Respectful Insolence

Here we go again.

You know, now that it’s 2009, I had hoped that one of the most irritating people alive would continue his blissful quiet. I’m referring, of course, to Deepak Chopra, that Indian physician who demonstrates that a medical training is no protection whatsoever against pseudoscientific and anti-scientific thinking. Indeed, Chopra goes far beyond that in that, not only has he become a leader of the so-called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) movement, also sometimes called the “integrative medicine” (IM) movement that seeks to “integrate” treatments that range from the dubious to outright quackery with effective scientific medicine, but he has subjected numerous other field besides medicine to his “quantum” lunacy, including evolution. Indeed, so bad is Chopra’s “science-y” quantumness, that I even coined a term for it: Choprawoo. I even came up with the only response ever needed to Choprawoo. He had been quite quiet of late, and that was a good thing.

Given that I’m still (sort of) on vacation until Monday, I didn’t want to have to do too much heavy lifting, you know, like actually reading some peer-reviewed articles and doing an in depth analysis and critique. Fear not! I will be trying to do that more frequently in 2009. But in the meantime I couldn’t think of a more amusing and at the same time more frustrating way to start the new year than to take a look at Chopra’s latest, which he couldn’t resist posting to that repository of anti-science and antivaccination stylings The Huffington Post and also to his own personal blog. Apparently, Chopra is very unhappy about an article by Steve Salerno that the Wall Street Journal published right after Christmas entitled The Touch That Doesn’t Heal.

The WSJ article was that rarest of things for the mainstream media. It was a direct, skeptical, and science-based attack on CAM/IM. Indeed, it even expressed fear that any comprehensive health care reform undertaken by the incoming Obama administration could provide the opening for CAM advocates and their boosters in Congress like Dan Burton and Tom Harkin to insert language into any reform legislation that would force the government to pay for quackery. It is a fear I share, and I was happy to see a major newspaper like the WSJ publish such an editorial. I was even more happy to see the article’s conclusion:

Is there anecdotal evidence that unconventional therapies sometimes yield positive outcomes? Yes. There’s also anecdotal evidence that athletes who refuse to shave during winning streaks sometimes bring home championships. It was George D. Lundberg, a former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, who said: “There’s no alternative medicine. There is only scientifically proven, evidence-based medicine supported by solid data.” We’d do well to keep that in mind as we plot the future of American health care. It’s not like we’ve got billions to waste.

Speak it, brother Salerno!

This article, predictably enough, has riled Deepak Chopra. He’s not happy about it at all. Oh, no. Nor are his buddies, including the Godfather of Quackademic Medicine and Lover of Anecdotal Evidence above controlled observations, Dr. Andrew Weil, and that king of pseudoscientific arguments for homeopathy, Dr. Rustum Roy. Truly, this is an Unholy Trinity of Woo, and the results are very predictable. They view Salerno’s article as the “opening salvo” against CAM/IM.

I certainly hope it is. I certainly hope it’s the first salvo of a veritable barrage that would put the bombardment of Normandy in preparation for the D-Day invasion to shame. I hope it’s the first salvo of a barrage that flattens any pretensions Chopra and his ilk have to scientific legitimacy, pulverizing it to a cloud of woo-ful dust the way a shell pulverizes its target.

Dr. Chopra seems rather unhappy at how he was characterized in the article, and he starts out with, instead of Choprawoo, a bit of Choprawhine:

Without discernible professional credentials in health reportage, the writer opened his piece by pledging allegiance to “scientifically proven, evidence-based medicine.” He next declared opposition to integrative medicine, and characterized as “gurus” two proponents of integrative medicine, Deepak Chopra and Andrew Weil, choosing to overlook that we both are highly trained MDs with almost 40 years of clinical-experience. Joining us in our response is Rustum Roy, an internationally known scientist, and member of five major National Academies of Science Engineering, who has spent ten years researching a wide range of health technologies, both ancient and modern. We predict that while they may try to dismiss us, the Wall Street Journal writer and editors will find they can’t dismiss a burgeoning field of medicine currently saving and improving millions of lives worldwide.

Ah, yes. The classic “argument from authority.” How dare that unwashed non-M.D. criticize us? whines Chopra. After all, we’re doctors, dammit!

So friggin’ what?

Chopra and Weil long ago gave up their claim to being science-based. This is true of Chopra more than Weil, the latter of whose proclivity for–if you’ll excuse me, I can’t resist–”integrating” the unproven and dubious with some sound medical advice is infuriating, particularly his advocacy of “uncontrolled clinical observations” over sound clinical trials and epidemiology and his proselytization of CAM/IM to the point that he is “integrating” it into family medicine residencies. In this, Weil may well be the greater threat to science-based medicine that Chopra. That’s because Deepak Chopra, with his “quantum” nonsense, is so far off the deep end that very few, even in academia, take him seriously. Andrew Weil, on the other hand, mixes just enough sound medicine with his woo that he goes down a lot easier. You won’t hear him going on and on about “quantum universal consciousness,” as Chopra does, but you will hear him blurring the distinction between medicine that is dubious and that is science-based, which allows him to be the Trojan horse filled with quackery that medical schools are now eagerly letting into their fortresses.

In any case, titles mean nothing here. As I have discussed time and time again, an M.D. after one’s name is no guarantee whatsoever that that person has the slightest understanding of the scientific method or what does and does not constitute good science. Indeed, Deepak Chopra is living proof of that, as is Andrew Weil, David Katz, not to mention the horde of physicians signing petitions expressing “Dissent from Darwin” over evolution on pro-”intelligent design” creationism sites. Come to think of it, Chopra has been known to say some very stupid things about evolution as well. Arguments matter, not titles, and Chopra and his Trio of Woo can’t marshal them. Of course, it’s all a plot by The Man (and Big Pharma, of course) to keep The People down:

We believe that Salerno’s piece is the opening salvo from the right aiming to influence the incoming administration as it strategically allocates resources for improving the U.S. health and wellness system. Fortunately, Tom Daschle, the upcoming Health and Human Services Secretary is better informed than either the WSJ writer or those who dictate WSJ editorial policy. The co-author (along with Jeanne Lambrew) of Critical: What We Can Do About the Health Care Crises, Daschle names the principal challenge to true reform, “[S]pecial interests are especially numerous and influential in the health-care system. Health care comprises one-sixth of our economy… since cutting costs is tantamount to cutting profits for many of these special interests, it is reasonable to expect (an) all-out war to defeat reform.”

As in Mr. Salerno’s article, this war extends to advancing ill-informed pseudo-scientific arguments to discredit effective low-cost health care options precisely because they compete with the current high-cost system.

“Special interests”? My irony meter exploded again into a twisted, smoldering heap of quivering, sparking circuits. It is, in fact, the CAM/IM movement spearheaded by the likes of Chopra and Weil that represent the quintessential “special interest.” It is pretty ballsy of them to try to appropriate the “reform” label, of course, because if any aspect of the health care system needs reform, it’s the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), which allows supplement makers to sell their supplements with minimal oversight. As long as they don’t make specific claims to be able to treat or cure a disease or condition, they can pretty much say anything they want in their advertising. If I were reforming the health care system, one thing I’d most definitely want to do would be to repeal the DSHEA and give jurisdiction over supplement sales back to the FDA.

I also find it curious that Chopra would politicize this as an attack from the “right.” One other thing I’ve said time and time again about unscientific medicine and quackery: It’s totally a bipartisan affair, although admittedly the reasons for supporting quackery differ tend to differ with politics. On the “left,” for example, the push for CAM/IM is associated with a “wholistic” treatment and a whole lot of suspicion of big pharma, big medicine, and corporate interests. On the “right,” CAM/IM is sold more as an issue of “health freedom,” which in reality means “freedom for quacks to do whatever they want” and the removal of all protections against quackery, as represented by Ron Paul, who is one of the greatest enablers of quackery Congress has ever seen. The idea from the right is that laws protecting the public against quackery and unscientific medical practices represent an unacceptable infringement of individual liberty. Indeed, two of the biggest boosters of CAM/IM there are in Congress are both Republicans: Ron Paul and Dan Burton, the latter of whom is especially known for his antivaccine views and in support of autism quackery.

