video is a long blather delving into the usual food conspiracy about the FDA and Big Pharma using aspartame to make us fat, sick and stupid. Nothing you haven’t heard before. It’s only 16 minutes into the video that you even find out what “the infection” is.

But when you do, it’s really bad. It’s presented as “a consequence of the unnatural elements we’ve been exposed to” and “the deep, dark secret the food conglomerates are, as we speak, spending millions of dollars to sweep under the rug.” It’s described as a “killer” that “takes over your body from the inside” and you “never know it’s there – until it’s too late.”

“It” turns out to be candida, a variety of yeasts that lives in our guts, on our skin and in other parts of the body. Everyone has it and it normally doesn’t hurt anyone. It’s a completely harmless fungus that occasionally multiplies out of control due to stress, sickness or antibiotic use. This can cause a yeast infection, or thrush, if it’s occurring in the mouth.

Despite the almost total harmlessness of candida, a fake condition called “Candida sickness” or hypersensitivity has become very popular among alternative medicine advocates. It’s looked at as the new one-size fits all disease, causing everything from  .  .  .

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5 Things I’ve noticed about … Cults

By via The Soap Box

Cults… those groups of seemingly nutty people that have been around with us since forever.

Most cults tend to die off, but some do stick around and in some cases evolve into religions.

Now many cults do have a lot of things in common but I’ve noticed five certain things about them.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about cults:

5. They’re self destructive.

With a few notable exceptions most cults will eventually die off and cease to exist.

cult manson_225pxMost of the time a cult will cease to exist due to it’s leadership’s abusive and controlling behavior, which sometimes results in either a member getting kicked out for some minor infringement, or a member getting fed up with the behavior of the leadership and leaving. These combined with the public’s finding out about a cult’s abusive behavior, plus what ever strange beliefs they may have, might keep some people from wanting to join, and thus the the cult eventually dies out due to it being unable to gain new members.

Of course sometimes a cult dies off not slowly and gradually, but very quickly due to it’s members committing criminal acts that forces law enforcement to imprison most of it’s members (those that come peacefully that is) or they get killed by law enforcement because they refuse to be arrested, or the members commit mass suicide or murder/suicide.

4. They isolate people.

CultAlmost every cult there is encourages (or forces) it’s members to engage in some form of isolation. For some this may be as minor as encouraging it’s members to have as little contact as possible with people that are considered to be possibly “harmful”, to having no contact with people who left the cult, to outright isolating themselves from society in general.

Sometimes this isolation isn’t the result of a cult encouraging it’s members to stop having contact with other people, but instead encourages them to engage in behavior with non-members that is usually considered to be bizarre, imposing, or abusive. Such behavior often times causes non-members to not want to be around any of these members, regardless of whatever relationship they may have with these people.

Regardless of however a cult does it, ultimately a cult will usually end up causing a member to be isolated from those that were closest to them (i.e. friends and family).

3. They’re financially ruinous.

SCIENTOLOGYMAG greed_250pxMany cults encourages it’s members to do things that can cause them to go broke, or at least set them back financially.

One of the ways that cults ruin people financially is that they encourage their member to give large sums of money to the cult.

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Aromatherapy: Sniffing Essential Oils

The essences of certain flowers and herbs produce a pleasing smell, but is it also medicinal?

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

The popularity of essences of aromatic plants appears to have skyrocketed in recent years. Normally they’re used as simple fragrances, in perfumes, incense, soaps and candles, or even potpourri. But their recent rise may be due in part to stinkier practices: a lot of people are now turning to essential oils for medical purposes. Some believe they promote general wellness, some believe they boost the immune system, and some depend on specific aromatherapies to treat very specific diseases. Are they right to do so?

Why don't you remember this headline?

Why don’t you remember this headline?

Let’s look exactly at what an essential oil is. First of all, the word “essential” means that the oil contains the “essence” of whatever plant it’s from; it does not mean that it’s essential (as in necessary for health). Leaves, stems, flowers, or whatever part of the desired plant is placed in a distillation vessel with steam. The heat releases the volatile organic compounds from the plant matter (volatile means they exist as a vapor at room temperature). Volatile organic compounds are what goes into your nose when you smell a flower. These compounds are then distilled into a liquid, which we colloquially call the “essence” of the plant. Finally, to make a nicely packageable product of desired consistency and concentration, the essence is usually mixed with an odorless carrier oil. Then, voilà: we have what’s called an essential oil, strong with the smell of the plant it’s made from.

It can be a massage oil; it can be the scent added to incense; it can be added to bath water, to soaps, or to candles; you can put some in your tea; or you can dab some on your skin for the fragrance. Many such aromas are delightful, even pleasurable. For a thousand years, people have been willing to pay a fair price for essential oils. But in recent years, prices have skyrocketed, especially among allegedly “premium” oils. Why might this be? The plants have not become any more scarce, and the production methods have only become more efficient and cheaper (particularly with our global economy providing the best access ever to bargain-basement oils produced in developing countries).

The answer is a resurgence of aromatherapy in the New Age and alternative medicine communities. But before we talk about its resurgence, let’s see how it first became a thing at all.

The principal anecdote cited by virtually all credulous articles on essential oils comes from the perfume industry.

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5 Things I’ve noticed about… Homeopathic Medicine

By via The Soap Box

homeopathyHomeopathic medicine is probably one of the oldest forms of alternative medicine there is. Infact it was invented in the late 1700’s by German physician Samuel Hahnemann, and has been with ever since.

Now there are lots of claims about homeopathy and what it does, and after looking into them I’ve noticed several different things about homeopathic medicine.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about homeopathic medicine:

5. You can make it at home.

Homeopathic medicine is very easy to make. You don’t even need a complex chemistry lab inorder to make it. You can make it right in your kitchen!

Got a headache and you want to make some homeopathic aspirin inorder to get rid of it? Well here’s what you do:

Step 1: Get one tablet of aspirin and about ten bottles of water.Step 2: Crush aspirin and put it into one of the bottles of water.

Step 3: Shake up bottle.

Step 4: Take one drop from said bottle and put it into the next bottle.

Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4 until done doing so with all bottles.

Now if you do all of this you will have homeopathic aspirin and your headache should go away in a few hours… same as any other normal headache would if you were to take nothing at all.

Actually this might not work, and this is because…

4. You’re suppose to use something that can cause the problems that you currently have inorder to cure them.

homeopathy 803_250pxInorder for homeopathic medicine to actually work (atleast according to people who make and deal with homeopathic medicine) you don’t use heavily diluted medicine that would cure whatever it is that you have. What you actually are suppose to use is something that could cause the symptoms that you’re having rather than actually cure them. Think of it as a kind of like a vaccine, minus any backing from the scientific and medical communities.

