Respectful Insolence

It’s that time of year again. Actually, it’s well over a month past that time of year.

Long-timers may remember that, near the very beginning of my old Blogger blog over three years ago, I did a post entitled What is an altie? It was basically a Jeff Foxworthy-like listing of “You just might be an altie if…” statements that, I think, had a good point. For those of you not familiar with the term “altie,” it was coined on the Usenet newsgroup misc.health.alternative to describe a certain hardcore variety of alternative medicine aficianado who is utterly immune to evidence or reason. The original series of “You just might be an altie if” items appeared on misc.health.alternative back in the mists of time (around four or five years ago), and I appropriated the concept, expanding the list with some entries of my own within a month of starting my old blog. The list was meant to highlight in a humorous fashion what an “altie” is. Alties are often militant and always highly suspicious of “allopathic” medicine and doctors, as well as often strongly antivaccinationist. Part and parcel of being an altie is an anti-intellectual and antiscientific attitude that does not allow a little thing like evidence to sway one from one’s belief in the power of “alternative” medicine (or “complementary and alternative medicine” or “integrative” medicine, or whatever the buzz word du jour is). Not surprisingly, many alties fervently believe that “natural” must be better (whatever “natural” means, given that at least one altie regimens for cancer require coffee enemas and over 100 supplement pills a day and another requires hooking oneself up to a “zapper,” neither of which strikes me as not being particularly “natural”).

I originally promised to update the list every year (actually, every few months), and, wouldn’t you know it, it’s been more than a year since the 2008 edition. An update is definitely long overdue. Again. Following the tradition of one whole year, I’m presenting it as an installment of Your Friday Dose of Woo. After all, who is responsible for producing the woo that I deconstruct here every week? Alties, of course, which is why this is the perfect place for a yearly update!

There’s one thing you should know, though. This is an interactive Your Friday Dose of Woo. I encourage you, my readers, to come up with your own contributions to the list. I warn you, however. It won’t be easy. Having been built up over the past three years, this list has become quite long and a little bit repetitive. Consequently, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to come up with new original items. On the other hand, a fair amount of stuff has happened since last year that should give you ideas, and I think you’re up to the challenge. Have at it!

So, here, without further ado is the brand new, spiffy, updated, encyclopedic, complete “You might be an altie if…” for 2008:

