Respectful Insolence

In the wake of President Obama’s election, there was a great deal of hope that he would take science-based medicine seriously and, as he promised in his inaugural speech, “restore science to its rightful place.” Shortly before Obama’s inauguration, in fact, Steve Salzberg proposed that the Obama administration should defund the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

NCCAM, as you may recall, is a center in the National Institutes of Health largely dedicated to funding pseudoscience. True, there is some legitimate research mixed in with the pseudoscience, but it’s completely mixed in with the woo, so much so that it’s all too often hard to distinguish between what is science-based and what is not. Part of the reason for this is that so-called “complementary and alternative” medicine advocates have so thoroughly coopted science-based modalities such as nutrition and exercise that they almost automatically fall under the purview of “alternative medicine” in the eyes of many people and even many researchers. Worse, nutrition and exercise represent the Trojan horse that is used to sneak in the hard core, dangerous woo.

And all of it has found a home in NCCAM.

More than two years have passed, and nothing has happened to affect NCCAM’s funding. Despite being a strong supporter of the move to defund NCCAM, I never really expected that Congress would ever do anything to decrease NCCAM’s funding. The reason is quite simple. The legislator who was the driving force behind the creation of NCCAM, Tom Harkin, was critical to President Obama’s effort to overhall the health insurance system in this country. If he wanted to have any chance of getting a bill passed, President Obama could not afford to alienate Tom Harkin. So he didn’t, and the effort to defund NCCAM, although getting a fair amount of press a year ago, went nowhere. In fact, although NCCAM funding didn’t really increase much, supporters of science-based medicine had to fight a rearguard action to keep various provisions requiring government-supported health insurance exchanges to pay for “alternative” medicine and even Christian Science prayer. The final bill wasn’t too bad, at least from the perspective of science-based medicine, but there are still some reasons for concern.

The issue rested quietly for over a year after it fizzled; that is, until now. The man who originated and spearheaded the effort to get NCCAM defunded is back, and he thinks the time is right for a new push for the following reason:

This past week, President Obama called on all federal agencies to voluntarily propose budget cuts of 5%. Well, Mr. President, you might be surprised to learn that there’s a way for you that cut the National Institutes of Health budget without hurting biomedical research. In fact, it will help.

Here’s my proposal: save over $240 million per year in the NIH budget by cutting all funding for the two centers that fund alternative medicine research–the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM). Both of them exist primarily to promote pseudoscience. For the current year, NCCAM’s budget is $128.8 million, an amount that has rapidly grown from $2 million in 1992, despite the fact that not a single “alternative” therapy supported by NCCAM has proven beneficial to health. OCCAM’s budget was $121 million in 2008 (the latest I could find) and presumably higher in 2010. That’s over $240M, not counting money these programs got from the stimulus package (and yes, they did get some stimulus funding).

Actually, I disagree with Salzberg. No, I don’t disagree that NCCAM and OCCAM should be eliminated, although of the two OCCAM is probably less egregious in its funding of dubious research. What I disagree with is that that funding should go away, particularly given that President Obama has thus far spared the NIH from the budget ax and appears to want to spare it altogether. What I’d propose is to eliminate NCCAM and OCCAM, just as Steve does. After all, neither NCCAM nor OCCAM does any research that couldn’t be done elsewhere in the NIH. Take all the woo, remove its safe and happy home, and make it compete for funding just like everything else in the regular study sections.

In contrast to what Salzberg proposes, I would propose taking the savings from eliminating NCCAM and OCCAM and fold it into the rest of the NIH, rather than taking it as a cut. There’s a fairly good chance that the NIH budget won’t be significantly cut next year, based on my reading, although its budget will likely be flat. Even though NCCAM and OCCAM combined make up less than 1% of the NIH budget, every little bit helps. Of course, where we agree is that, if cuts are inevitable, we’d both want NCAAM and OCCAM to be the first things to be on the chopping block. I’m just more optimistic that cuts to the NIH budget are not inevitable, although I’m under no illusion that there will be any big budget increases.

