Respectful Insolence

I apologize to my readers.

I apologize for continually blogging about the pseudoscience at The Huffington Post. Of late, it seems that I can’t go more than a day or two without some new atrocity against science being tossed out from Arianna’s happy home for antivaccinationists and quacks. Be it antivaccine lunacy, Deepak Chopra’s “quantum” woo, or the latest quack stylings of Kim Evans, no woo is too woo-ey, no quackery too quacky, no pseudoscience too far out for HuffPo. In any case, HuffPo is a lot like blogging about the antivaccine movement. As I’ve characterized it again and again, it’s just like what Michael Corleone said in that weakest of the Godfather movies, The Godfather, Part III:

That’s right. I’ve been pulled back in again.

But why? What’s done it? You’ll see. It’s a post by someone named Matthew Stein entitled When a Superbug Strikes Close to Home, How Will You Deal With it? (also published in a patently unreadable form on Stein’s own website). Between the fear mongering and the advocacy of quackery, it seems to me that Kim Evans had better watch her back. There’s a new woo-meister in town at HuffPo, and he can match her woo for woo.

So who is Matthew Stein? After all, I had never heard of him before. According to his bio, he’s very, very smart:

Matthew Stein holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from MIT. An engineer and building contractor, Stein has built hurricane resistant, energy efficient and environmentally friendly homes, and has designed commercial water filtration systems, photovoltaic roofing panels, medical bacteriological filters, computer disk drives, portable fiberglass buildings and automated assembly machinery, among other things. He is the author of When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency from Chelsea Green, 2008. For more information visit, www.chelseagreen.com.

He even holds a number of patents and brags about having been a National Merit Scholar! I guess that means he must know what he’s talking about, right?

Wrong.

Before I examine the quackery, let’s look at the fear mongering that foreshadows it first. After going on about how SARS failed to reach pandemic status but the swine flu is very much on its way to achieving that unfortunate mark, Stein then uses that background to describe what may be a more horrific threat:

The current swine flu may run its course, like SARS did, never reaching pandemic proportions, but that does not mean that one of a number of existing antibiotic resistant superbugs won’t come knocking at your family’s door some day. There are a host of antibiotic resistant superbugs that are already well established in our world, each with the potential for bringing great tragedy to an individual, or to explode into a global pandemic. In this article, I am going to provide several examples of the former, but also balance that fear with knowledge and hope gained from stories of individuals who have used a variety of alternative medicines, procedures and herbs to heal when the high-tech pharmaceutical arsenal of mainstream western medicine had failed to work its magic.

He then discusses the incredibly sad case of Mariana Bridi da Costa, the young Brazilian model who died of overwhelming sepsis after having had to have her hands and feet amputated due to the infection, a desperate move that failed to save her life. I’ve written about da Costa before, because Stein isn’t the first booster of quackery to use and abuse her sad, sad story. Everybody’s favorite alkalinization quack, Robert O. Young did it when it first happened. He then mentions the case of the American man who had contracted the Extreme Drug Resistant (XDR) form of Tuberculosis (TB) and was quarantined upon returning to the U.S., pointing out that millions die of TB every year. He then starts laying it on thick:

Imagine a Hurricane Katrina-sized catastrophe occurring in 50 major U.S. cities at the same time, and you have some idea of the worst-case scenario for a crippling global pandemic. Medical centers, essential services, and government personnel would be overwhelmed. If there were no viable vaccines, or if one was only available in limited quantities, most healthcare workers would desert medical facilities to care for the sick in their own homes or to simply get out of the cities to improve their own chances for survival. When things get real bad, most buses, trains, trucks and planes stop running, causing food and fuel deliveries to slow to a trickle. If this sounds far-fetched, realize that this was exactly the scenario when the Spanish flu hit the United States in 1918-1919, killing more people in a few short months than had died in all of WWI.