So if you want to cure that headache of yours using heavily diluted aspirin isn’t going to work. What you actually want to use is something that can cause a headache if you take it in it’s pure form, like beer, only it has to be heavily diluted.

So using homeopathy logic the best thing to take when you have a headache is a ball park beer, because those things are watered down all to hell.

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Natural News is a Facebook hit: Never click on its stories about cancer, vaccines, conspiracies.

Natural News's Facebook page.

Why are so many Facebook friends sharing preposterous stories from Natural News?

By via slate.com

realemon_250pxHave you heard that eating whole lemons prevents cancer? Or that bathing in Himalayan salt rids the body of harmful toxins? That eating hijiki seaweed can delay hair graying? If you have a few Facebook friends, you’ve probably encountered some of these claims. The website Natural News —which seems like a parody but is unfortunately quite serious—published these preposterous stories, and many others just as silly, last week alone.

Hokum like this is best ignored, but hundreds of thousands of Americans fail to do so. Natural News has achieved astonishing traction on social media, garnering Facebook shares in the high five and low six figures. These numbers should trouble you—Natural News has an uncanny ability to move unsophisticated readers from harmless dietary balderdash to medical quackery to anti-government zealotry.

Let’s start by deconstructing the claim that eating whole lemons staves off cancer. The author cites two medical journal articles. She badly mischaracterizes the first, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 1999. The study described the isolation of three compounds, known as coumarins, from lemon peel. Coumarins exhibit tumor-suppressing properties in a laboratory dish, but that does not mean that eating lemon peel prevents cancer. Even if the oral ingestion of coumarins were convincingly shown to fight cancer in a laboratory animal, we still wouldn’t know how much lemon peel would be required for a human to experience the same effects or whether you could tolerate the dose.

junk-science_200pxThe second study the author cites is an enormous overreach. No one enjoys biostatistics, but bear with me and you’ll be better prepared to identify weak studies in the future. The study, published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer in 2000, purported to show a correlation between consumption of lemon peel and diminished cancer risk. The authors surveyed 242 skin cancer survivors and 228 controls about their citrus consumption habits, but the questionnaire wasn’t externally validated and has some screwy definitions. (Eating citrus peel “often,” for example, is defined as “50-75 percent of the time.” What does that mean?) The authors did not adequately control for race or skin tone, which is an important variable in skin cancer studies. The sample size was much too small. Only 163 of the 470 study participants reported eating citrus peel, and just 28 of them admitted to eating citrus peel often. That’s not enough to prove that eating lemon peel prevents skin cancer. In addition, the statistical correlation is very weak, close to undetectable. Had one more person with cancer reported eating citrus peel, the relationship would likely have disappeared. In fairness, the study authors acknowledged the small sample size and the need for more substantial follow-ups, but everyone knows how these correlational studies are reported in the media. This is why you should look for patterns in scientific literature rather than relying on individual studies.

Anytime someone tells you that eating something prevents cancer, your BS detector should start a-clanging. Natural News is full of these beauties.

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67 claims about Coconut Oil: Which ones are true, and which ones are BS?

by via The Soap Box

coconut oil uses

Recently I came across this picture that were making all of these claims about coconut oil (67 claims to be exact).

Now normal when I see something like this and it has the word “Proven” in the title, I automatically assume that most or all of it is just a bunch of BS.

But I decided to give these claims the benefit of the doubt and examine all of them to see if there is any truth behind them.

1. To cook with instead of vegetable or seed oils.

This one is true. You can cook with it, but it’s advised by many health organizations not to, or not to use to much due to it’s high amount of saturated fat.

coco-milk-creamer-original2. In your coffee/tea instead of creamer.

Sure. Infact non-dairy creamers are often made out of coconut oil.

3. To wash your face with instead of soap.

Yes, this is true. Also most hard soaps are made with coconut oils.

4. To brush your teeth with.

You could. There’s nothing dangerous about coconut oil (except maybe increasing your chance of having a heart attack if you eat to much of it) but I would stick with good old fashion (and proven) toothpaste.

My advice is that you should ask your dentist first before using coconut oil toothpaste and see what they have to say.

5. For oil pulling.

Yes, you can use coconut oil for this, although oil pulling itself hardly does anything and only really decreases the amount of tooth decaying bacteria in your mouth. Mouthwash is far more effective to use, and takes less time. Vodka also works to, and unlike mouthwash, you can actually swallow it!

IMG_2636_200px6. As a body moisturizer.

Yes, this is true.

7. As a sun-screen.

Lets go back to #1 on the list, shall we. It’s used as a cooking oil. What do you think it’s going to do to you?

For those who answered incorrectly, it’s going to cook you!

8. As a hair conditioner.

It does reduce protein loss in hair, so yes you could use it as a hair conditioner.

9. As a supplement.

For what? That’s kind of vague. Plus considering how high coconut oil is in saturated fat, I wouldn’t use it as a food supplement.

massage1_250px10. As a massage oil.

You can use it for that.

11. To reduce scars.

It helps with dry skin, and it might help acne scars, but scars from a cut it’s not going to help.

12. To treat for lice.

Yes, you can, but you have to use a lot of it to work, and you have to leave on for 12 to 18 hours, and it probably won’t kill the eggs.

hair-growth.-Coconut-milk1_250px13. To soften cracked heels.

Yes, you can use it for this.

14. As a hair serum.

Yes, this is another thing you can use it for.

15. As a buttery spread.

Sure you can… if you don’t mind increasing your risk of having a heart attack in a few years.

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Homeopathic Emergency Department

On YouTube

5 Things I’ve noticed about… Alternative Cancer Cures

By via The Soap Box

cancer_quacks_250pxAlternative cancer cures.

These so called cures have been around with us for as long as science based cancer treatments have been around with us. In fact some of them have been around even longer than that.

These so called cures, while different, also have many things in common, which I have narrowed down to five different things.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about alternative cancer cures:

5. There’s a lot of them.

One of the biggest things that I’ve noticed about alternative cancer cures is that there are a lot of different types of “cures” floating around the internet and alternative medicine communities, and that there seems to be a new one that comes out every few weeks.

I’ve seen claims that balancing your ph levels, vitamins, organic foods, “detoxing” your body of chemicals, breathing in pure oxygen, and soursop can cure cancer, and in ways and speeds that would make conventional treatments obsolete.

The most recent claims I’ve seen concern cannabis oil. Along with doing all sorts of other stuff, the rumors spreading around the internet is that either cannabis oil can cure or at least stop the growth of cancer cells.