YOU JUST MIGHT BE AN ALTIE IF…

  1. If you believe that doctors, scientists, and the pharmaceutical companies conspire to suppress your favorite “alternative medicine” modality, you just might be an altie.
  2. If you like to claim that science is a religion, you might be an altie (or at the very least a creationist).
  3. If you accept without questioning vague and/or poorly documented anecdotes and testimonials as sufficient evidence for you that an “alternative” therapy can produce remarkable results “curing” cancer, heart disease, autism, Alzheimers, heart disease, etc., but routinely brutally nitpick and then dismiss well-designed randomized, double-blinded Phase III clinical studies for conventional medicine, you just might be an altie.
  4. If you believe that liver “flushes” actually cause gallstones to be “flushed” from your gallbladder and remove “toxins” from your liver, you just might be an altie. (Actually, if you believe that liver “flushes” do anything except give you exceptionally stinky diarrhea, you are almost certainly an altie.)
  5. If you believe that dichloroacetate is not cancer chemotherapy because it is a “compound” or because it is not a product of big pharma, there’s only an outside chance that you’re not an altie.
  6. If you believe that coffee enemas and megadoses of carrot juice can cure cancer, you just might be an altie.)
  7. If you make claims for a product or therapy like, “strengthens the immune system,” “restores balance,” “detoxifies the liver,” “cleanses the colon,” or “cleanses the blood,” you may be an altie.
  8. If you are impressed by such claims when made by others, you just might be an altie.
  9. If you do most of your “scientific” research on websites that exist to sell “alternative health” products, you might be an altie.
  10. If you believe that a chiropractor can manipulate your spine without touching you and cure your back pain, you are probably an altie.
  11. If you carefully avoid any criticism of any “alternative medicine” practitioner, product, or theory, regardless of how mind-numbingly obviously unscientific (homeopathy, for example), illogical, internally inconsistent, or fraudulent it may be, you might be an altie.
  12. If you think it’s perfectly acceptable, nay, laudable, for shady Internet entrepreneurs to launch a website that claims to be about “education” but in reality exists to sell a cancer treatment that has only shrunk tumors in animals and has yet to be tested against cancer in humans (and lie by claiming that it’s being sold to treat pets), you’re not only an altie, but you’re an idiot.
  13. If you accept or agree with every vilification of medicine and science as The Truth, regardless of the source or of how obviously irrational, without basis, or unjustified the vilification is, you might just be an altie.
  14. If you are utterly convinced that autism is a “misdiagnosis” for mercury poisoning, despite the fact that epidemiological and basic scientific studies do not support this hypothesis, that the number of new autism cases in the U.S. has not shown a sign of falling since thimerosal was removed from vaccines three years ago (ditto Denmark, where thimerosal was removed in the early 1990’s), and that autism does not share the symptomotology of mercury poisoning, you just might be an altie.
  15. If you believe that changing the bond angle of water can cure cancer (or that a simple distillation and electrochemical apparatus actually can change the bond angle of water), you just might be an altie.
  16. If you believe that Hulda Clark is being unjustly “persecuted” by “conventional medicine” and/or “the government” because she is a “threat,” you are very likely an altie.
  17. If you believe that Hulda Clark has ever cured anybody of cancer or AIDS in her life and that her clinic is a place of hope, you just might be an altie.
  18. If you believe that a liver fluke can cause all the diverse kinds of cancer out there and that “zapping” that fluke can cure all cancer and AIDS, you just might be an altie.
  19. If you absolutely, positively cannot ever admit that a conventional therapy, any conventional medical therapy, can cure a disease, any disease, you may well be an altie.
  20. If you believe that vaccines “don’t work,” that they “hurt the immune system,” or that they are a major cause autism or other chronic diseases, you just might be an altie.
  21. If you routinely use Whale.to or Cure Zone as sources for medical information, you just might be an altie.
  22. If you regularly post to the message boards on Cure Zone and haven’t been banned, you’re certainly an altie.
  23. If you think misc.health.alternative should be a sunny little support group where true believers in alternative healthcare share testimonials and gleefully trash science and medicine without comment from skeptics (in other words, if you want it to be like Cure Zone), you may be an altie.
  24. If you underwent conventional therapy for cancer and then underwent alternative medicine treatment but attribute your survival and present cancer-free condition to the alternative medicine and not the conventional therapy, you just might be an altie.
  25. If you think it’s OK for misc.health.alternative (or any other such newsgroup) to be awash in advertising for snake oil quackery and other spam, you may be an altie.
  26. If you frequently use the term “allopathic medicine” to refer to accepted evidence-based medicine (particularly if you either turn your nose up or sneer as you say it), you just might be an altie.
  27. If you believe the trace of a dog’s milk molecule diluted 30C times has more healing power than 875 mg of amoxicillin, you might be an altie.
  28. Speaking of amoxicillin, if you can believe that a coroner’s autopsy report that showed Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, signs of chronic illness, and HIV encephalitis is more indicative of the cause of death being due to an acute allergic reaction to amoxicillin rather than to AIDS-related complications, you just might be an altie.
  29. If you consider someone “doctor” because they have a diploma-mill ND, you might be an altie.
  30. If you believe that alternative medicine practitioners are far more caring for their patients and far more moral (and therefore, by implication, less corruptible by money) than conventional doctors, you just might be an altie.
  31. If you believe it’s perfectly logical that some alt-med clinic tucked away in a remote corner of some South American country (or on the outskirts of Tijuana) has been able to achieve amazing cure rates for many usually highly fatal cancers for years, all without publishing any data and without attracting the attention of any Western medical or science institutions or media whatsoever, then you must be an altie.
  32. If seeing a company charge exhorbitant prices for herbs or other alternative medicine treatments doesn’t bother you in the least but you castigate pharmaceutical companies (which spend hundreds of millions of dollars and many years to get each new drug developed, tested, and approved) for price-gouging, you are very likely an altie.
  33. If you dismiss every well-designed randomized clinical study that fails to show a benefit for an alternative medicine or therapy over a placebo control as either not proving that the therapy is ineffective or as having been manipulated by nefarious forces (conventional medicine, the pharmaceutical companies, the government, etc.) to produce a negative result, you may well be an altie.
  34. If you call your backyard herb garden “the pharmacy”, you might be an altie.
  35. If you think skeptics are close-minded and paranoid with no possible exception and they’re all out to get you, you might be an altie.
  36. If you can go on and on for hours about how many people die from medical errors but become confused and defensive when someone mentions the victims of alternative medicine, you might be an altie.
  37. If you get sicker and sicker while taking echinacea but tell everyone you’re feeling better, you might be an altie.
  38. If you say your healer “is too busy people making people healthy” to conduct evidence-based trials but have never met a single person helped by them, you might be an altie.
  39. If you excuse your healer and other alternative medicine practitioners from conducting evidence-based clinical trials of their treatments on the grounds that there is no money to support well-designed clinical trials testing alternative medicine even though the yearly budget for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is over $120 million, you just might be an altie.
  40. If you believe that there really are herbal cures for diabetes and cancer, but the government forbids their sale because pharmaceutical companies need to make money from their “expensive drugs that don’t work,” there’s a good chance that you’re an altie.
  41. If you’ve read Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About and consider it to be truthful and chock full of useful medical information that you can’t wait to try out, you are without a doubt an altie.
  42. If you’ve actually forked out $499 for a lifetime membership to Kevin Trudeau’s website and consider it money well spent, you are without a doubt an altie. (And an easy mark, as well. Are you interested in some investments in land in Florida that I could hook you up with?)
  43. If you believe that chelation is a valid treatment for autism, Alzheimer’s disease, coronary artery disease, or any medical condition other than heavy metal poisoning properly documented with appropriate symptoms and laboratory tests, you are well on the way to being an altie; that is, if you’re not one already.
  44. If you think that vaccines do far more harm than good, you’re probably an altie.
  45. If you believe that the Mohammed Al-Bayati is a credible authority on pathology and does good science, you just might be an altie.
  46. If you think that HIV can be cured with herbal supplements that “boost the immune system,” you’re an altie.
  47. If you can look at a study that doesn’t mention alternative medicine and that actually points out that its results should cast doubt on claims of “miracle cures,” and still conclude that the study shows that alternative medicine can cure “incurable” cancers, you’re definitely an altie.
  48. If you speak of the AMA as if it were a government regulatory agency, you just might be an altie.
  49. If you believe that a “healthy” person’s shit literally doesn’t stink, you’re definitely an altie (I suspect the reason chlorophyll has a reputation as a “detoxifier” is that it’s actually an effective stool deodorizer).
  50. If you assert that dosage, mean dosage and standard deviation of dosage are all “pharm concepts” that aren’t relevant to your favorite remedy, you’re probably an altie.
  51. If you talk about the pH of the “body,” you’re either an altie or have access to a very large blender.
  52. If you’re standing at the blackboard writing,”HIV does not exist. HIV is harmless and does not cause AIDS. HIV is a genetically engineered bioweapon,” you’re the AltieBart.
  53. If your definition of “acceptable risk” is, “What the hell, let’s give it shot, what have we got to lose”? You might be an altie. (Apply this one to DaveScot.)
  54. If you “think” recommended dosages are for sissies, and that median ED/LD’s are best determined by experimentation on your child…you might be an altie.
  55. If you think shifting burden of proof onto someone who doesn’t have access to medical information on an unverifiable, unblinded, uncontrolled anecdote is the height of debate, you might be an altie.
  56. If you think someone pointing out your failed efforts to shift the burden of proof is “evasion,” you might be an altie.
  57. You might be an altie if you view cherry picking quotes from the abstracts available on pubmed to be the main duty description in your role as soldier in the war against vaccinations.
  58. You might be an altie if you cite a contentious review as gospel and declare victory over your imagined enemy (99.99% of the world) in the process.
  59. If you think that your kid is getting better when you dose him with something recommended by a “Defeat Autism Now!” doctor or Rashid Buttar because the kid grows pale, vomits, breaks out in a rash, loses hair, skin starts peeling and he has a serious change of fecal color or has a seizure and/or a high fever, you are probably John Best or one of his altie antivax buddies from the altie autism boards and the quacks just love you to bits.
  60. If you are like John Best and you refuse to see that your buddies are a quacks and liars who are ripping off parents, then you just mightbe delusional.
  61. If you write about Herxheimer reactions in autistic kids but you can’t spell “Herxheimer” you are probably Rashid (coffee enemas are our friends) Buttar.
  62. If you think you can put a paste of bloodroot on your skin that will eat a big hole through your flesh and that what is happening is really that cancer is being pulled out of your body and that the accompanying pain is necessary and better than what allopathic medicine would offer you, you are likely an altie.
  63. If you are saving up for your own Ondamed ™ device, you might be an altie.
  64. If you’ve ever grown/brewed your own jar/crock of “Kombucha tea”, yup, you’re an altie.
  65. If reading the words “quackwatch.org” makes you break out in a cold sweat, you might be an altie.
  66. If you think moxabustion, high colonics and ear candling are really fun things to do, you’re probably an altie.
  67. If you named your child Mugwort, pretty good chance that you’re an altie.
  68. If you think natural is synonymous with good then you’re probably an altie.
  69. If you tell me not to touch my apple because it’s covered in pesticide while you’re eating a Big Mac, you may be an altie.
  70. If you buy your kids cokes while protesting against water fluridation, you may be an altie.
  71. If your grandmother never talks about the two children she lost as infants and you hear other family members and your friends talking about how dangerous immunization is and so you become concerned for the health of your children, you may be human.
  72. You might be an altie if even with overwhelming evidence that you might be wrong, you absolutely refuse to admit any error in your thinking.
  73. If you believe the soil depletion theory and stock up on megadoses of vitamins, you might be an Altie.
  74. If you believe that removing your amalgams will help your illness, you might be an Altie.
  75. If you believe that a clinic on a dirt road in Mexico can cure your cancer, you might be an Altie.
  76. If you believe that a Naturopath has more medical knowledge than a Medical Doctor, you might be an Altie.
  77. If you try every protocol found on the Internet to eliminate mercury/parasites/allergies, you might be an Altie.
  78. If you think medicine is organized, you ARE an altie.
  79. If your replies to skeptics start with “lol” there’s a preety good chance that you are an altie.
  80. If you try bazillions of cures until symptoms go away, then declare the last one to be a cure, you might be an altie.
  81. If you think researching a possible cure is a waste of time because you have to cure people right now with your shot in the dark, you might be an altie. (This one’s definitely DaveScot.)
  82. If you like to talk about some anonymous guy’s finances before you talk about a critical medical issue in a blog entry about that very critical medical issue, you might be an altie.
  83. If you think financial motivations alter the laws of thermodynamics, you might be an altie.
  84. If you complain about the chlorine in Splenda while putting salt on your dinner, you might be an altie.
  85. If you complain about Coca-Cola’s acidity while drinking a glass of orange juice, you might be an altie.
  86. If you believe the plural of anecdote is data you are probably an altie
