Respectful Insolence

I’m envious of Steve Novella.

No, the reason isn’t his vastly greater influence in the skeptical community than mine, his podcast The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, or the fact that he gets called a lot more for commentary when something involving quackery versus science-based medicine comes up. He’s earned that, having been at this a lot longer than me and under his own name. No, what irritates me is that he somehow manages to get homeopaths to make videos like this trashing him:

Homeopathy: The persecuted Jew of modern Nazi fascist medicine“? Isn’t “Nazi fascist” a bit redundant? Maybe not; I guess you could argue that Nazi-ism is just one variety of fascism. Be that as it may, I had considered siccing the a certain undead F├╝hrer on John Benneth, but decided that his rant was too incoherent even to be the product of a brain chomping by the Hitler Zombie. Even the Hitler Zombie, being of course a zombie, leaves a few milligrams of gray matter left after one of his feasts, but Benneth’s incoherent tirade doesn’t show signs of even a single functioning neuron behind it.

Steve’s made a response that takes down Benneth’s idiocy, of course. Couple that with the fact that I was out late last night for a local area surgical society meeting, and I don’t feel particularly obligated to do 5,000 words of full Orac on the hapless Benneth in the fashion my readers have come to know and either love (or hate), other than to point out that the various studies that Benneth makes so much of, the ones supposedly showing activity of homeopathic remedies on plants, animals, and inanimate objects and that he calls the “nuclear option” (hilariously asserting that Steve has “just been nuked”), have been discussed many times on this blog, on Steve’s blog, and on Science-based Medicine. Indeed, I’ve even posted a particularly tasty bit of not-so-Respectful Insolence (if I do say so myself) regarding a particularly idiotic other video by Benneth in which he attributes the “activity” of homeopathic remedies to nanocrystalloids while clearly not having clue one what he’s talking about, and I don’t even get a shout out! After all, Steve’s a lot less insolent than I am! He’s always a class act and rarely gets down and dirty with quacks like Benneth, the way Orac does on a routine basis. Yet I don’t get quacks saying things like this about me:

He knows, not only is his medicine ineffective for a host of neurological conditions, it is murderous. It is mass murder. It’s genocide. It’s the American Holocaust.

While it’s true that I’ve had anti-vaccine loons like J.B. Handley or Ginger Taylor, creationists like DaveScot, or “health freedom” loons like Patrick “Tim Bolen” (who went so far as to refer to me as “Orac the Nipple Ripper) write amusingly off-base attacks on me, I’ve never had anyone go so far as to shoot a video full of lies and misinformation about me. I’m feeling neglected.

Damn you, Steve!

I wonder if I should tone it down. Maybe that would get Benneth to give me my very own video too.

Comments

  1. #1 Scott
    March 19, 2010

    He talks about plant studies. I can’t find any actual mention anywhere on his blog of such, but I would wager that they weren’t placebo-controlled. In other words, some of the plants were watered, some weren’t, the ones that were did better, and this was attributed to the water being magic as opposed to the simple fact that plants need water…

  2. #2 wfjag
    March 19, 2010

    Silly scientists. No wonder Dr. Novella fails with his detailed, logical explanations supported by references and facts. In homeopathy, “like cures like.” Accordingly, when dealing with a homeopath, you must use ignorance to cure ignorance.

  3. #3 Ian
    March 19, 2010

    @wfjag

    But only a tiny amount. And you have to shake the ignorant person vigorously each time they say something.

    Come to think of it… that might work. At the very least it would relieve some frustration.

  4. #4 Vilding
    March 19, 2010

    @Scott
    I wouldn’t be too suprised if the plant studies were placebo-contolled, but just lacked proper blinding. That is, the researcers knew which plants they were supposed to see the improvement on.

  5. #5 Pareidolius
    March 19, 2010

    What the . . . wow. That’s one angry, sad, beaten little man.

    I know that level of snotty, Godwinesque outrage, I used to hurl that kind of shit back when I was a magical thinker. The outrage fueled by fear, fear of the knowledge that mean ol’ science was correct and that there were no magical nanocrystals, or auras, or (insert quackery here) that would save me from . . . well just save me.

    His discomfort with the way the world actually is drips off the screen and whatever drama is being played out with his ailing mother will no doubt be the third rail for anyone questioning his critical-thinking skills.

