Tag Archives: Respectful Insolence

Cancer quackery going the distance

by Orac via Respectful Insolence

Don't you wish you could shoot lightning bolds out of your hand, too? Does Emperor Palpatine know about this guy?

Don’t you wish you could shoot lightning bolds out of your hand, too?
Does Emperor Palpatine know about this guy?

You’d think that after all these years combatting quackery and blogging about science in medicine (and, unfortunately, pseudoscience in medicine) it would take a lot to shock me. You’d be right. On the other hand, Even now, 15 years after I discovered quackery in a big way on Usenet and ten years after the inception of this blog, I still have enough hope in humanity that even when I come across men like Jerry Sargeant, a.k.a. The Facilitator I am still capable of utter wonder that someone would advertise something as reprehensible and/or deluded as this. I half wondered if it were performance art, but in reality I don’t think it is. I wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all (and in fact I did), but look at the screenshot from his blog above and the photos on Sargeant’s website. PalpatineWithLightningIt’s as if the dude thinks he’s Doctor Strange, or maybe Harry Potter, or perhaps Gandalf the Grey. I mean, seriously! Emperor Palpatine called, and he wants his lightning bolts back! The guy portrays himself manipulating bolts of electricity, as he makes claims that he can “radically transform your life.”
Of that, I have no doubt, but not in the way Sargeant means. I’m sure patients’ lives are “radically transformed” by wasting huge sums of money on the fantasy magic medicine that is portrayed on that page. Naturally, as is frequently the case for various dubious healers, Sargeant has a “St. Paul on the way to Damascus” moment to relate:
When Jerry Sargeant woke to a loud crash and flying glass in the passenger seat of a taxi cab in Romania, on his way to the airport, he had no idea it would be the birthing process that led him to discover an amazing healing ability.
‘My families safety were all I was thinking about. The taxi was swaying backwards and forwards all over the road. It was crazy. It turned out we had hit two ladies crossing the road and the first lady came through the windscreen, hit me in the head as I was asleep, got sucked back out of the car and landed in the road. I don’t know whether it was the bang in the head or me seeing her soul hovering over her body once I got out of the car that kick started these abilities – maybe it was both’.
This story, of course, tells us very little, other than that Sargeant, assuming he’s telling the truth, was in a cab in Romania when it hit two women. I presume that at least one of them died, given the story about seeing her soul “hovering over her body.” Funny how he doesn’t mention explicitly what happened to them. Did they die? Did they live? Apparently it doesn’t matter; to him they were just a means to his wonderful “powers”! These powers, according to Sargeant, began to manifest  .  .  .

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A Dunning-Kruger manifesto about vaccines and autism

By Orac via Respectful Insolence

I’ve frequently written about the “arrogance of ignorance,” a phenomenon that anyone who’s paid attention to what quacks, cranks, or antivaccine activists (but I repeat myself) write and say beyond a certain period of time will have encountered. Basically, it’s the belief found in such people—and amplified in groups—that somehow they can master a subject as well or better than experts who have spent their entire professional lives studying the subject on their own, often just through the use of Google University and the echo chamber discussion forums that they frequent with their fellow cranks.google U 03_400px Thus we have, for example, the rambling clown car of antivaccine bloggers over at the crank blog Age of Autism declaring that, contrary to the mountains of evidence otherwise, vaccines cause autism, “brain damage,” autoimmune diseases and all sorts of mean and nasty other conditions. Skeptics quite properly point out that (1) there is no convincing evidence from well-designed and well-executed studies to support these links; (2) there is a lot of evidence from well-designed and well-executed studies that there is no link between vaccines and these conditions given that such studies invariably are unable to detect differences in the prevalence of these conditions associated with vaccines (or, in the case of the mercury militia, thimerosal-containing vaccines); meaning (3) the most parsimonious explanation for these results is that there almost certainly no link. What is the response? Antivaccine cranks will invoke the pharma shill gambit and all sorts of dire conspiracies on the part of the CDC, big pharma, the FDA, and the World Health Organization (WHO) to “suppress” smoking gun evidence that vaccines cause autism.

This is a well-known phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, a phenomenon whereby people who are unknowledgeable or incompetent about a topic hold an unjustifiably elevated estimate of their own knowledge base on the topic. In the antivaccine movement, the Dunning-Kruger effect tends to take the form of parents who think that their University of Google knowledge trumps the knowledge of physicians and scientists  .  .  .

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