  87. If you believe alternative and complementary therapies cannot adequately be studied using randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trials because they miss the essence of the therapy, as was recently suggested in an article in the BMJ, you are almost certainly an altie.
  88. If you have a conspiracy theory that requires the non-existence of doctors who are both compassionate and require double-blind control studies to make decisions, then you might be an altie.
  89. If you prefer to use the term “babies” to describe all children under the age of 10, there’s an outside chance you’re an altie.
  90. If your arguments tend to degenerate to comments about “baby poisoners” while never once considering the concept of “infant mortality rate”, the massive reduction in infant mortality in industrialized societies in the last 150 years, or what that means in the grand scheme of human happiness, you’re almost certainly an altie.
  91. If you’ve ever screamed “won’t somebody please think of the children?!”, you might be an altie.
  92. If you refuse to believe that any disease or condition could possibly cure itself or regress to a mean, that all improvements in health are driven by outside influences, while simultaneously describing the body’s own miraculous healing powers, you are an altie.
  93. If you don’t know that many diseases are caused by the immune system, under the term “autoimmune disorders”, and that “boosting” or “energizing” one’s immune system is the key to health and longevity, you might be on the path to being an altie.
  94. If you respond to skeptics by pointing out how Semmelweis was ridiculed for his ideas, you are probably an altie.
  95. f you don’t know the difference (or know that there is a difference) between ethylmercury and methylmercury, yet still claim you know that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism, you might be an altie.
  96. f you attribute the sudden, radical decline in polio incidence that occurred when the Salk vaccine was introduced to the fact that “polio rates were already declining anyway” … you may be an altie.
  97. If you believe that…
    — A worsening of symptoms proves your alt.therapy is “cleaning out the toxins”
    — An improvement in symptoms proves your alt.therapy has cured you
    — Unchanged symptoms prove your alt.therapy has “halted the progression of disease”… you may just be an altie.
  98. If you insist that “the flu shot gave you the flu,” and your evidence is that you got a “stomach flu” 3 months after getting the shot… you may be an altie.
  99. If you can utter or hear the words “psychic surgery” with a straight face… you could just possibly be an altie.
  100. If you believe that any efficacious treatment for anything ever could, or should, be 100% safe for everybody… you must be an altie.
  101. Corollary: If you believe that a drug/vaccine that saves 1,000,000 lives and kills 5 people is no better than rat poison… I’m afraid you might be an altie.
  102. If you believe that this makes logical sense:
    — My child did not get the pertussis vaccine.
    — Yet my child did not get pertussis.
    — Therefore, the pertussis vaccine is useless…
    … well, it looks like you might be an altie.
  103. (Corollary: If you react violently when someone suggests your children stay healthy because of the herd immunity bestowed by all those kids who did get the vaccines… you might be an altie.)
  104. If you refuse treatment for depression that is an understandable side-effect of your chronic, painful illness because you think receiving such treatment would mean admitting your illness is “all in your head” and you wouldn’t then be able to access further treatment for the disease itself, you might be an altie.
  105. If you believe your overweight or obesity is caused by “toxins” and take great pains to remove these toxins from your diet and home, while neglecting to look at whether you may simply need to eat less or get more exercise (or indeed check for underlying medical conditions like hypothyroidism), you might be an altie.
  106. If being seen to be right about your chosen theory or treatment is more important to you than recovering as much of your health as possible, you might be an altie.
  107. If you use the term “allopathic” without irony when referring to evidence based medicine.. you’re an altie!
  108. If you believe pro biotic yogurt cures measles.. you’re an altie.
  109. If you spout anti vax propaganda while relying on herd immunity to protect your(unvaccinated) children.. you’re an altie , and a selfish hippocrate to boot.
  110. If you believe polio was not wiped out by vaccination, and that FDR in fact had EPV .. you’re an altie ( and probably posting on whale.to)
  111. If you believe chiro works.. you’re an altie.
  112. If your response to any criticism of your pet woo woo is- “allopathic medicine and evil big pharma kill 100,000 people a year”… you guessed it , there is absolutely no doubt that you are an altie.
  113. If you believe measles is harmless… altie
  114. If you believe enemas cure anything other than constipation… altie
  115. If you use the words- energy, vibrations and quantum when discussing vitamins/crystals/homeopathy etc.. altie through and through.
  116. If you believe carl sagan and james randi are members of the illuminati…. altie!
  117. You know you’re an altie when you are horrified that they are serving cookies and sweets in the chemo room because you know for certain that sugar feeds cancer…..and then you rant and rave about the wonders of juicing, that your off to drink a huge glass of beet juice (as if cancer can differentiate the types of sugar you are feeding it)
  118. If you think the bald assertion of the possible existence of completely unspecified logical fallacies is devastating to your opponent, you might be an altie.
  119. If you think that ridicule designed to highlight your logical fallacies is inherently immoral and fallacious, you might be an altie.
  120. If you think that skeptics should hold a straight face when dealing with your silliness, AND that they should be more emotional when they do keep a straight face, you might be an altie.
  121. If you think your “putting babies on spikes” treatment is legitimate because a handful of kids had an allergy to something in the widespread, successful evidence-based treatment/prevention, you might be an altie.
  122. If you think hydrogen, hydrogen ions, hydroxide ions, oxygen, ozone, water, and hydrogen peroxide are all the same and can be labelled the same because they all contain H’s or O’s, you might be an altie.
  123. Finally, if you are deeply offended by the above list, you just might be an altie!
  124. If you think that the Law of Attraction really is a law or The Secret actually works, you might be an altie.
  125. If you think that ancient people using nothing but herbs, witch-doctoring and an outdoor lifestyle lived long, disease-free lives, you might be an altie.
  126. If you refuse to believe that the chinese are turning away from TCM towards medicine that actually works, yup, Altie right there…
  127. If you think nicotine can be represented as a sine wave and that changing the frequency (they mean phase) to a cosine wave and resonating it into your body will stop you smoking…you are most definitely an altie.
  128. f you think that use of an herbal by “the ancients” or any other long-dead group of people constitutes evidence of effectiveness, you might be an altie.
  129. If you think the iron in blood makes it responsive to magnetic fields, you might be an altie.
  130. If you think human blood and seawater have exactly the same concentration of salt, you might be an altie.
  131. If you claim that placebo-controlled trials are an improper method of testing your claims, because they never show effectiveness for your claims, you might be an altie.
  132. f you believe that 1 in 2 aboriginal children died after vaccination unless they received IV vitamin C…
  133. If you believe that Shaken Baby Syndrome is a mis-diagnosis for vaccine injury that involves sub-clinical scurvy…
  134. If you believe that any viral infection, including measles and hepatitis, could be dramatically ‘cured’ by administering Vitamin C intravenously in big doses–provided that treatment was commenced early enough and continued for long enough…you could well be an altie.
  135. If you are unconcerned with the possibility that your preferred form of therapy might be a placebo effect because “the placebo effect” is simply another way of referencing the powerful mind-body connection, which is capable of altering or even creating material reality through intentional energy itself…then you might be an altie.
  136. f you think that basing medical treatments on evidence is “Dangerously Normative,” you might be an altie. (Can’t believe no one caught this one this year.)
  137. If you’ve ever said “Why are you so obsessed with the facts/reality/evidence?” you might be an altie.
  138. If replacing every instance of “Quantum,” “Quantum Mechanics,” and variants in your statements with “Magic” causes them to make more sense, you might be altie.
  139. If you don’t know the difference between Schroedinger’s Equation and Schroedinger’s Cat, you might be an altie.
  140. If you’ve ever began a post with “I’m/I was a skeptic too, but…” you might be an altie.
  141. If you believe that when Carl Sagan was giving his example of the invisible dragon in his garage that he was trying to illustrate that the dragon does exist, but science can’t detect it, so science is faulty, you might be an altie.
  142. If you treat the Prince of Wales as an authority on medicine, or for that matter anything but perhaps the British military and British history, you may be an altie.
  143. If you say that Evidence-Based Medicine is a “micro-fascism” then you might be an altie, and you’re definitely a pomo idiot.
  144. f you have ever bought a product that advertised itself as “chemical free”, you might be an altie. (Exceptions made if you are actually buying the one known chemical free product: A perfect vaccuum.)
  145. If you oppose food irradiation because you don’t want your strawberries to glow in the dark, you might be an altie (and you certainly don’t understand radiation).
  146. If you’ve ever bought a bracelet because it was “ionic”.
  147. If you think the magnetism from powerlines is killing you, but magnets in your insoles could save you, you’re almost certainly an altie.
  148. If you worry about your cell phone causing brain cancer, but still smoke, you might be an altie.
  149. If you turn off your cell phone at the gas station to keep it from exploding, but don’t put out your cigarette, you might be an altie.
  150. If you think condoms are useless against the transmission of AIDS because of the latex pores, you might be an altie… and almost certainly you’re a fundamentalist Catholic.
  151. If the pseudomedicine of your choice relies heavily on (supposed) flaws within the standard, scientifically accepted explanation, but has virtually no positive evidence supporting it, you might be an altie.
  152. If you use out-of-date research papers in support of your favorite alternative medicine, you might be an altie.
  153. If you believe that promotion of sexual abstinence among teens actually works, you could be an altie, but it’s almost sure that you are a Republican.
  154. If you wave the credentials of a woo as a proof for some claim, but when someone points out the lack of qualification of the woo in the field being discussed you say arguments matter, and not credentials, you’re an altie and maybe a bigot and a moron.
  155. Or if you consider the criticism towards the woo’s credentials as ad hominem, you are an altie.
  156. You might be an Altie if you know what a vortex is.
  157. Or if you’ve ever stood on a vortex naked. Wearing crystals. Chanting.
  158. If you’ve ever said “I went to a conference on healing in Sedona.”
  159. If you think that putting a clean IV in you in the hospital so you can proven receive life-saving medication is evil, but putting a potentially dirty IV in you so you can receive disproved chelation in an unregulated altie clinic is wonderful.
  160. Or if you think EDTA is evil when a food preservative but is beautiful when mainlined in an IV.
  161. You want your cardiologist to re-cath you to prove the chelation therapy dissolved your coronary blockages.
  162. You’ve ever approach families of kids with Down Syndrome in the grocery store to inform them that vitamins and swimming with dolphins cures mental retardation, then you’re not just an altie but an insensitive clod.
  163. If you can read more than ten to twenty strips of The Chelation Kid without needing to go lie down for a bit, you are surely an altie.
  164. If you think the only doctor you ever need to see is a nutritionist, then you’re definitely an altie.
  165. If you think that an alternative method is backed by science if a university department that has nothing to do with medicine (and therefore does not have the necessary credentials to evaluate any kind of therapeutic method), offers courses in that alternative method, well you might be an altie.
  166. You might be an altie if you relentlessly harass your offspring for taking medication you assume isn’t necessary, and then when they get worse after abandoning it at your request, your reaction is to send them long-distance reiki
  167. You might be an altie if your response to my production of several Pubmed studies of homeopathic remedies which quite clearly show them not to work is to cross your arms and say, “Homoeopathy works.” And if you do this again after I show you the tape of Randi swallowing a whole bottle of homeopathic sleeping pills, you are with 0.999 certainty an altie. And if you do this AGAIN after I repeat said swallowing stunt in front of you, you are irredeemably altie – and don’t deserve a place in higher education.
  168. You may be an altie if…
    * you like to rely on the “wisdom” of the ancients to heal illness while ignoring the fact that life spans were shorter then.
    * you think there’s some difference between natural compounds and synthetic compounds, even if they are exactly the same compound.
    * your treatment of choice involves a deity/unspecified higher power.
    * you think water has a “memory” of more than a few picoseconds.
    * you believe it’s possible to live a chemical free lifestyle without involving a total vacuum.
    * you believe that stars/planets actually care about your illnesses (or anything else, for that matter).
    * you focus mainly on the large intestine, regardless of what symptoms you are experiencing and where. (Or… you believe that every disease springs from one single organ in the body.)
    * you underestimate the ability of the large intestine to keep itself clean and unobstructed in healthy people. (Peristalsis? Never heared of it…)
    * you believe that oxygen can be absorbed into the bloodstream through routes other than the lungs.
    * you complain about BigPharma being money grabbing and corrupt for selling medicines that “don’t work”, yet have no problem selling a bottle of sugar pills containing animal blood that has been diluted into non existance for high prices.
    * you are afraid of all forms of EM radiation, yet you have no problems with it when using light therapy.
  169. You might be an altie if you can’t stand me taking pills in front of you, but you’re perfectly happy to agree with the lady selling “angel stones” because there’s no reason not to. You are an altie if you equate her fluffy ideas with scientific hypotheses, and especially if you tell me she has more “positive energy” than me, and that is why she is well and I am not.
  170. And, of course, if you think unprovable notions are “good enough”, that I disagree with you because all skeptics are assholes who take pleasure in ruining the faith of good people like you, and evidence is just the obsession of nasty people like me, you are an altie. Irreconcilably.

