It’s good to be home.
True, while I was away for five days, first to NECSS and then to the AACR Meeting, mail piled up, and I had to go through it last night. Also, just for the heck of it, my wife and I went out to dinner at a local diner. Finally, to complete the unwinding process, last night I sat on my posterior and watched a couple of shows that I had missed during my absence, while lazily searching the web for material to get me back into the blogging thing. Yes, I know I spent a fair amount of verbiage yesterday taking down a mountain of burning stupid by everybody’s favorite science-, reason-, and logic-challenged homeopath Dana Ullman, but one post alone isn’t enough to get me back into the groove after an absence of several days. I need more. Fortunately, there’s one other woo-meister who has been a frequent target–I mean topic–of this blog. Yes, I’m referring to the one man who comes closest to capturing the crazy vibe of the One True Site of All Woo on the Internet, Whale.to. I’m referring, not surprisingly, to that promoter of all medical woo, that man who never saw a form of quackery he didn’t like or a pharmaceutical drug he did like, Mike Adams of NaturalNews.com, who has produced yet another screed so brain dead, so full of logical fallacies, so chock full of straw men that I wonder if he does it intentionally in order to provide fodder for skeptic blogs.
Naaahh. Adams just isn’t smart enough or knowledgeable enough. It’s all him, and he’s sincere. His brain also apparently consists of two neurons connected by a spirochete, and he just got a massive dose of penicillin. (Think about it a minute; you’ll understand what I mean.) Just look at his latest attack on scientific medicine if you don’t believe me. It’s entitled The 10 biggest health care lies in America, and it’s one of the biggest unintentional gigglefests I’ve seen in a long, long time. He starts with an introduction to set the scene:
Mainstream health care isn’t based on “health” or “caring.” It’s actually based on an ingrained system of medical mythology that’s practiced — and defended — by those who profit from the continuation of sickness and disease. This system of medical mythology might also simply be called “lies”, and today I’m sharing with NaturalNews readers the top ten lies that are still followed and promoted under mainstream health care in America today.
Whenever you hear Mike Adams accuse anyone of lies, you know it’s a massive case of projection. This case is no different. What Adams accuses science-based medicine of are lies, but the only lies here are his. In fact, his world view is based on nothing more than mythology, the mythology that “natural” means better, that magical thinking can cure disease, and that vaccines are evil incarnate. So let’s march through Mike Adams’ ten lies, realizing that the lies there are not the lies of scientific medicine but those of Mike Adams:
Lie #1) Vaccines make you healthy
This is a massive straw man argument. No one says that vaccines make you healthy. They are, however, very effective at preventing infectious disease. While it’s true that remaining free of infectious disease is a very good thing indeed, it is not enough in and of itself to be free of infectious disease to be healthy, yet that is the position that Adams tries to pin on advocates of science-based medicine. He even claims that vitamin D is more effective than the H1N1 vaccine at preventing the flu. Not surprisingly, he does so with no evidence. The article that he cites as evidence of his claim in turn also contains no evidence to support his claim. Such is Adam’s methodology.
Lie #2) Pharmaceuticals prevent disease
The big push by Big Pharma is now focused on treating healthy people with drugs as if pharmaceuticals were nutrients that could somehow prevent disease. This is the new push with cholesterol drugs: Give ‘em to everyone, whether they have high cholesterol or not!
But pharmaceuticals don’t prevent disease, and medications are not vitamins. Your body has no biological need for any pharmaceuticals at all. People who believe they need pharmaceuticals have simply been the victims of “fabricated consent” engineered by Big Pharma’s clever advertising and P.R. spin.
This is, of course, simply false. Vaccines prevent disease. Cholesterol-reducing drugs decrease the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Controlling blood pressure with antihypertensive drugs decreases the risk of stroke and heart attack In women at high risk for breast cancer, Tamoxifen can reduce that risk by 50%. While it can be argued that pharmaceutical companies are overly eager to sell “preventative” drugs for an ever-expanding list of indications, many of these drugs actually do work. The questions around them tend to revolve mainly around cost and whether there are side effects that make the benefits not worth the cost.
As for the bit about the body not requiring pharmaceuticals, that is yet another massive straw man. No one says that the body does require these drugs. They are not food, and no one claims that they are food. Indeed, comparing them to food is disingenuous. Even so, many of these drugs have helped prolong life and prevent complications of disease.