More importantly, any true “reform” should require evidence of efficacy for therapies for which the government pays. In this, CAM/IM, by and large, has failed miserably. Chopra et al seemingly almost implicitly recognize this, because they only arguments they can come up with are attacks against science-based medicine, not postive arguments based on science for the efficacy of their preferred woo. Indeed, they present not a single positive scientific argument, just vague claims and paranoid attacks:

Nor does it sustain a doctor’s sworn duty to “first do no harm.” Abundant evidence uncovers high-tech medicine, with its powerful drugs, as a major, possibly the leading, cause of death in this country. The National Academy’s data attributes 100,000 deaths per year to physicians’ errors, added to well over 100,000 deaths due to severe drug interactions and another 100,000 fatalities from hospital-based-infections. (For a detailed analysis, see Death By Medicine, by Gary S. Null, et al.)

Why is the allegedly “scientifically proven” health care that the WSJ writer champions so dangerous to health? The blind allegiance to “evidence-based medicine” overlooks how readily this form of research can be manipulated. It was first developed to isolate patentable agents for drug formulations. In scientific arenas outside of mainstream medicine, this “statistics-based medicine” is regarded as dubious science at best. Narrowly confining itself to costly, selectively published, industry-sponsored clinical trials, to promote pharmaceutical products, “evidence based medicine” is the marketing “icon” used by the current system to squelch lower cost competitors.

Science’s only gold standard are facts derived from reproducible results, however unpalatable those facts are to current theory. When theories fail to explain the facts, they lose viability. The spectacular failures of “evidence based” medical theories include the millions spent on ineffective AIDS vaccines, the collapse of interferon as the wonder drug for cancer, and the marginal decrease in cancer deaths despite billions wasted during decades of fruitless research. Many once-standard treatments devised via this theoretical model now stand discredited, like the use of Thalidomide and Thorazine.

Yes, you saw it right. Chopra and his addle-brained trio of woo-meisters are actually citing Gary Null! I hate to point out to Chopra that the article he cites is about as bad as pseudoscience and advocacy of quackery gets, full of cherry picking of data and ignoring any context or benefit. So bad is it that the relentlessly anti-evolution neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Egnor cited it. Moreover, Gary Null is a known über-quack, HIV/AIDS denialist, coffee enema maven, and antivaccinationist. That Chopra et al would think him to be a reliable source for any analysis of science or medicine shows just how off the plantation Chopra and company are. Indeed, Harriet Hall and Peter Lipson (also here) both demolished this article. I’d suggest that Chopra read their analyses if I thought it would do any good, but it won’t. After all, if they think that the failure to develop an HIV vaccine or the only modest improvements in cancer survival for cancers other than childhood cancers is evidence that evidence-based medicine is a failure, rather than a reflection of the difficulty involved in making such a vaccine or the extreme complexity of developing cancer treatments, respectively, they are even more clueless than I had thought before.

Chopra’s other attacks on science-based medicine rely, as do those of most apologists for quackery, on the “science has been wrong before” fallacy. Yes, science has been wrong before. Yes, what we believe about illness and its treatment today is likely to change based on new findings. Here’s the rub. The reason that the treatments listed by Chopra were ultimately abandoned was not because some woo-meister doubted that they worked. It was because physicians applied the scientific method to the study of them and discovered that they did not work as well as thought or even did not work at all. Science is self-correcting. It may not be as quick as we would like; it may be far messier than non-scientists like Chopra and Weil like; but inevitably it does weed out ideas that don’t reflect nature and treatments that don’t work.

This is in marked contrast to CAM/IM, where there is no treatment that has ever been abandoned because science has shown it to be no more effective than placebo. Indeed, even Laetrile, whose lack of efficacy was conclusively demonstrated in the 1980s, is still touted in some sectors. Meanwhile, homeopathy, the 200 year old placebo that won’t die (Rustum Roy’s handwaving about the “memory of water” and the utter failure of homeopaths to be able to distinguish homeopathically “potentized” treatments from water notwithstanding), rears its ugly head in even academic medical centers. If there’s one thing that distinguishes CAM/IM from evidence-based medicine, it’s that it’s faith-based more than anything else. In yet another irony, CAM/IM has been able to co-opt evidence-based medicine by ignoring prior probability far more than big pharma could ever dream of. (See Prior Probability: The Dirty Little Secret of “Evidence-Based Alternative Medicine by Kimball Atwood IV and its two followups for more.) At least big pharma has to justify scientifically its treatments; there is no such requirement of CAM/IM.

The final part of the article boils down to what I like to call the “big bait and switch.” It begins:

Over the last three decades, millions of Americans, and a dedicated group of physicians and practitioners have front-line, hands-on experience with integrative health care. Via concerted research and clinical practice, international scientists and practitioners, have progressively uncovered the root causes and the most effective treatments for health maintenance and restoration. This is science’s cutting edge.

Really? Perhaps Chopra could point me in the direction of this CAM/IM “cutting edge” research that has “uncovered the root causes and the most effective treatments for health maintenance and restoration.” I’ve looked, and I’ve yet to see it. I’ll settle for just a handful of studies representing “cutting edge” research in CAM that have uncovered the root causes and most effective treatments . What I have seen, as I’ve documented time and time again, are badly conceived, poorly designed, and equivocal studies that are oversold by woo-meisters like Chopra as representing far more than they, in fact, do represent.

Now here’s the bait and switch:

One sine qua non for any future sustainable U.S. health system is the necessity to empower, rather than undercut each citizen’s right to choose health care and take responsibility for his/her own wellness. Countless chronic diseases result from the neglect of basic wellness measures. The blame for underutilizing such proactive, cost-saving approaches lies directly with the official policy of blind reliance on drugs and surgery, whatever the cost. The public has been lulled into medical apathy on the false assumption that if something goes wrong, fix-it mechanics will tune up your body the way a garage tunes up your car.

A new integrative medicine system would marry the superb options of high tech emergency care, its brilliant surgical achievements, the tried and least harmful pharmaceuticals, by empowering and educating its citizens to maintain wellness and prevent disease, through improved nutrition, exercise, stress-management, and a wide range of other proven integrative approaches. Sadly, mainstream medicine largely ignores these viable health approaches, because they’re not financially lucrative.

The reason I call this a “bait and switch” is that CAM/IM apologists like Chopra try very hard to appropriate science- and evidence-based modalities like good nutrition and exercise, along with health maintenance measures, as being somehow “alternative” or “integrative” (the bait) when they are in the purview of “conventional medicine.” That they may be underemphasized (which is arguable, although not as clearly so as Chopra would have you believe, given how hard lifestyle changes are to persuade patients to undertake) does not mean that we have to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and ditch evidence-based medicine in favor of Choprawoo. Indeed, the appropriation of such modalities by the CAM/IM movement is the “foot in the door,” so to speak, that (or so CAM/IM advocates hope) will allow the entrance of the more dubious therapies (the switch). Today, nutrition and excercise, tomorrow homeopathy. To CAM/IM advocates, it would seem, it’s all the same. Far be it from them to worry themselves about doing the actual hard work to do the science that determines what treatments do and don’t work. Far easier to appropriate a possibly underutilized part of science- and evidence-based medicine and then wrap it in woo, which is exactly what Chopra does in this article. He can’t do otherwise, because he doesn’t have the evidence for nearly every other form of CAM/IM other than perhaps herbalism, which is, let’s face it, nothing more than the way medicine was practiced 200 years ago, with the use of crude plant extracts as drugs simply because the technology didn’t exist to isolate the pure, active ingredients.