OK, we get it. A new flu pandemic due to a flu strain like that of the Spanish Flu could be very, very bad. We also get it that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are A Very Bad Thing that could cause no end to havoc in an epidemic. In the war between human and microbe, it’s not beyond the pale to think that the microbe could win through antibiotic resistance. So what’s Stein’s solution to these real, if exaggerated (by him) problems? Think about it. This is The Huffington Post, after all. The solution must be woo, and that’s exactly what Stein lays down:

The good news is that there are many alternative medicines, herbs, and treatments that can be quite effective in the fight against a wide variety of viruses and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, to which mainstream high-tech Western medicine has little or nothing to offer. The bad news is that 99 percent of the doctors in our hospitals are not trained in these alternatives, and don’t have a clue about what to do when their pharmaceutical high-tech medicines fail to heal. If you wait until a pandemic starts, you will have only a slim chance for locating an available health practitioner familiar with alternative herbs, medicines, and methods. In the words of Robert Saum, PhD, the typical attitude amongst most of his medical colleagues in this country is, “If I didn’t learn it in medical school, it can’t be true.”

That’s right, according to Kevin Trudeau–I mean Matthew Stein–there are all of those “natural cures ‘they’ don’t want you to know about” for all those nasty, horrible, resistant bacteria. And, of course, those nasty, close-minded “allopathic” physicians are too clueless or prejudiced against them to learn about them or offer them to you. Even better, they will heal when the products of big pharma fail. So says Stein, who even cites an article Could Homeopathy Prevent a Pandemic?:

Do we have alternatives? During Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, which killed up to 50 million people worldwide, homeopathic physicians in the U.S. reported very low mortality rates among their patients, while flu patients treated by conventional physicians faced mortality rates of around 30 percent. W.A. Dewey, MD, gathered data from homeopathic physicians treating flu patients around the country in 1918 and published his findings in the Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy in 1920. Homeopathic physicians in Philadelphia, for example, reported a mortality rate of just over one percent for the more than 26,000 flu patients they treated during the pandemic.

Today, a number of homeopathic remedies for the flu are available, including oscillo, or oscillococcinum, which has been shown to shorten the duration of symptoms when taken within 48 hours of onset. Homeopaths have been given this remedy since 1925. Interestingly, it’s made from the heart and liver of ducks, which carry flu viruses in their digestive tracts.

“Based on clinical studies, homeopathy produces some of the fastest results in relieving flu symptoms,” says Dana Ullman, MPH, the author of nine books on homeopathic medicine.

Anyone who’s been a regular here for a while probably remembers Dana Ullman, the homeopath who seems to have a lot of time on his hands to Google himself for new mentions on blogs and then infest blogs that criticize him and homeopathy. I have little doubt that he will show up here. If you want the best deconstruction of Ullman’s nonsense, check out the new Internet law that Kimball Atwood laid down about him:

In any discussion involving science or medicine, being Dana Ullman loses you the argument immediately…and gets you laughed out of the room.

How true. Moreover, Stein’s falling for the same old claims by homeopaths that were trotted out during the avian flu scare that somehow patients treated with homeopathy only suffered a 1% mortality compared to conventional physicians, whose patients supposedly suffered a 30% mortality. Of course there’s a big problem here. No doubt homeopaths reported low mortality, but was there any objective evidence that this was true? How do we know that patients who got sicker under the homeopaths’ care didn’t go to real physicians or die without being followed up. Do we know that the homeopaths’ patients were comparable to the patients treated by “conventional” medicine? We don’t. Finally, if the peer review of the Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy is anything like the peer review of homeopathy journals in 2009, I don’t have high hopes that Dewey’s article was subjected to anything resembling rigorous peer review. That hasn’t stopped it from being trotted out in the intervening 90 years since the Spanish flu pandemic by homeopaths every time a flu pandemic or flu scare comes up. Truly, it is a zombie study that just won’t die.

And truly, homeopathy is The One Quackery to Rule Them All.

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Too bad the same can’t be said for Stein’s brain. First, he proves that the plural of “anecdote” is not “data” by laying down about a woman with a urinary tract infection with a resistant bug who gave up ciprofloxacin and embraced woo and allegedly got better, a Malamute with a kidney infection Stein treated with a homeopathic remedy directed at specifically formulated to help heal Enterococcus D, and a man with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus who allegedly used colloidal silver to heal himself:

When Robert Saum, PhD, checked himself into a medical clinic due to an ugly swollen painful mound on his leg that looked like the bite from a poisonous spider, it was diagnosed as being caused by a Methicillin Resistant Staph infection, commonly known as MRSA (also known as the “flesh eating bacteria”). The attending physician discussed the diagnosis with Dr Saum, and the potential need to surgically remove the infected tissue. Saum instead requested that the attending physician lance the infection, allowing the wound to drain. Saum then proceeded to pour colloidal silver based ASAP antiseptic gel, from American Biotech Labs, into the open wound, and drank a couple tablespoons of their broad-band SilverBiotics solution, several times a day. Saum relates that the pain totally disappeared within two hours, and this potentially deadly infection was mostly healed within the next 48 hours.