    I’ve watched my father go from a large, force-of-nature type guy to a lost, frail child. I’m glad that that occurred long after I had abandoned magical-thinking, because it was the acceptance of reality that made it bearable. Had I been tilting at Big Teflon, or Big Aluminum or whatever else is supposed to cause Alzheimers, it would have been agony compounded.

    I’m sorry anyone has to go through that hell, but taking it out on imaginary evildoers may feel like battle on the inside, but from the outside it just looks pathetic.

  6. #6 colmcq
    March 19, 2010

    enough for a pretty strong libel case….

  7. #7 SouthernFriedSkeptic
    March 19, 2010

    For some reason in my head this tension between Orac and Steve reminds me of Sheldon Cooper vs. Wil Wheaton.

  8. #8 Jojo
    March 19, 2010

    I know that his comments about his feeble attempts to cure his mother and how his medicines will “hopefully” work were intended to be sarcastic and dramatic; however the way he said those particular lines came across to me that he does believe they are feeble and that they won’t work. So on one level the screed seems like an attack on Steve, but on a deeper level it comes across as a man who is angry not only at doctors that can’t help his mother but at himself for not being able to help his mother.

    On either level, it’s really sad and somewhat scary.

  9. #9 Pliny-the-in-Between
    March 19, 2010

    I believe fascism originated in Italy so it’s not entirely redundant to speak of Nazi Fascists…

  10. #10 D. C. Sessions
    March 19, 2010

    But only a tiny amount. And you have to shake the ignorant person vigorously each time they say something.

    Isn’t the traditional method a matter of Biblical percussion? Seems like a few whacks to the ol’ melon with a large-print edition (illuminated, of course) of Holy Writ would be effective.

  11. #11 Otto
    March 19, 2010

    “For this reason, I have taken under my protection the XII International Congress of Homeopathy in Berlin, to express the interest of the National Socialist State in all modes of therapies that are useful to the people’s health.”–Rudolph Hess

    Apparently, it’s just the modern stuff that’s a problem. The *old-fashioned* Nazi fascist medicine is cool.

  12. #12 Alareth
    March 19, 2010

    Well, he cited “Renowned Physicist” Rustum Roy.

    How can one argue with that?

  13. #13 Todd W.
    March 19, 2010

    Benneth’s emoting makes Shatner and Montalban look downright Shakespearean.

  14. #14 Ian
    March 19, 2010

    @D.C. Sessions #10

    Seems like a few whacks to the ol’ melon with a large-print edition (illuminated, of course) of Holy Writ would be effective.

    How about just a grade 10 science textbook? Plenty heavy, easier to clean than leather, and they’ll have something to read while waiting for the homeopathic pain-killers to kick in.

  15. #15 Pablo
    March 19, 2010

    Well, he cited “Renowned Physicist” Rustum Roy.

    How can one argue with that?

    Aside from confusing chemistry and physics, I ALMOST can buy that. For example, I have known of Rustom Roy for almost 20 years now – since my early days in grad school.

    Admittedly, I knew him then as “that nutter who writes stupid letters to C&E News with whacko ideas,” but I think there’s some “renown” to that.

  16. #16 ChrisKid
    March 19, 2010

    I’m sure it’s a respected institution, and I kind of hate to say this, but I have to admit that I laughed out loud when he cited studies done at the University of Bologna. To my American mind, that’s the perfect place to study homeopathy.

  17. #17 Pablo
    March 19, 2010

    Does the University of Bologna have a first name?

  18. #18 Andreas Johansson
    March 19, 2010

    Even the Hitler Zombie, being of course a zombie, leaves a few milligrams of gray matter left after one of his feasts, but Benneth’s incoherent tirade doesn’t show signs of even a single functioning neuron behind it.

    I disagree. Being dumber than a rock must require some modicum of brainpower, or rocks would be that dumb.

  19. #19 Chris2
    March 19, 2010

    I’m really curious to know whether or not this guy is drunk. I really hope he is…

  20. #20 DLC
    March 19, 2010

    Wow.
    Just . . . Wow. That’s some thermonuclear stupid.

  21. #21 VikingMoose
    March 19, 2010

    awesome comments. bacon-wrapped awesome. winner.

    16 fantastic
    17 brilliant
    18 loved it
    19 as someone who is drunk (or should be, anyways), agreed!
    20 with proper citation, I’d like to use that one :)

  22. #22 Zeno
    March 19, 2010

    What an arrogant moron.

    What is it with AltMed pushers that means they have absolutely zero self-awareness?