While there are a lot of different alternative medical treatments that are claimed to cure cancer, there are a few things that they all have in common, such as the fact that…

4. Many of the claims are exaggerated and dubious.

snake oil_300pxOf all the alternative cancer cures that I have seen floating around the internet they all just sound blatantly exaggerated, and when I do some research into these claims I find out that they are often times full of half truths, or are outright false. Examples of this would be Soursop which is claimed to be 10,000 times more effective than chemo (both exaggerated and false), and vitamins are often claimed to kill cancer cells because it can kill them in a petri dish (that doesn’t mean it can kill them in the human body).

Many people who promote these so called alternative cancer cures also claim that there is a “conspiracy” by “big pharma” to suppress these so called “cures” (which they have done a terrible job at) and is the reason why doctors won’t even mention these alternative “cures”. This is ofcourse made up nonsense and BS conspiracy theories. The real reason why doctors don’t recommend alternative cancer cures is because…

3. They don’t work and are dangerous.

As the old saying goes “You know what they call an alternative medicine that works? Medicine.”

The fact is that these so called alternative cancer cures don’t work. They have been tested in scientific laboratories, and have been shown . . .

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Also See:

A Magical Journey through the Land of Reasoning Errors

Four common types of analytical errors in reasoning that we all need to beware of.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or Listen here.

Today we’re going to cover a bit of new ground in the basics of critical thinking and critical reasoning. There are several defined types of common analytical errors to which we’re all prone; some, perhaps, more so than others. Reasoning errors can be made accidentally, and some can even be made deliberately as a way to influence the acceptance of ideas. We’re going to take a close look at the Type I false positive error, the Type II false negative error, the Type III error of answering the wrong question, and finally the dreaded Type IV error of asking the wrong question.

By way of example we’ll apply these errors to three hypothetical situations, all of which should be familiar to fans of scientific skepticism:

  1. From the realm of the paranormal, a house is reported to be haunted. The null hypothesis is that there is no ghost, until we find evidence that there is.
  2. The conspiracy theory that the government is building prison camps in which to orderly dispose of millions of law-abiding citizens. The null hypothesis is that there are no such camps, until we find evidence of them.
  3. And from alternative medicine, the claim that vitamins can cure cancer. The null hypothesis is that they don’t, unless it can be proven through controlled testing.

So let’s begin with:

Type I Error: False Positive

type I errorA false positive is failing to believe the truth, or more formally, the rejection of a true null hypothesis — it turns out there’s nothing there, but you conclude that there is. In cases where the null hypothesis does turn out to be true, a Type I error incorrectly rejects it in favor of a conclusion that the new claim is true. A Type I error occurs only when the conclusion that’s made is faulty, based on either bad evidence, misinterpreted evidence, an error in analysis, or any number of factors.

In the haunted house, Type I errors are those that occur when the house is not, in fact, haunted; but the investigators erroneously find that it is. They may record an unexplained sound and wrongly consider that to be proof of a ghost, or they may collect eyewitness anecdotes and wrongly consider them to be evidence, or they may have a strange feeling and wrongly reject all other possible causes for it.

The conspiracy theorist commits a Type I error when the government is not, in fact, building prison camps to exterminate citizens, but he comes across something that makes him reject that null hypothesis and conclude that it’s happening after all. Perhaps he sees unmarked cars parked outside a fenced lot that has no other apparent purpose, and wrongly considers that to be unambiguous proof, or perhaps he watches enough YouTube videos and decides that so many other conspiracy theorists can’t be all wrong. Perhaps he simply hates the government, so he automatically accepts any suggestion of their evildoing.

Finally, the alternative medicine hopeful commits a Type I error when he concludes that vitamins successfully treat a cancer that they actually don’t. Perhaps he hears enough anecdotes or testimonials, perhaps he is mistrustful of medical science and erroneously concludes that alternative medicine must therefore work, or whatever his thought process is; but an honest conclusion that the null hypothesis has been proven false is a classic Type I error.

Type II Error: False Negative

type II errorCynics are those who are most often guilty of the Type II error, the acceptance of the null hypothesis when it turns out to actually be false — it turns out that something is there, but you conclude that there isn’t. If you actually do have psychic powers but I am satisfied that you do not, I commit a Type II error. The villagers of the boy who cried “Wolf!” commit a Type II error when they ignore his warning, thinking it false, and lose their sheep to the wolf. The protohuman who hears a rustling in the grass and assumes it’s just the wind commits a Type II error when the panther springs out and eats him.

Perhaps somewhere there is a house that actually is haunted, and maybe the TV ghost hunters find it. If I laugh at their silly program and dismiss the ghost, I commit a Type II error. If it were to transpire that the government actually is implementing plans to exterminate millions of citizens in prison camps, then everyone who has not been particularly concerned about this (myself included) has made a Type II error. The invalid dismissal of vitamin megadosing would also be a Type II error if it turned out to indeed cure cancer, or whatever the hypothesis was.

Type I and II errors are not limited to whether we believe in some pseudoscience; they’re even more applicable in daily life, in business decisions and research. If I have a bunch of Skeptoid T-shirts printed to sell at a conference, I make a Type I error by assuming that people are going to buy, and it turns out that nobody does. The salesman makes a Type II error when he decides that no customers are likely to buy today, so he goes home early, when in fact it turns out that one guy had his checkbook in hand.

Both Type I and II errors can be subtle and complex, but in practice, the Type I error can be thought of as excess idealism, accepting too many new ideas; and the Type II error as excess cynicism, rejecting too many new ideas.

Before talking about Type III and IV errors, it should be noted that these are not universally accepted. Types I and II have been standard for nearly a century, but various people have extended the series in various directions since then; so there is no real convention for what Types III and IV are. However the definitions I’m going to give are probably the most common, and they work very well for the purpose of skeptical analysis.

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Penn & Teller: Bulls**t: Hypnosis

By Penn&TellerBullshit via YouTube

Penn & Teller examines the various promises made by professional hypnosis, and seeks to refute the idea of “mind over body”.

What’s the deal with homeopathy?

Via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – YouTube

Skeptics dismiss homeopathic medicine as pseudoscience and claim the industry bilks the gullible and desperate. However, advocates of homeopathic medicine believe the conspiracy lies within the pharmaceutical companies and western medicine.

10 reasons why the Anti-GMO and the Anti-vaccination movement are a lot alike.

by via The Soap Box

What-are-GMOs-and-How-Safe-Are-They-_250pxThe Anti-GMO movements and Anti-vaccination movements are probably two of the biggest and most well known pseudoscience movements out there, with millions of people that adhere to their claims.

Besides the fact that both groups do have millions of proponents world wide and promote pseudoscience, both groups are a lot alike in other ways as well. Infact I’ve come up with about ten different reasons why they are so much alike, starting with the fact that…

• Proponents of both get very emotional when you criticize and/or debunk them.