Steve gives this reason:

These two organizations use our tax dollars – and take money away from real biomedical research – to support some of the most laughable pseudoscience that you can find. To take just one example, NCCAM has spent $3.1 million supporting studies of Reiki, an “energy healing” method. Energy healing is based on the unsupported claim that the human body is surrounded by an energy field, and that Reiki practitioners can manipulate this field to improve someone’s health. Not surprisingly, the $3.1 million has so far failed to produce any evidence that Reiki works. But because there was never any evidence in the first place, we should never have spent precious research dollars looking into it.

Funding reiki is, of course, no different than funding studies of faith healing, because reiki is faith healing that substitutes Eastern mysticism for Christian religious beliefs. Out of curiosity, I decided to look at the RePORT database, which the NIH maintains to list all grants in its portfolio, and search for “reiki.” I wanted to know whether there were still any active, currently funded grants funding reiki from NCCAM. There were two. One was granted to Dr. Joan Fox at The Cleveland Clinic and entitled Effects of reiki on physiological acute consequences of stress. Here is the abstract:

Energy healing therapies such as reiki are becoming popular. reiki is a spiritual practice that involves physical touch and social contact with an empathetic person; unlike many relaxation therapies, reiki requires no participation by the patient. These features make reiki particularly attractive in the hospital setting, where patients are often extremely anxious, depressed, in pain, or sedated. In this setting, stress can be associated with increased pain, cardiovascular reactivity, decreased wound healing, increased susceptibility to infectious disease, increased post-surgical complications, and increased length-of-stay. Although reiki is commonly used in the hospital setting to reduce pain or pre-surgical anxiety, there are few studies demonstrating benefits. Remarkably, no information is available on physiological changes induced during a reiki session. In the absence of such information, it is difficult to make rational predictions concerning situations in which it may be beneficial. Moreover, given the deep state of relaxation often reported by clients, we cannot exclude the possibility that it may have a potential for harm in certain medical situations. Our primary research questions are to determine whether physiological changes are induced during a reiki session and whether a reiki session affects responses to a subsequent acute stressor. Secondary research questions include assessing which benefits result from placebo, empathetic intentions, or unique abilities of “attuned” reiki practitioners and assessing background characteristics associated with acceptance and responsiveness. Based on its use to reduce pain and anxiety, a potential mechanism by which reiki might exert effects is at the level of affecting emotional centers of the brain with resulting decreases in activity of the SNS and other stress pathways. To assess these possibilities, we will perform a randomized, controlled, blinded study with four groups of 80 healthy volunteers. In Specific Aim 1, we will assess changes in physiological markers of sympathetic, parasympathetic, and HPA activation, brain activity, and psychological well-being before and after a 30-min session of reiki, as compared to control groups. In Specific Aim 2, we will assess the ability of reiki to affect psychological, sympathetic, parasympathetic, HPA, immune function, and platelet activation responses to an ensuing 5-min acute laboratory stressor. The use of supine-control, neutral sham, and empathetic sham groups will allow us to gain insights into mechanisms by which reiki effects are mediated. Interactions between baseline characteristics and treatment effects will be assessed. Information obtained from the proposed studies will provide detailed information on physiological pathways affected by reiki. This information is critical if we are to make rational decisions on potential situations in which reiki sessions may provide benefits and those in which there may be the potential for harm. Should reiki decrease stress pathways or reduce physiological responses to stressful situations, it could be a powerful adjunct to traditional medicine and have enormous health and economic impact.

“Supine-control, neutral sham, and empathetic sham groups”? It sounds almost like…science! My best guess is that “supine control” includes people who just lay there; the neutral sham group has someone who doesn’t know any reiki doing the mumbo-jumbo and making the hand motions that reiki masters make; and the “empathetic sham” group receives a nice sympathetic ear. Sadly, the clinical trial associated with this grant is still ongoing.