Thanks to all who contributed to the list over the years. Again, I know that its sheer size makes it difficult, but please, feel free to post more “You just might be an altie” items in the comments! Come on, folks, don’t you like a challenge? Don’t let me down. Get me more “You just might be an altie…” items. Give them to me in the comments! Let’s see how many “You might be an altie” items we can come up with! We should at least be able to push this list over 200.

Maybe next time it won’t take me more than a year to post a new and updated iteration of “What is an altie?/You might just be an altie if.” Or maybe I’ll wait two or three years, given how big this list has become. I don’t know. What I do know is that I couldn’t have done it without you.

Finally, apologies to Rich Shewmaker, who originated the list.

Comments

  1. #1 Jim RL
    April 11, 2008

    That list is awesome. I always find the “ancients new health secrets” stuff to be hilarious. If the ancients were so healthy why did they die so young of diseases we can easily cure? The fact is that the ancients didn’t know any science nearly as good as we do today. They mixed some intuition with some superstition and kept doing things that appeared to work. Pigeons will do the same thing in a Skinner Box.

  2. #2 Miriam
    April 11, 2008

    Despite Enemaman this list doesn’t obsess on the altie obsession with constipation nearly enough :-) but then again, you mention it enough to meet the needs of the non-obsessed.

    You might be an altie if you believe that 45% of people have food allergies.

    You might be an altie if you keep tell people about leaky gut syndrome and how undigested proteins.are escaping into the body and hurting people.

  3. #3 Charles
    April 11, 2008

    If you spend your spare time reading a book to water, and expect this to do something other than tell you what the book says, you’re an altie.

  4. #4 Abel Pharmboy
    April 11, 2008

    You just might be an altie if you think that a supplement causing selenium poisoning due to a 200-fold excess has nothing to do with safety and is just “a labeling issue.”

  5. #5 DonZilla
    April 11, 2008

    Orac, you’ve outdone yourself, Mazeltov! The list is so long I don’t have time to read it all in one sitting here at work.

    There’s something I’ve always wondered about but I don’t know how to phrase it in the “you might be an altie if” format. Why do people who work in health food stores, and a lot of the customers, look so *unhealthy?*

    My raw food vegetarian friend had a nasty two-week bout with the flu this season, just like everyone else. Guess the all-powerful enzymes were just feeling lazy.

  6. #6 Wulfstan
    April 11, 2008

    You might be an altie if Classen has convinced you that vaccine-induced inflammation is responsible for an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes.

    Classen proposes a new explanation for the epidemic of both insulin dependent diabetes (type 1 diabetes), which has previously been shown to be caused by vaccines and non insulin dependent diabetes (type 2 diabetes). Upon receipt of vaccines or other strong immune stimulants some individuals develop a hyperactive immune system leading to autoimmune destruction of insulin secreting cells. Other individuals produce increased cortisol, an immune suppressing hormone, to suppress the vaccine induced inflammation.
    The increased cortisol leads to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Japanese children have increased cortisol secretion following immunization compared to White children and this explains why Japanese have a relative high rate of type 2 diabetes but low rate of insulin dependent diabetes compared to Whites. The lower cortisol response attributed to type 1 diabetes and the higher cortisol response attributed to type 2 diabetes explains why type 1 diabetics are generally leaner than type 2 diabetics since elevated cortisol causes weight gain.

    The current data shows that vaccines are much more dangerous than the public is lead to believe and adequate testing has never been performed even in healthy subjects to indicate that there is an overall improvement in health from immunization.

  7. #7 Wulfstan
    April 11, 2008

    You might be an altie if Classen has convinced you that vaccine-induced inflammation is responsible for an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes.

    Classen proposes a new explanation for the epidemic of both insulin dependent diabetes (type 1 diabetes), which has previously been shown to be caused by vaccines and non insulin dependent diabetes (type 2 diabetes). Upon receipt of vaccines or other strong immune stimulants some individuals develop a hyperactive immune system leading to autoimmune destruction of insulin secreting cells. Other individuals produce increased cortisol, an immune suppressing hormone, to suppress the vaccine induced inflammation.
    The increased cortisol leads to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Japanese children have increased cortisol secretion following immunization compared to White children and this explains why Japanese have a relative high rate of type 2 diabetes but low rate of insulin dependent diabetes compared to Whites. The lower cortisol response attributed to type 1 diabetes and the higher cortisol response attributed to type 2 diabetes explains why type 1 diabetics are generally leaner than type 2 diabetics since elevated cortisol causes weight gain.

    The current data shows that vaccines are much more dangerous than the public is lead to believe and adequate testing has never been performed even in healthy subjects to indicate that there is an overall improvement in health from immunization.

  8. #8 Wulfstan
    April 11, 2008

    Bad html – Classen also said:

    The current data shows that vaccines are much more dangerous than the public is lead to believe and adequate testing has never been performed even in healthy subjects to indicate that there is an overall improvement in health from immunization.

  9. #9 Calli Arcale
    April 11, 2008

    You might be an Altie if you know what a vortex is.

    Now now — if you know what a vortex is, you might just be a Whovian. It all depends on what kind of vortex we’re talking about. ;-)

  10. #10 TheBrummell
    April 11, 2008

    Why do people who work in health food stores, and a lot of the customers, look so *unhealthy?*

    I’ve noticed that, too, but I’ve never tried to set up a proper controlled observational study to see if that impression is really true. Nonetheless, assuming it is true that unhealthy people are overrepresented among the staff and customers of health food stores, there are a few possible explanations:
    1. Frequent exposure to some or all of the products in typical health food stores (e.g. very high consumption of “probiotics”) has a damaging effect on overall health, which shows up as a long list of symptoms, some of which are obvious to the casual observer. (“health foods cause disease”)
    2. Chronically unhealthy people are attracted to the health food industry because they respond poorly (in a physiological sense) to drugs designed to deal with many chronic problems. Their symptoms do not improve, or improve only a small amount, or their expectations of improvement are far removed from reality, on standard therapies, so they try “supplements” and the like out of desperation. This tendency may be reinforced, and lead to a greater association with the industry (e.g. employement) if the staff seem friendly and knowledgable, and other social factors come into play. (“chronic illness causes consumption of supplements”)
    3. The association is spurious. Customers and staff of health food stores are no more or less healthy than any representative sample of the general population. (“null hypothesis”)

    Personally, I lean towards #2 as the most likely explanation, with the null hypothesis closely behind.

    ***

    If you explain to all around you the wonders of the perfect food you’ve discovered, and that perfect food is either a single item (such as apples) or a single species (such as all edible products derived from wheat), you just might be an altie.

    If you hate processed food, but eat pickles, pasta, bread, and cheese, you just might be an altie.

    If you’ve ever tried to feed a cat an all-vegetarian diet, you just might be an altie (and cruel to animals, too).

  11. #11 Niobe
    April 11, 2008

    You might just be an altie if you claim autism, adhd etc are just “labels” by the medical establishment and you can heal them with a trademarked altie treatment that cost you hundreds to get a legitimate seeming diploma.

  12. #12 curlyfries
    April 11, 2008

    Yeah, that’ll show ‘em! How dare those people have a lack of education and ability to think critically?! You’ve sure helped them all immensely by making fun of their poorly-founded beliefs. Well done!

    I feel confident in saying that the entire alternative medicine industry will disappear overnight as a result of this post.

    Oh, and since facts and accuracy are so important to you, you might want to take the word ‘Respectful’ out of your blog title. You know, just so you have all the facts presented correctly. Go Orac!

  13. #13 Joe
    April 11, 2008

    You might be an altie if you think water fluoridation is part of a conspiracy.

    “Mandrake, have you ever seen a commie drink water …”

  14. #14 Laser Potato
    April 11, 2008

    You might be an altie if you claim mercury exposure in nanogram quantities is dangerous while eating a Genisoy bar.

  15. #15 girlie
    April 11, 2008

    Orac, off topic but I’ve been meaning to ask you if you might want to consider a career change:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/inkvision/41659076/

    Love you blog by the way–if ever I’ve seen sexy writing, it’s by you. You’ve got a crushed-out groupie here! And no, I am not john best.

  16. #16 DanioPhD
    April 11, 2008

    If you believe that conducting “science based not on matter but on a new metaphysic and the primacy of conscious [can] solve all the paradoxes of quantum physics”, you just might be an altie

  17. #17 Laserpotato
    April 11, 2008

    If *you* breezed through measles as a kid and thus conclude the disease is harmless, you’re an altie with an ego the size of Alaska.

  18. #18 DanioPhD
    April 11, 2008

    curlyfries,
    Faced with such willful ignorance, sometimes there’s nothing else to do but point and laugh. If it offends you, you certainly don’t have to stick around and read it.

