Respectful Insolence

I realize that there are two huge target-rich articles out there that my readers have been clamoring for me to comment on. First, there’s a particularly silly and simplistic article by Nicholas Kristof about how it’s supposedly the “toxins” causing autism (an article in which he apparently doesn’t realize that Current Opinions in Pediatrics is not really a peer-reviewed journal but rather publishes review articles by invitation), and then there’s a fawning TIME Magazine article bout Jenny McCarthy. When two such–shall we say?–target-rich articles appear on the same day, I’d be falling all over myself to go after one or the other of them–or even both when I’m not too busy.

Not this time.

Quite frankly, thanks to my near continuous blogging about Andy Wakefield last week, I’ve entered one of those phases where I’m burned out on the whole anti-vaccine movement. I’m taking a break. (Ya gotta give me that sometimes.) If I don’t take a break from time to time from blogging about the anti-vaccine movement, my neurons don’t have time to recover from the all-out assault of toxic stupid emanating from the likes of Jenny McCarthy and Generation Rescue. So you’ll have to forgive me; you’re on your own for the two articles above, at least for now.

But fear not! I’m sure that sometime soon someone at Age of Autism or some other anti-vaccine activists will do or say something despicable or stupid enough that it warrants a heapin’ helpin’ of Orac’s special brand of not-so-Respectful Insolence. In fact, to speed my brain along in healing from the damage of delving into so much toxic stupid, I think I may have just the thing. Obviously, the blistering, blithering stupid to which I have been willingly subjecting my cerebral cortex is a form of toxin, and clearly I need detoxification. Either that, or I need my flow of qi realigned to relieve the blockages caused by it. Besides, I haven’t done Your Friday Dose of Woo in a while, and it’s about time.

So what would I need to help my cerebral cortex heal “naturally” from the effects of bathing in etheric stupid for so long? Well, certainly acupuncture might be able to help, right? What better unblock my qi and let it flush the woo away than sticking needles in my skin for no apparent reason and with no anatomical or physiologic basis for it to work?

Unfortunately, the stupid that emanates from antivaccine activists is too strong, even for acupuncture. If I’m going to heal myself of the damage without resorting to nasty, evil, pharmaceuticals, I’ll need more than just that. Fortunately, I think I’ve found just the thing. It’s something that combines the woo that is acupuncture with an even more potent woo, something that, when combined with acupuncture, produces woo synergy so strong that there’s nothing it can’t do. What would be that second woo? It’s one that I’ve called from time to time The One Woo To Rule Them All, the purest expression of human ability to believe complete and utter nonesense. That’s right. I’m talking about homeopathy, the art of diluting remedies into nonexistence, producing a placebo effect, and calling it medicine. And what do we get when we combine acupuncture and homeopathy?

Why homeopuncture, of course:

Homeopuncture is a new treatment strategy slowly coming into vogue in integrative medical clinics around the world which combines two alternative medical therapies, Acupuncture and Homeopathy into one. Each of these age old therapies predate conventional medicine by a long shot and are used around the world to treat everything from the most simple to the most complex health challenges. Both also have growing bodies of research proving their effectiveness in treating a large variety of illnesses, acute as well as chronic.

Oh, goody. Two crappy woos that taste even crappier together. In any case, I can’t resist channeling on of my favorite quotes and bending it to my own nefarious purposes. “Research.” You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. I suppose “research” supports homeopathy and acupuncture if you define “research” as small, poorly controlled and designed studies, often without adequate controls confounded by placebo effects. If, however, you define “research” as a broad body of investigation starting from first principles in basic science and leading to large, well-designed, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trials, then homeopathy fails. From first principles, it has as close to zero plausibility as a modality can have, and for homeopathy to “work,” huge swaths of our current knowledge of chemistry, physics, biochemistry, and biology would have to be not just wrong, but spectacularly wrong. This includes science that has been well established for over 100 years. In the absence of hugely compelling evidence that homeopathy works, there is no reason to assume from first principles that homeopathy can work. Indeed, as clinical trials of homeopathy grow larger and better controlled, the “effects” attributable to homeopathy are diluted (sorry, couldn’t resist) to being indistinguishable from placebo effects.

