Respectful Insolence

It is with some trepidation that I approach the latest target of Your Friday Dose of Woo.

No, it’s not because the woo is so potent that it has actually struck the fear of You-Know-Who in me (I leave it up to readers to determine whether I was referring to God or Valdemort), although it is indeed potent woo. Nor is it that the woo is boring woo (there’s a reason why “power of prayer” kind of woo usually doesn’t make it into YFDoW unless there’s a really entertaining angle to be targeted). No, it’s because this particular woo seems to combine genetics with systems biology (I kid you not), complete with feedback loops as a way to target cancer. “But wait,” you might say. “That doesn’t sound like woo at all.” And so I thought as well–for the first couple of sentences. But the best woo is woo that doesn’t sound like woo right away, as you will see, and this woo starts out sounding half sane before taking an amusing left turn into that woo-ey goodness that we all like, albeit a turn that may gross a few of my readers out a bit. But, hey, if reading about urine drinkers and colon cleansers didn’t drive you away, I doubt that this will.

I could be wrong, however.

Be that as it may, things start out sounding fairly sane, almost scientific, even. Almost:

When we diagnose cancer, the treatment is still primarily surgical, commonly combined with radiation therapy and anticancer drugs. The aim of these treatments is to suppress, or arrest, the unrestrained growth of cells in the body organs or tissues. In the case of many man-made systems we are similarly faced with situations where processes deviate from the normal operation of the system. But the remedy for such deviations is surprisingly simple: negative feedback.

i-cbaad3d54c5fba624fed1ba211edfafd-author576.jpgUh-oh. Even though the introduction sounds fairly straightforward, even like the first paragraph of a scientific paper about cancer, whenever you see someone alluding to a “surprisingly simple” solution and implying that this solution can be applied to cancer, be wary. Almost inevitably (actually, I’m not sure that there’s even an “almost” about it), the woo will follow. And it does here.

But first, who is this Kazmer Ujvarosy, the person who apparently wrote this (or at least posted it to the listserv without comment)? It turns out that he’s the founder of Frontline Science, which is described as an “independent thinktank based in San Francisco.” (A thinktank in San Francisco? If that doesnt’ warn you that woo is coming, I don’t know what will.) He is quoted on his own website as saying, “The knowledge of the cosmic system’s input and output is the key to all knowledge,” which gives you an hint that there might be a bit of woo lurking there. He is also described on the American Chronicle thusly:

He is dedicated to the analysis of complex problems, and the development of realistic, concrete proposals on issues of global concern. His stance is independent, interdisciplinary, with an analytical rigor, and a view to the future.

He is uniquely qualified to help you understand what makes scientific sense, and what does not, based on cause-and-effect and systems principles.

Of course he is. As the link above reveals, he’s also a creationist, but that form of woo is not what we’re here to have some fun with, given that I just administered a heapin’ helpin’ of Respectful Insolence™ to ID flak Dr. Michael Egnor. No, let’s move on to the real woo du jour. You see, Kazmer Ujvarosy has a very simple solution to the problem of how to produce a negative feedback loop in the body of a patient with cancer and thus, presumably, eliminate the cancer (or at least stop it from proliferating out of control):

Negative feedback means that the system’s output is fed back into the same system in order to enable the system to determine the difference between the actual and the desired output, and to make the necessary corrections in its own operation. For example a vehicle’s speed control uses the difference between the actual and the desired speed to adjust the fuel flow rate. Those systems which feed back their own output for self-regulation are said to be closed-loop control systems.

So how can a human being transform himself into a closed-loop control system for the proper regulation of his cell production? The answer is the feedback of his body’s genetic output. What is the genetic output of his body? Answer: the reproductive cells.