Basically, the argument being made by the Woo-meisters Three boils down to an attack on evidence-based medicine based on exaggeration and cherry picking, topped off with a huge dollop of conspiracy-mongering and playing the victim. There is not a single positive, science-based argument that Chopra’s woo or Andrew Weil’s “integration” of the dubious with the evidence-based produces better health outcomes than the evidence-based medicine they attack. I’ll concede it’s probably cheaper, but that’s just because, at least in this case, you get what you pay for.

Chopra’s article demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt is that advocates of unscientific medicine and quackery apologists are a potent political force, and their new strategy has become clear. With the impending inauguration of Barack Obama as the President of the United States, they see a huge opportunity in his plans to overhaul the government health care system to insert into legislation provisions that will pay for unproven and pseudoscientific CAM/IM modalities. They will sell these provisions as “reform” and as “health maintenance,” when they represent neither. If advocates of science- and evidence-based medicine remain silent, they may well succeed. They may well succeed anyway in spite of the promising start that Obama has had in appointing supporters of science to his team, but we can at least try to limit the damage.

Comments

  1. #1 mayhempix
    January 2, 2009

    Deepak is “The Chopramatic” of woo processors.

  2. #2 Tony P
    January 2, 2009

    I’ve met a number of M.D.’s who for some reason or another have very strong Christian beliefs.

    I wonder if part of it isn’t just drumming up new business.

  3. #3 Eric Blood Axe
    January 2, 2009

    As a counter balance, look at Nimutka site.

  4. #4 Marilyn Mann
    January 2, 2009

    Brilliant post. I loved the Salerno article, in fact I think I sent it to you, although I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to do so.

  5. #5 Anon
    January 2, 2009

    Here are some other terms to coin: ChopraCopra, or Chopralite, king of the fossilized woo-poo.

  6. #6 Greg P
    January 2, 2009

    One of the things that we must admit is that even in evidence-based medicine there is much empiricism on a day-to-day basis. We know that some treatment has shown in a good study to be effective. We choose that treatment, and the patient is better. Yet people do get better in spite of our treatments rather than because of them. It’s been said that the best placebo is one which has some effect that has the patient feeling like they’ve taken something.

    So we shouldn’t be surprised that Chopra or Weil have empiric “proofs” of their success. But that doesn’t mean they can justify dishonesty. The suggestion that alternative medicine are not lucrative is laughable. In fact, there are massive profits in this, especially because herbal treatments and vitamins are incredibly cheap. And what do Chopra and Weil get paid for endorsements? How about some openness there?

    It’s also somewhat laughable for them to describe themselves as not just MDs, but “highly-trained MDs”, as if the added adjective has some objective meaning. Not by coincidence, it’s a common descriptor for the endorsers of various alternative medicine products.

  7. #7 Greg P
    January 2, 2009

    One of the things that we must admit is that even in evidence-based medicine there is much empiricism on a day-to-day basis. We know that some treatment has shown in a good study to be effective. We choose that treatment, and the patient is better. Yet people do get better in spite of our treatments rather than because of them. It’s been said that the best placebo is one which has some effect that has the patient feeling like they’ve taken something.

    So we shouldn’t be surprised that Chopra or Weil have empiric “proofs” of their success. But that doesn’t mean they can justify dishonesty. The suggestion that alternative medicines are not lucrative is laughable. In fact, there are massive profits in this, especially because herbal treatments and vitamins are incredibly cheap. And what do Chopra and Weil get paid for endorsements? How about some openness there?

    It’s also somewhat laughable for them to describe themselves as not just MDs, but “highly-trained MDs”, as if the added adjective has some objective meaning. Not by coincidence, it’s a common descriptor for the endorsers of various alternative medicine products.

  8. #8 caerbannog
    January 2, 2009

    Several years ago, someone I knew at work was diagnosed with lung cancer.

    His doctors told him that his prognosis was poor, and that he should expect to live another six months or so.

    He started an aggressive program of some sort of “alternative” cancer therapy.

    And six months later, he died.

  9. #9 Skeptyk
    January 2, 2009

    I made a new year resolution to only read woo drivel a couple times a week, but dontcha know I went right to that Chopra huffpo piece. But I barely skimmed Deep’s words. I mean, really, was he going to suddenly surprise me with intellectual honesty after all these years of willful delusion mongering? I looked at the comments, hoping for some reasonable person to call him on his bullshit. No joy. The comments are so loaded with fawning fans and dangerously sloppy thinking that I despaired. The arrogance of Chopra and his gang is breathtaking.

    Like Galadriel, Orac, you are “fighting the long defeat”, but you are not alone. Nor may we take the path of the “shruggies”. That way is not morally neutral. To maintain the Tolkein metaphor, I am glad you made the choice to keep slogging through long miles of eastern wasteland…(Um, I have a personal midwinter habit of revisiting LoTR).

  10. #10 I am so wise
    January 2, 2009

    “Health care comprises one-sixth of our economy… since cutting costs is tantamount to cutting profits for many of these special interests”

    Of course, what Chopra fails to realize that cutting costs in health care also increases the profits of other special interests, like insurance companies.

    Example. Let us say I find a $20 treatment for cancer, one that is so simple that anyone can inject themselves with it.

    What will happen? Well, I’ll have money, awards, and hot women thrown at me. Orac will have to find another job as the insurance companies, whom are very good at math, will realize that he’s not needed and he’s very expensive.

    How do I know this? It has happened before with syphilis. Once upon a time, there were syphologists (sic?) who treated syphilis with a time consuming series of arsenic based treatments. Then one day, someone invented antibiotics that could treat syphilis with a single injection. As a cursory examination of your telephone book or a quick google search will prove syphologists went extinct.

    And this children, is why we learn history.

  11. #11 DLC
    January 2, 2009

    Too many people have the attitude that all this scam nonsense doesn’t affect them because they don’t go for it themselves.
    It’s rather like the guy who doesn’t mind the con man pulling the wallet game with some rube because it’s not him being burned. I think that attitude is very short-sighted.

    speaking of “being burned” .. it burns me up every time I see a commercial for Zicam or some other homeopathic crap.
    Remember, folks : Homeopathy, There’s Nothing To It”

  12. #12 wilsontown
    January 2, 2009

    Joining us in our response is Rustum Roy, an internationally known scientist, and member of five major National Academies of Science Engineering, who has spent ten years researching a wide range of health technologies, both ancient and modern.

    That is a classic argument from authority. With luck, you might get Dana Ullman to show up and point out how many papers Roy has published in “a journal called Nature”. Well, I haven’t published any papers in Nature, but I do know that Roy’s paper on “memory of water” is perhaps the most risibly incompetent paper ever published. At least Lionel Milgrom’s nonsense is amusing.

  13. #13 Skeptico
    January 2, 2009

    The spectacular failures of “evidence based” medical theories include the millions spent on ineffective AIDS vaccines…

    Conveniently forgetting the actual treatments for AIDS that have prolonged lives and reduced HIV to largely a manageable disease.

    A new integrative medicine system would marry the superb options of high tech emergency care, its brilliant surgical achievements, the tried and least harmful pharmaceuticals, by empowering and educating its citizens to maintain wellness and prevent disease, through improved nutrition, exercise, stress-management, and a wide range of other proven integrative approaches. Sadly, mainstream medicine largely ignores these viable health approaches.

    “New”?  Has this moron visited a doctor recently?   The last time I went I was asked:

    • - did I smoke?  (No – but if I had said yes she would surely have told me to stop)
    • - what did I eat – and advised me to reduce butter and cheese and meat intake
    • - how much did I exercise – and told me to exercise more

    “Mainstream medicine largely ignores these viable health approaches”? – Bullshit.

    This piece was bad even by Chopra’s standards. Good analysis Orac, as usual.