Ever get into an online discussion with someone whom either promotes Anti-vaccination or Anti-GMO nonsense, and you start to tell them what they claim is BS, and tell them why what they are claiming is BS? If you’ve answered yes then you know what usually ends up happening, and that is that they tend to go off the deep end and use all of these made up “facts” and logical fallacies and conspiracy theories, and in the end threats and accusations of being a shill are often made.

• A proponent of one tends to be a proponent of the other.

Guess which child was vaccinated.

Guess which child was vaccinated.

It shouldn’t be to surprising, but usually if someone is an Anti-GMO proponent, they usually tend to be an Anti-vaccination proponent as well, and vice-verse.

While this isn’t necessarily true many websites that promote Anti-vaccination nonsense also tend to promote Anti-GMO nonsense as well. Infact some websites that claim to be “natural health” websites promote both equally instead of one overshadowing the other. Also, another thing about proponents of both are…

• They tend to promote alternative medicine.

It shouldn’t be to surprising that people in the Anti-vaccination movement are big proponents of alternative medicine, but it shouldn’t also be to surprising that people in the Anti-GMO movement are also big proponents of alternative medicine as well.

Infact many people in the Anti-GMO movement will, besides just promote the usual alternative medicine nonsense, claim that organic foods can heal you of just about anything and everything as well (including stuff that doesn’t even exist).

• The only papers they’ve ever had published in creditable scientific journals have been debunked and retracted.

vaccines retractedThere are lots of studies that have been published over the years about the “dangers” of vaccines and GMO foods, and while the number of papers published may look impressive to some the reality is that it isn’t, especially when you consider the fact almost all of these papers are published in “scientific journals” that a person pays to be published in.

Infact the only Anti-vaccination and Anti-GMO papers that I know of that have ever been published in credible scientific journals are the Wakefield study (published in the Lancet) and the Séralini study (published in Food and Chemical Toxicology) both of which have been formally retracted by the respective journals that they were published in after it was found that both studies data was founded off of both unethical experiments and fraudulent data, and they were only retracted long after both studies had been thoroughly debunked.

• They both claim the same things about the products in terms of health effects.

Both the Anti-GMO and Anti-vaccination movements not only claim that both GMO foods and vaccines are bad for you and cause a large amount of health problems (all of which have been proven to be untrue), but they also claim that they cause the same health problems!

Both most notably are claimed to cause autism, but both are also claimed to cause the spreading of diseases, and increases in infant mortality, and sterility, and cancer, and who knows what else. It almost seems like Anti-GMO and Anti-vaccination movements are claiming that GMO foods and vaccines causes something new every week.

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The Tao of Chinese Medicine

by Yau-Man Chan via Skepticblog

sistem2I am not a medical doctor and I don’t even play one on TV!  So how am I qualified to write about Chinese medicine?  Well because I grew up with it! Is that really good enough?  Yes, and every Chinese who grew up in a Chinese household in a Chinese community are inculcated with knowledge about Chinese medicine and how it works.  Like any other Chinese kid growing up, when I was sick my mother could quickly diagnose my illness and if she couldn’t, she could turn to her mother or aunts or other higher authority figures. In more severe cases, there’s always the guy selling herbs. No formal training is required. By osmosis, we were all supposed to have absorbed medical knowledge and know what foods – plant/animal parts would be good medication for whatever ailed us.  I now live in a region of the U.S. very much enamored with eschewing Western evidence-base medicine for herbal treatments, acupuncture, and other Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) cures. I can usually provoke shock and jaw-dropping silence when my response to questions about TCM is that I want nothing to do with it when it comes to the health and well-being of my family.  The two primary arguments in favor of TCM involve the classic logical fallacy of argument from antiquity and conspiracy theory about the evil intents of “Big Pharma. I will confine the rest of this blog to discussing the totally unscientific and perhaps even anti-scientific origins of TCM and leave debunking the Big Pharma Conspiracy to my fellow skeptics.TCM 704The argument from antiquity in favor of TCM usually goes like this:  it’s been around N-thousand years (replace N with your favorite integer between 1 and 5) and so it must have worked well! The truth of the matter is that TCM has no scientific basis and has been developed over the years on a foundation of very flawed understanding of the human anatomy and physiology.  Historically, the pathetically low cure-rate of diseases plaguing the Chinese population with access only to TCM resulted in the evolution of a hyper-superstitious culture bent on seeing ghosts and goblins around every corner and behind every bush, too ready to take another life away.   The inefficacy of their medical treatments throughout history, in my opinion, is responsible for the Chinese culture’s obsession with superstitions associated with maintaining good health and longevity.  78321115_XSThe list of superstitious do’s and don’ts are especially long when it came to childbirth, prenatal and postnatal care.  Please note that I am not talking about ancient history or even 100 years ago – I am talking about the persistence of these superstitions today in very modern Chinese communities in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and big modern cities in China.

To understand TCM, you do not need to understand chemistry, biology, anatomy or physiology because the foundation of TCM has nothing to do with them.  You need instead to understand Taoism and Confucianism, as these philosophies are the founding principles of TCM. I will expend some ink here to explain these two very powerful underlying influences on Chinese society which gave rise to their understanding of the human body and the attendant medical fallacies.

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The Placebo Effect and Pharmaceutical Companies

Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – YouTube

Scientists have noticed that patients may experience improvements just from thinking they’ve had medicine, even if that medicine is fake. But why does the placebo effect work, and why do some researchers believe it’s growing stronger?

Your personal pseudoscience detector

Via Skeptical Raptor

sasquatch-pseudoscience_300pxIf you read something that makes some medical claim, here’s a quick and easy checklist to determine if it’s pseudoscience. Or real science-based medicine.

  1. The discoverer pitches his claim directly to the media. Going to media directly bypasses the all-important peer-review process, where real scientists can evaluate whether the claim is real science. There are some journalists that are thorough scientific skeptics, but it is rare. That’s why press releases rank near the bottom of acceptable scientific evidence.
  2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his/her work. Special pleading for a conspiracy is just a logical fallacy. If someone discovers a cure for all cancers (probably not possible, since there are so many different cancers), the powers that be will be bringing truckloads of dollars to buy it, because they could market it for even more truckloads of money. But if you have no evidence that it cures all cancers, you’re not going  get anything.
  3. The scientific effect is always at the very limit of detection. This is the very definition of “it doesn’t work.” Moreover, if the thing being promoted has a tiny effect, then more of it will have more of an effect, the typical dose-response relationship expected from all compounds.
  4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal. Anecdotes are not data. More anecdotes are not data. Anecdotes are not controlled, but they are subject to all sorts of bias. Like confirmation bias, where the observer only picks anecdotes that support their belief. The problem with that is we have no idea if the anecdote is, in fact, accurate; and we ignore all the data that does not support the anecdote. Randomized clinical trials remove bias, remove observer partiality, and blind the patients and the researchers to the experiment itself.