This is potentially true, but irrelevant to whether colloidal silver “works” as its proponents say. Remember one thing first: MRSA is not necessarily the “flesh-eating” bacteria. That’s a specific kind of infection, which can be due to MRSA but can also be due to run-of-the-mill staph that responds to standard antibiotics like vancomycin–or, more frequently, can be polymicrobial. Also remember that various silver salts are already used for superficial infections. For example, silver sulfadiazine (Silvadene) is a routine treatment for burns to prevent infection. No one has argued that silver salts or even colloidal silver couldn’t be useful for superficial infections, and by Stein’s account what Saum appeared to have was an abscess. The abscess was drained, and he got better. Whether the SilverBiotics solution had anything to do with it is impossible to say, but, even if it did, it was like using superficial antibiotics similar to Silvadene. In other words, Saum’s testimonial means nothing, and Stein’s apparently down with turning people into Blue Men.

So what, according to Stein, can protect people? He recommends the Beck protocol:

  1. Blood electrification
  2. Colloidal silver
  3. Magnetic pulsing
  4. Ozonated water

Does the Beck protocol sound familiar? If you’re a regular reader, it should. It was less than two months ago that I featured Bob Beck in an installment of Your Friday Dose of Woo. I’ve also dealt with some of the elements before, such as colloidal silver and various forms of ozone woo before.

But that’s not enough for Stein. Oh, no. He then goes on to list a a veritable panoply of herbal medicines and outright quackery as though they might be effective against either swine flu or the deadly superbugs whose threat he’s hyped. But to me the fact that Stein thinks that there is anything at all to the 200 year old über-quackery known as homeopathy. Homeopathic remedies are water. Period. They are diluted to the point where it is incredibly unlikely that even a single molecule is left. Homeopaths make up all sorts of hand-waving pseudoscientific nonsense to claim that somehow the “memory” of water holds the “potency” of the original remedy or that the vigorous succussion (shaking) that occurs between each serial dilution somehow imbues homeopathic remedies with magical potency.

Did I mention that homeopathy is pure quackery?

Stein concludes:

I am not suggesting you turn your back on regular medical diagnosis and treatments. A wise course of action is to become familiar with several of the alternative therapies and herbs that have proven themselves by helping thousands of people to heal, many times only after high tech western pharmaceutical based medicine had failed to heal. Since my primary concern is with getting and staying healthy, and not with performing scientific studies on myself or my loved ones, I tend to go for the “shotgun” approach (combining multiple alternatives). I suggest you have a variety of these materials on hand, in the event that western pharmaceutical medicines are either unavailable, or ineffective.

I have a better suggestion. I suggest that you stick with scientific medicine and eschew the kind of woo. I also have a suggestion for Arianna Huffington. She recently published an article about President Obama’s first 100 days in which she praised him for his reversing the Bush Administration stand on embryonic stem cell research, in particular Obama’s statement that it is “about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda, and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.” I agree. It’s a fine sentiment, long overdue after the Bush administration.

Too bad Arianna doesn’t apply President Obama’s sentiment to her own blog and kick out the quacks and pseudoscientists.

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Comments

  1. #1 Kimbo Jones
    April 30, 2009

    As I was reading, I was agape at the burning stupidity. But at the totally unbiased 1918 homeopath “statistics”, I said to myself “FACE. PALM.” After scrolling down a little more, I almost busted up (at work, no less) when I saw Picard’s shining head. That totally made my day.

  2. #2 Alex
    April 30, 2009

    Orac,
    Have you had a look at the comments left under Kim Evans swine flu rubbish. It is really encouraging to see every single post giving her the crap she very much deserves. Almost restores my faith in humanity. Perhaps you are actually working for HuffPo and generating traffic for them by advertising stuff that will annoy rational, sensible people who might then stay to look at other parts of the site (like I did). How much are you getting per hit you big HuffPo shill ????