  19. #19 DonZilla
    April 11, 2008

    Thank you Brummell! All your ideas make sense. Plus, eating is a whole lot easier than exercising and getting fit (if folks are buying into the marketing of these products as cure-alls and a simplistic “one size fits all” solutionn to health problems).

  20. #20 HarryEagar
    April 11, 2008

    If you believe that manipulating an uncomplaining right shoulder will cure a sore left shoulder, then you’re an altie.

    True story:

    About 20 years ago I was having a coffee in a quiet cafe one afternoon. At the next table a middle-aged chiropractor was giving advice to a young chiropractor.

    He told him to listen to his patients, to be sympathetic, to have good bedside manner. Then he told a story about how the laying on of hands passed down the chiropractic mana through the generations, like the apostolic power of a Catholic bishop.

    There was an old chiropractor in my county, “Dr.” Olsen, who had been manipulated by D.D. Palmer himself, and the middle-aged chiropractor had had the privilege of being manipulatd by Olsen.

    By that time, Olsen was senile. Middle-aged chiro had a sore shoulder. “Dr. Olsen got confused and manipulated the wrong shoulder. But you know, I felt better anyway!”

  21. #21 borealys
    April 11, 2008

    If you think that taking your child to a “measles party” is safer than getting her a measles vaccination, you just may be an altie.

  22. #22 Interrobang
    April 11, 2008

    If you believe homeopathy works because it’s “just like how people can get reactions to minute amounts of peanuts,” you might be an altie. Or an idiot. Or both. (If you winced at that, you might not be an altie or an idiot.)

    If you believe that hyperbaric treatment will “cure” a ten year old with cerebral palsy, you might be an altie. If you meet an adult with cerebral palsy and try to convince them to try it, you are not only a gigantic altie, but also an insensitive clod.

    If you simultaneously tell people that “natural” things can’t be harmful and complain about your flower garden making you sneeze, you might be an altie.

    If you actually go to a cash-up-front alt.therapy practitioner when you have unlimited access to your provincial taxpayer-funded healthcare system, you’re not only an altie, but you’re a Canadian and a fool to boot.

    If you know anyone who’s had shingles, or even know of the existence of shingles, and you still think the chicken pox vaccination is unnecessary because chicken pox is “harmless,” you might be an altie.

  23. #23 pxcampbell
    April 11, 2008

    You might want to update your list to include mention of the Alties mentioned in this one: http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2008/04/raw_milk_demand_increases_desp.php

    Although, likely they are subsumed under one or another of your items.

  24. #24 eldereft
    April 11, 2008

    You might be an Altie if you know what a vortex is.

    Regions of quantized flux in type II superconductors?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrikosov_vortex

    You might be an altie if you think that obtaining “informed consent” does not include disclosing the utter lack of scientific plausibility of your chosen method.

  25. #25 Bob King
    April 11, 2008

    People might accuse me of being an “altie” for respecting the results of legitimate Chinese herbal medicine. But if you ask a legit herbalist of that tradition what to take for a headache – they hand you a bottle of asprin. When someone admits there are other approaches that in specific cases are superior to their own, then I know that I’m dealing with an ethical practitioner.

    Of course, that doesn’t speak to it’s effectiveness – but it does pretty much rule out classic quackery.

    As for naturapathic medicine, I know ritual magic when I see it. Even granting the possibility that a ritual magician might achieve something with such an approach, – I’m skeptical that it can be reduced to a recipe and mass produced. I’m sure that it violates some natural law regarding the Conservation of Woo.

  26. #26 wackyvorlon
    April 11, 2008

    If you believe that bloodroot paste makes a great moisturizer, you just might be an altie.

    If you emphasize the seperation between syllables in the word disease, you just might be an altie.

    If you believe in life force/spirit/energy, you just might be an altie.

    If you are aware that cyanide, sanguinarine, arsenic and strychnine are all naturally occuring, and still argue that everything ‘natural’ is safe and healthy, you are very probably an altie.

    If you believe that a molecule can be divided into infinitely small pieces, you might be an altie.

    If you believe that homeopathy works, you just might be bad at chemistry.

    Hmm, I’m sure if I give it some thought I can come up with more…

  27. #27 Martijn ter Haar
    April 11, 2008

    - You might be an altie if you claim Peter Duesberg is the world’s biggest AIDS expert.

    – You might be an altie if you believe peer review is just a way to stimulate groupthink amongst scientists.

  28. #28 curlyfries
    April 11, 2008

    If willful ignorance is to be derided, I will be sure to point and laugh at you, DanioPhD.

    I’m not offended, just annoyed. Your suggestion of ‘if you don’t like it – leave’ is just further evidence of the abhorrent attitude that I was complaining about in the first place, in that it sounds rather close-minded to criticism; ironic since that quality is one being derided.

    How, exactly, does ridiculing people with belief in alternative therapies help matters? I’m sure it makes you all feel superior and smug – good for you – but it only serves to deepen the divide, especially when written in a blog that claims to be ‘respectful’. That, my friends, is twisted.

  29. #29 phantomreader42
    April 11, 2008

    curlyfries:

    Yeah, that’ll show ‘em! How dare those people have a lack of education and ability to think critically?! You’ve sure helped them all immensely by making fun of their poorly-founded beliefs. Well done!
    I feel confident in saying that the entire alternative medicine industry will disappear overnight as a result of this post.
    Oh, and since facts and accuracy are so important to you, you might want to take the word ‘Respectful’ out of your blog title. You know, just so you have all the facts presented correctly. Go Orac!

    You might be an altie if you act like pointing out willful ignorance is an inexcusable crime.

    You’re DEFINITELY an altie if you treat ridiculing the willfully ignorant as a crime against humanity, then turn around and accuse the entire medical profession of conspiring to poison children.

  30. #30 DanioPhD
    April 11, 2008

    Your suggestion of ‘if you don’t like it – leave’ is just further evidence of the abhorrent attitude that I was complaining about in the first place, in that it sounds rather close-minded to criticism

    curlyfries, what exactly is your ‘criticism’? That we’re all in here having a laugh at the undeniably nutty beliefs that an undeniably unfunny number of people seem to subscribe to, rather than going out amongst them and attempting to enlighten them? If so, I can assure you that most of the regular commenters on this blog, as well as our illustrious host, are working daily to promote scientific rationalism and an appreciation of evidence-based medicine. We do this through our work, through community outreach, advocacy, blogging and other means of popularizing science and making it accessible to laypeople. We consider it a serious undertaking, given that belief in pseudoscience and alternative medicine is rampant and often dangerous. Sometimes, though, open ridicule works where all the patient tolerance and understanding in the world can utterly fail to get the message across.

    If you have genuine criticisms regarding any of the above altie items, then by all means, let us have them. If you’re just here to whine about how mean it is for us to flaunt our science literacy, I don’t have the power to compel you to stop, nor do I want to. It’s just a rather tiresome conversation to have, particularly in contrast with how fun it is to trash all this stupid woo, so I don’t expect you’ll get many takers. Furthermore, if you find our attitude so ‘abhorrent’ I can’t see why you’d want to stay and expose yourself to it. It’s your call entirely, though.

    How, exactly, does ridiculing people with belief in alternative therapies help matters? I’m sure it makes you all feel superior and smug – good for you – but it only serves to deepen the divide, especially when written in a blog that claims to be ‘respectful’. That, my friends, is twisted.

    Yes, yes, clearly we need to frame our absolute scorn for pseudoscientific lunacy in a way that conveys our respect for the loons’ abilities to ‘think outside the box’. FAIL.

    If willful ignorance is to be derided, I will be sure to point and laugh at you, DanioPhD.

    For the record I was referring to the items on the list as being representative of willful ignorance, not you. And, if you are charging me with some form of willful ignorance, please justify your claims with evidence.

  31. #31 Laser Potato
    April 11, 2008

    If you claim mercury is dangerous in nanogram qualities while eating a Genisoy bar, you might be an altie.

  32. #32 Laser Potato
    April 11, 2008

    Or if you’re relaxing in a swimming pool. Works either way.

  33. #33 Laser Potato
    April 11, 2008

    “please justify your claims with evidence”
    You ought to know by now that requests for evidence to trolls is like what crucifixes are to vampires.

  34. #34 ilikesubpoenas
    April 11, 2008

    As Gordon Ramsay says “Fuck me” – that treatise must have taken ages to pen. Anyone for real work?

    I wrote yesterday

    “Orac protested

    “As for how I find the time, I addressed that a really long time ago.”

    and linked to another lenghty (no doubt time consuming) tract.

    Are you Ben Goldacre in disguise?

    http://www.slingshotpublications.com/dwarfs.html

    Now we have the answer – you ARE Ben Goldacre (or he is you)

  35. #35 Brendan S
    April 11, 2008

    107 is mostly a duplicate.

    If you complain about doctors because ‘you never get better’ but have been going to the same (Nutritionist, Chiropractor, Accupuncturist, etc) every other week for YEARS for the same problem, and still claim you are getting better… An altie is you.

    If you have the audacity to give any stranger unsolicited medical advice… You’re just an asshole.

  36. #36 Laser Potato
    April 11, 2008

    “If you believe that a molecule can be divided into infinitely small pieces”
    That’s a new one on me.