In any case, homeopuncture sounds fantastically woo-ey, doesn’t it? I’m sure you’re thinking: But why on earth should we think this will work? Oh, ye of little faith! Learn ye about Homeosiniatry:

Homeopaths Weihe (of German descent) and Goehrum discovered that when certain diseases were cured by a homeopathic remedy, a point in the body that grew tender with pressure was relieved. During his research, Weihe was able to locate approximately 197 points. He also linked these points with particular homeopathic remedies which were prescribed for a specific disorder. He was able to use the points to confirm the correct remedy to prescribe when in doubt. This was known as Homeosiniatry. Strangely enough, these tender points are also described in TCM as Alarm points and As-shi points. Alarm points represent organs in the body. If there is a disorder in the organ’s related energy channel, the respective alarm point will become tender.

Of course it will. Or perhaps it’s one massive exercise in confirmation bias. But where does homeopuncture come into play? It’s simple:

Subsequently, a famous French author and acupuncturist, Roger de la Fuye (French Homeopath and Acupuncturist) researched and concluded that homeopathy can be used with acupuncture to treat patients. He was also able to utilize the points to confirm if the remedy was the proper one.

Considering the effectiveness of each therapy, it is fair to say that combining these two therapies could be very fruitful.

It’s too bad my French is so rusty, because it looks to me as though there’s some mighty fine woo on de la Fuye’s website. Unfortunately, it would take me too long to figure out in adequate detail. (That’s what I get for neglecting my French, I guess; like any second language, use it or lose it, as they say.) In any case, there’s little doubt that combining homeopathy and acupuncture could be very fruitful–for the homeopath/acupuncturist’s wallet, of course. From a scientific and medical standpoint, not so much. But how does it work?

Apparently acupuncture needles become a method of delivering homeopathic remedies:

We can define it as the puncture of acupuncture points after dipping the needle in a specific homeopathic remedy. We can also describe Homeopuncture as a methodology by which the specific homeopathic remedy is placed directly in the tissue by first dipping an acupuncture needle in the (liquid) remedy and then puncturing at the specific acupuncture points.

Wow! Homeopuncture looks as though it’s nothing more than a way to mainline homeopathic remedies. Well, not quite, as no major veins are involved. At least, that is what we hope. But it is in essence the same as a subcutaneous injection. But I thought that the more dilute a homeopathic remedy was, the stronger it becomes. I also wonder what Samuel Hahnemann would have thought of this. After all, he never said anything about administering his magical succussed potions in any other way besides oral that I can recall. He may have discussed topical use of water (i.e., homeopathic remedies), but I don’t recall. I also don’t recall ever hearing about injecting homeopathic remedies. It rather seems to go against everything homeopathy stands for.

Another issue I’d wonder about is infection. Most acupuncturists who have been tainted by Western medicine will sterilize their needles, although, as Mark Crislip likes to point out, they often negate any benefit of that by not bothering to use sterile gloves or to decontaminate the skin with some sort of disinfectant before inserting the needles. Since homeopathic remedies aren’t prepared under sterile conditions, one wonders if the infection rate would be higher using homeopuncture. Of course, if the diluent used in the homeopathic remedies is alcohol, one could equally imagine that dipping the needles in such a remedy might acually lower the infection rate. Come to think of it, that would be the only utility of this approach of combining the One Woo To Rule Them All that I can think of. Maybe a little flame after that and the needles would be sterile. Yes, I can see that that might be useful.

This version of the document describing homeopuncture describes three case reports. These include two cases of psoriasis and a case of what sounds like vitiligo. One notes that none of these case reports actually desecribes the outcome of the treatment. Maybe the outcome was homeopathic; i.e., diluted to the point of being undetectable. Whatever the reason, these cases are hardly a ringing endorsement of the efficacy of homeopuncture, although that doesn’t stop the woo-meisters from stating:

The two streams of healing have been brought together not just to satisfy some researchers’ whims, but to enable practitioners to do justice to patients. Some individuals might have the skills to cure patients quickly with just one form of treatment, but for others combining the therapies can help them to improve the quality of the healing.


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Personally, when it comes to “streams” of thought like acupuncture and homeopathy, my tendency is to channel Dr. Egon Spengler and warn against crossing the streams. Suffice it to say that it would be…bad.

You know, I feel better already. In fact, by Monday I might even be ready to jump back into the fray. Maybe I’ll even have some fun with the latest round of “vaccine manufacturers = tobacco companies” nonsense pouring out of the anti-vaccine movement in the wake of the PLoS decision not to publish any research funded by tobacco companies.

Or not. Too much depends on what sort of pseudoscience is unleashed on the unsuspecting world between now and then.