  3. #3 The Perky Skeptic
    April 30, 2009

    I’ll counter his National Merit Scholar anecdote with an anecdote! :D

    I had the singular honor of winning a National Merit Scholarship… to a University I didn’t plan to attend. Yes, that’s right! When I took my SATs, I put University Q as my “first choice college,” forgot all about it, and ended up confirming with University P. It wasn’t until my high school’s “Awards Day” assembly, wherein they presented me with a lovely, ornate certificate of NMS from University Q, that I remembered my error.

    The moral here is, you can win Merit awards, and still be a doofus. ;)

  4. #4 JohnV
    April 30, 2009

    I know this is completely offtopic, but with regards to woo and HuffPo here isn’t much left to be said.

    So, my question is, what star trek episode did that picture come from? :p

  5. #5 JonA
    April 30, 2009

    Have you considered getting HuffPo to print an article written by you?

  6. #6 Dangerous Bacon
    April 30, 2009

    “Today, a number of homeopathic remedies for the flu are available, including oscillo, or oscillococcinum, which has been shown to shorten the duration of symptoms when taken within 48 hours of onset. Homeopaths have been given this remedy since 1925. Interestingly, it’s made from the heart and liver of ducks, which carry flu viruses in their digestive tracts.”

    Oooh, the famous $20 million-dollar duck remedy! My favorite 200C homeopathic drug.

    “If a single molecule of the duck’s heart or liver were to survive the dilution, its concentration would be 1 in 100200. This huge number, which has 400 zeroes, is vastly greater than the estimated number of molecules in the universe (about one googol, which is a 1 followed by 100 zeroes). In its February 17, 1997, issue, U.S. News & World Report noted that only one duck per year is needed to manufacture the product, which had total sales of $20 million in 1996. The magazine dubbed that unlucky bird “the $20-million duck.””

    http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/homeo.html

    Orac: “I have a better suggestion. I suggest that you stick with scientific medicine and eschew the kind of woo.”

    I am of two minds about this (Cue creepy music from “The Creature With Two Minds”). If these people get swine flu (or what they think is swine flu), isolate themselves and depend on duck liver extract (a.k.a. water) and colon flushes, it means more antiviral drugs available for the rest of us. More of the credulous will be casualties (or not, depending on who’s harvesting the data), but it’s a win-win situation so far as I can see it.

  7. #7 Geek Goddess
    April 30, 2009

    Stein either doesn’t realize, or doesn’t care, that the germ theory of disease and antiseptic surgery were in their infancy during the 1918 flu epidemic. Various sources refer to the overall mortality rate (different than infection rate) for the Spanish flue at 2.5%, versus about 0.1% for ‘ordinary’ flu.

  8. #8 beebeeo
    April 30, 2009

    @JohnyV
    Its a photoshop from a picture where only riker does a facepalm

  9. #9 M2
    April 30, 2009

    Heh. I got me one of them National Merit Scholarships, too. Didn’t get no Bachelor of Science, though. Got me a Bachelor of Arts instead. Anyhoo, I don’t much feel the need to brag about my high school accomplishments since now I’m halfway through my Medical Doctor degree.

  10. #10 Angel
    April 30, 2009

    Queue the duck livers and quacks jokes…

    Get thee to a quackery!

  11. #11 Ramel
    April 30, 2009

    If homeopath is about like curing like, how the hell is a duck like the flu? Or is just because they are both fowl?

  12. #12 MarkW
    April 30, 2009

    Just a minor point, given all the other woo, but what relevance does he think that antibiotic-resistance in bacteria has to the influenza virus?

  13. #13 John H
    April 30, 2009

    I thought the “flesh eating bug” was necrotizing fasciitis, not MRSA.

    We had loads of that in the UK about 15 years ago (well, about three cases really but the press furore made it look like half the population had been eaten from within.

    (OK OK I just looked it up on the Miasmic Herald and I realise it can also be MRSA. Odd that we have had a lot of MRSA in the UK but no press coverage of flesh eating bugs)

  14. #14 Anthro
    April 30, 2009

    I am fairly new here, but not new to woo at all, being plagued by it in my personal life. I have ended at least three (what I thought were) friendships over the issue and even my most intelligent and best-educated friends fall for some of this stuff. What’s the harm in trying it they ask when I raise my eyebrows. I bring up the waste of money and they only shrug. It seems to demonstrate that we have way too big a share of resources in this country when people can so easily throw money out the window.