Morgellons Disease

In this newly described condition, some patients report strange plastic fibers growing from their skin.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or Listen here

Today the skeptical eye focuses on a newly described condition from the medical fringe: Morgellons disease. This is a skin condition in which a painful rash or other open sores appear on various parts of the body, but with a unique characteristic: Found embedded within these sores are colored fibers, apparently made of plastic or other synthetics.


Mary Leitao (Center) is credited with claiming the first case of Morgellons.
One doctor at Johns Hopkins wrote to another doctor “… Ms. Leitao would benefit from a psychiatric evaluation and support …”

Morgellons has created something of a battle line drawn in the sand between sufferers and medical science. Sufferers believe these fibers are being extruded from the body itself, while doctors and psychiatrists generally agree that the fibers come from the environment and are merely being caught in the sores as always happens with scabs.

Skin rashes and sores are one of the physical symptoms of acute stress, and to most doctors who are aware of it, Morgellons appears to be nothing more than this. It’s often compared to delusional parasitosis, where the patient believes that the normal itching of a stress-induced rash is caused by unseen parasites living in or on the skin. No parasites are ever found, but some patients tend to react with hostility toward any diagnosis that does not support their preconceived notion. But doctors can only go by the best state of our current knowledge, and are the first to admit that we don’t know everything about the human body or about diseases. So to take a truly skeptical perspective, we start by setting aside what we think we know and looking at the evidence, beginning with the history.

Morgellons had a particularly inauspicious beginning. In 2001, a former hospital lab technician turned stay-at-home mom, Mary Leitao, noticed a raw patch under the lip of her two-year-old son Drew. She took him to eight (!) different doctors, dissatisfied with each diagnosis that there was nothing unusual wrong with Drew.

Fibers alleged to be Morgellons.

Morgellons fibers? Or carpet fibers, blanket fibers, shirt fibers, towel fibers or any number of other fibers?

She picked fibers from the surface of the scab and examined them under Drew’s toy microscope. Her own conclusion was that the fibers were being extruded from Drew’s skin, rather than coming from a blanket or stuffed animal or anything else that toddlers bury their faces in. Drawing on the word morgellons from an old French reference to black hairs, she created the name Morgellons Disease.

Leitao demanded that the doctors prescribe antibiotics, which they would not do, given the lack of any apparent illness. She became obsessed with finding a doctor who would validate this new disease she’d invented. One doctor at Johns Hopkins wrote to another “I found no evidence of [anything suspicious] in Andrew… Ms. Leitao would benefit from a psychiatric evaluation and support, whether Andrew has Morgellons Disease or not. I hope she will cease to use her son in further exploring this problem.”

Another doctor at Johns Hopkins agreed, and even took it a step further, stating that Leitao appeared to be a case of Münchausen’s by proxy. Münchausen’s Syndrome is where you pretend to be sick because you love getting attention from doctors and hospitals.6-1-Munchausens-Syndrome-no Münchausen’s by proxy is a psychiatric syndrome where you take a child or other family member, and promote them as being sick, to get the same attention. It need not be a conscious deception, Mary Leitao almost certainly does genuinely believe her son is ill; but the psychiatric pathology is the same. She has since gone on to found the Morgellons Research Foundation, which currently lists 14,700 registrants.

An Internet search today reveals that Morgellons has become conflated with chemtrail conspiracy mongering. Some believe that contrails left by airplanes are actually the government spraying toxins to sicken the population with Morgellons. An article on the conspiracy theory web site Rense.com compares two pictures, one claimed to show a fiber from a Morgellons sufferer, and another claiming to show a fiber from chemtrail spraying. It says:

Common characteristics of both types of fibers appear to be similar size and chaotic, uncontrolled growth. If these fibers are the result of highly advanced nanotechnology then we have found the disease, and possible who is behind it. But what would be the purpose of forcing this ailment on the population? Torture? To create a new pandemic in order to sell a new drug for a “treatment?”

Many pro-Morgellons sources claim that the fibers have defied all explanation: They are not human hair, they are not synthetic fiber, and they are not natural plant-based fibers. But I found two significant problems with these assertions. First, they seem to be nothing more than assertions, often accompanied by a story that someone looked at them under a microscope and was somehow able to rule out all known fiber compositions. Second, there is little agreement on the characteristics of the fibers, and thus no way such an assertion can be broadly applied. Some sufferers describe hard, solid plastic shards, often in bright colors. Some describe them as thick hairs. The most common photograph on the Internet shows a tangle of fine filaments. Others find curly threads consistent with synthetic fibers from brightly colored blankets, carpet, or sweaters.

So now let’s look at the common medical explanation for Morgellons . . .

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Anti-Vaccination pics should come with a disclaimer…

By via The Soap Box

This morning while I was going through my Facebook page and looking around at some of the skeptics groups that I belong to I came across this anti-vaccination photo. It was posted to mock and criticize the anti-vaccination movement for their blatant hypocrisy:


Now of course anyone who is either a skeptic or a medical professional can clearly see why this picture is being mocked and criticized, but for those who don’t I’ll explain why:

facepalm 822It’s mocked because of the irony that people in the anti-vaccination movement actually believe that getting “information” off of a website that promotes pseudoscience and alternative medicine rather than a legitimate science and/or medical website or journal apparently makes you well educated, and that those who are in the anti-vaccination movement actually believe that they are well educated about vaccines.

Also, it’s criticized because it gives the impression that people who advise against vaccination are themselves well educated, which is often not the truth and that in reality they are actually to dumb to realize that they don’t know anything about vaccines other than what they’ve been told (or scared into) by the anti-vaccination movement. Even those that really are well educated have either just been fooled by the claims of the anti-vaccination movement into believing that vaccines are dangerous, or are just lying about their beliefs for reasons that are their own (usually because they don’t want to admit that they are wrong).

If pictures like this were truly honest they would . . .

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5 Things I’ve noticed about… AIDS Denialism

by via The Soap Box

AIDS Denialism.

aidsdenialismDespite all the we know about HIV and AIDS from the many years of research into it in hopes of one day finding a cure for it, there are still people out there who do not believe that HIV causes AIDS, or that it even exists.

There are a lot of things I have noticed about AIDS Denialism (and none of them are are positive, pun not intended) but I have narrowed it down to five different things.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about AIDS Denialism:

5. It’s a very dangerous and deadly form of Pseudoscience/Alternative medicine.

Of all the different types of pseudoscience and alternative medicine out there, AIDS denialism is one of the most deadly types of pseudoscience and alternative medicine there is.

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is a very deadly disease, and if left untreated it can kill someone within a few years of being infected (this does vary from person to person), and will kill 100% of the time.