  14. #14 Badger3k
    January 2, 2009

    Skeptyk – I gave up HuffPo as useless long ago, especially after comments that I made, critical of Kirby, IIRC, never saw the light of day. I looked and looked for them to appear, and they didn’t. I suspect that (for some, at least), dissenting comments are disposed of, although I have seen a few, so it may just have been him. However, most of the site’s readers (or at least the active commenters on those pieces) are full blown idiots – I mean, Believers (sub-species – Pseudo-Medicine). Expecting to see critical thinking at HuffPo (even in non-science posts) is like looking for Bigfoot, There may be some evidence, but it usually doesn’t exist.

  15. #15 JustaTech
    January 2, 2009

    Where do these people get off the reality train? Now, I understand that the use of Thalidomide as a morning-sickness suppressant has been thoroughly disproved, but hasn’t it recently been found to have use in cancer treatments? I mean, really, if you’re going to bash a drug, please chose one that really is out of use.

  16. #16 bob loblaw
    January 2, 2009

    “physicians signing petitions”

    i just thought i would point out that this sounds wonderful. :]

  17. #17 Dr Benway
    January 2, 2009

    Sometimes the distiction between woo-medicine and rational-medicine can seem subtle. It’s no wonder the public are confused.

    Like woo-MDs, rational MDs might start sentences with, “In my experience, …” However, good doctors understand that personal observation is about the weakest sort of evidence we have. It’s utility is largely limited to situations where treatment options have similar cost/benefit ratios.

    If several independent MDs report the same observations regarding some novel treatment approach, the next step is a controlled investigation. Woo-MDs seem to feel they can skip this bit and go right to the evangelism.

    I really do marvel at the grand structures built upon a nubbin of evidence that might be nothing more than a hardened poo.

    I’ve been reading Kenneth Bock MD’s book about “the 4A-Disorders,” his neologism for autism, ADHD, asthma, and allergies. These disorders all begin with the letter ‘A’. Dr. Bock writes of “the Healing Program,” –another neologism– to describe his particular version of the “biomedical approach” –yet another neologism.

    Dr. Bock et al have built an edifice of jargon, books, non-profit agencies, CME seminars, and “board certification.” Any ordinary patient looking at all the above would reasonably assume that there’s a ton of science behind it. Surely the traditional medical community would step in if this were not so. Real MDs from good medical schools don’t built quacktastic towers of delusion. If they did then, jeezus, we’d all be totally screwed!

  18. #18 Neuroskeptic
    January 2, 2009

    Thalidomide is useful in some cancers and also in leprosy. Unless you get pregnant, it’s a great drug.

  19. #19 Rowan
    January 2, 2009

    i find it interesting that his chopra center for wellbeing is affiliated with the la costa resort in carlsbad north of san diego.

    i remember when he first came to san diego in the late 1980s. i was working for the CIO for sharp healthcare at the time. chopra formed a partnership with sharp in which they provided him a medical building for use on the main campus. the marketing promoted the affiliation between the two. it was an “east meets west” flavour of advertising.

    makes me wonder if someone at sharp saw the light.

  20. #20 Steve Salerno
    January 2, 2009

    I’m the guy who wrote the Journal piece. Just thought I’d mention that the feedback so far has been (a) overwhelming, which is not unexpected–WSJ pieces always draw a lot of feedback, and (b) roughly two-to-one against me, which is also unsurprising, because the people motivated to write are usually those who hate you and what you said. The latter category of feedback is itself divided into two camps. Half of my critics are temperate and thoughtful, reminding me that “conventional medicine does not have all the answers”–which I, of course, agree with. And half of my critics express the hope that I will contract some exotic new rainforest microbe and die a horrible death, my last agonal plea being, “Save me, Deepak! Save me….!”

    Look, all I’m saying is that the scientific method puts the burden of proof on the person making the claim. If they’re so convinced that this stuff works, SHOW US. And please don’t tell us that your vaunted methodology exists apart from the normal rules of science and logic. Because then–as I noted in the piece itself–you’re in the same category as the ballplayer who superstitiously refuses to shave before a game. (Incidentally, in my manuscript the analogy was “refuses to change his underwear.” I guess decorum won out over comedy.)

    Oh, and finally, apropos of credentials, I should mention that I do a passable job as an armchair cardiologist, thanks to my personal investigation of the recurring bouts of A-fib that began about 25 years ago. Come to think of it, that’s also when I started writing. Hmmm….

  21. #21 Dangerous Bacon
    January 2, 2009

    The article sounds great – I’ll have to see if I can dig up a copy.

    By the way, regarding that bit from Deepak et al: “Many once-standard treatments devised via this theoretical model now stand discredited, like the use of Thalidomide and Thorazine.”

    When was thalidomide a “standard” treatment for anything and then discredited? I know the alties love to cite its use as a sedative as an example of the failings of the U.S. medical system – but the reality is that the drug was __never__ approved for use in the U.S., thanks to the F.D.A. that alties are always bashing (an alert staffer at the agency, Frances Kelsey, is credited with holding up the drug’s application until its dangers came to light in Europe).

    http://www.fda.gov/FDAC/features/2001/201_kelsey.html

    Give Chopra and friends some more negative points for mistakenly glomming onto another staple of woo-fantasy. Since they’re already citing Gary Null, I expect that before long they’ll be praising Mike Adams’ “Natural News” and hosting their own forums on CureZone. :)

  22. #22 Prometheus
    January 2, 2009

    Steve Salerno,

    I loved your article. I didn’t get on the comment list because it always seems to degenerate (and rather quickly) into a number of tin-foil-hat-wearing, spittle-spewing loons going on about things they cannot substantiate and probably don’t even understand.

    As for me – I thought it was spot on. I’d say the fact that Deepak Chopra was upset by it is even further proof that you were absolutely on target.

    I find it expecially funny that Chopra is attacking your lack of credentials, given that his “credentials” haven’t given him the ability to sort fact from fiction. You don’t need to be a railroad engineer to tell when the train has come off the rails.

    Prometheus

  23. #23 Steve Salerno
    January 2, 2009

    Prometh: Well put.

    Here’s a link to the WSJ piece, for anyone who hasn’t read it:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123024234651134037.html

  24. #24 Orac
    January 2, 2009

    Actually, I linked to your post above, even including the title…

  25. #25 PalMD
    January 2, 2009
  26. #26 Steve Salerno
    January 2, 2009

    Orac: Yeah, I thought so, but I guess I was thrown by the remarks from the person above saying he’d try to “dig up” a copy. sorry.

  27. #27 Donna B.
    January 3, 2009

    Speaking here strictly as a consumer, but a very skeptical one. I’ve tried a few herbal remedies, essential oils, and other stuff and have generally been very disappointed with the results. However, I must point out that some of this stuff is potent! Putting a drop of oil of oregano under my tongue was painful and trying to ingest it in a capsule made me sick.

    I am married to a man who wishes everything to be “natural” without giving much thought to what natural really means. I try his remedies occasionally to encourage marital peace. Tea tree oil is something I’m glad we’ve found, as oddly enough, I like the smell of it.

    Anyway, what’s not been addressed so far is how damaging some of these treatments can be. It’s not just the damage they do by encouraging people to not seek medical help, but the physical havoc they cause on their own.

  28. #28 Interrobang
    January 3, 2009

    Orac will have to find another job as the insurance companies, whom are very good at math, will realize that he’s not needed and he’s very expensive.

    I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head here. The key phrase being, “Orac will have to find another job.” The thing that these woomeisters don’t get is that if cancer (or whatever) suddenly started being treatable with a $20 injection, there are still lots of other medical specialties to go into, or failing that, doctors could retrain as, well, anything else, really.

    I don’t seem to recall a vast conspiracy of buggy-whip and carriage manufacturers working earnestly for decades to suppress and thwart the development of self-propelled modes of transportation (everything in this case from locomotives to automobiles). I also don’t recall a huge economic crisis resulting from horse power becoming largely a specialist’s or hobbyist’s pursuit (horse loggers, for one, would never forgive me if I left them out), and thereby largely irrelevant to modern transportation…

    …but at one time, horses were absolutely central and indispensable to the economy and global trade.