The second reiki trial currently being funded by NCCAM was granted to the University of Nevada Reno with Dr. Alice Fay Running as the principle investigator. It’s entitled Use of energy biofield therapy for the treatment of cancer and GVHD:

Complementary and alternative therapies are becoming more common in the US for the treatment of a variety of ailments. These include the practices of energy field therapies such as Healing Touch or reiki. However, there is still much controversy if and by which mechanism these therapeutic modalities provide benefit. The mental ability of a being, whether conscious or not, to influence physical parameters especially those linked to stress and inflammatory pathways has become more evident in recent years. Healing Touch therapy is based on the principle that bioenergy channels or fields are blocked in subjects with disease. Clearance or opening of these fields by the Healing Touch practitioner opens these fields resulting in a health promoting state for the subject. However, client acknowledgement of therapy is a prerequisite for treatment. Thus, it is difficult to scientifically assess the contribution of the subject to outcome of the therapy. Through the use of animal models, it is possible to eliminate the variable that clues to the beliefs of the practitioner can be transmitted to the subject. In this proposal, we will test the hypothesis that trained practitioners of Healing Touch can promote beneficial immune responses (anti-tumor) while reducing diseases of immunity (in these experiments we will use Graft versus Host Disease). This hypothesis will be tested in the following specific aims. In the first specific aim, we will determine the limits of Healing Touch to reduce tumor growth and symptoms of graft vs. Host disease in murine models. The effect on immune parameters will also be assessed. We will then determine the amount of treatment that is needed to result in statistically significant differences in outcome. In the second specific aim, we will test the ability of the practitioners vs. trained animal caretakers to make determination of perturbations in health status. This aim will question the ability of the trained Healing Touch practitioners to `sense’ blocked energy fields compared to skilled observation of clinical parameters used to judge animal health. These studies will be used to develop a research and training program for graduate nursing students to learn biomedical and qualitative research techniques, and to develop preliminary data for additional program applications.

That’s right. It’s your tax dollars at work funding a study of therapeutic touch practitioners applying their “skills” to mice with tumors and mice with graft versus host disease. Is that how you want your tax dollars spent? It’s not how I’d want my tax dollars spent, even if the economy were booming and goverment coffers overflowing with tax dollars.

Still, if all NCCAM did was to fund research into “alternative” medicine, I’d have less of a problem with it, its funding of dubious studies notwithstanding. But it’s worse than that. NCCAM funds “education” programs that promote seemingly neutral but in reality skewed information about various “alternative” therapies, as described by Steve Salzberg and Barbara Drescher.

I wish Steve well in his renewed effort to rally support for defunding NCCAM and OCCAM. I’ll be willing to help in any way I can. Unfortunately, now as then I see this as a very uphill battle. I wish it weren’t so, but I doubt this new effort will go any farther than the previous effort. Even so, I don’t advocate giving up. If we want to remove the pseudoscientific blight that is NCCAM from the crown jewel of the biomedical research effort of the United States, the NIH, we have to be in it for the long haul.

Comments

  1. #1 Birger Johansson
    June 18, 2010

    Here is the opposite of woo, found at physorg.com : “Battle of the bugs leaves humans as collateral damage” http://www.physorg.com/news195996047.html
    Instead of bogus “holistic” medicine, this is a bona fide holistic approach that reveals why some commensal organisms turn “bad” -it is due to the rivalry between different bacteria.
    A beautiful example of *Real* science at work. :-)

  2. #2 Jo
    June 18, 2010

    It must drive you crazy that it is so difficult to get research that could really do some good for someone funded, and these jokers are getting NIH $$$ for their research.
    At best, the first study will show that the reiki effect is no different than the effect of spending some time with an empathic other. But does anybody really need to spend millions of dollars to come to that realization?
    And the mouse study? I have one word…BAH?!(Actually that was more of a syllable than a word.)

    Keep fighting the good fight!

  3. #3 David N. Brown
    June 18, 2010

    It seems to me the reiki funding could easily be challenged as state sponsorship of religion.

  4. #4 augustine
    June 18, 2010

    Lot more conventional woo than alternative woo.

    $700 Billion per year wasted by medicine on tests and procedures that doesn’t work.

    http://healthcare-economist.com/2008/11/07/us-spends-700-billion-on-unnecessary-medical-tests/

    “Peter Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office, estimates that 5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product-—$700 billion per year –goes to tests and procedures that do not actually improve health outcomes…The unreasonably high cost of health care in the United States is a deeply entrenched problem that must be attacked at its root.”