AIDS denialists deny that AIDS even exists, or that at least HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, and encourage people not to take any medication after they’ve been diagnosed with HIV.

This is why AIDS denialism is considered to be so deadly. Because they are denying that HIV is dangerous, and that AIDS doesn’t even exist, AIDS denialists are basically encouraging those who have been infected to shorten their lives.

In fact many people consider AIDS denialism to be the second most dangerous form of alternative medicine and pseudoscience there is. Only the anti-vaccination movement is considered to be more dangerous, and that’s only because a lot of the diseases that vaccines are meant to prevent are a lot easier to get than HIV (although many of the diseases that are prevented via vaccines are usually not as deadly as HIV is).

4. It denies over three decades worth of research into HIV.

hiv_14_vialsWe know a lot about HIV and AIDS. We know how it’s transmitted from one person to another. We know how easy it is to prevent getting it. We know the average life expectancy of a person after they have contracted HIV, and we have known all of this for almost 30 years now.

Also, through the decades of scientific and medical research, we have developed medicines that can drastically extend the life expectancy of a person who has HIV by years, even decades, and even reduce the chance of a pregnant woman with HIV transmitting the virus to her unborn child to almost 0%. There are people who are alive today who were diagnosed with HIV back in the 1990’s who wouldn’t be alive today without all of this research (which has gone into the billions of dollars worth).

AIDS denialist just look at all of the research and all that we know about HIV and AIDS and says nope, it’s all fake…

3. It’s self destructive.

It shouldn’t be surprising to to many people but many AIDS denialists have also been diagnosed with HIV, and also not surprising many of them have died as a result of complications due to AIDS. A recent example of this would be . . .

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9 Reasons why people use Alternative Medicine

By via The Soap Box

Why do some people continue to use alternative medicine?

Despite all the information there is about alternative medicine and how not only does it not work, but that infact it can even be harmful, people still use it and believe that it really does work.

So why is it that people still use alternative medicine? Well, I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve come up with quite a few reasons why:


alternative-medicine-for-dummiesScience based medicine is an incredible thing and can cure many diseases and fix a lot of things that can go wrong with the human body, but unfortunately it can’t cure every disease, or fix everything that goes wrong with our bodies (not yet atleast). So when science based medicine can’t fix or cure what ever is wrong with us (or atleast not doing so in a way that is fast enough for us) some people, even rational people, might become desperate enough to use alternative medicine.

This sort of situation especially happens when someone has a terminal disease and they are told by their doctor that there is nothing they can do to cure what ever it is that is killing them. Some people will not accept this and will seek out anything that is claimed to be able to cure them (even if all the evidence says otherwise).

They think it’s cheaper

Because alternative medicine isn’t manufactured by the pharmaceutical companies (who are for profit businesses) it is assumed by some people that alternative medicine must be cheaper than science based medicine because they believe that the people who are manufacturing these alternative medical products are not doing it for a profit, plus when a person is told about a product that is suppose to be cheaper and work better than the conventional product, people tend to buy the supposedly cheaper product.

Now if you seriously believe that alternative medicine is cheaper than science based medicine, and that people who make these alternative medical products are not doing so for a profit, then I know a Nigerian prince that wants to give you $15,000,000.

A friend told them it works

alternative cam6_250pxProbably the best form of advertising there is is word of mouth. You don’t do have to pay for anything, and people tend to trust the opinion of a friend or family member over a creative ad in a newspaper or a TV commercial. Same thing holds true with alternative medicine.

Lets say you’ve been sick for a while and you have been taking some medicine for what ever has been ailing you, but so far it has had little to no affect. You tell a friend or a family member about your health issues and they might recommend that you take some herbs, or to go see this “doctor” that they recommend (who turns out to be an alternative medicine practitioner and not a real doctor) because they claim that it helped them, or it helped someone they know. Because you trust the person whom is recommending this “doctor” or this product, you might be more willing to see this “doctor” or try this product than you would if some stranger had told you.

Science based medicine can be harsh

Science based medicine (or modern medicine, or real medicine as some people like to call it) is a great thing. It has cured a lot of stuff, and has extended our average life expectancy by years, but it can also be pretty harsh at times as well. Because of this some people might either choose to stop using a science based medical treatment because they feel that it has become to harsh on them and that they believe that it might kill them if they continue to use, and so they decided to use alternative medicine instead because they believe it will help them without any side effects, or they might already know (or atleast believe) that the medical treatment that they’ve been recommend that they do could or will be harsh on them, and they decide to forgo it and use alternative medicine instead.

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The Detoxification Myth

Everyone wants to “detoxify” their bodies. Is this for real?

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid

Podcast transcript below or listen here

Today we’re going to head into the bathroom and suck the toxins out of our bodies through our feet and through our bowels, and achieve a wonderful sense of wellness that medical science just hasn’t caught onto yet. Today’s topic is the myth of detoxification, as offered for sale by alternative practitioners and herbalists everywhere.

detox 853_250pxTo better understand this phenomenon, it’s necessary to define what they mean by toxins. Are they bacteria? Chemical pollutants? Trans fats? Heavy metals? To avoid being tested, they leave this pretty vague. Actual medical treatments will tell you exactly what they do and how they do it. Alternative detoxification therapies don’t do either one. They pretty much leave it up to the imagination of the patient to invent their own toxins. Most people who seek alternative therapy believe themselves to be afflicted by some kind of self-diagnosed poison; be it industrial chemicals, McDonald’s cheeseburgers, or fluoridated water. If the marketers leave their claims vague, a broader spectrum of patients will believe that the product will help them. And, of course, the word “toxin” is sufficiently scientific-sounding that it’s convincing enough by itself to many people.

Let’s assume that you work in a mine or a chemical plant and had some vocational accident, and fear that you might have heavy metal poisoning. What should you do? Any responsible person will go to a medical doctor for a blood test to find out for certain whether they have such poisoning. A person who avoids this step, because they prefer not to hear that the doctor can’t find anything, is not a sick person. He is a person who wants to be sick. Moreover, he wants to be sick in such a way that he can take control and self-medicate. He wants an imaginary illness, caused by imaginary toxins.

These mucoid plaque pills consist mainly of bentonite, an absorbent, expanding clay similar to kitty litter.

These mucoid plaque pills consist mainly of bentonite, an absorbent, expanding clay similar to kitty litter.