    And that, children, is also why we study history — to learn how to distinguish conspiracies (e.g. cartels and trusts) from conspiracy theories.

  29. #29 Imhotep
    January 3, 2009

    Complementary and Alternative Medicine do have a place in “Western Medicine”…..it’s just that none of us here want Universal Health Care/Government Tax dollars to pay for it; I will certainly set up a CAM portion of my practice, of course, it will be cash only and pay first please!

    Barnum was right…..no one ever went broke underestimating the intellegence of Americans.

  30. #30 Joseph C.
    January 3, 2009

    Barnum was right…..no one ever went broke underestimating the intellegence of Americans.

    CAM is big almost everywhere. Some huge percentage of the French use homeopathy and the NHS in England has funded the Royal London Homeopathic “Hospital”. Reiki comes from Japan. Acupuncture comes from China.

    It’s all over the place. Wherever you find humans, you’ll find woo.

  31. #31 Skeptico
    January 3, 2009

    I thought this might be of interest – if nothing else, it shows how closed minded and scared Chopra is of different ideas.

    I posted a critical comment on Chopra’s blog.  Although all comments are moderated, my comment was allowed, and two people responded, disagreeing with what I wrote.  Fair enough.  I wrote replies, but this time Chopra didn’t allow my comments to go through.  I emailed him to ask why, but I have had no reply so far.  It has now been nearly 24 hours, so I think we can assume no more comments from me will be allowed.

    So Chopra allows me one comment, and then the replies from his supporters, but doesn’t allow my replies to them, leaving the impression that the two replies were so devastating that I couldn’t rebut them.  He didn’t even leave a comment stating that I had replied but that my reply had been disallowed.  Nor did he even have the courtesy or the guts to reply to my email to explain why my comment was disallowed.  What a sad pathetic little wanker.

    It’s odd since several other critical comments were allowed.  Perhaps he allows one critical comment just so his cronies can reply to it, without the counter-replies?

    The following is the comment I wrote in reply to two posts by Rafael.  Rafael’s comments are indented, with my replies following.  This was it:

    “What evidence do you want, beyond that of people dying each year of cancer after spending lots of money in chemotherapy and other treatments that only make suffering longer and don´t

    succeed in curing the causes ? “

    - how is this evidence that Chopra’s non-science based medicine works?

    “How does that contrast to therapies such as that from Dr. Louise Hay, which teaches cancer patients to cure their emotional resentments which have caused the cancer in the first place, thereby having their physical bodies cured as a consequence ?”

    - evidence please that Hay’s therapies have cured cancer.

    “Yes, *very* manageable. After all, a definite treatment, ie: -teaching people to love and approve themselves- would kill the demand for drugs, ending the party of an industry that needs diseased people in the some way a restaurant needs hungry costumers.”

    - evidence please that “teaching people to love and approve themselves” prevents AIDS deaths.

    [End]

    That was it.  Just three simple questions.  But apparently this was too much for the sensitive souls at Chopra’s “Intent” Blog.  Clearly Chopra’s intent is to protect his woo views from any  challenges.

    Clearly there is no point in posting anything at Chopra’s blog, if Chopra controls comments in this way. And yeah, perhaps I should have known that before I started, but I thought it worth a try.

  32. #32 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    January 4, 2009

    I don’t know if her health insurance is paying for it, but my ex-wife took my son to a homeopathic specialist for some vague depression. When I protested she said “It’s okay, It’s Magic.” Here’s more of the story.

    The whole magic thing is an argument I have never been able to win with her, and it’s part of the reason we are no longer married.

  33. #33 Militant Agnostic
    January 4, 2009

    Spending millions on ineffective AIDs vaccines is not a failure of Evidenced Based Medicine. Thats just the way the cookie crumbles in science. If you don’t try you’ll never know. Implementing a failed vaccine after it had proven ineffective would be a failure of EBM. Failing to abandon a tretment that proves ineffective is what alties do. Is Deepcrap just clueless about the scientific method or is he that intellectually dsihonest?

    Skeptico – I am sure Deepcrap just doesn’t have time to respond to every email from the numerous people who have had their posts blocked for pointing out that the emporer of woo has no clothes.

  34. #34 Robster, FCD
    January 4, 2009

    Mike, Then perhaps you should show her what an actual magician would say about homeopathy. Reveal the trick to her.

  35. #35 Neil B ☺
    January 4, 2009

    Maybe Deepak is a woo meister, but it’s unfair to pick on him and not on the decoherence scam in QM for supposedly explaining why we don’t see macroscopic superpositions (some would say, explaining the “appearance of collapse”.) The decollusion argument fails for many reasons. One is its being a circular argument. The probabilities from moduli squared are entered into the density matrix as if already accounted for – but in order to explain how collapse of the wave function happens without some inexplicable intrusion, you should have to set up with amplitudes by themselves and then show how selections of some bases but not others happens to make the probabilities that we are trying to explain.

    Furthermore, it isn’t even appropriate for a theorist producing a model to use a density matrix showing the chance of various wave functions being present. That is understandable if I have a specific physical system I am trying to represent, but the theorist gets to pick his own parameters to make a point. Then the wave functions would be selected states with no probabilities of their presence to readily confuse and conflate with the other probabilities that come from the squared moduli. Such a legitimate exposition would also make it harder to sow confusion by conflating the idea of the chance of this or that state, with an actual “mixture” of multiple states or at different times. Don’t even ask about the nutty Multi-Worlds Interpretation, but I can dish on that too if it does come up.

  36. #36 Neil B ☺
    January 4, 2009

    Maybe Deepak is a woo meister, but it’s unfair to pick on him and not on the decoherence scam in QM for supposedly explaining why we don’t see macroscopic superpositions (some would say, explaining the “appearance of collapse”.) The decollusion argument fails for many reasons. One is its being a circular argument. The probabilities from moduli squared are entered into the density matrix as if already accounted for – but in order to explain how collapse of the wave function happens without some inexplicable intrusion, you should have to set up with amplitudes by themselves and then show how selections of some bases but not others happens to make the probabilities that we are trying to explain.

    Furthermore, it isn’t even appropriate for a theorist producing a model to use a density matrix showing the chance of various wave functions being present. That is understandable if I have a specific physical system I am trying to represent, but the theorist gets to pick his own parameters to make a point. Then the wave functions would be selected states with no probabilities of their presence to readily confuse and conflate with the other probabilities that come from the squared moduli. Such a legitimate exposition would also make it harder to sow confusion by conflating the idea of the chance of this or that state, with an actual “mixture” of multiple states or at different times. Don’t even ask about the nutty Multi-Worlds Interpretation, but I can dish on that too if it does come up.

  37. #37 Neil B ☺
    January 4, 2009

    Maybe Deepak is a woo meister, but it’s unfair to pick on him and not on the decoherence scam in QM for supposedly explaining why we don’t see macroscopic superpositions (some would say, explaining the “appearance of collapse”.) The decollusion argument fails for many reasons. One is its being a circular argument. The probabilities from moduli squared are entered into the density matrix as if already accounted for – but in order to explain how collapse of the wave function happens without some inexplicable intrusion, you should have to set up with amplitudes by themselves and then show how selections of some bases but not others happens to make the probabilities that we are trying to explain.

    Furthermore, it isn’t even appropriate for a theorist producing a model to use a density matrix showing the chance of various wave functions being present. That is understandable if I have a specific physical system I am trying to represent, but the theorist gets to pick his own parameters to make a point. Then the wave functions would be selected states with no probabilities of their presence to readily confuse and conflate with the other probabilities that come from the squared moduli. Such a legitimate exposition would also make it harder to sow confusion by conflating the idea of the chance of this or that state, with an actual “mixture” of multiple states or at different times. Don’t even ask about the nutty Multi-Worlds Interpretation, but I can dish on that too if it does come up.