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Comments

  1. #1 bsci
    February 26, 2010

    Unrelated to this, I actually thought the Time article on McCarthy was ok. While there were a few turns of phrase I could quibble with, it did a good job explaining how someone with no scientific knowledge of an issue could grab the eyes and minds of some many parents. How the message of hope and just try anything, scientific-evidence-be-damned can be so powerful to people who want a solution. How a doctor saying they can’t solve everything pushes needy parents towards people who say they can solve something. One aside in the article is the mention of the huge percent parents of autistic children try “altnerative” treatments at some point. I’d love to see a number on that.

    The end where the author brings it back to his own parents and their searches for treatments over the years is particularly powerful.

    Probably my biggest critique is that he lists a bunch of alternative treatments. He makes clear that there’s no real evidence they work and that they’re expensive, but it would have been nice if he explicitly mentioned the real health risks of some of them.

  2. #2 AnthonyK
    February 26, 2010

    Personally I loathe these fairydustmeisters and their continual pretence of medical expertise. Does that make me a homeophobe?

  3. #3 james
    February 26, 2010

    I was expecting homeopuncture to involve using nano technology to split needles successively in half 100 times so that the pinprick was vanishingly small and people reacted to the memory of the air pushing against their skin.

  4. #4 ScottW
    February 26, 2010

    In Kristof’s defense – I read that column the other day. It’s not so much a claim of cause as just raising the question of the possibility. He’s a journalist, not a woo-monger.

  5. #5 Scientizzle
    February 26, 2010

    Kristof also has something of a tepid follow-up to his column here.

    …for when you do get around to respectfully insolencing him.

  6. #6 Liz Ditz
    February 26, 2010

    Actually, you aren’t alone, Orac. KWombles of Countering Age of Autism feels that Age of Autism has jumped the shark, and she just can’t work up the anger.

    On to Kristof: some analyses to get you going:

    Emily, scientist and mother of children with autism, takes on Kristof in Autism and environmental chemicals? A call for caution.

    Polly Palumbo, who blogs at Mommadata, calls Kristof “the worst science writer of 2009 and analyzes his arguments.

    Kristina Chew, mother of a child with autism, writes several blogs. She can be found writing occasionally at Care2.com. Today she points out that Autism is not toxic, or “
    Mentioning autism in the same breath as toxins and cancer suggests, by association, that autism is “toxic” and a sickness, and the individuals with autism are “damaged,” “sick” and in need of a “cure.”

  7. #7 nitramnaed
    February 26, 2010

    Orac,
    I don’t blame you for being “burned-out”. Just reading some of the comments from the McCarthy article alone practically lit my brain on fire.
    I’m heading over to the Science Museum with my daughter just to cleanse my cerebellum.

  8. #8 Party Cactus
    February 26, 2010

    I looked at de la Fou’s site. Unless you like magical Christmas colored dragons and whining about ‘allopathic western medicine’ and something about the power of transubstantiation (I guess that’s homeopath for ‘shaking’), no one’s missing anything.

    If this were fiction, like Naruto or Harry Potter, the combination of acupuncture and homeopathy would make a be pretty cool character, like mixing two types of magic. Kinda loses the novelty when you play doctor in the real world with it though.

    Can’t wait until they come out with quantum homeopuncture.

  9. #9 Iason Ouabache
    February 26, 2010

    I’m taking a break.

    You do realize that every single time you say that something bad happens, right?

  10. #10 The Gregarious Mishanthrope
    February 26, 2010

    I’m with James. I was envisioning 100C un-needles. I figured they’d brought the Trek Hypo-spray to life. Disappointed by the woo, yet again.

  11. #11 idlemind
    February 26, 2010

    Although Kristof may use the T word beloved of naturopaths everywhere he’s raising a legitimate issue — environmental chemicals might well have adverse effects on development. There is a lot of fuzzy thinking in his piece, and he repeats the canard that there has been an explosion of autism when there may actually just be an explosion in ASD diagnoses. But at least he calls the vax link “discredited.”

  12. #12 Ian
    February 26, 2010

    I agree with bsci. I have a hard time reading that article as anything other than an accounting of McCarthy’s era. There’s a fair amount of criticism there, and more than once the author makes the point that there’s a big pile of scientific refutation against her claims. The only thing I can see to criticize about the article is that it doesn’t slam Jenny or call her stupid… which isn’t really much of a criticism at all.

    If I were to sum up the whole thing into a headline, it would be: “Activist mom ignores science, encourages others to do the same.”