  23. #23 Science Mom
    March 19, 2010

    Chris2@19 If there is any question of that, take a look at this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDxQ272yPvs

  24. #24 Sastra
    March 19, 2010

    Of course Benneth went after Steve Novella instead of you; did you miss the part where he insists that Steve would make a good underwear model, so he should go do that instead? Little metal boxes of blinking lights don’t wear underwear. There’s less incentive to go after you.

  25. #25 Old Rockin' Dave
    March 19, 2010

    I didn’t get past the first sentence of the video. As a Jew who was robbed of some of his family by the Holocaust, it is simply infuriating to the point of nausea to have attacks on the pure bullshit of homeopathy compared to the worst acts of the greatest criminal conspiracy that history has ever seen.
    As a former physician assistant who practiced medicine for and with some of the greatest physicians alive in the world today it is doubly offensive.
    As a rule, I have found that people who make such disgustingly inappropriate comparisons to the Nazis and the Holocaust have little knowledge of either and are likely to be anti-Semitic as well.
    It may be intemperate of me to say it, but I’d like a baseball bat and five minutes alone with this sicko. I’d give him a tiny taste of what the real Holocaust was about.

  26. #26 pv
    March 19, 2010

    Can I have a go with the baseball bat when you’ve finished, on behalf of my atheist/Jewish father… ?

  27. #27 STrimmer
    March 19, 2010

    Wow is right. I would imagine that someone would want to bring there A-game when they argue with Steve Novella but it seems that they always go on personal tirades. I don’t know what this guys point was other then belligerent non-justified attacks against Steve. Parts a especially enjoyed were one, when he called on Yale to break ties with Steve, and two, when he called the New England Skeptics Society a “circle jerk”. HA!

  28. #28 storkdok
    March 19, 2010

    Of course homeopathy works…on botanicals! They need water, don’t they! They’ll respond quite well to wa…er…homeopathy in his “botanical trials”. They’re cheap and require no “ethical approval”. It stimulates the growth of wheat! Of course it works! It’s the “nuclear option”!

    So now Dr. Novella is committing malpractice and deflecting detection away from it by turning people away from homeopathy? Of course! Why didn’t Orac think of that? More doctors need to use this strategy! Brilliant!

    Orac, I’m waiting for the pics of you in your tighty whities…I’m sure it will be memorable!

  29. #29 Danimal
    March 20, 2010

    “Orac the Nipple Ripper”? Damn, man — not only would that make an awesome name for a rock band, but it’s just a plain great handle! If I were you, I’d grab oracthenippleripper.com before the domain squatters get to it!

  30. #30 Militant Agnostic
    March 20, 2010

    I was out late last night for a local area surgical society meeting

    Surgical society meeting my back behind! You were at an all night poker game with that Pal MD fellow and those good for nothing Novella brothers where you lost your Big Pharma Shill Blog Minion disbursement advance. Again. Now we won’t get our checks just like last month.

    You had better hope the overlords don’t get wind of this. They might ask you to return the Ford GT or revoke your shape shifting privileges.

  31. #31 daijiyobu
    March 20, 2010

    At least he doesn’t have a Glen Beck chalk board.

    Maybe because that would be using a homeopathic remedy, ‘calc carb’ as a writing instrument?

    And maybe that would be quite a waste of an important homeo. mother compound.

    -r.c.

  32. #32 ambulocetacean
    March 20, 2010

    Jebus, the Glenn Beck crazy really does seem to be contagious. It’s like the rage virus from 28 Days Later has got into the water supply or something.

    And why is it that the good guys never sue? Simon Singh is so tied up by the chiropractors that he can’t even write his Guardian column any more. Steve Novella should sue this angry clown for every penny he’s made out of selling plain water as medicine.

    But if you can judge a man by the quality of his enemies (as well as his blogging and podcasting), Steve must be a fine fellow. First the anti-vaxers with that picture of him about to dine on a roast baby, and now this.

  33. #33 Petri
    March 20, 2010

    So in these studies, they watered plants and were astounded by the results that they flourished? I think I did this experiment in 4th grade. He’s right, no special skills or equipment required.

  34. #34 Otto
    March 20, 2010

    Even though the aspect ratio somehow got even worse, I think overall viewability may be improved: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8imJm0xFeA

    Pinewood Derby prototype, or some such.

  35. #35 Stacy
    March 20, 2010

    Nothing suprises me with these people.