    My point however, is this: Can we do anything to get HuffPo to address this issue? I have written to them a few times and get no replies, but perhaps a joint effort might fare better?

  15. #15 Pablo
    April 30, 2009

    Just a minor point, given all the other woo, but what relevance does he think that antibiotic-resistance in bacteria has to the influenza virus?

    I’ll admit I didn’t even get through reading this article by Orac because it started out talking about antibiotic-resistent bacteria and I couldn’t understand what that had to do with the flu.

  16. #16 Whiskeyjack
    April 30, 2009

    Long-time reader, first-time poster. I just wanted to say thanks for arming us non-scientists with some cold hard reality to fight the woo.

  17. #17 Dayv
    April 30, 2009

    Have you considered getting HuffPo to print an article written by you?

    It’ll never get published — Orac is neither an actor nor a crazy person.

    Oh, and duck liver cures the flu for the same reason it cures the swam.

    OK, even I’m ashamed of that one.

  18. #18 skeptiquette
    April 30, 2009

    most influenza associated deaths are the result of secondary bacterial infections, i.e. pneumonia.

    So theoretically, ARB(antibio-resistant bacteria)are a factor to consider when considering morbidity and mortality associated with the flu.

  19. #19 D
    April 30, 2009

    My husband just got out of the hospital the 15th – necrotizing fasciitis in his lower abdomen. No MRSA. He had enterococcus not-sure-what and common strep B, the same kind 40% of women (including me) carry.

    Anecdotal evidence does not equal data, but just mentioning.

    (He’s scheduled for skin graft surgery on Tuesday after being on a wound vac since March 30 to close up a 12-cm deep surgical incision.)

  20. #20 JohnV
    April 30, 2009

    @beebeeo: Thanks, that explains the seeming failure of my nerdyness to figure out where it came from.

  21. #21 The Mad LOLScientist, FCD
    April 30, 2009

    All right, Dayv… ROFL and barf simultaneously = BARFL!1!! u wins teh Innert00bz 2dai – right after you buy me a new keyboard!

    Stein’s gray matter appears to be homeopathic: [1] it’s been diluted (deluded? sorry, couldn’t resist) to the point of nonexistence and [2] he thinks it works.

    =^..^=

  22. #22 jj
    April 30, 2009

    @11

    If homeopath is about like curing like, how the hell is a duck like the flu? Or is just because they are both fowl?

    Maybe they should use swine liver?

  23. #23 khan
    April 30, 2009

    Would swine liver deleted beyond Avogadro be kosher?
    ——————————————————-

    Homeopathy

    A preparation sold by a quack
    Full of stirred and shaken water
    Alleviating nothing

  24. #24 truthspeaker
    April 30, 2009

    Dude, once you’re past your freshman year of college, it looks pretty pathetic to brag about being a National Merit Scholar.

  25. #25 Chris
    April 30, 2009

    I dont think the quackery stops at HuffPo. My mom came home today with a Swine Flu Alert notice sent out by OrlandoHealth (a healthcare network in Orlando) that the doctor’s office she works at received. One of their preventive measure suggestions was to take Airborne. You know the Vitamin C injection pill that had been charged by the FTC for false advertising. Im contemplating calling these people and asking them what they’re thinking.

  26. #26 tim gueguen
    April 30, 2009

    It bears repeating: homeopathic remedies are water. Pure, simple, no active ingredient water. If mainstream medicine had come up with such a treatment the woo crowd would be screaming from the rooftops about “big pharma” and their other bogeymen.

  27. #27 Matthew Cline
    April 30, 2009

    If the Spanish flu had a 1% mortality rate for those treated with homeopathy, 30% mortality for those treated with “allopathy”, and an overall 2.5% mortality rate, then wouldn’t that mean that… (quick calculation)… that about 95% of Spanish flu victims were treated with homeopathy?

  28. #28 gaiainc
    May 1, 2009

    I think we need a triple face plant. Matthew Stein is an idjit. Is he Ben Stein’s son?