Now it’s fair for you to stop me at this point and call me out on my claim that these toxic conditions are imaginary. I will now tell you why I say that, and then as always, you should judge for yourself. Let’s start with one of the more graphic detoxification methods, gruesomely pictured on web sites and in chain emails. It’s a bowel cleansing pill, said to be herbal, which causes your intestines to produce long, rubbery, hideous looking snakes of bowel movements, which they call mucoid plaque. There are lots of pictures of these on the Internet, and sites that sell these pills are a great place to find them. Look at DrNatura.com, BlessedHerbs.com, and AriseAndShine.com, just for a start. Imagine how terrifying it would be to actually see one of those come out of your body. If you did, it would sure seem to confirm everything these web sites have warned about toxins building up in your intestines. But there’s more to it. As it turns out, any professional con artist would be thoroughly impressed to learn the secrets of mucoid plaque (and, incidentally, the term mucoid plaque was invented by these sellers; there is no such actual medical condition). These pills consist mainly of bentonite, an absorbent, expanding clay similar to kitty litter. Combined with psyllium, used in the production of mucilage polymer, bentonite forms a rubbery cast of your intestines when taken internally, mixed of course with whatever else your body is excreting. Surprise, a giant rubbery snake of toxins in your toilet.

It’s important to note that the only recorded instances of these “mucoid plaque” snakes in all of medical history come from the toilets of the victims of these cleansing pills. No gastroenterologist has ever encountered one in tens of millions of endoscopies, and no pathologist has ever found one during an autopsy. They do not exist until you take such a pill to form them. The pill creates the very condition that it claims to cure. And the results are so graphic and impressive that no victim would ever think to argue with the claim.

Victims, did I call them? Creating rubber casts of your bowels might be gross but I haven’t seen that it’s particularly dangerous, so why are they victims? A one month supply of these pills costs $88 from the web sites I mentioned. $88 for a few pennies worth of kitty litter in a pretty bottle promising herbal and organic cleansing. Yeah, they’re victims.

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Superstitious Nonsense that is Homeopathy (Quackery Awareness Week)

steven_novellaby Dr. Steve Novella via www.randi.org

In June of 2009 the British Homeopathic Association declared “homeopathy awareness week.” I obliged by writing a post making the public more aware of the superstitious nonsense that is homeopathy. I, in fact, want people to be aware of exactly what homeopathy is, because most of the public does not know what absurd pseudoscience it is.Now I have to extend the favor to naturopathy – because the US has declared October 7-13 Naturopathy Awareness Week. They managed to squeeze in this critical vote prior to shutting down the government. Here is the resolution:

S.Res.221 – A resolution designating the week of October 7 through October 13, 2013, as “Naturopathic Medicine Week” to recognize the value of naturopathic medicine in providing safe, effective, and affordable health care.

alternative cam6_250pxSen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who apparently is enamored of alternative medicine, sponsored the resolution. The resolution is not a law and does not have any specific effects, but it is concerning none-the-less. Pseudoscientists are always desperate for the trappings of legitimacy and respect. They have become quite good and finding creative ways to make it seem like their nonsense is legitimate, because they cannot gain the one true measure – actual scientific legitimacy.

Naturopaths could, for example, conduct high quality clinical research that would establish in a convincing way that one or more of their preferred treatment methods are safe and effective, equal to or superior to standard medical care. They can’t do that, however, because their treatments are largely nonsensical and worthless, so instead they seek to have naïve politicians give them the recognition they crave.

Here is how naturopaths define their approach:

Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care profession, emphasizing prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals’ inherent self-healing process.  The practice of naturopathic medicine includes modern and traditional, scientific, and empirical methods.

homeopathic-remedy-lol_200pxThis, of course, is propaganda and spin. They claim to use “scientific and empirical methods,” but that is mainstream science-based medicine. If they really used scientific and empirical methods, they would be practicing mainstream medicine.

The focus on the “inherent self-healing process” is a little closer to the truth, in that they tend to use modalities that make that claim. CAM practitioners in general have relied upon the “self-healing” gambit because they cannot actually treat diseases or identifiable entities – because their treatments do not work, because they are not based in reality.

Saying that a treatment “supports the body’s self-healing ability” is just hand-waving marketing hype. It gets around the fact that they do not have a plausible biological mechanism addressing a specific biological problem.

This claim is often attached to energy-based or vitalistic treatments, those that are based on the pre-scientific superstition that living things have their own “life energy” which is responsible for health. No such life energy exists, and therefore any practice based upon the notion of such energy is hopelessly worthless.

In practice naturopaths cobble together a wide range of unscientific, disproven, discarded, and fanciful treatments. They seem to prefer treatments that do not work to those that are safe and effective. Since regular medicine uses science to determine which treatments are safe and effective, this is the only way to distinguish themselves.

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5 False Arguments for Raw Milk

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid.com
Read transcript below or listen here.

Some people who enjoy raw milk also make up false claims that regular milk is more dangerous.

Raw Milk_200pxToday we’re going to drop by our friendly local dairy farm and pick up a quart or two of what has become among the trendiest of foodie fancies, raw milk. Raw milk comes straight from the cow’s udder and into your glass. It hasn’t been homogenized or pasteurized and has nature’s full complement of fat, making it a scrumptious, creamy treat. But many of its fans aren’t satisfied with touting its flavor; they also claim it brings a host of miraculous health benefits hitherto undiscovered by science. Health experts, on the other hand, warn against consuming it in no uncertain terms, claiming that its unpasteurized bacterial load makes it an unacceptable risk. Is one or the other of these positions true, or do the real facts lie somewhere in between?

Some raw milk lovers take their passion very seriously, almost to the point of a religion. It’s fine to like something, fine to uphold ideological positions, fine to advocate to others. But it’s never OK to invent bad science to defend a position; and unfortunately, it appears that’s exactly what some raw milk proponents do. Here are five common arguments that I found being repeatedly made about the supposed evils of regular pasteurized, homogenized milk:

1. Pasteurization destroys milk’s nutrients: False.

raw-milk1_250pxAs we know, regular milk is pasteurized, and this is the key difference between it and raw milk. Heating food to reduce spoilage has been in practice for about a thousand years, even though the mechanism wasn’t well understood at first. We now know that heat kills the microbes found in food; including bacteria, fungi, algae, and a whole host of other organisms. Dangerous bacteria, like Salmonella and E. coli, are the most worrisome.

We could sterilize food if we wanted to kill everything in it, but complete sterilization would also cook or destroy the food. It was Louis Pasteur who discovered in 1864 that a much gentler heating for only a short time was sufficient to kill such a high percentage of the microbes that food spoilage was largely mitigated. Today milk is one of many, many foods that are pasteurized to increase their shelf life and safety. There are various processes for doing this, but the net result is that the milk is briefly heated and then cooled again. Opponents say that a side effect of this is to destroy essential nutrients in the milk.