Here’s one of the funniest ones:
Lie #3) Doctors are experts in health
Doctors don’t even study health; they study disease. Modern doctors are taught virtually nothing about nutrition, wellness or disease prevention. Expecting a doctor to guide you on health issues is sort of like expecting your accountant to pilot a jet airliner — it’s simply not something he or she has ever been trained in.
That’s not to say doctors aren’t intelligent people. Most of them have high Iqs. But even a genius can’t teach you something they know nothing about.
If a genius can’t teach you something they know nothing about, what can a moron like Mike Adams teach you about what he knows nothing about? Is his stupid a multiplier of ignorance? Inquiring minds want to know!
In any case, it’s bullshit, plain and simple, that doctors are not taught about nutrition or disease prevention. We are. The difference is that physicians are taught about nutrition and disease prevention based on science and evidence, not based on fairy dust, fantasy, and nonsense, which are the basis underlying Adams’s world view, which brings us to:
Lie #4) You have no role in your own healing
That is a lie, but not in the way that Adams thinks. It’s a lie to claim that modern medicine says you have no role in your health. In fact, it’s such a ridiculous, transparent lie that I call it a lie. As idiotic as Adams is, even I don’t think he’s idiotic enough to actually believe this one. This one too:
Lie #5) Disease is a matter of bad luck or bad genes
Western medicine wants you to believe in the mythology of spontaneous disease — disease that strikes without cause. This is equivalent to saying that disease is some sort of voodoo black magic and that patients have no way to prevent disease through their own diets or lifestyle choices.
It’s funny, actually: Western medicine claims to be driven by scientific, rational thinking, and yet the entire industry still fails to acknowledge that chronic disease always has a cause and that most of the time, that cause has everything to do with nutritional deficiencies, exposure to toxic chemicals and a lack of exercise.
Disease is almost never a matter of bad luck or bad genes.
Actually, disease is quite often a matter of bad luck and/or bad genes. It can be bad luck to be exposed to pathogenic bacteria or viruses. It can be bad luck that one of your cells acuqired just the right set of mutations to result in cancer. It could be bad genes, such as having cancer-causing mutations in BRCA1, some mutations of which result in an 80% or greater chance of developing breast cancer within a woman’s lifetime. In fact, having such a bad gene is purely bad luck because you can’t control who your parents are. Take a disease like Huntington’s chorea, the gene for which is an autosomal dominant. If one of your parents has it, you have a 50% chance of developing the disease. It’s nothing but bad luck to be born to a parent with the gene.
In reality, Adams is giving voice to one of the most persistent myths of the “alt-med” movement, namely that you can always prevent disease, that disease is never due to bad luck, that it is always due to your choices. It is the myth of total control. If you eat the right diet, take the right supplements, consume the right vitamins, do the right exercises, in the eyes of Adams and people like him you become virtually immune to any disease. You become magically immune to cancer. Even infectious disease can’t affect you. Because you’re among the righteous, and disease is a punishment for not living an upright and “healthy” life. Adams’ view has far more in common with religion than it does with science, and his view of disease echoes, more closely than anything else, the view of ancient races or medieval priests that disease is a punishment from the gods or from God, except in this case it’s nature’s punishment.
Lie #6) Screening equals prevention
Western medicine doesn’t believe in disease prevention. Rather, the industry believes in screening while calling it prevention. But screening isn’t prevention by even the wildest stretch of the imagination. In fact, virtually all the popular screening methodologies actually promote diseases.
This is one where there’s a grain of truth to it that Adams has stretched beyond all reality. Screening is viewed as a form of prevention, the idea being to detect disease at an earlier stage, when it is either easier to treat or when intervention may prevent the sequelae of a condition. It is also true that screening is a complicated issue with tradeoffs and the necessity to evaluate risks versus benefits. Some screening tests detect disease that would never develop to the point of threatening the patient’s life, which is known as overdiagnosis. The issue came to the fore when the USPSTF issued new guidelines for mammographic screening for cancer. Practitioners of science-based medicine are aware of the complexities and tradeoffs of screening an asymptomatic population for disease, any disease. It is Mike Adams who seems to view screenign as an all-or-nothing affair, and to him it’s all bad.