  38. #38 Neil B ☺
    January 4, 2009

    Maybe Deepak is a woo meister, but it’s unfair to pick on him and not on the decoherence scam in QM for supposedly explaining why we don’t see macroscopic superpositions (some would say, explaining the “appearance of collapse”.) The decollusion argument fails for many reasons. One is its being a circular argument. The probabilities from moduli squared are entered into the density matrix as if already accounted for – but in order to explain how collapse of the wave function happens without some inexplicable intrusion, you should have to set up with amplitudes by themselves and then show how selections of some bases but not others happens to make the probabilities that we are trying to explain.

    Furthermore, it isn’t even appropriate for a theorist producing a model to use a density matrix showing the chance of various wave functions being present. That is understandable if I have a specific physical system I am trying to represent, but the theorist gets to pick his own parameters to make a point. Then the wave functions would be selected states with no probabilities of their presence to readily confuse and conflate with the other probabilities that come from the squared moduli. Such a legitimate exposition would also make it harder to sow confusion by conflating the idea of the chance of this or that state, with an actual “mixture” of multiple states or at different times. Don’t even ask about the nutty Multi-Worlds Interpretation, but I can dish on that too if it does come up.

  39. #39 Neil B ☺
    January 4, 2009

    Maybe Deepak is a woo meister, but it’s unfair to pick on him and not on the decoherence scam in QM for supposedly explaining why we don’t see macroscopic superpositions (some would say, explaining the “appearance of collapse”.) The decollusion argument fails for many reasons. One is its being a circular argument. The probabilities from moduli squared are entered into the density matrix as if already accounted for – but in order to explain how collapse of the wave function happens without some inexplicable intrusion, you should have to set up with amplitudes by themselves and then show how selections of some bases but not others happens to make the probabilities that we are trying to explain.

    Furthermore, it isn’t even appropriate for a theorist producing a model to use a density matrix showing the chance of various wave functions being present. That is understandable if I have a specific physical system I am trying to represent, but the theorist gets to pick his own parameters to make a point. Then the wave functions would be selected states with no probabilities of their presence to readily confuse and conflate with the other probabilities that come from the squared moduli. Such a legitimate exposition would also make it harder to sow confusion by conflating the idea of the chance of this or that state, with an actual “mixture” of multiple states or at different times. Don’t even ask about the nutty Multi-Worlds Interpretation, but I can dish on that too if it does come up.

  40. #40 Neil B ☺
    January 4, 2009

    Maybe Deepak is a woo meister, but it’s unfair to pick on him and not on the decoherence scam in QM for supposedly explaining why we don’t see macroscopic superpositions (some would say, explaining the “appearance of collapse”.) The decollusion argument fails for many reasons. One is its being a circular argument. The probabilities from moduli squared are entered into the density matrix as if already accounted for – but in order to explain how collapse of the wave function happens without some inexplicable intrusion, you should have to set up with amplitudes by themselves and then show how selections of some bases but not others happens to make the probabilities that we are trying to explain.

    Furthermore, it isn’t even appropriate for a theorist producing a model to use a density matrix showing the chance of various wave functions being present. That is understandable if I have a specific physical system I am trying to represent, but the theorist gets to pick his own parameters to make a point. Then the wave functions would be selected states with no probabilities of their presence to readily confuse and conflate with the other probabilities that come from the squared moduli. Such a legitimate exposition would also make it harder to sow confusion by conflating the idea of the chance of this or that state, with an actual “mixture” of multiple states or at different times. Don’t even ask about the nutty Multi-Worlds Interpretation, but I can dish on that too if it does come up.

  41. #41 Neil B ☺
    January 4, 2009

    Maybe Deepak is a woo meister, but it’s unfair to pick on him and not on the decoherence scam in QM for supposedly explaining why we don’t see macroscopic superpositions (some would say, explaining the “appearance of collapse”.) The decollusion argument fails for many reasons. One is its being a circular argument. The probabilities from moduli squared are entered into the density matrix as if already accounted for – but in order to explain how collapse of the wave function happens without some inexplicable intrusion, you should have to set up with amplitudes by themselves and then show how selections of some bases but not others happens to make the probabilities that we are trying to explain.

    Furthermore, it isn’t even appropriate for a theorist producing a model to use a density matrix showing the chance of various wave functions being present. That is understandable if I have a specific physical system I am trying to represent, but the theorist gets to pick his own parameters to make a point. Then the wave functions would be selected states with no probabilities of their presence to readily confuse and conflate with the other probabilities that come from the squared moduli. Such a legitimate exposition would also make it harder to sow confusion by conflating the idea of the chance of this or that state, with an actual “mixture” of multiple states or at different times. Don’t even ask about the nutty Multi-Worlds Interpretation, but I can dish on that too if it does come up.

  42. #42 Neil B ☺
    January 4, 2009

    Maybe Deepak is a woo meister, but it’s unfair to pick on him and not on the decoherence scam in QM for supposedly explaining why we don’t see macroscopic superpositions (some would say, explaining the “appearance of collapse”.) The decollusion argument fails for many reasons. One is its being a circular argument. The probabilities from moduli squared are entered into the density matrix as if already accounted for – but in order to explain how collapse of the wave function happens without some inexplicable intrusion, you should have to set up with amplitudes by themselves and then show how selections of some bases but not others happens to make the probabilities that we are trying to explain.

    Furthermore, it isn’t even appropriate for a theorist producing a model to use a density matrix showing the chance of various wave functions being present. That is understandable if I have a specific physical system I am trying to represent, but the theorist gets to pick his own parameters to make a point. Then the wave functions would be selected states with no probabilities of their presence to readily confuse and conflate with the other probabilities that come from the squared moduli. Such a legitimate exposition would also make it harder to sow confusion by conflating the idea of the chance of this or that state, with an actual “mixture” of multiple states or at different times. Don’t even ask about the nutty Multi-Worlds Interpretation, but I can dish on that too if it does come up.

  43. #43 Neil B ☺
    January 4, 2009

    Maybe Deepak is a woo meister, but it’s unfair to pick on him and not on the decoherence scam in QM for supposedly explaining why we don’t see macroscopic superpositions (some would say, explaining the “appearance of collapse”.) The decollusion argument fails for many reasons. One is its being a circular argument. The probabilities from moduli squared are entered into the density matrix as if already accounted for – but in order to explain how collapse of the wave function happens without some inexplicable intrusion, you should have to set up with amplitudes by themselves and then show how selections of some bases but not others happens to make the probabilities that we are trying to explain.

    Furthermore, it isn’t even appropriate for a theorist producing a model to use a density matrix showing the chance of various wave functions being present. That is understandable if I have a specific physical system I am trying to represent, but the theorist gets to pick his own parameters to make a point. Then the wave functions would be selected states with no probabilities of their presence to readily confuse and conflate with the other probabilities that come from the squared moduli. Such a legitimate exposition would also make it harder to sow confusion by conflating the idea of the chance of this or that state, with an actual “mixture” of multiple states or at different times. Don’t even ask about the nutty Multi-Worlds Interpretation, but I can dish on that too if it does come up.

  44. #44 Neil B ☺
    January 4, 2009

    Maybe Deepak is a woo meister, but it’s unfair to pick on him and not on the decoherence scam in QM for supposedly explaining why we don’t see macroscopic superpositions (some would say, explaining the “appearance of collapse”.) The decollusion argument fails for many reasons. One is its being a circular argument. The probabilities from moduli squared are entered into the density matrix as if already accounted for – but in order to explain how collapse of the wave function happens without some inexplicable intrusion, you should have to set up with amplitudes by themselves and then show how selections of some bases but not others happens to make the probabilities that we are trying to explain.