  5. #5 cervantes
    June 18, 2010

    Whatever the specific merits of NCCAM, it seems to me there is reason to invest some money in well designed, well conducted trials of popular remedies that are widely sold. Quite a few of them claim to have scientific support based on weak studies, mostly done in Europe. Even if they don’t have the existing evidence base that would normally justify NIH investment, since people are already spending money on them, and possibly foregoing effective treatments in some cases, there is potential social value in putting them to the test.

    That NCCAM is coming up with exclusively negative findings does prove that they aren’t funding fraud or biased studies — those negative results should be helpful to Orac in making his case, in fact. Whether you think it’s worth the money, or the money is being spent on the right priorities, it’s not an entirely stupid thing to do. Make them put up or shut up, right?

  6. #6 isles
    June 18, 2010

    Agree in principle, cervantes, but it doesn’t seem like NCCAM’s years’ worth of negative results have yielded any skepticism about alt-med in the eyes of the public. I’d feel strongly that NCCAM should continue to exist if the findings of the studies it funds were widely publicized so that people could understand there is more and more evidence that non-science-based medicine isn’t worth a hill of beans.

  7. #7 Orac
    June 18, 2010

    The reason NCCAM should be abolished is because there is nothing it does that couldn’t be done better and without the promotion of woo in other institutes and centers of the NIH. I’m not necessarily against studying CAM with some biological plausibility to it–just a modicum, that’s all I ask. If a treatment or idea has science to back it up, then let the investigator interested in it win funding the way every other biomedical scientist does: by submitting a competitive grant to the NIH without the training wheels of an institute predisposed to accept projects of low scientific quality on incredibly implausible ideas like reiki.

    The problem with NCCAM is that it has become the center of promotion of these ideas before the science through its “education” grants for CAM training programs. Basically, NCCAM segregates all the “alternative” medical stuff, including science-based stuff masquerading as “alternative” (exercise, diet, etc.) in a scientific ghetto.

  8. #8 W. Kevin Vicklund
    June 18, 2010

    $700 Billion per year wasted by medicine on tests and procedures that doesn’t work.

    There’s a difference between “unnecessary” and “doesn’t work”

    If I have a flat tire, a radiator flush is unnecessary, whereas setting out milk so the gnomes will patch the tire doesn’t work.

  9. #9 Tire gnomes
    June 18, 2010

    We actually prefer tequila, thank you very much. Maybe that’s why you haven’t had any success?

  10. #10 Robby
    June 18, 2010

    What is additionally unfortunate is that study after study could be produced that proove these alternative therapies are no more than modern day snake oil, and yet they would likely have little impact on their practice. Those that believe in these therapies are often already skewed to distrust scientific findings. Too many people when presented with scientific evidence are willing to simply construct some reason to distrust it because they don’t like what it is telling them.

  11. #11 augustine
    June 18, 2010

    W. Kevin Vicklund: “If I have a flat tire, a radiator flush is unnecessary, whereas setting out milk so the gnomes will patch the tire doesn’t work.”

    Radiator flush $150 dollars.
    milk $4.

    Either way you’re not going anywhere. Now you’re out of 150 bucks. On top of that gnomes don’t exist but radiator flush comes with extras. Please see disclaimer.

    * Warning: Pregnant women, the elderly, and children under 10 should avoid prolonged exposure to Radiator flush.
    * Caution: Radiator flush may suddenly cause car to accelerate to dangerous speeds.
    * Radiator flush contains a liquid core, which, if exposed due to rupture, should not be touched, inhaled, or looked at.
    * Do not use Radiator flush on concrete.
    * Discontinue use of Radiator flush if any of the following occurs:
    o itching
    o vertigo
    o dizziness
    o tingling in extremities
    o loss of balance or coordination
    o slurred speech
    o temporary blindness
    o profuse sweating
    o heart palpitations
    * If Radiator flush begins to smoke, get away immediately. Seek shelter and cover head.
    * Radiator flush may stick to certain types of skin.
    * When not in use, Radiator flush should be returned to its special container and kept under refrigeration. Failure to do so relieves the makers of Radiator flush, Wacky Products Incorporated, and its parent company, Global Chemical Unlimited, of any and all liability.
    * Ingredients of Radiator flush include an unknown glowing green substance which fell to Earth, presumably from outer space.
    * Radiator flush has been shipped to our troops in Saudi Arabia and is being dropped by our warplanes on Iraq.
    * Do not taunt Radiator flush.
    * Radiator flush comes with a lifetime warranty.