Think about that for a minute. Let its implications sink in. Yes, he is saying exactly what you think he is saying. He really is, although you might not notice that’s what he means right away, given the way that he couches it in euphemism. His justifications are two-fold. First, he justifies it on a seemingly rational basis with absolutely no basis in scientific evidence, a common tactic for woos:

In other words our body is a system that has genetic input in the form of our inherited genetic constitution, and genetic output in the form of reproductive cells. The production of cells within our body may deviate from the normal because the control of those cells is not based on the feedback of the body’s reproductive cells–i.e., the body does not measure genetic error through the feedback of its own genetic output, but assumes that its genetic output is correct. Knowing that closed-loop control systems are able to detect disturbances or errors in their own operation and to make the desired corrections by the technique of feeding all or part of the output back to the system for comparison with the reference input or desired value, and knowing that systems resemble each other in fundamental ways, it is reasonable to postulate that the closure of the human body’s open loop by the feedback of the body’s genetic output will enable the human organism to evaluate its own operation and to correct the detected errors in its functions.

It would only be reasonable to postulate such a thing if there were any actual scientific evidence to suggest this might be true. It’s a true sign of woo when you see someone trying to justify a treatment solely on the basis of “reason” or “logic” alone, without some scientific evidence to back it up. Now, it is true that cancer results in part when cells fail to respond to negative regulatory and feedback loops that normally keep the cells of our body quiescent, except when they need to replicate for normal physiologic processes, such as wound repair, the female menstrual cycle, and the replacement of the lining of our GI and respiratory tracts, but there is no evidence at all that “our inherited genetic constitution in the form of reproductive cells” has anything to do with the body’s regulatory mechanisms that keep cells from becoming cancerous. Even if there were, ingesting one’s own “reproductive cells” would result in their destruction, including the destruction of their genetic material. Stomach acids, followed by digestive enzymes will do that to biomolecules like proteins and DNA. It also makes one wonder: How could women benefit from such a treatment? It’s not as though their “reproductive cells” are as easily accessible as those of a man.

Of course, I should have known that Ujvarosy would have something that he considers to be “evidence” in support of his idea:

The literature on the subject reveals that the feedback of reproductive cells for the regulation or revitalization of the human organism was recommended by folk medicine and alchemy as well. Traditional medicine attributed transformative powers to the human reproductive cells and often termed that product of the body “universal medicine,” “elixir,” or “philosopher’s stone.” It is also on record that:

  1. The Yellow Emperor of China (c. 2697-2598 B.C.) practiced the feedback of his own reproductive cells for therapeutic purposes. (A. Ishihara & H. S. Levy, The Tao of Sex, Harper & Row, New York, 1970.)
  2. Christ partook of his own semen to show that “we must so do, that we may live.” (Interrogationes Maiores Mariae, quoted by St. Epiphanius in his Panarion, XXVI, cap. VIII.)
  3. A Gnostic sect celebrated the Eucharist (spiritual communion with God) by eating “… ‘their own sperm,’ declaring it to be ‘the body of Christ.’” (“Gnosticism,” Encyclopedia of Erotic Wisdom, R. C. Camphausen, Inner Traditions International, Rochester, Vermont, 1991.)
  4. “Semen, or Bindu, is held to be the true elixir of life by Yoga and Tantric schools alike.” (J. Mumford, Sexual Occultism, Llewellyn, Saint Paul, 1975.)
  5. “Human semen, as medicine, is used by many peoples, as by the Australians, who believe it an infallible remedy for severe illness. It is so used in European folk-custom ” (E. Crawley, The Mystic Rose, Macmillan, London, 1902.)
  6. Dutch missionaries in New Guinea observed that among many tribes “the male’s semen was regarded as a sacred substance” and was used in healing and in fighting epidemics (“Sperm Magic,” Encyclopedia of Erotic Wisdom, R. C. Camphausen, Inner Traditions International, Rochester, Vermont, 1991.)