On to the next one:
Lie #7) Health insurance will keep you healthy
Again, this is a massive straw man. No one says this. Having insurance doesn’t keep you healthy. However, it does allow you to access the health care system when you become ill, and it does allow you to access preventative care that you might not be able to afford for yourself, such as colonoscopies after age 50. Also, don’t forget that there is a fair amount of evidence that people without health insurance suffer poorer outcomes due to a variety of diseases because they delay seeking care. By the time they do, their conditions are more advanced and more difficult to treat.
Lie #8) Hospitals are places of health and healing
Again, this is mostly a straw man. Hospitals are places for the treatment of acute diseases. These days, we try very hard to keep patients out of hospitals and to minimize their time in the hospital. I will admit, though, that I’m amazed that Adams was willing to admit that hospitals are actually quite good at saving lives after trauma.
Lie #9 cracked me up:
Lie #9) Conventional medicine is “advanced” state-of-the-art medicine
Even though doctors and health authorities try to pass off western medicine as being “advanced” or “modern,” the whole system is actually pathetically outdated and stuck in the germ theory of disease. Western medicine has yet to even acknowledge the role of nutrition in preventing disease — something that has been scientifically documented for at least the last several decades. Western medicine fails to acknowledge mind-body medicine and hilariously believes the mind plays virtually no role in healing.
Neither does western medicine acknowledge the bio energy field of living systems, nor that organ transplants carry memories, nor that living food is qualitatively different from dead food. Seriously: Conventional doctors still believe that dead food is exactly the same as living food! (And the USDA food pyramid still makes no distinction between the two…)
Adams accuses modern medicine of being “stuck in the germ theory of disease” as though that were a bad thing! It’s also utter nonsense that “Western” medicine doesn’t acknowledge the role of nutrition in preventing disease. Is Adams on crack? What Adams doesn’t like is that there is no evidence to support the magical, mystical properties attributed to food by Adams and his ilk.
Perhaps the reason that “Western” medicine doesn’t acknowledge that living food is qualitatively different from “dead” food is because there is no evidence it is, at least not in the way that Adams thinks, with “living energy” in “living” plants that somehow makes them healthier to eat. Perhaps the reason “Western” medicine doesn’t acknowledge that organ transplants carry memories is because there is no evidence that they do. Perhaps the reason that “Western” medicine doesn’t acknowledge the existence of qi is because there is no good evidence that it exists or that magically manipulating it the way that reiki practitioners or acupuncturists say can heal disease.
But what do I know? After all, I don’t want to know the truth, and I don’t want cures. Just ask Mike Adams:
Lie #10) More research is needed to find “cures”
This lie is especially hilarious because western medicine does not believe in any “cure” for any disease. They aren’t even looking for cures! This lie has been repeated since the 1960’s, when cancer scientists claimed they were only a few years away from curing cancer. Today, four decades later, can you think of a single major disease that western medicine has cured? There aren’t any.
Uh, I can think of major diseases that Western medicine has cured. There are a whole bunch of infectious diseases, for instance, that antibiotics can cure. There are several varieties of cancer that are curable with a high degree of probability. In my own field of surgery, I can point out several diseases that are completely curable with surgery, including appendicitis, cholecystitis, bowel obstructions, hernias, and broken bones. Adams is just plain wrong. Whatever “Western” medicine’s faults–and there are many–it is not so useless and pathetic that it can’t cure a single disease. it may not do so well with chronic diseases at times, but it sure as hell can cure a lot of acute diseases, and it can manage quite a few chronic diseases quite well. Adams claims that the “cures” exist in the form of naturopathic medicines, herbal remedies, and nutrition, but he attributes far more power to these modalities than evidence supports. Besides, there’s no such thing as “Western” medicine or “alternative” medicine. There’s medicine that has been proven scientifically to work, medicine that hasn’t, and medicine that has been proven not to work. When an “alternative” medical treatment is proven to work, it become simply medicine.
Not that that stops Adams from spraying burning stupid hither and yon over his readers like napalm, or perhaps the way Marines used to aim their flamethrowers into Japanese pillboxes on Guadalcanal back in 1943 in order to incinerate the defenders. Only in this case, it’s Adams sticking the nozzle of his flamethrower of burning stupid into your ear and incinerating your brain. It’s about the only thing he’s good at besides lying.