    As for the guy who had the abscess, the definitive treatment for an abscess is the incision and drainage. Antibiotics are the icing on the cake, but aren’t definitive therapy. If all that pus and all the infection is not allowed to drain out, then antibiotics won’t matter nor anything else one may or may not do. Idjit.

  29. #29 Dr. P
    May 1, 2009

    as above; I’ve been told by more than one surgeon that they thought they could do well with I&D alone in many of their MRSA patients;This is already the minimum allopathic standard of care, of course depending on whether the pt is febrile and potentially septic; also with regards to the 1918 flu, would their numbers be explained by the fact that when the homeopathy didn’t work and they progressed and were hospitalized they were counted as ‘allopathic’ patients; there really wasn’t a way for them to exclude for this retrospectively, was there?

  30. #30 Eric
    May 1, 2009

    I found myself spitting up my aura in laughter several times during this piece. It was blue, by the way. Not sure what that means. Stein?

    Sure, not all “alternative” medicines are crazy (some have developed into useful treatments), but you still need to have some solid research to verify that they’re doing what you say they are. “Shotgun approach”? Really? Let’s just start doing medical trials with a little double blind drug treatment, some herbal concoctions you found at a Jamaican market and a then toss in a little shamanic chanting to boot. Wow.

  31. #31 Melody
    May 1, 2009

    The Perky Skeptic:

    Heh, yeah, I was somewhat close to being a National Merit Scholar (I was one of the Commended Students, which is the step just before Finalist, one of about 30,000 or 50,000 – I forget). However, for people who are either Commended students or Finalists, there was a further scholarship mid-year at the college, and I completely forgot to apply until it was too late (I didn’t even tell my parents about this blunder of mine considering that it would’ve helped our financial situation). I am sort of easy on myself given that I’ve had health problems this year going in so that I’ve had a difficult time concentrating on school and extracurriculars and scholarship applications, and eventually to take a medical leave, but still.

    I also have not thought of mentioning the scholarship status beyond maybe the first week of college (I wasn’t a Finalist, though – but I’ve tended to score higher on spatial IQ tests and AP science exams anyway).

  32. #32 factoid
    May 1, 2009

    what is “woo”?
    If you want to be accessible to a casual visitor, jargon doesn’t help. It just makes you look very cliquey, a club with juvenile in-jokes.
    And I say that as someone who agrees with your point of view.

  33. #33 JK Finn
    May 1, 2009

    factoid: Asked and answered.
    Reader Mailbag: What is woo? Posted on: August 1, 2006 8:16 AM, by Orac

  34. #34 Shiritai
    May 1, 2009

    factiod,

    “what is “woo”?
    If you want to be accessible to a casual visitor, jargon doesn’t help. It just makes you look very cliquey, a club with juvenile in-jokes.”

    So, because you’re not familiar with the term, it’s juvenile? Well, I don’t want to appear juvenile, so I’ll go and amend my lab report. Out with “chirality”, in with “the quality of being unable to be superposed with its mirror image!” Ah, it’s so much more accessible now without all that jargon. Thanks, factiod!

  35. #35 QoB
    May 1, 2009
  36. #36 Alan
    May 1, 2009

    Re the Huffington, you may be interested in a guest column sho wrote in the (London) Times the other day – http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6188629.ece

    Her article sums up the positive achievements of President Obama’s 1st hundred days. It contains this little bombshell: she reckons one of Obama’s successes is reversing course on stem cells. She claims this is
    ‘A clear statement about the return of the reality-based world. As Mr Obama said: “It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda, and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.”’

    If this is what she truly believes, I think it provides a stick to beat her with any & every time someone spouts woo and rubbish in her journal ever again.

  37. #37 Orac
    May 1, 2009

    Uh, I do believe I linked to that very article by Arianna Huffington in the second to last paragraph.

  38. #38 Alan
    May 1, 2009

    Oops… so you did. I actually rephrased an email I sent you a couple of days ago. I’ll have to improve my speed reading if I can miss a whole paragraph. I think what was a defence machanism (my eyes glaze every time I try to read woo) has mutated into a nervous tic (my eyes glaze over every time I read something even about woo).
    Sorry!

  39. #39 marcia
    May 1, 2009

    Instead of a downbeat “they pull me back in,” how about a little upbeat “I can’t help myself?”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aigRZ-1LjH0

  40. #40 Mojo
    May 1, 2009

    If homeopath is about like curing like, how the hell is a duck like the flu?