    Furthermore, it isn’t even appropriate for a theorist producing a model to use a density matrix showing the chance of various wave functions being present. That is understandable if I have a specific physical system I am trying to represent, but the theorist gets to pick his own parameters to make a point. Then the wave functions would be selected states with no probabilities of their presence to readily confuse and conflate with the other probabilities that come from the squared moduli. Such a legitimate exposition would also make it harder to sow confusion by conflating the idea of the chance of this or that state, with an actual “mixture” of multiple states or at different times. Don’t even ask about the nutty Multi-Worlds Interpretation, but I can dish on that too if it does come up.

  45. #45 Neil B ☺
    January 4, 2009

    Maybe Deepak is a woo meister, but it’s unfair to pick on him and not on the decoherence scam in QM for supposedly explaining why we don’t see macroscopic superpositions (some would say, explaining the “appearance of collapse”.) The decollusion argument fails for many reasons. One is its being a circular argument. The probabilities from moduli squared are entered into the density matrix as if already accounted for – but in order to explain how collapse of the wave function happens without some inexplicable intrusion, you should have to set up with amplitudes by themselves and then show how selections of some bases but not others happens to make the probabilities that we are trying to explain.

    Furthermore, it isn’t even appropriate for a theorist producing a model to use a density matrix showing the chance of various wave functions being present. That is understandable if I have a specific physical system I am trying to represent, but the theorist gets to pick his own parameters to make a point. Then the wave functions would be selected states with no probabilities of their presence to readily confuse and conflate with the other probabilities that come from the squared moduli. Such a legitimate exposition would also make it harder to sow confusion by conflating the idea of the chance of this or that state, with an actual “mixture” of multiple states or at different times. Don’t even ask about the nutty Multi-Worlds Interpretation, but I can dish on that too if it does come up.

  46. #46 Neil B ☺
    January 4, 2009

    Maybe Deepak is a woo meister, but it’s unfair to pick on him and not on the decoherence scam in QM for supposedly explaining why we don’t see macroscopic superpositions (some would say, explaining the “appearance of collapse”.) The decollusion argument fails for many reasons. One is its being a circular argument. The probabilities from moduli squared are entered into the density matrix as if already accounted for – but in order to explain how collapse of the wave function happens without some inexplicable intrusion, you should have to set up with amplitudes by themselves and then show how selections of some bases but not others happens to make the probabilities that we are trying to explain.

    Furthermore, it isn’t even appropriate for a theorist producing a model to use a density matrix showing the chance of various wave functions being present. That is understandable if I have a specific physical system I am trying to represent, but the theorist gets to pick his own parameters to make a point. Then the wave functions would be selected states with no probabilities of their presence to readily confuse and conflate with the other probabilities that come from the squared moduli. Such a legitimate exposition would also make it harder to sow confusion by conflating the idea of the chance of this or that state, with an actual “mixture” of multiple states or at different times. Don’t even ask about the nutty Multi-Worlds Interpretation, but I can dish on that too if it does come up.

  47. #47 Neil B ☺
    January 4, 2009

    Maybe Deepak is a woo meister, but it’s unfair to pick on him and not on the decoherence scam in QM for supposedly explaining why we don’t see macroscopic superpositions (some would say, explaining the “appearance of collapse”.) The decollusion argument fails for many reasons. One is its being a circular argument. The probabilities from moduli squared are entered into the density matrix as if already accounted for – but in order to explain how collapse of the wave function happens without some inexplicable intrusion, you should have to set up with amplitudes by themselves and then show how selections of some bases but not others happens to make the probabilities that we are trying to explain.

    Furthermore, it isn’t even appropriate for a theorist producing a model to use a density matrix showing the chance of various wave functions being present. That is understandable if I have a specific physical system I am trying to represent, but the theorist gets to pick his own parameters to make a point. Then the wave functions would be selected states with no probabilities of their presence to readily confuse and conflate with the other probabilities that come from the squared moduli. Such a legitimate exposition would also make it harder to sow confusion by conflating the idea of the chance of this or that state, with an actual “mixture” of multiple states or at different times. Don’t even ask about the nutty Multi-Worlds Interpretation, but I can dish on that too if it does come up.

  48. #48 Neil B ☺
    January 4, 2009

    Maybe Deepak is a woo meister, but it’s unfair to pick on him and not on the decoherence scam in QM for supposedly explaining why we don’t see macroscopic superpositions (some would say, explaining the “appearance of collapse”.) The decollusion argument fails for many reasons. One is its being a circular argument. The probabilities from moduli squared are entered into the density matrix as if already accounted for – but in order to explain how collapse of the wave function happens without some inexplicable intrusion, you should have to set up with amplitudes by themselves and then show how selections of some bases but not others happens to make the probabilities that we are trying to explain.

    Furthermore, it isn’t even appropriate for a theorist producing a model to use a density matrix showing the chance of various wave functions being present. That is understandable if I have a specific physical system I am trying to represent, but the theorist gets to pick his own parameters to make a point. Then the wave functions would be selected states with no probabilities of their presence to readily confuse and conflate with the other probabilities that come from the squared moduli. Such a legitimate exposition would also make it harder to sow confusion by conflating the idea of the chance of this or that state, with an actual “mixture” of multiple states or at different times. Don’t even ask about the nutty Multi-Worlds Interpretation, but I can dish on that too if it does come up.

  49. #49 Neil B ☺
    January 4, 2009

    Maybe Deepak is a woo meister, but it’s unfair to pick on him and not on the decoherence scam in QM for supposedly explaining why we don’t see macroscopic superpositions (some would say, explaining the “appearance of collapse”.) The decollusion argument fails for many reasons. One is its being a circular argument. The probabilities from moduli squared are entered into the density matrix as if already accounted for – but in order to explain how collapse of the wave function happens without some inexplicable intrusion, you should have to set up with amplitudes by themselves and then show how selections of some bases but not others happens to make the probabilities that we are trying to explain.

    Furthermore, it isn’t even appropriate for a theorist producing a model to use a density matrix showing the chance of various wave functions being present. That is understandable if I have a specific physical system I am trying to represent, but the theorist gets to pick his own parameters to make a point. Then the wave functions would be selected states with no probabilities of their presence to readily confuse and conflate with the other probabilities that come from the squared moduli. Such a legitimate exposition would also make it harder to sow confusion by conflating the idea of the chance of this or that state, with an actual “mixture” of multiple states or at different times. Don’t even ask about the nutty Multi-Worlds Interpretation, but I can dish on that too if it does come up.

  50. #50 Neil B ☺
    January 4, 2009

    Maybe Deepak is a woo meister, but it’s unfair to pick on him and not on the decoherence scam in QM for supposedly explaining why we don’t see macroscopic superpositions (some would say, explaining the “appearance of collapse”.) The decollusion argument fails for many reasons. One is its being a circular argument. The probabilities from moduli squared are entered into the density matrix as if already accounted for – but in order to explain how collapse of the wave function happens without some inexplicable intrusion, you should have to set up with amplitudes by themselves and then show how selections of some bases but not others happens to make the probabilities that we are trying to explain.

    Furthermore, it isn’t even appropriate for a theorist producing a model to use a density matrix showing the chance of various wave functions being present. That is understandable if I have a specific physical system I am trying to represent, but the theorist gets to pick his own parameters to make a point. Then the wave functions would be selected states with no probabilities of their presence to readily confuse and conflate with the other probabilities that come from the squared moduli. Such a legitimate exposition would also make it harder to sow confusion by conflating the idea of the chance of this or that state, with an actual “mixture” of multiple states or at different times. Don’t even ask about the nutty Multi-Worlds Interpretation, but I can dish on that too if it does come up.

  51. #51 Richard Eis
    January 5, 2009

    When someone thinks that “allegiance to evidence-based medicine” is an insult, they really cannot be taken seriously…and blind allegiance?

    no…we have evidence…duh.

  52. #52 DaisyDeadhead
    January 5, 2009

    The reason I call this a “bait and switch” is that CAM/IM apologists like Chopra try very hard to appropriate science- and evidence-based modalities like good nutrition and exercise, along with health maintenance measures, as being somehow “alternative” or “integrative” (the bait) when they are in the purview of “conventional medicine.”