  13. #13 Mojo
    February 26, 2010

    @AnthonyK:

    Personally I loathe these fairydustmeisters and their continual pretence of medical expertise. Does that make me a homeophobe?

    Apparently, yes.

  14. #14 george
    February 26, 2010

    The lay notion of Research, as in “I researched it…”, engages several cognitive biases, but basically involves looking for “evidence” that confirms a conclusion.

    I wish more of the skeptical commentary would identify the biases employed to maintain beliefs despite the presence of contrary evidence, and understand that we all have some neurological disabilities that impair the logical models we use to hold on to our beliefs.

    For the most part, I believe the conclusions are wrong, but the errors are not adopted as the result of conscious, volitional thinking. Just more evidence that we are predictably irrational beings.

  15. #15 rob
    February 26, 2010

    if two cam modalities can be combined to make a super cam modality, why not combine a cam with an sbm? after all, at least one of them has been shown to work. combing them should offer even more exponentially synergistic quantumy goodness.

    i suggest combining homeopathy and brain surgery.

    if you have a headache, remove the brain from the cranium and soak it for an hour in a 100C solution of–well it doesn’t matter since it is diluted out of existence. reinsert brain and presto! headache is gone.

  16. #16 Todd W.
    February 26, 2010

    Homeopuncture: a modality whereby one part acupuncture needle is diluted in 100 parts haystack, repeated 30 times.

    The first thought that occurred to me upon reading how they actually do this (dipping the needle into a homeopathic preparation) was “What about infection?” Do they mix a homeopathic anti-infection preparation with all of the “normal” preparations used in homeopuncture?

  17. #17 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    February 26, 2010

    Todd W. @ 15

    Just combine a little bit of germ theory of disease denial in there and you don’t have to worry about infection.

  18. #18 mingfrommongo
    February 26, 2010

    James – well played, sir, well played.

    So two forms of woo, each no more effective than placebo, combine to be twice as no more effective? The math backs it up – it works!

    It’s a floor wax!
    It’s a dessert topping!

  19. #19 Pareidolius
    February 26, 2010

    Okay. That’s it. I can’t take it any more. With the economy being what it is, my integrity is straining to prevent me from marketing a line of Quantum Homeopuncture Needles, 10C, 30C and 100M.

    I’ll just get hardwood dowels from my brother’s wood working scrap bin. He has thousands of ‘em. Rosewood, purple heart, ebony. I’ll make up some wood-woo to go along with the treatments: ebony for bone, rosewood for tissue, etc. Maybe a story about an old Mayan woman told me about Huitzilcochitli’s brother Quahopu, who is going to return in 2012 bearing eternal life and robust health for all. Some ads and a snappy website and I just lie back and count the cash.

    Look for Quahopu™ Healing Needle ads in the back of Natural Health magazines soon. Just $150.00 . . . each.

    So long suckers, I’m off to Equador!

  20. #20 Rob
    February 26, 2010

    @ Pareidolius, #18

    Sadly, that would almost certainly work. I would suggest getting Kevin Trudeau to engage in an infomercial.

  21. #21 Not the crazy one
    February 26, 2010

    I wonder if the Friday dose of woo has room for this Fox News poll – Would you buy Kirstie Alley’s weight loss product? You’d love it; it’s got colon cleanser and L-tryptophan supplements, and HuffPo blogger/naturopath-to-the-stars Soram Khalsa on its board :)

  22. #22 daijiyobu
    February 26, 2010

    I recently came across the Canadian naturopathic jewel known as “emotional iridology”, a supposed “health science”.

    An interesting combination of vitalism, “talking to trees” because “trees speak”, and iridology.

    Which makes me wonder: is there some kind of ‘random therapy interbreeding program’ on the sCAM side that is continually hybridizing their parent ‘modalities’?

    -r.c.

  23. #23 Flex
    February 26, 2010

    Funny, but what it reminded me of was tattooing.

    Maybe a new blend can be made:

    Homeopuncture tattoos!

    They could advertise it as a time-release mechanism, which combined with the correct astrological symbol (European or Chinese, your choice) enhances the effectiveness (150% of zero is still zero) of the homeopuncture treatment.

    And can look like a cure teddy bear.

  24. #24 mazyloron
    February 26, 2010

    Homeopuncture…yeah, because “Acupathy” would just sound downright silly.

  25. #25 Omri
    February 26, 2010

    I thought homeopuncture meant applying the principle of dilution to acupuncture. So instead of breaking the skin, the healer rubs the patient with a hairbrush. Or something.