To see whether this is true, we first have to ask “What are these nutrients?” So far, the answer to this has been wanting. The nutrients in milk are mainly energy from fat and lactose, and these are unaffected by pasteurization. Similarly, the molecular structures of proteins and minerals are far too robust to be damaged by the relatively low heat. One fact is that a number of vitamins are found in reduced concentration in pasteurized milk, including vitamins B1, B12, C and E. Though true, it’s a fine trade-off, because milk of any kind is a relatively poor source for these vitamins. Vitamin A content is actually increased after pasteurization.

Often, advocates point to the fact that regular milk is fortified with vitamin D as evidence that pasteurization destroys that vitamin, so it has to be re-added. Untrue. Milk is not a source of vitamin D; it’s one of many products that are fortified (such as breakfast cereals, orange juice, and baby formula), and have been since rickets was a major public health problem in the 1930s.

Lactobacillus is a bacterium found in our bodies, and also found in cow’s milk. Lactobacillus does help with our digestion and the conversion of sugars to energy. And, it is killed by pasteurization. While some raw milk advocates raise alarm over this, there’s no need. Lactobacillus thrives and reproduces itself inside our bodies. There is no need to drink milk to get it.

2. Homogenization makes milk less healthy: False.

Homogenized milkRaw milk is not homogenized like regular milk. Homogenization is just what it sounds like; making the milk consistent from batch to batch, and making the fat level consistent throughout each serving.

Homogenization is a simple process. The first thing that’s done is to mix together milk from different dairies, making it more consistent overall and day to day. The second part is making it consistent throughout. Raw milk separates into a light, fatty layer on top, and a heavier layer on the bottom. Homogenization turns it into an emulsion, in which the fat particles are tiny and evenly distributed throughout the liquid in such a way that they won’t separate like raw milk. This is just a matter of forcing it through a fine strain which breaks up the fat chunks into tiny specks. Presto, a homogenous product.

Opposition to the homogenization of milk is manifold, yet so far, unsupported by any good science. Most of it sprang from a mass-market 1983 book, The XO Factor: Homogenized Milk May Cause Your Heart Attack, which put forth a number of fringe hypotheses which were quickly refuted in the medical literature but achieved much more mindshare among the general public. The book claimed, as its title suggests, that the homogenized fat particles were responsible for a lot of heart disease. Other claimed issues included digestion problems, but again, once controlled testing was done, it was found that people claiming hypersensitivity to homogenized milk reported just as many digestion problems no matter what kind of milk they were given.

Raw milk may avoid homogenization, but the result is just a taste preference. No health benefits or detriments have been discerned either way.

3. Unpasteurized raw milk has less bacteria: False.

The whole point of pasteurizing milk is to reduce the dangerous bacteria, obviously; so this claim really had me scratching my head wondering how on Earth someone could have come up with it. Here is an example of one article that claims raw milk is likely to have fewer bacteria than pasteurized milk, this one from a web site called . . .

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Craniosacral Therapy

Via The Skeptic’s Dictionary

“…craniosacral therapy bears approximately the same relationship to real medicine that astrology bears to astronomy…. [it] is medical fiction….” — Steve E Hartman and James M Norton*

craniosac_250pxCraniosacral therapy (a.k.a. craniopathy and cranial osteopathy) is a holistic therapy that involves the manipulation of the skull bones (the cranium) and the sacrum to relieve pain and a variety of other ailments, including cancer. (The sacrum is a bone between the lumbar vertebrae and tail vertebrae, composed of five fused vertebrae that form the posterior pelvic wall.) The therapy was invented by osteopath William G. Sutherland in the 1930s. Another osteopath, John Upledger, is the leading proponent of craniosacral therapy today. Like other holistic therapies, this one emphasizes subjective concepts such as energy, harmony, balance, rhythm, and flow.

Craniosacral therapists claim to be able to detect a craniosacral “rhythm” in the cranium, sacrum, cerebrospinal fluid and the membranes which envelop the craniosacral system. The balance and flow of this rhythm is considered essential to good health. The rhythm is measured by the therapist’s hands. Any needed or effected changes in rhythm are also detected only by the therapist’s hands. No instrument is used to measure the rhythm or its changes, hence no systematic objective measurement of healthy versus unhealthy rhythms exists. The measurement, the therapy, and the declared cure are all subjectively based. As one therapist put it:

During the treatment, the client is usually supine on a table. The therapist assesses the patterns of energy in the body through touch at several “listening stations” and then decides where to start that day and how to focus the treatment. [Woodruff]

agy4-3The same therapist maintains that the therapy is “a waste of time and money” for people who do not have faith in the therapy. Successful treatments, however, may well be due to the placebo effect and subjective validation. Since there is no plausible biological basis for the claims made by therapists for craniosacral rhythms, it is likely that the therapists are deluded, i.e., imagining they are detecting and manipulating a subtle energy.

Skeptics note that the skull does not consist of moveable parts (unlike the jaw) and brain cells lack actin and myosin (the things in muscle cells that make them move). The only rhythm detectable in the cranium and cerebrospinal fluid is related to the cardiovascular system, but craniosacral therapists deny craniosacral rhythms are due to blood pressure. When tested, therapists have been unable to consistently come up with the same measurements of the alleged craniosacral rhythm. (Dr. Ben Goldacre says there have been five such published studies and “in none of them did the osteopaths give similar answers.”) In a systematic review of the scientific evidence for craniosacral therapy, the British Columbia Office of Health Technology Assessment (BCOHTA) concluded that

The available research on craniosacral treatment effectiveness constitutes low-grade evidence conducted using inadequate research protocols. One study reported negative side effects in outpatients with traumatic brain injury. Low inter-rater reliability ratings were found. CONCLUSIONS: This systematic review and critical appraisal found insufficient evidence to support craniosacral therapy. Research methods that could conclusively evaluate effectiveness have not been applied to date. (1999)

The fact that there is no objective measurement of craniosacral rhythms and that the subjective measurements of practitioners show much disharmony, imbalance, and lack of unity far outweighs the anecdotes of people who give credit to the therapy for relieving them of some malady. If the anecdotes were backed by scientific studies, using proper controls and randomization techniques, the weight of the evidence would swing in favor of the therapy. Such studies are lacking. Six studies have been done, but only one was done with proper controls and that study was negative. There is simply no good evidence for the claims made by practitioners of craniosacral therapy about cranial rhythms being either measurable or an important factor in anyone’s health and well-being.


Craniosacral therapists claim to be able to detect a craniosacral “rhythm” in the cranium, sacrum, cerebrospinal fluid and the membranes which envelop the craniosacral system.

As one research professor at a college of osteopathy put it:

since interexaminer reliability is zero, and since no properly randomized, blinded, and placebo-controlled outcome studies demonstrating clinical efficacy have been published, cranial osteopathy should be removed from the required curricula of colleges of osteopathic medicine and from osteopathic licensing examinations.

View a video:

[END] via The Skeptic’s Dictionary

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