  37. #37 Penny
    April 11, 2008

    Not a single item on the list applies to me – except that my husband makes Kambucha tea! So we must be alties. What’ve you got against that stuff? Apart from the taste I mean… I didn’t know it was supposed by anybody to DO anything?

  38. #38 DanioPhD
    April 11, 2008

    You ought to know by now that requests for evidence to trolls is like what crucifixes are to vampires.

    Indeed, Laser Potato, you have cottoned on to my nefarious plan to drive your circularly julienned and deep-fried counterpart from our midst.

    As an aside, I think it would be great fun to actually make curly fries using a laser.

    Cruelly mocking woo, experimenting on innocent spuds–is there no end to my depravity?

  39. #39 wackyvorlon
    April 11, 2008

    I have a friend who believes in homeopathy. I tried to walk him through the argument just how successive dilutions works. If you have ten molecules, and you dilute one in ten with water, how many molecules do you have? Eventually it becomes a game of probabilities. His response: “But you can never have just TEN!” It was at that point that I gave up trying to argue the point with him.

  40. #40 phantomreader42
    April 11, 2008

    If you claim that all of modern science is a vast Jewish conspiracy, you might be an altie, you’re surely an anti-semitic nutcase, and there’s a regrettably high chance you’re an elected official in the South.

    If your explanation for any medical issue involves “demons” “thetans” any other variety of unobservable supernatural mischief-makers, or a vast global conspiracy, you might be an altie.

    If your explanation for any medical issue makes as much or more sense when your name for the cause is replaced with any of the above, “leprechauns”, “The Illuminati” or “underpants gnomes”, you might be an altie.

    If your sole source of evidence for your claims is sworn testimony from the voices in your head, you might be an altie, and you should be checked for schizophrenia.

    If you continue to claim that China had zero cases of autism until after 1999, after being presented with studies of autistics in China from the 1980’s, you might be an altie.

  41. #41 Shiritai
    April 11, 2008

    ilikesubpoenas,

    I liken your reading comprehension to that of tuber boiled in oil. If you had read this post, you would have known that the core of this list was taken from a usenet group, and Orac’s been adding items from itself and others yearly.

  42. #42 Orac
    April 11, 2008

    As Gordon Ramsay says “Fuck me” – that treatise must have taken ages to pen. Anyone for real work?

    My goodness, you are incredibly obtuse. Last year’s version was around 123 items long. This year’s edition is around 170 items long. All I did was to take the items suggested since last year, add them to this post, and update the introduction (not to mention add a couple of items of my own). It took me maybe a half hour last night, half of which was spent cutting and pasting text for the new entries and formatting them properly. In fact, the reason I chose this week to post this instead of writing is because I’m off to San Diego for the AACR Meeting tomorrow. I intentionally did this post today because it wouldn’t take me much time to do. (To the rest of my readers: Sorry for being lazy.)

    Are you Ben Goldacre in disguise?

    http://www.slingshotpublications.com/dwarfs.html

    Now we have the answer – you ARE Ben Goldacre (or he is you)

    Ah, yes, the old “pharm shill” gambit. Except that I’ve seen no evidence that Ben is a pharma shill.

    The appearance of this particular smear is quite predictable; alties very often use the pharma shill gambit. Perhaps I’ll add that one to the list this weekend if I get the chance.

  43. #43 Liesl
    April 11, 2008

    Waaaaaaait… Orac is going to be gone? How will I feed my brand spanking new obsession? I feel faint.

    You might be an altie if you believe eating soy makes children gay.

  44. #44 Sastra
    April 11, 2008

    If you think the key to good health is allowing your body to work with, not against Nature — and yet you take enough daily vitamin/mineral supplements to choke a horse … then you might be an altie.

    If you observe that there is little to no internal critique between alternative medicine practitioners — despite the fact that many of their therapies and theories completely contradict each other — and see it as a positive, healthy, nonjudgmental, and open way to do science as it should be done … then you might be an altie.

  45. #45 Orac
    April 11, 2008

    Waaaaaaait… Orac is going to be gone? How will I feed my brand spanking new obsession? I feel faint.

    Fear not. I usually blog from conferences–especially if there’s interesting science to write about. Just not as often. (Unless, of course, the meeting is boring, in which case my output may actually increase. It’s impossible to predict.)

  46. #46 phantomreader42
    April 11, 2008

    Liesl:
    You might be an altie if you believe eating soy makes children gay.

    …Especially if you continue to insist on this after being shown statistics indicating no greater incidence of homosexuality in Asian countries where soy is more common in the diet.

    …And bonus points if you attribute said statistics to a world-spanning “gay agenda” to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids.

  47. #47 Sigivald
    April 11, 2008

    Re. 109, you might want “hypocrite”, since a “hippocrate” is most plausibly interpreted as a “doctor”. And I know that’s not what you mean to be saying.

  48. #48 Laser Potato
    April 11, 2008

    The original was misspelled like that, Sigivald.

  49. #49 Regan
    April 11, 2008

    If you spend a lot of time worrying about or talking about “yeast”,
    If you regularly use the words “pharma puppet” in conversation,
    If you talk about your kid’s weak or almost absent immune system and then take said kid to a measles or chickenpox party,

    You might be an altie.

  50. #50 Liesl
    April 11, 2008

    Y’all with your fancy html skills, I envy them so!

    Orac: Whew! obsession shall continue apace. That was a close one.

    Phantom:
    I hadn’t heard the impurity part. Well, other than the impure thoughts people who are gay would clearly have. Heterosexuals wouldn’t, though. Nope, nuh uh.

  51. #51 PennyBright
    April 11, 2008

    …. if you think that food allergies are detected by putting bits of the food in test tubes, having the suspected allergee hold the test tube in their hand while holding their arm straight out, and seeing how easy it is to push their arm down while they hold it. If it’s easier then pushing their arm down while they hold nothing, they must be allergic to the food in the tube!

    My aunt (who very woo) took her daughter to a chiropractor who did this to diagnose allergies. I about died laughing when she told me, and asked her how she could rule out an allergy to test tubes. Pissed her off to no end.

  52. #52 NZ Sceptic
    April 11, 2008

    If you think Bird Flu is simply a piece of hype cooked up by Donald Rumsfeld in order to sell Tamiflu and that those who have died so far somehow don’t count because they’re in Asia, you are without doubt an altie. If you proclaim that your children will survive a pandemic because they have great immune systems and even if a vaccine was available you wouldn’t let them have it, you are deluded too!

  53. #53 T. Bruce McNeely
    April 11, 2008

    If you believe that a cranial-sacral therapist can cure you by pushing your skull bones around (despite the fact that they are fused together by solid bone), yep…you know what you are.

  54. #54 scrabcake
    April 11, 2008

    I know plenty of fairly smart people who have turned to naturopathy because of a series of bad experiences with doctors and medication. I can’t stand behind this reaction, but I can’t be too judgmental, either. Personal experience talks a lot louder than insensitive blogging doctors.
    I’ll agree that 97% of natural medicine is voodoo. But I also know from my experience as a student of biology that things that aren’t lucrative don’t get research grants. So I could see how a folk remedy might not be the top priority for testing. (How many years have people used Eccinacea, and we only got around to disproving its effectiveness, what…last year?)
    I also know that pharmaceutical companies are out to make a dollar. The individual workers and board members probably want to help people, but the bottom line is the cash. It is also a fact that pharmaceutical companies put a lot of weight and incentive on both doctors and patients through advertising and perks.
    So it’s easy to see why people are a little disillusioned with “allopathic” medicine.
    I think that by making fun of “alties”, you are worrying a symptom and not the problem itself.
    I think the great majority of people who are into Woo are into Woo because they feel cheated by wham-bam-thankyou-ma’am physicians who hustle them in, throw a prescription at them, shove them out the door and send them a bill for $2000, and the pharmaceutical companies that present a face to the public that is only concerned with lifestyle diseases. A lot of naturopathic doctors seem a lot more concerned about their patients, and personable.
    Alright. Flame me.

  55. #55 scrabcake
    April 11, 2008

    I know plenty of fairly smart people who have turned to naturopathy because of a series of bad experiences with doctors and medication. I can’t stand behind this reaction, but I can’t be too judgmental, either. Personal experience talks a lot louder than insensitive blogging doctors.
    I’ll agree that 97% of natural medicine is voodoo. But I also know from my experience as a student of biology that things that aren’t lucrative don’t get research grants. So I could see how a folk remedy might not be the top priority for testing. (How many years have people used Eccinacea, and we only got around to disproving its effectiveness, what…last year?)
    I also know that pharmaceutical companies are out to make a dollar. The individual workers and board members probably want to help people, but the bottom line is the cash. It is also a fact that pharmaceutical companies put a lot of weight and incentive on both doctors and patients through advertising and perks.
    So it’s easy to see why people are a little disillusioned with “allopathic” medicine.
    I think that by making fun of “alties”, you are worrying a symptom and not the problem itself.
    I think the great majority of people who are into Woo are into Woo because they feel cheated by wham-bam-thankyou-ma’am physicians who hustle them in, throw a prescription at them, shove them out the door and send them a bill for $2000, and the pharmaceutical companies that present a face to the public that is only concerned with lifestyle diseases. To them, naturopathic doctors present a kinder face.
    I also see a disturbing tendency to dismiss any criticism of pharmaceutical companies as “Woo”, and will doubtless get flamed as an “Altie” because I dared suggest that like all corporations, Merck and GSK might just be in it for the shareholders and the bottom line.
    Alright. Flame me.