I have to tell you, #2 is something they never taught me in Sunday school or in Catholic grade school or high school. In any case, I’m convinced. How about you? Given such amazingly compelling evidence as above, how could you not be convinced? You know, a couple of weeks ago I blogged about the applications of systems biology to human disease and cancer. Leroy Hood, the scientist whose work I wrote about, may be a bit of a visionary to the point where he doesn’t see the difficulties involved in translating his ideas into useful clinical tests and treatments, but Kazmer Ujvarosy goes way beyond that. In fact, when he’s moved on since he wrote the above to the serious pseudoscience that is creationism, except that he does it in an amazingly cosmically woo-ey way that is far more entertaining that Dr. Egnor’s humorless banter. Observe, as he tries to explain how “intelligent design” does not necessarily require a supernatural intelligence while sounding of a piece of the semen-drinking cure for cancer woo that he wrote above. A sample:

  • Dark energy, that drives the expansion of the universe, is one of the deepest and most exciting puzzles in modern science. We posit that dark energy is the field manifestation of the parent seed of the universe, just as the cosmic vacuum’s zero-point energy. They all originate from the cosmic seed’s biophoton emissions, which blackbody radiation provides a holographic biofield for the generation of the physical universe. Based on the fact that the biophotonic radiation emitted by DNA is coherent, we predict that the cosmic seed’s biophotonic field or “dark energy” is equally coherent.
  • The universe is a living system, dynamically managed by the parent seed’s unbounded and conscious holographic biofield, and regulated by the process of information feedback.
  • The elusive Higgs boson – so vital to the Standard Model of particle physics that it is dubbed “the God particle” – is identical with the genotype of the phenotype universe, and each human genome is its reproduction. Based on this identification we posit that mass-giving is life-giving because the elementary particles that come into contact with the cosmic seed’s biofield or quantum vacuum receive their mass and property as a result of that interaction.

That’s some mighty tasty woo, don’t you think? It’s got everything you want from only the finest quality woo: zero point energy, biophoton emissions, blackbody radiation, a holographic biofield, the universe as a “living system,” and–of course!–a pointless invocation of quantum theory, something no true woo can be without. All in all, it sounds a lot like Deepak Chopra on steroids, with a little more liberal sprinkling of seemingly scientific-sounding physics terms thrown about willy-nilly to impress the rubes. Certainly it impressed this rube:

If Kazmer were still laboring under the shackles of materialism would any of this have been possible? Of course not – these are the kinds of discoveries that can only come about when we first reject the rigid dogma of the philosophy behind atheism and Darwinism’s only life-support.

I wonder if throwing off the shackles of materialism is necessary to come up with the idea that drinking your own semen might be a cure for cancer by producing a “negative feedback loop.” (Certainly that nasty materialism leads to the skepticism and critical thinking that would recognize the concept as–shall we say?–highly improbable.) In any case, if that’s what’s necessary to be able to find woo like this credible or even “scientific,” I think I’ll keep my materialistic shackles, thank you very much.

Comments

  1. #1 factician
    March 30, 2007

    Until this morning, I thought I had a strong stomach.

    Ick.

  2. #2 Becca
    March 30, 2007

    I wonder why he is only concerned with “closing” the male system…now thinking about protectng myself from cancer makes me sick.

  3. #3 Bronze Dog
    March 30, 2007

    Ewwwww.

  4. #4 Ruth
    March 30, 2007

    So what happens to a woman who swallows a, um, friends reproductive cells? Will sperm banks get a new type of custom?

  5. #5 Matt the heathen
    March 30, 2007

    Hey, it can’t hurt, right? I’ll give it a go, though I’m sure I’ll be regretting having so much garlic in my dinner last night.

    On the topic of woo: my girlfriend wants to go to a chiropractor. I said she should talk to her GP first. I’ve always thought of this a a bit of bs – anyone here with a strong opinion one way or another? A good reference wouild help a lot.

    Thanks.

  6. #6 Sid Schwab
    March 30, 2007

    Hmmmm…. It’s suddenly making sense. Spilling and consuming one’s…. seed. Orac…. Seed Magazine….. It’s all been leading up to …. this. I’ve been such a fool….