    The “active ingredient” in Oscillococcinum is supposed to be a strange oscillating bacterium which a French doctor called Joseph Roy claimed to have observed in the blood of flu victims back in the 1920s. He named it “Oscillococcus”, and decided that it was the cause of flu (and a wide variety of other conditions). He eventually also managed to detect it in the liver of a duckling, hence the remedy is prepared from a duck.

    Unfortunately for Roy’s theory, it seems that Oscillococcus does not exist. This perhaps makes Oscillococcinum the ultimate homoeopathic remedy: not only is there none of the “active ingredient” in the final preparation, but there never was any in the first place.

  41. #41 Chris
    May 1, 2009

    factoid:

    what is “woo”?
    If you want to be accessible to a casual visitor, jargon doesn’t help. It just makes you look very cliquey, a club with juvenile in-jokes.

    In the upper left hand corner is a little search window, put in the word “woo” and after a few Friday Woo posts there is this post:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2006/08/reader_mailbag_what_is_woo_1.php

    You might also want to familiarize yourself with the Skepdic dictionary:
    http://skepdic.com/woowoo.html

    I have been catching up on old podcasts of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe, and in the early “Randi Speaks” the term has been used by James Randi for years.

  42. #42 The Perky Skeptic
    May 1, 2009

    Mojo, I am speechless. That is truly a shining gold nugget of woo within the rank puddle of stagnant poo-water that is homeopathy!

  43. #43 Ja
    May 1, 2009

    Will not be able to host it (moving to new university soon so busy), but…

    My Modest Proposal is:

    …someone with IT skills and appropriate infrastructure needs to create website/virtual host scientistswho.hatehuffingtonpost.{org, com, net} or similar.

    First, one could create a petition drive there with lists of the scientific haters-of-woo with affiliations. All the bloggers with frequency and with some care could link to the site, rather than huffpo. With the care in the pattern of linking, the site might come up second in searches if you searched google for HuffPo, Huffington Post, and other likely search terms, etc. (Amazing to me how often I see some people go to google search to go to sites they visit frequently).

    It would be a nice place to “fisk” the articles or point to those that do, rather than drive traffic to the site of woo. For every article of woo, there might be a mirror with same article title and author name (again, for google purposes) that with links or text rebuts the woo. My suggestion is that all article titles have a subtitle “It Ain’t Necessarily So” appended. One could even automate some of this for repeat providers of woo (e.g. all articles by DensePack Chopra have a stub entry ready. Out of the box, this could have text something like “here are some things some scientists might want to know about other articles from this author” But can later acquire text and links for article-specific critique, as they develop.

    Any interest?

  44. #44 Matthew Cline
    May 1, 2009

    Guh, some quack is recomending that Swine flu be treated with Oscillococcinum. I left a comment there; lets see if it will be allowed to stay up.

  45. #45 Sassafras
    May 3, 2009

    Where can I buy a homeopathic remedy for swine flu?

    I need to know, because according to the dilution principle, I could pour just one bottle into my local reservoir and protect several million people at once.

    I mean, it’s bound to work, isn’t it?

  46. #46 claw
    May 5, 2009

    I find it interesting that this guy advocates the “shotgun method” for his rememdies. Odd. I thought each homeopathic treatment had to be specially tailored to match the client and their current cause of illness and whatnot rot.
    plus, couldn’t that lead to too many treatments, too soon.
    why is it ok when they do it? oh yeah, it’s just water.

  47. #47 Doug Bremner
    May 5, 2009

    The person quarantined with supposedly drug resistant TB by the CDC was Andrew Speaker. The Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) did a series of articles on the case. He was in Europe attending his marriage when the CDC banned him from flying. What you didn’t hear about was that they told him to spend 140K to charter his own flight, so he came back in through Canada. After being forcibly quarantined and undergoing lung surgery it was determined that he didn’t have drug resistant TB after all. AJC reported that the CDC might be grandstanding to generate funding. One failed marriage later he is suing the CDC, but you didn’t hear about it last week because of, guess what, swine flu hysteria. CDC didn’t know about swine flu until six days after Mexico began issuing emergency bulletins.

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