Left wing woo from HuffPo

The last day or so of posts on HuffPo is a perfect example of why I’ll never take that site seriously, and why in the end, lefties are just as susceptible to anti-science nonsense as the right. We start with Donna Karen promoting her new health-care initiative, the Well-Being Forum with much credit to hucksters Tony Robbins (he’ll hypnotize you with his teeth) and Deepak Chopra, king of woo. You know where it’s going with the first post “Healing Is Individual, Not One-Size-Fits-All” and early statements such as this:

But Tony knew that the bottom line is that healing is individual, it’s not one size fits all. You have to find the key to yourself. At the Well-Being Forum, Karen Duffy, a TV host and patient advocate who has experienced serious illness told us that, “The doctors gave me metaphors like, “you’re going to fight this illness.” But I’m a lover, not a fighter, and I didn’t want a big battle. I wanted the happy cells to take the unhappy cells out for a pint and talk it over.”

“Doctors don’t realize the hypnotic power of their messages, whether it’s telling you illness is a battle or saying that you have six months to live,” Tony told us at the forum. ” But it’s vital to bring hope to the table and give people the images and metaphors that will heal them.”

That’s what was missing from medicine and healthcare, metaphors! Precious healing metaphors from Tony Robbins! I can see my work will be cut out for me (the second post also pushes Tony Robbins’ carny-trick rubbish). And when you start getting into the Chopra-woo they promote it becomes perfectly clear that the left loves brain-dead unscientific garbage just as much as the religious fundamentalists on the right. The parallels are creepy.

Take for instance Deepak Chopra channeling Michael Egnor’s “brain isn’t material” nonsense with “The Mind Outside the Body (Part 1)” and (Part 2). It’s the same mind-numbing, hand-waving nonsense he preaches about “mind fields” that makes me want to open a vein. And his great scientific proof? The science of psychics!

Such a link was provided by Helmut Schmidt, a researcher working for Boeing’s aerospace laboratory in Seattle. Beginning in the mid-Sixties, Schmidt set out to construct a series of “quantum machines” that could emit random signals, with the aim of seeing if ordinary people could alter those signals using nothing more than their minds. The first machine detected radioactive decay form Strontium-90; each electron that was given off lit up either a red, blue, yellow, or green light. Schmidt asked ordinary people to predict, with the press of a button, which light would be illuminated next.

At first no one performed better than random, or 25%, in picking one of the four lights. Then Schmidt it on the idea of using psychics instead, and his first results were encouraging: they guessed the correct light 27% of the time. But he didn’t know if this was a matter of clairvoyance — seeing the result before it happened — or something more active, actually changing the random pattern of electrons being emitted.

It’s pretty sad that in this day and age the supposedly science-savvy left supports nonsense about psychic research and healing with metaphors. This is where the arguments come from that the only reason lefties agree with global warming research is because they see it as anti-corporate and anti-industry (as well as pro-environment) rather than out of any respect for science or evidence-based policy making.

Finally they top off anti-science day with a nice anti-vaccination post from John Mulvaney that makes the logically impeccable argument that because a proponent of the genetic basis of autism was mean to his daughter, that thimerosal causes autism (what do you expect from a source that routinely publishes David Kirby’s mercury-causes-autism nonsense?). HuffPo just published one stupid article after another and it’s not like they have much credibility to start with on science based on Arianna Huffington’s vague anti-medicine railing and semi-literate contributions of toxin-paranoia from Bill Maher (he clearly has good writers for his show because he can barely string a paragraph together in a blog post).

Why exactly are lefties proud of this site? Yeah, it’s right on the war, but isn’t it just a little embarrassing to have your messaged weighed down by this anti-scientific garbage? Does no one else worry this creates a credibility-gap for the left if they want to present themselves as being pro-science? HuffPo is a joke.

Ultimately the left is less of a problem for science, but only because their wacky beliefs are non-hierarchical and diffuse. They certainly can gather enough power to be locally annoying (just look at the opposition to “radiation” from wifi in San Francisco), but the only thing saving the left from being a national anti-science force is that they lack a Jerry Falwell of woo. Maybe Chopra will rise to the challenge?

Comments

  1. #1 Griff
    June 5, 2007

    “Ultimately the left is less of a problem for science, but only because their wacky beliefs are non-hierarchical and diffuse.”
    True. As a blue collar liberal (yeah, we exist) I’m ashamed of the left wing anti-science/technology stuff. It started in the ’50′s and 60′s with the “Dr. Strangelove” view of scientists. The military-industrial complex, and seemingly endless wars support the view of scientists and engineers as mostly bad for humanity.
    But it’s like deciding swords can kill, so we dump metallurgy and scalpels. And then we turn our health care over to the new age gurus, which are WAY better than old time faith healers and snake handlers. Go figure.
    Griff

  2. #2 No1Uno
    June 5, 2007

    Great point. However one additional distinction between the right and the left that I would add, perhaps encompassed in your last paragragh, is that the ‘mainstream’ politicians of the left don’t seem to legislate based on the assumption of veracity of this woo. Yet, anyway.

  3. #3 factician
    June 5, 2007

    the ‘mainstream’ politicians of the left don’t seem to legislate based on the assumption of veracity of this woo.