  7. #7 migg
    March 30, 2007

    he says “if persons with cancer and other noninherited diseases would feed back their body’s genetic output into the
    bloodstream of their own body,… (blah, blah, blah)” so maybe he doesn’t mean ingestion but injection?

  8. #8 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 30, 2007

    Oh boy. Kazmer Ujvarosy is back. This guy’s arguments are so twisted and spacey it’s really pretty damn hilarious if you get past his confused attempts at making a point. I still get the Muttley styled giggles when I read his post on ID.

    This however was unnecessary Orac.

    That’s some mighty tasty woo, don’t you think?

  9. #9 MikeG
    March 30, 2007

    So… Would drinking your own blood be the homeopathic version? No nuclei, but the memory of the genetics? I think I see a new market…

    MikeG

  10. #10 Orac
    March 30, 2007

    This however was unnecessary Orac.

    That’s some mighty tasty woo, don’t you think?

    Ack! You’re right. It’s just a figure of speech that I frequently use in YFDoW, but I should have realized it was inappropriate for this particular bit of woo.

    I’ll have to be much more careful next time…

  11. #11 Joe
    March 30, 2007

    Orac- you owe me a new (or, at least, clean) keyboard.

  12. #12 ancientTechie
    March 30, 2007

    Matt the heathen,

    The “philisphical” foundation for Chiropractics is, from a rational standpoint, completely rediculous. An overview is available in the first few paragraphs of A Scientific Test of Chiropractic’s Subluxation Theory. That article is informative and rather entertaining, if your taste runs toward the macabre.

    Please, try to talk your girlfriend into seeing a physician.

  13. #13 Joshua
    March 30, 2007

    Beyond the obvious problems, there’s something pathologically Lamarckian about his idea of gametes as “genetic output”. It’s more like negative-Lamarck, though. Rather than inheriting acquired characteristics, offspring are inheriting acquired bug fixes. Weird.

  14. #14 Calli Arcale
    March 30, 2007

    How does he account for the fact that gametes have only half of the parent’s genes? (Ignoring of course the fact of mutations in these cells.) And how is the body supposed to sort the DNA from the sperm from the DNA of any regular adult cells which happen to get caught up in the semen? (Say, sloughed off skin cells.)

  15. #15 Sastra
    March 30, 2007

    So on his shelf of medical books, Ujvarosy has both Sharks Don’t Get Cancer and Gay Men Don’t Get Cancer ?

  16. #16 Matt the heathen
    March 30, 2007

    Thanks ancientTechie,
    I will really push her to see a doctor first. Hopefully her physician is from the Orac school of medicine rather than the Michael Egnor variety.

    The article was interesting, but yes, a little macabre…

  17. #17 Kapitano
    March 30, 2007

    Why doesn’t he advocate drinking your own tears, eating your own excrement, and collecting your dead skin cells for consumption? Can it be because he only likes drinking sperm?!

    Not that I’ve got anything against that. I’ve had some highly fulfilling relationships with men who drank sperm. Fulfilling but draining. Though only the most dedicated kept their own in the fridge to consume in several hits later.

    Does Mr Ujvarosy advocate this, by any chance?

    What?

  18. #18 anonimouse
    March 30, 2007

    Has Rashid Buttar been informed?

  19. #19 daedalus2u
    March 30, 2007

    Actually, there is a grain of truth to what he says (a sub-micro-nanoscopic grain), however his implementation of it is totally and completely and irredeemably flawed.

    The body does use “feedback” to regulate things, including cancer. However, the “feedback” is done by each individual cell, not by proteins taken in through the gut.