  56. #56 scrabcake
    April 11, 2008

    Well, crap. I look like a dumbass. My internet connection was acting frozen so I hit submit a few too many times.
    :P Please be kind and delete the last two entries.

  57. #57 scrabcake
    April 11, 2008

    Well, crap. I look like a dumbass. I’m sorry. My internet connection was acting frozen so I hit submit a few too many times.
    :P Please be kind and delete the last two entries.

  58. #58 Liesl
    April 11, 2008

    Scrabcake:

    You should meet my doctors; they are, to a one, the exact opposite of the “allopathic” doctors you describe. Actually, I’ve rarely met doctor similar to your description. But then, that doesn’t really matter, does it? it’s anecdotal. Also, I don’t think anyone who doesn’t have their heads firmly planted up their posterior thinks that pharmaceutical companies are in operation for the betterment of mankind and are blameless. Again, it’s a separate issue to whether or not “natural” medicine is woo. Frankly, it’s a red herring.

  59. #59 Chris Anderson
    April 12, 2008

    @Regan’s

    If you spend a lot of time worrying about or talking about “yeast”

    Hey, I spend a lot of time worrying about yeast and I am NOT an altie. If you cross contaminate your bread yeast and beer yeast you can get some nasty results, and then what will you do to enjoy your homemade cheese, which should only have L. acidophilus growing in it? Worrying about your kitchen fauna is hardly indicative…

  60. #60 Chris Anderson
    April 12, 2008

    For the sake of accuracy, MY homemade cheese is made with L. acidophilus (or even citric acid if I am in a hurry), but there are plenty of other good organisms which you might use in cheese making. I just don’t much like most of them.

    Either way, growing yeast of any strain in there is not a good plan. Yeast gets greedy, and its byproducts are not conducive in general. Though there is a lovely cheddar you can make with streaks of pasteurized stout running through it…

  61. #61 bastion
    April 12, 2008

    If you claim that everything anyone has ever said, or ever written, are simply “opinions,” for which you are free to substitute your own “opinions”…

    If you reject any study found on PubMed because all the researchers are somehow connected to “Big Pharma,” and thus biased, but you see no reason to question studies of an alternative product which were published only on a site selling that alternative product, even though the studies were done by the site’s owner who used his own customers as research subjects…

    You accuse anyone who questions your claims about alternative treatments and/or products of being on the payroll of “Big Pharma”…

    If you believe a foot bath can pull toxins out of your body through the soles of your feet, and you know that to be true because a blotter on which you placed your feet after you’d soaked them in the foot bath, turned colors…

    If you tell diabetic senior citizens that the reason their memories are getting worse is because of “aspartame poisoning”…

    If you admit (brag, actually) that you don’t know anything about science, but believe that your opinions about scientific matters are just as valid as someone with a PhD. and a long career, in science…

  62. #62 DuWayne
    April 12, 2008

    # Or if you’ve ever stood on a vortex naked. Wearing crystals. Chanting.

    This makes me an altie? I thought it just made me kinky. I know that was a very good night.

  63. #63 Linda Flores
    April 12, 2008

    Reading all the references to toxins and altie cancer treatments reminds me of the story of one of my good friends, whose sister got breast cancer in her early ’40s, after being taken in by a quack healer who waved around metal rods and spoke of some mysterious cancer-freeing “process” that no one could describe, explain, or even observe. My friend’s sister wasted away to 75 pounds, with a stinking mass of dead tissue on her breast. She continued to insist that she was being cured — until she died.

    A lengthy article on it is here. http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/display.php?id=20927

    Linda

  64. #64 Linda Flores
    April 12, 2008

    Reading all the references to toxins and altie cancer treatments reminds me of the story of one of my good friends, whose sister got breast cancer in her early forties and was then taken in by a quack healer who waved around metal rods and spoke of some mysterious cancer-freeing “process” that no one could describe, explain, or even observe. My friend’s sister wasted away to 75 pounds, with a stinking mass of dead tissue on her breast, scarcely able to breathe. She continued to insist that she was being cured — until she died.

    A lengthy article on it is here. http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/display.php?id=20927

  65. #65 Linda Flores
    April 12, 2008

    Reading all the references to toxins and altie cancer treatments reminds me of the story of one of my good friends, whose sister got breast cancer in her early forties and was then taken in by a quack healer who waved around metal rods and spoke of some mysterious cancer-freeing “process” that no one could describe, explain, or even observe. My friend’s sister wasted away to 75 pounds, with a stinking mass of dead tissue on her breast, scarcely able to breathe. She continued to insist that she was being cured — until she died.

    A lengthy article on it is here:

    http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/display.php?id=20927

  66. #66 Linda Flores
    April 12, 2008

    Um, sorry for all the multiple posts — I kept getting messages saying “Unable to process your request.”

    Yikes.

  67. #67 cath
    April 12, 2008

    Interobang, you said If you believe homeopathy works because it’s “just like how people can get reactions to minute amounts of peanuts,” you might be an altie. Or an idiot. Or both. That one is wrong – you might simply be ignorant of how ridiculous homeopathy actually is. It *is* hard to believe that so many people can be so stupid. Until I started reading the JREF forum, I had assumed that homeopathy was merely some variant of herbalism, with small doses.

  68. #68 Inquisitive Raven
    April 12, 2008

    I originally promised to update the list every year (actually, every few months), and, wouldn’t you know it, it’s been more than a year since the 2008 edition. An update is definitely long overdue.

    Errrm, don’t you mean 2007 edition?

    Okay, someone want to explain the Genisoy business to me? I don’t get it.

  69. #69 Kapitano
    April 12, 2008

    A few unworthy suggestions:

    You believe in karmic justice but you want to realign it in your case…you’re a doublethinking altie.

    If you drink other people’s urine but don’t pay them to let you do it…you’re a pee-brained altie.

    If you’ve never wondered why the “memory of water” doesn’t remember all the “toxins” it’s encounter in billions of years…and kill you when you drink it…you’re a toxic altie.

    If you think pronouncing “Disease” as “Dis-Ease” is insightful…you’re an illiterate altie.

    If you think Deepak Chopra is wise because he’s from India, but you don’t know where India is…you’re an ignorant altie.

    If you don’t realise the opposite of “skeptical” is “gullible”…you’re an altie who needs a dictionary.

    If you think “Ancient” is a selling point…you’re a modern altie.

    If you think a salt enema is natural and good but sodomy isn’t…you’re a fundie altie.

  70. #70 Laserpotato
    April 12, 2008

    Raven,
    In the Hannah Poling case thread, Soylent Scream said
    “Sue,
    did you know that one Genisoy bar tested as containing a higher concentration of mercury in it than is necessary to kill neuroblastoma cells in culture? How much higher concentration? 2X? 6X? 8X? 17X? (Parran et al., Toxicol Sci 2005; 86: 132-140)
    How much higher is the ppb level of that Genisoy bar compared to the EPA allowable amount of mercury in drinking water?”
    and so the meme began.

  71. #71 Sharon
    April 12, 2008

    What a list!

    That Chelation kid comic is dire. I hadn’t seen it before.

  72. #72 BB
    April 12, 2008

    Wow! Could you condense that into a few points, as a summary?

    Also, I loved #51, and it made me think of a conversation my mom had with a pharmacist when she was buying some acetyl ether:
    Pharmacist: So, what are you using the ether for?
    Mom: We’re gonna put few drops in a jam jar to catch insects with.
    Pharmacist: (Mulls this over.) Would that work for humans, too?
    Mom: Well, if you could get a large enough jar …

  73. #73 Militant Agnostic
    April 12, 2008

    If you light up a smoke after putting the supplements and organic food from Community Natural Foods in the trunk of your car you might be an altie

    If you believe our unnatural modern diet is the cause of all illness and you are a vegetarian, you might be an altie.

    If you decry the nutritional deficencies of processed foods and buy salty organic junk food at the the health food store, you might be an altie.

    If you say doctors “just want to make money” but go to a CAM doctor who charges much more than the provincial health care plan pays doctors, who specializes in diseases (or imaginary diseases) of the rich, who plays fast and loose with the Provincial Medicare regulations, has a chelation clinic, and sells the supplements that he recommends, you are definitely an altie.

  74. #74 curlyfries
    April 12, 2008

    DanioPhD – glad you asked. My criticism is that in calling belief in alternative medicine ‘lunacy’ and ‘woo’, you have lost the right to point and laugh at it. You have also demonstrated a complete lack of sympathy and understanding of that mindset.

    While you do have perfectly valid intellectual points, this attitude is the worst kind of smug, self-serving contempt. Perhaps one needs, as I have, direct experience in believing – then unbelieving – in alternative medicine, and a strong background in science in order to truly appreciate this point. I don’t see any evidence that anyone here really understands this, least of all Orac.

  75. #75 Harry Eagar
    April 12, 2008

    I don’t understand it, curly, but that’s because you’re not making sense.