    They don’t? Then why are the woo-meisters free from regulation that the pharmaceutical industry faces? Why do they not have to demonstrate safety and efficacy prior to making crazy claims on TV?

  4. #4 Kagehi
    June 5, 2007

    Actually, the sad thing is, they are partly right. Studies have shown that *what* you tell a patient can have a direct effect on how well they recover, since on some level their immune response, and even how fast they heal, is effected by their mental state. However, what these nuts get wrong is not that doctors are sadly often blind to this, using the same catch phrases or statements over and over, even in cases where they probably shouldn’t, but that **they** think they have some magic formula for what magic phrases will solve the problem.

    Sure, if you give every patient a complete psych profile before treatment, the ones that live long enough to “receive” the treatment might have better recovery rates than average, even excluding the ones that might have survived from the group who you couldn’t treat fast enough. But Chopra and Robbins are not qualified to make such assessments. They are just selling snake oil, mixed in with absurd gibberish about fields and other crap, which ignore *existing* explanations for why an effect can and does happen. Its just like the silly *specialty* hospitals that try to provide religion as the panecea for fixing this issue. Yes, they do have measurable results, which show that catering to the delusions of the patients “can” help them recover. But, it only works if you a) believe in that brand of woo and b) you think that it will actually help you. If you either don’t believe in it or think its going to make things worse, its going to *worsen” your recovery rate. Duh!

  5. #5 MarkH
    June 5, 2007

    Woo definitely has its advocates in congress which have been successful in making it unregulated (egregiously so). The defenders of the faith are Tom Harkin (D-IA who is largely responsible for NCCAM) Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Dan Burton (R-IN who is also an anti-vax nut).

  6. #6 Cain
    June 5, 2007

    Oh man, they also had a post on astrology yesterday. Needless to say, it was not of the skeptical variety.

  7. #7 Booker
    June 5, 2007

    We saw that many of the silliest reviews of Richard Dawkins’ book came from writers on the political left. On the other hand, Dawkins himself is left-of-center and certainly raised the spirits of the “rationalist left”. Regarding HuffPo, the fact that they even have Chopra as a columnist is reason enough to never, ever visit the site. The left, alas, is as full of woo as the right.

  8. #8 Bronze Dog
    June 5, 2007

    I’m not sure if I really qualify as left (at the least, I think I’m very not right), but I’ll whack the left-hand wackies as readily as the right-hand ones. I encourage everyone to avoid discrimination in woo bashing.

  9. #9 kamimushinronsha
    June 5, 2007

    I wanted the happy cells to take the unhappy cells out for a pint and talk it over.

    You have to be expletive kidding me!

    P.S. What is the policy on expletive’s?

  10. #10 Autism Diva
    June 6, 2007

    Thanks. Huffpoof has done so much to promote dangerous antivaccine garbage, who knows, little Arriana might even be responsible for a a dead baby or two. She makes me sick. Though she did slightly redeem herself by letting Arthur Allen put a little sense on there, he’s out numbered by the autism-woo weirdos she lets blog there.

  11. #11 Dunc
    June 6, 2007

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: politcal orientation and ability to reason are entirely orthogonal. The fact that the current American right has latched onto a whole raft of interlinked anti-science positions is just an artefact of their decision to focus on the fundamentalist vote.

  12. #12 Kagehi
    June 6, 2007

    I wanted the happy cells to take the unhappy cells out for a pint and talk it over.

    This actually reminds me of a bit in one of C.J. Cherryh’s books, where the Pride (a ship of Hani with a human on board) receives among their list of what are basically emails something from a Mahendo’sat mystic, who babbles about making peace by, I don’t feel like hunting down the exact text…, basically stretching the color purple to some space port, crossing it with yellow in some fashion, or something, then a mess of other wacko nonsense involving primary colors and magic thinking. Full blown woo in other words. Sort of color therapy for a galaxy or something similarly screwball. The irony being, sometimes you can’t even make up stuff that is or sounds more insane than real people already believe.

  13. #13 Louise Marley
    June 10, 2007

    You said: “Studies have shown that *what* you tell a patient can have a direct effect on how well they recover, since on some level their immune response, and even how fast they heal, is affected by their mental state.”

    And then “they do have measurable results, which show that catering to the delusions of the patients “can” help them recover.”

    Catering to delusions? Whoa. Sounds to me like you’re just as entrenched in an unsupportable position as those you label woo-meisters. Measurable results deserve serious investigation, wouldn’t you say?

    I wouldn’t want you as my physician, thanks.

  14. #14 S.H.A.M. Scam Sam
    June 12, 2007

    “Ultimately the left is less of a problem for science, but only because their wacky beliefs are non-hierarchical and diffuse.”

    I’d like to suggest you’ve got it backwards, Mark. It should read: “The left is a huge problem for science, because their wacky beliefs are non-hierarchical and diffuse.”

    Think about it: Sai Baba, the child-molesting Indian cult leader, has no message – his followers just put their beliefs on him – and his cult keeps growing.

    Rationalists make the mistake of underestimating these people – that’s the cult’s strength. As long as you think they’re not as harmful as organized religion, they get a free ride to run over you.

    Just my 2 cents.

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