  26. #26 longsmith
    February 26, 2010

    You know how martini afficionados of a certain ilk insist that the vermouth be so light that it’s really just a whisper over the glass? I envisioned practitioners whispering “needle” over the puncture sight. Sheesh.
    On that note, I am headed off for that aforementioned much-needed martini.

  27. #27 D. C. Sessions
    February 26, 2010

    Which makes me wonder: is there some kind of ‘random therapy interbreeding program’ on the sCAM side that is continually hybridizing their parent ‘modalities’?

    Starts to sound like BingWoo: you have rows and columns of woo, and get to mark off the intersections when you encounter them in the wild.

  28. #28 BlueMaxx
    February 26, 2010

    the TIME: Jenny McCarthy article, if read carefully, actually is peppered with a great deal of fact statements concerning no evidence of any causality for autism vs Immunizations. BUT…those statements seem to then be counterbalanced by sentences of “but she was so worried and means so well to try to help everyone…and although it cannot be proven her child even had autism, it might have been a rare neurologic seizure complex disorder..but she MEANS WELL…and she is a celebrity.. and she lives with Jim Carrey and HE is a celebrity who really truly means well and is just trying to do the right thing… okay… science has repeatedly shown there is no link..but she just knows and it is an ‘emotional truth …..”

    and unfortunately… those folks likely to be swayed into anti vaccine behaviors and weird Mercola-ish commercial alternative medicine woo-tasm… will NOT read critically or get the right message. The title itself sets the reader up to sympathize with McCarthy,..facts and reason be damned!

    And of course.. BigPharma is to blame in there somewhere… evil conspirators UNITE!

    For me… another validation of why I cancelled my TIME subscription years ago…

  29. #29 Andreas Johansson
    February 26, 2010

    Homeopuncture? Are we entirely sure this isn’t whatever you call the woological equivalent of a poe?

    Speaking of which, would it be unethical to set up an Institute of Retrophrenology just to see if I could get people to pay me to hit them in the head with a mallet?

  30. #30 Dangerous Bacon
    February 26, 2010

    I think it’s great that different forms of alternative medicine are being juxtaposed for the synergistic effects. It should generate more inspired combinations.

    For instance, what about ear candling and coffee enemas? Take wax and coffee, make a large candle, insert in the appropriate orifice, light it and hey presto! the toxins are drawn out of the bowel (a less effective product without coffee is available online, but offers no real competition).

    We’ll just need a solution for the problem of, uh, combustible gases. The profits should be unreal, once we start getting space at the alt med product shows and an interview with NaturalNews’ Mike Adams.

  31. #31 Yojimbo
    February 26, 2010

    Hmmm! I thought a homeopuncture was what my mechanic called a slow leak.

  32. #32 Sastra
    February 26, 2010

    Dangerous Bacon #30 wrote:

    I think it’s great that different forms of alternative medicine are being juxtaposed for the synergistic effects. It should generate more inspired combinations.
    For instance, what about ear candling and coffee enemas?

    Ok, you owe me a new keyboard for that!

    Here’s another combination: Rumpology (“the art of reading the lines, crevices, dimples, and folds of the buttocks”) — and EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon: discerning voices in the hisses and random noises of appliances.) Makes RVP.

    We already believe that pseudoscientists are talking out of their asses: now, they can confirm it.

  33. #33 Amadan
    February 26, 2010

    Hmmm! I thought a homeopuncture was what my mechanic called a slow leak.

    And if your mechanic pays a chiropractor to fix his bad back, do you say that he’s been CAM-shafted?

  34. #34 DLC
    February 26, 2010

    Homeopathic Needles!
    and next up, Homeopathic Energy Medicine!
    Where the practitioner refuses to wave their hands at you, and you get better !

  35. #35 Sastra
    February 26, 2010

    Homeopathic Feng Shui: you think about moving the couch.

  36. #36 Thank you, Jenny McCarthy
    February 26, 2010

    Don’t worry, Orac — we have you covered on the Time Magazine front:

    Jenny McCarthy: America’s Doctor

  37. #37 Harbo
    February 26, 2010

    Thank you to everyone
    This is blog/comment for the archives.

  38. #38 Phoenix Woman
    February 26, 2010

    Liz Ditz @6: Thanks for the Countering link. Some AoApologist tries to say in the comments thread that none of the antivaxer parents of autistic children ever wished their kids dead, and KWombles just frickin’ DETONATES him.