    Okay, this is my first comment here, and we have radically different philosophies, so bear with me.

    I suppose I qualify as a CAM practitioner (not used to the term, quite honestly), so I have to take issue with this paragraph.

    One reason people come to me, flaky herbalist, is that some doctor has plied them with pills, and didn’t even ask them what their daily diet is like; if they stand all day on the job; did they recently have a stressful event in their lives; do they get any cardio, et. al. … much less inform that them that maybe they shouldn’t drink a 12-pack of diet coke or budweiser every single day. Seriously. I know, this is an old story, but I do have dozens and dozens of such stories.

    If nutrition and exercise is in the purview of conventional medicine, it seems to have been placed waaaaaaay on the back burner. Likewise, simple yoga-based stretching, massage and tai chi can do wonders, far more than expensive and toxic muscle relaxants. And admittedly, people want the emotional attention of talking at length about their health issues, as well as hands-on touching (which may be in the realm of what I call the spiritual, but you’d undoubtedly call psychological). But really, if people have subjective improvements with these methods, why is that unequivocally bad? Or are you just saying that medical insurance should not pay for them? (Or that they should not be called “treatments” but something else?)

    I am presently trying to come to terms with my major issues with the dangerously-fringe people in my profession (and truly, you have no idea how bizarre it can get), while still appreciating why people come to us in the first place. Sometimes, I feel like we are doing “mop up”–I have customers who angrily swear they will never go to another doctor as long as they live. (And yes, I have successfully talked people with cancer and other critical illnesses into going to conventional doctors.) As long as both camps are squared off against each other, then alternative medicine people can claim to be the purview of whatever doctors have left out. That’s the way I see it right now.

    I take it you want us all to stop practicing, period? Or is there no room for any compromise with the current system? I’d be glad to work WITH conventional health practitioners, but they (you?) are usually the ones who don’t wanna work with ME.

    I’m open to ALL approaches to helping people.

    Thanks for the discussion and the links.

  53. #53 The Perky Skeptic
    January 5, 2009

    DaisyDeadhead wrote:
    “One reason people come to me, flaky herbalist, is that some doctor has plied them with pills, and didn’t even ask them what their daily diet is like; if they stand all day on the job; did they recently have a stressful event in their lives; do they get any cardio, et. al. … much less inform that them that maybe they shouldn’t drink a 12-pack of diet coke or budweiser every single day. Seriously. I know, this is an old story, but I do have dozens and dozens of such stories.”

    That is a failure on the part of their former doctors, definitely. The reason Orac and others advocate science-based medicine is that science actually tells us to correct mistakes just such as the ones you point out. Science tells us to grow and change and make the practice better. It calls for constantly re-evaluating one’s approach, and indeed, constantly looking for ways in which we are wrong, so that we can improve the way we do things. This is the rational approach.

    The problem with the out-there folks like Chopra is that no amount of contradictory evidence can convince them to budge from their positions. They want to base their practice on intution, opinion. This can lead to very bad outcomes for patients.

    For the record, I think anyone here would castigate any doctor who claimed to be practicing science-based medicine but who was really relying upon less-than-scientific reasoning.

  54. #54 Citizen Deux
    January 6, 2009

    GREAT article. Both should be required reading, first the nonsense by Sixpack Chopsticks and then the Orac dismemberment. I have seen and met Deepak a number of times. I have read more than three of his books (whihc is enough). He is a nice guy. He is simply grossly misguided in this area. Steve’s work in the WSJ is the most basic assessment of the questionable use of resources in the face of overwhelming evidence. The commentors who pile on afterwards may have had real experiences, but they fail to conduct any sort of indepth analysis. The accupuncturist in Colorado, for example, claiming to clear $250k annually for “genuine services”. I would challenge him to provide any viable study supporting his therapies. And I wonder how many patients suffered from subdermal infections, subsequently requiring anti-biotics, due to poor sterile technique? What’s their recourse?

    There is no alternative medicine. It either works or it doesn’t. If you can’t describe, or even theorize about a mechanism, it doesn’t exist.

  55. #55 cg
    May 12, 2010

    If I could, I would make critical thinking a required class in all high schools. Thank God for skepticism (pun intended).

    With that out of the way, why does everything have to be either-or? Do you guys really believe that there isn’t still a hell of a lot of money to be made in the medical profession and especially in pharmaceuticals? I work in the medical business and I can’t tell you how many times I have personally seen one drug or another over-recommended to patients because physicians are still getting kickbacks of various kinds, rather than because that drug is actually the better choice for a patient. It also still amazes me that drugs treating certain types of problems, such as ED (apparently an incredible crisis in our country!), weight loss, etc., still appear to be approved and happily schlepped without as much formal and informal testing as possible while other disorders are treated much less urgently.

    The fact that most alternative medicine is quackery is a given, but why should an educated skeptic not feel free to do the research himself or herself and try something without fear of ridicule? If the holistic movement is like a religion, the hatred of it has become like a religion as well. Anything that’s turned into a religion has the tendency to cause its followers to eventually overlook actual evidence in the long run, just to prove the belief.

  56. #56 Travis
    May 12, 2010

    cg, apparently you have not been around here long. No one believes there is no money to be made in pharmaceuticals and medicine and the practices of drug companies has been discussed here and often criticized.

    Also, this is a very old post, it is likely not going to get a lot of new discussion. You might want to read a few more of the current posts.

  57. #57 Chris
    May 12, 2010

    cg:

    The fact that most alternative medicine is quackery is a given, but why should an educated skeptic not feel free to do the research himself or herself and try something without fear of ridicule?

    The “try it” yourself is basically a self-selected study with an N=1. Pretty much worthless.

    Also basic research in many of things called “alternative medicine” have to account for plausibility. You have to know some basic science to know that distance healing is a farce, and that the uber dilutions used in homeopathy means that those nostrums are literally nothing.

    Now here is a silly question. It is presently May 2010. The comment above you is dated January 2009. That is a fifteen month difference. Any particular reason you could not have posted your comment on one of the “Recent Posts” where there are current discussions?

  58. #58 Prometheus
    May 12, 2010

    “cq” alleges:

    ” I work in the medical business and I can’t tell you how many times I have personally seen one drug or another over-recommended to patients because physicians are still getting kickbacks of various kinds…”

    What “kickbacks”, exactly, are you referring to? Pens, notepads and free samples? If you have evidence of more than that, I suggest you take it to your State District Attorney or report it to the US Office of the Inspector General.

    Taking money or gifts of more than trivial value in exchange for prescribing a drug or medical device is illegal in most states and – unless I’m mistaken – also constitutes Medicare fraud.

    I won’t say that no physician has prescribed a drug or medical device that wasn’t the “best choice” (always hard to define) because they listened to the manufacturer’s representative rather than reading the literature, but the allegation of “kickbacks” goes significantly farther than that.

    Support your allegations or retract them.

    Prometheus

  59. #59 oreganol
    April 25, 2011

    Deepak is not one of my favorite people and I don’t agree with a lot of what he says, but sometimes he is right. Because you don’t like someone and because he is often wrong doesn’t mean that everything he says is wrong. I have used oil of oregano successfully. Homeopathy has never worked for me and neither have a few other things. But wild oregano oil is the real deal as far as I’m concerned. I would suggest trying it before you mock it. It’s easy to mock by just following others, but wouldn’t you prefer to find out first hand.

  60. #60 Chris
    April 25, 2011

    So it took you over a year to come up that comment after taking a year to read the article? What made you decide to grace us with your opinion on a two year old article?

  61. #61 oreganol
    May 12, 2012

    I did not actually take a year to read the article. :) Sometimes people find these articles from search engine results, or they get linked to by other websites, where they can be found by new visitors even though they were written many months ago. As long as the content is readable and relates to something that I am interested in, I will still read the article regardless of its age.

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