  76. #76 Laser Potato
    April 12, 2008

    “buy salty organic junk food at the the health food store”
    Guilty! I only go to the organic food store when it seems all the grocer’s are out of fresh baby spinach (baby spinach + red bell peppers + grape tomatoes + thinly-sliced red onion + carrot slices + cumbled blue cheese + basalmic vinegar = a damn good salad) and I can’t resist picking up the candy.

  77. #77 Dangerous Bacon
    April 12, 2008

    If you engage in a lengthy debate arguing the pro-altie side, see your voluminous posts ripped to shreds by facts, and come back with “Gee, you must have lots of time on your hands”, you are one frustrated altie.

    “Personal experience talks a lot louder than insensitive blogging doctors.”

    Louder? Yes, that’s often the case. More intelligible and reliable? Not so.

  78. #78 Hornet
    April 12, 2008

    A few thoughts for curlyfries:

    1) ‘Altie’ is a made up term and most of the 170 points aren’t aimed at a specific person. It’s only poking fun at someone if they have done this, and all the fun-poking entails is pointing out that they did it. I guess my point is that getting too upset about it suggests there’s a lot of truth up there.

    2) Yes, a lot of woo-bashing bloggers sound sarcastic, peeved off, arrogant and vindictive. Possibly because they are; I would be too if I thought about this stuff 24/7. But that’s no reason not to listen to what they say.

    3) I understand why many people choose to be skeptical of conventional medicine and desperately want to believe that there are alternatives. But understanding why someone has that point of view is not the same as agreeing with it.

    4) No-one ever said scientists had to be considerate, understanding, angels with warm and fuzzy auras. They just have to be competent, objective scientists.

  79. #79 Sara
    April 12, 2008

    If you’re lactose intolerant but drink a pint of raw milk a day because a website tells you that people are only allergic to pasteurized milk and raw milk will “Heal the gut,” all the while getting sicker and sicker…. you’re probably an altie.

    If you spend

  80. #80 DanioPhD
    April 12, 2008

    Wow! curlyfries is an altie apologist! Didn’t see that one coming.

    My criticism is that in calling belief in alternative medicine ‘lunacy’ and ‘woo’, you have lost the right to point and laugh at it.

    Gracious me, do you have any idea how puling and pompous that sounds? Last time I checked, my rights were intact, and around these parts my disrespect is but a drop in the sloshing bucket of delicious insolence served up by our venerable host. As long as he’s ok with what I post here, I don’t give a detoxifying crap what you think. And, for the record, it’s the alternative medicine itself that is woo–the belief in it is just sad. Believe me, I’m much harder on the purveyors of woo–the hucksters who prey on the hopes and fears of uneducated people–than on those who turn to it seeking help for their health problems.

    The tone of this particular post was lighthearted and yes, scornful, of the altie world view. I don’t think you’ll be able to shame anyone, least of all me, into making apologies for that. Do I use a kinder, gentler tone when discussing the efficacy of Glucosamine/Chondroitin with my arthritic mother? Absolutely. Do I choose my words very carefully when asked by a neighbor in my very woo-friendly community how accurate the science was in the movie “What the $3*! do we know?”? You betcha. But on this blog, I and others can discuss our frustrations, outrage, and contempt at the disturbing preponderance of pseudoscience encroaching on our rational world, without pulling our punches. I am as grateful to Orac for providing a forum in which to vent my spleen on these topics as I am for the excellent and well-researched information he provides to his readers. You are evidently unable to appreciate the value in that, and for someone who professes a ‘strong background in science’, I have to say that your critical thinking skills appear as anemic as your sense of humor.

    Are you familiar with Matthew Nisbet? If not, I suggest you become acquainted at once. I think you two would really hit it off.

  81. #81 curlyfries
    April 12, 2008

    I see, so the smug self-serving contempt is limited to this special little online hidy-hole, yet you put on the concerned, understanding face when you talk to your poor confused altie friends. How very noble of you.

    I do appreciate the information that Orac puts on his blog, I just don’t appreciate the contempt he displays while disseminating it. Nor do I appreciate yours, but I accept your apology nonetheless.

  82. #82 ozzy
    April 13, 2008

    If you subscribe to a diet “that our species ancestors” ate consisting of leafy green vegetables you might be an altie considering the fact that no chimp ate cultivated spinach, radicchio, escarole, etc.

  83. #83 Chaz
    April 13, 2008

    Cranio-Sacral Therapy scares the crap out of me! I googled it, and one website had a list of practitioners. They were all licensed massage therapists! The lone “physician” on the site was an honest to god Acupuncture Physician with an A.P Degree.

  84. #84 DanioPhD
    April 13, 2008

    Gee, curly, didn’t you start out this little sortie by saying that you wanted us to put on the concerned, understanding face when talking to poor confused alties? You have officially descended to the lowest level of odious concern trolling. Your querulous reproof is noted, and summarily dismissed.

    And if you detected an apology in anything I’ve written to you (hint: calling you an apologist wasn’t it), then I think you could have a great future as a homeopath.

  85. #85 phantomreader42
    April 13, 2008

    Liesl:

    Phantom:
    I hadn’t heard the impurity part. Well, other than the impure thoughts people who are gay would clearly have. Heterosexuals wouldn’t, though. Nope, nuh uh.

    Have you ever seen the movie Dr. Strangelove? It’s a cold-war classic, about the insanity of the arms race. There’s a character in it who thinks flouridation of water is a commie conspiracy, so he drinks only rainwater and grain alcohol (and apparently leaning heavily on the latter). He’s the source of the “bodily fluids” remark. I like to slip a link to that in whenever making fun of conspiracy theorists, that and references to the dreaded Underpants Gnomes. :)

  86. #86 Liesl
    April 13, 2008

    Phantom: Aha! I haven’t seen that movie in years and years. I must rent it again.

  87. #87 Bob King
    April 13, 2008

    If you subscribe to a diet “that our species ancestors” ate consisting of leafy green vegetables you might be an altie considering the fact that no chimp ate cultivated spinach, radicchio, escarole, etc.

    Just to add to the confusion – I had a cat that would shove the guinea pig out of the way to get to it’s snack of spring greens. And the radicchio was the first on the hit parade.

    But strangely, not the guinea pig. Probably, as a long haired cat, he had enough fur in his diet as it was…

  88. #88 T. Bruce McNeely
    April 13, 2008

    If you’ve tried ear candling, you may be an altie.
    If you regularly get ear candling, you are probably an altie.
    If you regularly get ear candling, and light shines out of your opposite ear, you are definitely an altie.

  89. #89 curlyfries
    April 13, 2008

    I can see that my point is beyond you, DanioPhD. You are unable to counter without resorting to name-calling, nor do you apparently have the cognitive capacity to understand a simple point. I can only assume that your PhD was of the mail-order variety.

  90. #90 DanioPhD
    April 13, 2008

    No, I understood your (rather dull) point from your first comment. I just disagree with it entirely. And casting aspersions at other people’s credentials makes you sound suspiciously like our chronic troll Sue.

    Honestly, curly, why waste your penchant for manners policing here, of all places? Someone is probably telling an off-color joke at a Country Club somewhere right now, while your futile efforts are focused on us. To arms!

  91. #91 wackyvorlon
    April 14, 2008

    The caustic demeanor is cultivated by frustration and bemusement. The ideas embodied in alternative medicine are not only absurd, they are also damaging. I have had a friend lose her life because of this nonsense.

    This quackery drains bank accounts, destroys families and destroys lives. It is extremely harmful. The sooner it is wiped from existence the better.

  92. #92 Harry
    April 14, 2008

    Re: #69:

    Seriously, would an altie go anywhere near a Big Mac ;?)

  93. #93 Harry
    April 14, 2008

    wackyvorlon says:

    If you are aware that cyanide, sanguinarine, arsenic and strychnine are all naturally occuring, and still argue that everything ‘natural’ is safe and healthy, you are very probably an altie.

    … or you work in the food industry – (have you seen some of the things in foods free from artificial flavourings and colourings? They have a different definition of natural…)

    I might have altie leanings ;-)

  94. #94 Richter
    April 14, 2008

    “you might be altie” What? No evidence-based analysis of alleged alti-ism? You are letting people make up their own minds????? Where are statistics and other rational, logical qualifiers when they are really needed?

  95. #95 barbie123
    April 14, 2008

    There is a maxim in the law, regarding legal arguments, that goes something like this:

    “If you can’t pound the law, pound the facts; if you can’t pound the facts, pound the law; and if you can’t pound either, pound your opponent.”

    That seems to be curlyfries mindset: “I don’t have a good argument here, and can’t (credibly) stick up for the alties (who, let’s remember, CHOSE to be alties), so I will just say everyone in science is a big meanyhead.”

  96. #96 Azkyroth
    April 14, 2008

    89. If you prefer to use the term “babies” to describe all children under the age of 10, there’s an outside chance you’re an altie.

    Or simply a moron.

    91. If you’ve ever screamed “won’t somebody please think of the children?!”, you might be an altie.

    Ditto.

  97. #97 complexin
    April 15, 2008

    you might be an altie if you think that water vortexing changes normal water into special, atomically-homeopathically-vibrationally-restructured “living” water.

    * each word contains its own fascinating link

  98. #98 Nes
    May 11, 2008

    I’m a bit late to the party, but…

    If you think water understands intent, you might be an altie.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.