  39. #39 Lisa B
    February 26, 2010

    Hi. This is totally off-topic, and I’m sorry, but I’m trying to look for some informative de-bunking on the wonderful treatment of “Quantum Neurology” and having a really frustrating time with it (or finding anything that even begins to suppose it would be helpful). If I’ve MISSED that topic on here, I’m sorry to re-hash. If I haven’t, would you be interested in featuring it as a future topic? I unfortunately married someone who is enamored with “alternative,” and desperate to take me to a self-proclaimed healer who uses quantum neurology, neurocranial restructuring, etc., as well as some of the more common and older alternative things (he’s officially a chiropractor).

    I have IC and was allergic to two of the standard treatments for the disease and have not had the kind of recovery my hubby would hope for, so now he’s insistent on trying other people and avoiding the “doctors who obviously have no answers.” Just in supplements and stupid things advertised in email and on internet he’s going through a hundred dollars or more some months, and he doesn’t UNDERSTAND that those people RELY on the fact that no one will complain if it “doesn’t work,” they’ll just say, “There has to be something else I can try.”

    I’ll be checking and hoping you address these wonderful “treatments,” so I might have something to reason with him with (if that is possible when someone is woo-enamored? – I can hope!)

  40. #40 luna1580
    February 27, 2010

    what does everyone think about the time article’s idea that the reason jenny’s “mommy prayers” could “cure” her son’s autism might be the that he never had an autism spectrum disorder in the first place, but rather was manifesting Landau-Kleffner syndrome?

    if this should be correct it seems to be a bit of a BIG fucking deal!

    she was always a nutter and an idiot in term of medical knowledge, but really, wouldn’t it be fucking amazing for her to admit that even if vaccines caused autism (they DON”T), it couldn’t have had anything to do w/her kid as he NEVER HAD autism? it would be an admission that EVERYTHING she “knew like a mommy knows” was simply wrong, as she’s not a doctor!

    this seems like a non-trivial point………

  41. #41 jenbphillips
    February 27, 2010

    Lisa B:
    I found something on Quackwatch that sounds sort of like what you’re describing–don’t know how close to the mark this is.

    For general debunking of Chiropractic and its woo satellites, Steve Novella’s two part takedown is excellent (here’s part II, which contains a link to part I)
    HTH

  42. #42 Kelner
    February 27, 2010

    “Each of these age old therapies predate conventional medicine by a long shot….”
    Actually, homeopathy was proposed by Hahnemann in 1796. Cowpox was being used to innoculate people from smallpox from at least 1774.

  43. #43 Kausik Datta
    February 27, 2010

    Dangerous Bacon #30:

    It should generate more inspired combinations… For instance, what about ear candling and coffee enemas?

    Hey, the heads of most woomeisters are so far up their arses that perhaps coffee enema IS ear candling!!

  44. #44 Denice Walter
    February 27, 2010

    Speaking of the target-rich,the woo-befuddled,and low-hanging fruit in general:Bill Maher is back.On his first two shows,he made a valiant effort to restrict himself to (mostly) political topics:however,last night,he began to *hint* about his animal rights causes.I suspect that his restraint will waver and eventually disappear as the season progresses, unleashing a torrent of undiluted woo and maybe some homeopathy as well.Surprizingly,while there *was* the expected pot humour, he didn’t touch the new NJ laws about medical marijuana( Maher and I are both natives of Bergen County).

  45. #45 Dr. T
    February 27, 2010

    “If I were to sum up the whole thing into a headline, it would be: “Activist mom ignores science, encourages others to do the same.””

    I would tack on an extra phrase to your summation: “… and Time doesn’t have much of a problem with that, because scientific medicine has been wrong many times.”

    An objective report should subject Ms. McCarthy to more than just mild criticisms. She should be blasted for using her fame to encourage millions of people to oppose vaccinations. She has done more harm to public health than Typhoid Mary. Writing about Ms. McCarthy in a national news magazine without strongly criticizing her uninformed opinions did more harm than good because of the free publicity. I’m certain that Time‘s editors know this, but they care more about increased sales — the truth be damned.

  46. #46 Dr. T
    February 27, 2010

    “If I were to sum up the whole thing into a headline, it would be: “Activist mom ignores science, encourages others to do the same.””

    I would tack on an extra phrase to your summation: “… and Time doesn’t have much of a problem with that, because scientific medicine has been wrong many times.”