    When a cell’s contents get “tired”, the cell reprocesses them through autophagy, that is, through the consumption of itself. During autophagy, cytoplasm (sometimes containing organelles such as mitochondria) becomes engulfed in a vacuole, cathepsins are ported in, the pH is lowered to activate those cathepsins into proteases which cleave all the peptides into little bits. These bits are recycled by the sorting endosome to some extent, and some of the bits get attached to major histocompatability complex molecules and labeled as “self”, or “non-self”. These then get ported to the cell surface, and if there are too many “non-self” signals present, the cell is subjected to attack. If everything is working “right”, cancer cells express proteins they are not “supposed to”, and these get recognized as “non-self”, and the cancerous (or precancerous) cell gets destroyed before it can do serious damage.

    The problem is not insufficient substrates, rather the problem is the fidelity of the autophagy/MHC/immune system recognition. The key factor in this is the cell’s state of oxidative stress, which regulates the V1H-ATPase which acidifies the vacuole and so regulates the progression of the autophagy cycle. The V1H-ATPase is inhibited by oxidative stress (which I consider to be a “feature” to conserve ATP when there isn’t “enough”). This inhibition slows the progression of autophagy through its cycle, causing it to be less efficient.

    The solution is to fix the state of oxidative stress before it becomes a problem. Supplemental antioxidants don’t work. The only way that I know, is to increase one’s basal NO level. I know of only 2 sure ways, and one possible way. The two “sure” ways, are mediation (well demonstrated to increase NO levels), topical application of autotrophic ammonia oxidizing bacteria (the subject of my own research and commercial efforts, as yet insufficiently published). The possible way is the consumption of green leafy vegetables which contain abundant nitrate (a few tenths of a percent), which is concentrated 10x in saliva and then reduced to nitrite on the tongue by commensal tongue bacteria resulting in saliva being a few mM nitrite after a high nitrate meal. It is believed by some that this nitrite in saliva is the reason why some animals and people lick their wounds, the nitrite is antibacterial by oxidizing and so inhibiting quorum sensing compounds of bacteria. This may also be the mechanism behind the common folk remedy for impotence, applying saliva directly to the penis (though I know of no double-blind studies demonstrating this pharmacological effect of salivary nitrite). There is considerable anecdotal evidence that this folk remedy for impotence does work, but whether it is a real effect, simply a placebo, or woo, is unknown until such a study is done and published.

  20. #20 Alison
    March 30, 2007

    Orac, you might enjoy a trip back in time here. . .Dembski’s “teen” site, Overwhelming Evidence, has hailed Dr. U as an ID visionary already. Do not be drinking anything when you read the post, or the comments.

    click here

  21. #21 Jamie
    March 30, 2007

    I suddenly think of This NSFW Song and it makes it all a little better.

  22. #22 rodrigo
    March 30, 2007

    I’ll feed my car’s exhaust into its gas tank next time it breaks down! Then it’ll just fix itself!

  23. #23 Theo Bromine
    March 31, 2007

    So men who have had vasectomies should be in superb health, since they are constantly re-absorbing all those sperm they are producing…

  24. #24 Wes
    April 6, 2007

    FYI: The “rube” you quote at the end of the article is a parody website. Although Shelley the Republican is often such a good parody it’s difficult to distinguish it from the real thing. Or does that make it a bad parody?

  25. #25 Charlie in Dayton
    April 22, 2007

    So…Bill was actually trying to cure Monica of something…riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight

  26. #26 Justin Moretti
    July 2, 2007

    Is this what all those Dow chemical company ads I see via Scienceblogs are getting at, when they claim they are “Powered by Seed”?

    (Pictures large vats with inwards facing de-trousered men stationed on the rim, and a hopper leading down to a Nameless Black Box with electricity distribution cables emerging from it.)

  27. #27 Coin
    July 2, 2007

    FYI: The “rube” you quote at the end of the article is a parody website. Although Shelley the Republican is often such a good parody it’s difficult to distinguish it from the real thing. Or does that make it a bad parody?

    Perhaps it says more about the quality of the thing being parodied than it does about the quality of the parody.