    I’m currently being called all kinds of names in a thread on the community forums at eHow because I’ve dared imply that homeopathy is nonsense. Worse that vaccines don’t make much profit and that measles and whooping cough suck.

    Sigh.

  36. #36 Becky
    March 21, 2010

    So,do I understand this correctly? Homeopathy cures plants of Alzheimer’s dementia?

  37. #37 Miss Grace
    March 21, 2010

    That guy needs to dilute his booze a bit more. Is there a memory of water in his whisky?

  38. #38 Denice Walter
    March 21, 2010

    @ Miss Grace: but you see, he believes in homeopathy: he only drinks it straight, thinking that diluting it would make it *much* too strong.

  39. #39 Bastion Of Sass
    March 21, 2010

    OT slightly.

    I asked these questions of the commenters with medical backgrounds at Pharyngula, and while I got some answers, most were just opinions of non-experts like myself, and none definitively answered my questions, so I’m repeating them here:

    One of my more gullible friends has been having problems with fatigue for a long while, and her MD has been unable to find the source of the problem or to help her. So she’s now turned to a homeopath who told her her problem was “yeasty blood”, gave her some kind of substance to take (don’t know if it’s traditional homeopathic water or something else), and told her to avoid eating anything with yeast in it.

    I know that homeopathy is nonsense. And on top of that–yeast in food can somehow infect the blood stream?? Even though I have no medical background, my skeptic alarms starting beeping immediately, so I googled “yeast AND blood,” and all I seem to pull up are woo sites. Also went to google scholar and pubmed but can’t find anything. So my suspicions about this diagnosis are growing.

    Am I just not searching under the right medical terms, or is this “yeasty blood” diagnosis, or just utter quackery?

    Someone on Pharyngula mentioned that there are fungal infections of the blood, but if my friend had one of those, she’d be much sicker than she is.

    I don’t think my friend would necessarily be receptive to my telling her that her homeopath is a quackawoo; however, I did want to blog a bit about this, but don’t know enough about medicine other than to say “I’m highly suspicious of the diagnosis.” Plus, I’d like to know my instinct to think “this diagnosis is crap” is right.

    Is there better place I can look for info or ask my question? Has anyone come across a web site or blog where a homeopathic diagnosis of “yeast in the blood” or something similar has been discussed and shown to be nonsense?

  40. #40 Chris
    March 21, 2010

    Yes, the yeasty blood bit is pure quackery. For a better place to get answers try http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/ and http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/.

  41. #41 shawmutt
    March 21, 2010

    This videoblog cowboy broke my irony meter.

  42. #42 Fuck You Nazi Chemists
    March 21, 2010

    I have the perfect homeopathic preventative measure for Esophageal and Stomach Cancer: Break a window, cover the broken glass in Uranium, then, take one atom from an antioncogen, one from Pepto Bismol, and another from a drug that helps treat esophageal problems. Mix these into a 100 gallon drum of water, and drink the entire thing. Anyone who is a supporter of homeopathy should do this, because cancer is very unpleasant, and I see no reason why, under Homeopathic guidlines, that would not be an appropriate drug.

  43. #43 jenbphillips
    March 21, 2010

    Bastion of Sass,
    Sorry, I’m not a doctor either, but you might find something useful at Quackwatch. Here’s one article on the dubious ‘candida sensitivity’ diagnosis:
    http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/candida.html

    And here’s the index of all articles that come up when you search ‘yeast':
    http://www.quackwatch.org/search/webglimpse.cgi?ID=1&query=yeast

    Wally Sampson on SBM wrote a pretty good article last year debunking ‘Functional Medicine’ which includes some brief mention of yeast-woo. I’ve used up my link allotment, but if you plug ‘Candidiasis’ into the SBM search engine it’s the third article that comes up.

  44. #44 Christophe Thill
    March 22, 2010

    #16: well, the University of Bologna actually is a very respected institution. And it’s the oldest university in the Western world.

    (But of course, nobody’s perfect)

  45. #45 Holytape
    March 23, 2010

    I call for a new rule.

    If a group claims to be persecuted like a Jew in Nazi Europe, and they are not actively being rounded up and slaughtered, then they should automatically be rounded-up and slaughtered to make the metaphor true.

  46. #46 Andrew
    March 24, 2010

    Scott (#1): There are links in the video description on Youtube, but I don’t have access to the papers.

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