    An objective report should subject Ms. McCarthy to more than just mild criticisms. She should be blasted for using her fame to encourage millions of people to oppose vaccinations. She has done more harm to public health than Typhoid Mary. Writing about Ms. McCarthy in a national news magazine without strongly criticizing her uninformed opinions did more harm than good because of the free publicity. I’m certain that Time‘s editors know this, but they care more about increased sales — the truth be damned.

  47. #47 Anthropologist Underground
    February 27, 2010

    RE Kristof: I totally agree with the need for caution when brandishing the word “toxins,” especially in association with vaccines and autism. I was, however, glad to see that a mainstream journalist like Kristof is dismissive of the vaccine-autism link, and looking elsewhere for the origins of autism.

    Maybe I’m totally off-base here, but IMO, stating (as was my take of Kristof) that prenatal exposure to toxic substances may correlate with autism is very different than the anti-vaccine claims that every vaccine component is a “toxin” that directly causes autism. I liked that Kristof simplified it for the lay masses, and I really like the way he off-handedly dismissed the anti-vaccine movement. If he got some of the science wrong, he should definitely be corrected on those points. I do think he’s on the right track to be looking for autism causes that don’t involve vaccination, and I find that refreshing.

  48. #48 Scott
    February 27, 2010

    it would be an admission that EVERYTHING she “knew like a mommy knows” was simply wrong

    She’s already admitted that by dropping the “indigo child” bit in favor of autism. Unfortunately none of the fools who listen to her know about that.

  49. #49 How
    February 27, 2010

    …which combines two alternative medical magical therapies…

    Fixed.

  50. #50 Wayward son
    February 28, 2010

    Orac, an interesting piece from the Globe and Mail about a naturopathic “doctor” who went down to Haiti to “help” the victims after the earthquake.

    The actual reporting is pretty crappy, but the comments for the most part are good and best of all after seeing only 2 patients the lineup just melted away. If only people in my country could see through the BS as well as the people of Haiti can.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/blogs/project-jacmel-blog/natural-healing-sort-of/article1484032/

  51. #51 cliff
    February 28, 2010

    If you are commenting on this blog and you deny the effectiveness of all alternative medicines or therapies in every case I sincerely hope you are all atheists of the Richard Dawkins degree. If not “you’ve got some splaining to do” (in my best Ricky Ricardo impression) and some evidence to show.

  52. #52 Chris
    February 28, 2010

    cliff:

    If you are commenting on this blog and you deny the effectiveness of all alternative medicines

    Huh? All you have to do is show us real evidence. Though do you know what they call alternative medicine that has been shown to work? Medicine.

  53. #53 V. infernalis
    February 28, 2010

    Quote from the Time Jenny McCarthy article:
    “We are sitting around a sushi-laden coffee table in the Sherman Oaks, Calif., headquarters of Generation Rescue, the autism advocacy group she heads.”

    Hmm. You know what’s commonly found in sushi? Mercury. Has anyone informed Jenny of this?

  54. #54 paulmurray
    February 28, 2010

    “Bob” recommends accubeating, aka “proactive phrenology”. As above: so below. Since personality, health, and spiritual wellbeing is reflected in the shape of the skull, you can modify and improve these things by careful altering of that shape and raising bumps on it.

  55. #55 Harry Eagar
    March 1, 2010

    If an article about me in a national magazine had described me as a ‘pseudoscientist,’ would I think I had been ‘fawned over’? I think not.

  56. #56 Christophe Thill
    March 1, 2010

    Never heard about Roger de la Fuye. He’s apparently the author of a treaty about acupuncture, published in 1947 (he died in 1961). He wanted to rid acupuncture of its veil of legends and of its plentiful Chinese vocabulary, finding the literal and medical meaning of some metaphorical expressions along the way. And he was very proud of his family: his uncle was writer Jules Verne.

    Let me translate a quotation that looks very meaningful:

    “The allopath is a Cartesian who only believes what he sees, and whose quantitative therapeutics suffer from this cartesianism. The pure or even “mystical” homeopath believes in the “real presence” of the medicinal Matter in his qualitative high dilutions, just like a devout Catholic believes in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”

    Quality vs. quantity. Cartesianism vs. religion. Homeopathy likened to a “mystical” belief in the presence of something that isn’t really there. Isn’t it interesting ?

  57. #57 Christophe Thill
    March 1, 2010

    Oh, here’s some more, apparently writen by de la Fuye’s daughter:

    He created acupuncture departments in several hospitals in Paris (never heard about this! I wonder if they are still there?).

