Respectful Insolence

Somehow, I don’t know how, I managed to wind up on the mailing list of über-woomeister Dr. Joseph Mercola, who’s almost as bad as Mike Adams, only less blatantly crazy in pushing conspiracy theories.

Yesterday, I received this pitch by e-mail:

I’ve got a quick question for you:

How does your energy compare to the salmon swimming and jumping upstream for hundreds of miles?

Facing tremendous obstacles — fish ladders, rapids, predators — they swim and jump for hundreds of miles to complete their incredible journey (without eating along the way).

Could it be that their ocean diet gives them their high energy and single-mindedness of purpose?

Recently, a Canadian study showed increased energy and alertness levels for those who draw upon the same dietary standard the salmon have.

You don’t have to join a study to get the energy you always dreamed of. Just add this to your diet.

This has to be one of the sillier pitches for supplements that I’ve ever seen. How many fallacies can you spot in just these few sentences?

I supposed that, by Dr. Mercola’s reasoning, we should just eat raw unprocessed fish instead. After all, that’s what salmon eat; they don’t just eat krill, which is where Mercola’s oil comes from. Or maybe we should start extracting oxygen from the water. After all, that’s what salmon do. There is, unfortunately, that little problem of humans not having gills, though.

Comments

  1. #1 Oliver
    August 9, 2007

    Not to mention that using that energy is a one-shot experience for many salmons….

  2. #2 Coin
    August 9, 2007

    How many fallacies can you spot in just these few sentences?

    Hmm… at first pass… ten.

  3. #3 Joe
    August 9, 2007

    Thanks for this, salmon is on sale this week and I was about to waste some money on it …

    It reminds me of a doctor’s reply to the question “should I take ‘Royal Jelly’?” (That is the food that makes queen bees.) He replies “Sure, if you want to grow three times your normal size and ovulate millions of times …”

  4. #4 HCN
    August 9, 2007

    Did he include a picture of what those salmon look like when they reach their goal? Not a pretty sight. Many do not make it, and you can see their have decomposed bodies floating downstream.

    During our Alaska cruise late last August you could see the massive amounts of dead salmon in the rivers. They weren’t killed by anything, but it was part of their natural life cycle. The beach near the hatchery in Juneau was covered with dead salmon. Also, in Ketchican you could see the spawning salmon along Creek Street… including dead salmon along along the banks.

    From http://www.fish.washington.edu/hatchery/education.html:
    “The physical metamorphosis of spawning salmon is caused by changes in their fat composition, blood chemistry, hormones, enzymes and skin pigmentation. Their arteries become clogged with severe artherosclerosis, their muscles soften, and their skin thickens. At this stage their immune system becomes compromised and they are more vulnerable to disease.”

  5. #5 PalMD
    August 9, 2007

    I am still naive enough to think that some day, people will stop spending millions on woo and start spending pennies on proven prevention and therapy.
    Forget it…just lost my naivetee.

  6. #6 PalMD
    August 9, 2007

    I am still naive enough to think that some day, people will stop spending millions on woo and start spending pennies on proven prevention and therapy.
    Forget it…just lost my naivetee.

  7. #7 bug_girl
    August 9, 2007

    “It reminds me of a doctor’s reply to the question “should I take ‘Royal Jelly’?” (That is the food that makes queen bees.) He replies “Sure, if you want to grow three times your normal size and ovulate millions of times …”

    Thanks for that! (although you owe me a new keyboard for the spit take ;)

  8. #8 PalMD
    August 9, 2007

    Sorry for the double-post…internet prob in the sticks.
    I would love to see a commercial…Alaskan wilderness…salmon leaping through the air, droplets of water caught in slow motion cascading away…singing…”I want to swim…like our wild salmon brothers and sisters…to live free andARGHHH..” as Mr Grizzly Bear sinks his claws into the sweet, sweet flesh.
    Anthropomorphizing nature often leads to woo…so sad.

  9. #9 Petri
    August 9, 2007

    Well the most glaring is a continuing post hoc ergo proper hoc fallacy. He tries to justify it with an appeal to authority, and anecdotal evidence. You might even be able to make an argument that an appeal to emotion is being made too, though it’s more like an appeal to hope. Though all woo is based on an appeal to the hopes of a lazy populace who wants to feel unique and stick it to the man.

    I don’t usually like to shamelessly self promote but this blog post might help you identify some of those pesky errors in logic:

    http://ptreedish.blogspot.com/2007/06/anatomy-of-straw-man.html

  10. #10 jba
    August 9, 2007

    “It reminds me of a doctor’s reply to the question “should I take ‘Royal Jelly’?” (That is the food that makes queen bees.) He replies “Sure, if you want to grow three times your normal size and ovulate millions of times …”

    But it also increases your strength by 1 point per lump! Incredibly useful if you havent gotten your gauntlets of power yet and you find a big enough hive.

  11. #11 Mike p
    August 9, 2007

    There’s a bit of a naturalistic fallacy in there, too. Salmon are wild, natural creatures, unblemished by the toxic history of mankind! Live like they do, those Noble Sa(lmon)vages!

  12. #12 anonimouse
    August 9, 2007

    I do suggest, though, that Mercola is just as bad – if not worse – than Adams when it comes to his conspiracy theorism. Just read any of his treatises on vaccination, for example. Plus Mercola has the cachet of be an actual (allegedly) doctor.

  13. #13 Julie Stahlhut
    August 9, 2007

    Here’s what I’d like to know. Do queen bees get Mittelschmerz?

    Hell, I used to get it badly before I was surgically converted into a worker :-), and, lemme tell ya, it usually put me into the mood to sting somebody myself.

