S.C.A.M., Skeptics, and Chickens

I love a good fisking, and James over at Autism Street has administered a real blog slapdown to a really idiotic article defending “natural medicine.” He rightly points out the jaw-droppingly obvious straw men and appeals to other ways of knowing that Mike Adams uses in the article.

But don’t take just my word for it about how good the fisking is. The Amazing Randi himself (or a very convincing doppelganger) dropped by in the comments to lend tactical air support.


  1. #1 Abel PharmBoy
    May 3, 2006

    I took James’ advice and read the whole Adams Health Ranger article before reading his fisking. Sheesh, Adams’ article is one huge straw man argument that completely misrepresents skepticism and dismisses skeptical (rational, fact-based) thinking with a single sweep the way that many “liberal” and “conservative” commentators blow each other off by simply invoking each term. It is people like Adams who give a bad name to all legitimate researchers of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM); hence, I’d suggest the use of the acronym as “sCAM” since that is the more accurate play used also at Quackwatch.

    By demonizing and misrepresenting skeptics, the author (of the original article) does the same as anyone who blows off all research of alternative medicine as wacky. James’ fisking is indeed expert.

    The larger topic is deserving of a post over at my place because I see a schism in US alternative medicine – there are those (like me) who aim to study this stuff to discard the crap, study the scientific basis of the best, and work with our MD colleagues to incorporate into Medicine the proven, evidence-based modalities that emerge. However, there are others who survive (and profit financially) from the continued separation of CAM from Medicine. Sadly, some of the latter folks operate from within academic medical centers as programs for so-called integrative medicine (SCIM, as in skimming revenue; SCIMming sCAMmers, if you will). Some are much more science-based while others seem to be little more than revenue-generating “boutique medicine” enterprises for the rich and famous.

  2. #2 Dad Of Cameron
    May 3, 2006

    Thanks Abel PharmBoy, I’m taking your advice an making an edit to reflect accuracy. The beauty of scientific process in action – peer-review, corrected inaccuracies.

    Publishing the erratum now.

    Thank you for the mention Orac. 🙂

  3. #3 jre
    May 3, 2006

    I can only doff my hat to Dad of Cameron for the heroic endurance and tolerance of pain he displayed in reading the Health Ranger’s opinion piece all the way through (not to mention the additional suffering involved in responding to it).
    But in this case, was it even worth it? Have a look at the author being reviewed. Here’s Mike Adams on natural cures:

    [T]he vast majority of all diseases can be easily prevented and even cured without drugs or surgery.
    Real cures exist right now for diabetes, cancer, heart disease, depression, osteoporosis, and many other so-called “diseases.” They are simple, straightforward, and readily available to virtually everyone. I can show any person how to reverse type-2 diabetes in a few weeks, for example. And I can teach anyone how to prevent and avoid every major chronic disease, using strategies that are largely available free of charge.

    … and on the health care system:

    [O]ur system of modern medicine thrives on sick people. Drug companies, doctors, surgeons and hospitals are all pocketing a fortune by financially exploiting sickness and disease across our population. They gain power, money and control by treating sickness, not by making people healthy.

    .. and on the benefits he has personally derived from natural medicine:

    After undergoing my own health transformation, I found myself:
    * Photo-reading books at the speed of one page per second
    * Instantly grasping the “big picture” of any concept, including quantum computing, nanotechnology, homeopathy, the politics of medicine, etc.

    From the limited information available on a web page, it is hard to tell much more about Mike Adams than that he appears to be deeply invested in health-related conspiracy theories, and makes some pretty highfalutin’ claims about his methods and his own (rather spectacular) powers.
    I, for one, would like to see the two-week diabetes cure demonstrated by measurement of serum glucose levels in subjects on the Adams plan vs. a control group. And if he really can read whole books at the rate of a page per second, perhaps he could read a few chapters from an unfamiliar work and take a quiz on their contents. It would be a quick test, after all, with a 600-page book taking just ten minutes. The possibilities go on and on.
    And IF Adams can produce evidence for even a fraction of his claims, he deserves fame and fortune.
    But, somehow, I can’t quiet that small voice within me saying “Dude, it’s just another altie con man. How much more time do you need to waste on him?”

  4. #4 Dad Of Cameron
    May 3, 2006

    And IF Adams can produce evidence for even a fraction of his claims, he deserves fame and fortune.

    And maybe the JREF million dollar prize.

    But, somehow, I can’t quiet that small voice within me saying “Dude, it’s just another altie con man. How much more time do you need to waste on him?”

    A very economical point JRE, and well taken. My current answer: not much more.

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