    He used to read the lines in his patients’ hands, and occasionally used a copper pendulum. And his wife was a tarot reader.

  58. #58 Vicki
    March 1, 2010

    Cliff–

    So you’re admitting that to think these “alternative” therapies work requires religious faith, because it’s unprovable?

    A number of my friends are believers, including Catholic, Jewish, and Lutheran. That doesn’t mean they want their doctor to say “we can’t prove that this will help, you have to have faith.”

  59. #59 Attila
    March 2, 2010

    The “effectiveness” of homeopuncture is based on pure mathematics: 0+0=0 or 0*0=0

  60. #60 James Pannozzi
    March 2, 2010

    Oh dear, POOR ORAC, what’s THIS:??

    Int J Oncol. 2010 Feb;36(2):395-403.
    Cytotoxic effects of ultra-diluted remedies on breast cancer cells.

    Frenkel M, Mishra BM, Sen S, Yang P, Pawlus A, Vence L, Leblanc A,
    Cohen L, Banerji P, Banerji P.

    Integrative Medicine Program-Unit 145, Department of Molecular
    Pathology, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center,
    Houston, TX 77030-4009, USA. frenk…@netvision.net.il

    What can poor sceptic Orac do? Real research, real science and in a real University. You want to call THOSE scientists and Doctors Quacks Orac? Maybe use the “woo” word? What are you going to say, that it’s all pretend? that they’re fooling themselves with the “placebo” effect? that it’s a “hoax”??

    Advice for Orac – Admit right NOW you are wrong and that Homeopathy works, AVOID THE RUSH, later!!

  61. #61 Orac
    March 2, 2010

    Actually, the reason I haven’t addressed this particular study is because Dr. Rachie did a fine job blowing it out of the water:

    http://scepticsbook.com/2010/02/14/a-giant-leap-in-logic-from-a-piece-of-bad-science/

    Dr. Rachie did such a good job that I originally decided to let this one slide. However, Dr. Rachie is not a breast cancer researcher. I am, and enough people like you have been sticking this piece of crap study in my face that I’m seriously tempted to add my two cents. There’s more wrong with this study than just what Dr. Rachie covered.

  62. #62 James Pannozzi
    March 2, 2010

    OK Orac, I’ll read Rachie and see what he says.

    Crap science eh? We’ll see…. we’ll see.

    JP

  63. #63 Scientizzle
    March 2, 2010

    Yeah…that study was cited in an comment last week. I merely skimmed the paper and noted crucial weaknesses.

    The paper is crap. A big steaming pile of it. Rachie’s solid takedown hit my criticisms and more. While I would enjoy a RI deconstruction of this paper, I’d like to see you send your insolence directly to the journal, Orac; there’s been a serious breakdown of peer review if this level of flawed work was accepted, even if it is *only* a third quartile journal…

  64. #64 Andreas Johansson
    March 3, 2010

    If you are commenting on this blog and you deny the effectiveness of all alternative medicines or therapies in every case I sincerely hope you are all atheists of the Richard Dawkins degree.

    I seem to have misplaced my Word Salad-to-English dictionary – anyone help me out?

  65. #65 Calli Arcale
    March 3, 2010

    I’ll have a go:

    “Only atheists dispute alternative medicine, and if you’re not one, then shame on you for challenging my preconceptions!”

    :-P

    (And I like challenging preconceptions! I’m a Christian, and I deny the effectiveness of unproven medicine.)

  66. #66 Unafraid
    August 1, 2010

    Have you ever experienced either homeopathy or acupuncture practised by a knowledgeable practitioner, let alone both of them simultaneously? Granted that you’re a human being, i.e. a primate dressed up in clothes with a 3 pound brain just like the rest of us, who will in all probability be dead in 100 years, a little humility might be in order. The universe doesn’t really yield many of its secrets to science, it’s actually a very strange place indeed. Your need for certainty in an uncertain world and your unfettered arrogance may elicit admiration from those who have to work with you and the lackeys and lickspittles who parade on this site, but they fill me with revulsion and appall me.

  67. #67 Jack
    August 1, 2010

    @66

    Ay yi yi yi, how many times do we have to repeat ourselves? the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”.

    It doesn’t matter whether I or anybody else has “experienced” homeopathy or acupuncture or what we thought of it. All that matters is that the evidence doesn’t support the contention that they have any effect.

  68. #68 T. Bruce McNeely
    August 1, 2010

    …they fill me with revulsion and appall me.

    Surely you have a homeopathic remedy for that?

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