  14. #14 howard schamest
    August 9, 2007

    Could it be that their ocean diet gives them their high energy and single-mindedness of purpose?

    A compound/complex hypothesis. Energy can be measured. Single-mindedness (do fish have minds?) of purpose (do fish have purposes?)can’t be measured.

    Recently, a Canadian study showed increased energy and alertness levels for those who draw upon the same dietary standard the salmon have.

    No study design offered. No definition of population. Who are those? Could they be tuna? Increased energy can be measured, but how do you compare fish metabolism with human? Alertness levels do not equate with single-mindedness or purpose. How do you compare fish and humans? Do salmon have a dietary standard? How is it determined and measured? How do humans use it?

    You don’t have to join a study to get the energy you always dreamed of. Just add this to your diet.

    A non-sequitur. And what happened to single-mindedness of purpose?

    A nice example of selling by wishful thinking.

  15. #15 Mojo
    August 9, 2007

    “single-mindedness”? They’re fish. They barely have a mind at all.

  16. #16 Harry
    August 9, 2007

    Hey, I don’t know if you made it through the entire link that you posted, but towards the bottom there’s a nice plot of the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity of various compounds.

    I kid you freakin’ not… there’s a bar diagram of the ORAC factor of his krill oil. And, as you may expect, the krill oil’s ORAC factor is literally OFFSCALE compared to those “wimpy wimpy wimpy” compounds like Vitamin A and Vitamin E!

  17. #17 skyotter
    August 9, 2007

    “Should I eat a salmon’s diet?”

    “Sure … if you want to stop eating, navigate upriver by instinct, let your body consume its own muscle for energy, shut down your internal organs with fatigue toxins, breed once, then die.”

  18. #18 Nat
    August 9, 2007

    If we’re going to use Salmon as an exemplar why don’t we try to be like lemmings? All the energy of a lemming trying fly off a cliff…

  19. #19 Iskra
    August 10, 2007

    Why would I want to eat krill, being a salmon sucks? Let’s eat the salmon, that way we’re closer to the grizzly bear, nature’s stately death machine.

  20. #20 davidp
    August 10, 2007

    I thought that people who wanted the “high energy and single-mindedness of purpose” of a salmon consumed PCP a.k.a. Angel Dust.
    Sometimes it makes people act very like spawning salmon.

  21. #21 usagi
    August 10, 2007

    Ambition: A journey of a thousand miles sometimes ends very, very badly.

    Perfect for:
    - Narcissists
    - Salmon with delusions of grandeur
    - Disaffected college students

  22. #22 Kristjan Wager
    August 10, 2007

    If we’re going to use Salmon as an exemplar why don’t we try to be like lemmings? All the energy of a lemming trying fly off a cliff…

    As far as I’ve understood, the suicidal tendencies of lemmings is a myth.

  23. #23 Kristjan Wager
    August 10, 2007

    If we’re going to use Salmon as an exemplar why don’t we try to be like lemmings? All the energy of a lemming trying fly off a cliff…

    As far as I’ve understood, the suicidal tendencies of lemmings is a myth.

  24. #24 Graculus
    August 10, 2007

    They’re fish. They barely have a mind at all.

    Sharks are at least as smart as rats, and said rodent is considered a worthy subject to model basic human behaviours with.

    Do not dismiss the Very Large Fish With Very Big Teeth.

  25. #25 AJ Milne
    August 10, 2007

    I’ve got a quick question for you:

    Do you feel an overwhelming need to swim upstream to spawn, jumping vertically up waterfalls and rapids, until so exhausted you will certainly die?

    You do, huh? Umm… okay… ‘nother quick question?

    Are you or are you not a salmon?

    No? Human, you say?

    Okay. Listen, kid, just as a heads up, the human spawning scene mostly involves nightclubs, not rapids and waterfalls. Yes, it’s probably almost as gruelling in its own little way. But on the bright side, it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to get devoured by a bear, anywhere along the way.

    As to a pill that can help you, I’m afraid, as the song goes, there ain’t no cure.

  26. #26 Brendan
    August 10, 2007

    “But on the bright side, it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to get devoured by a bear, anywhere along the way.”
    I normally find it okay to read this blog at work, but I’m having serious difficulties not laughing out loud that that comment there.
    I keep getting this image of some guy in a night club getting tackled by a bear and dragged into the night.

  27. #27 Zagreus Ammon
    August 10, 2007

    I know it’s a lie!!!

    Canadians are too smart to do this kind of study.

  28. #28 Prometheus
    August 15, 2007

    How about this:

    I have a quick question for you.

    How does your energy compare to that of a common ground squirrel (which is, after all, a mammal, not a fish)? Running, jumping, scurrying up trees all day.

    Could it be that their diet of nuts gives them their high energy and stamina?

    Recently, an uncontrolled and unpublished study showed increased energy and stamina levels for those who draw upon the same dietary standard the squirrels have.

    If you don’t mind running around like a maniac from spring to summer and then hibernating through the winter with the certain knowledge that only 10% of your species will survive the winter, you too can have that sort of energy and stamina.

    But why? Humans in the US have an average life expectancy of over 70 years, with many (about half) living longer. Why would you reject a lifestyle that has worked for thousands of years to get taken in by some quack’s latest money-making scam?

    What are you, a human or some sort of a squirrel?

    It makes as much sense (which is to say, none) as eating the heart of your enemy in order to gain their courage. It’s simple sympathetic magic. And, the novels of JK Rowling notwithstanding, there is no such thing as magic.

    Prometheus

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