  12. #12 phoenixwoman
    June 19, 2010

    Speaking of woo, I had the chance recently to look at the yearly journal of the North American Society of Homeopaths.

    Ai-yi-yi.

    Did you know that in classical homeopathy (which is practiced by 90% of North American homeopaths) the best way to treat venereal disease is with (drum roll, please) mercury?

    I shit thee not: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_g2603/is_0006/ai_2603000696/pg_5/?tag=untagged

    Somebody should tell the anti-vaxers about this. It’d be a great way to wedge the two camps.

  13. #13 Party Cactus
    June 19, 2010

    If cut, instead of putting the money back into NIH, it should be sent to improving science education. Don’t know if it would be better spent there, but you’ve got to appreciate the irony of money being taken from things like homeopathy and reiki and given to teach kids scientific literacy. And besides the money better spent, it’d be great to see the Super Quack Squad blow their gaskets over such an anti-pseudoscience double whammy.

  14. #14 Mojo
    June 19, 2010

    Part of the reason for this is that so-called “complementary and alternative” medicine advocates have so thoroughly coopted science-based modalities such as nutrition and exercise that they almost automatically fall under the purview of “alternative medicine” in the eyes of many people and even many researchers.

    Advocates for CAM often claim (or at least imply) that advice on exercise and diet and other “lifestyle decisions” are actually not part of real medicine. It’s part of the same “big lie” approach as the claims (expressed or implied) that real medicine is not “holistic”, or that the only way to “harness the placebo effect” is via CAM.

    When I go to my doctor, I get all of the above, and I get them in addition to effective treatments. CAM offers them instead of effective treatments.

  15. #15 disgruntledphd
    June 19, 2010

    Sorry to disagree here, but i will say this.

    NCCAM et al has been valuable to me, as a researcher. I’m based in Europe so i havent gotten any money, but some of their research has highlighted important aspects of the placebo effect, which is my area of expertise.

    Now, if these findings lead to a better use of psychosocial factors by biomedical treatments, we could get a large return in health benefits from them. Just saying, is all.

  16. #16 Bruce
    June 19, 2010

    I can’t help but laugh a little in disbelief every time I read one of these sober post that somehow concern reiki. The first time I heard of the term it was when the local news covered a prostitution sting that used massage/reiki as the front. Check out craigslist or backpage, reiki seems to benefit greatly by being offered by a young woman who conducts the session while wearing only her bikini. So an NCCAM study conducted by a Dr. Fox – Ha HA, if only it was spelled FoXXX.

    I wonder, when people hear the word reiki, what comes to mind more often, an ancient healing art, or that more lecherous practice that introduced me to the term?

  17. #17 joHolcombe
    June 19, 2010

    I can’t resist an imaginary creature analogy.
    Presumably you had to take the car to the garage since that’s where radiators are flushed,so the garage probably also fixed the flat tire. Now you’ve spent more money than luring gnomes but you can drive your car again, and who knows, maybe the radiator flush prevented some as of yet undetected problem.
    Luring gnomes can get expensive. Someone will come along advertising gnome summoning kits consisting of very expensive “tequila”. On the off chance the gnomes investigate this, they will become very angry and devote their time to tripping you,hiding you keys, and peeing in your coffee so you develop GAS (gnome allergen syndrome). Also, you may be tempted to drink the milk or tequila yourself and get listeria, heartburn, gas (not GAS) or methanol poisoning. You could even end up attracting raccons, who while they can change a flat, will only do so if allowed to eat one of your toes.

  18. #18 Anna
    June 19, 2010

    I have had several lovers of woo tell me that the mere fact that the NCCAM exists proves that woo works. After all, if it doesn’t work, why do they fund research into it?

  19. #19 Richard Graves
    June 19, 2010

    Look, I may not want our tax money to go to Christian Science or other faith based programs, but the blatant dismissal of nutrition and exercise as being perfectly acceptable to cut is making me sick.

    We have a lot of radiation therapy, chemo, and advanced cyberknife research going on in US hospitals. What don’t we have? Basic goddamn nutrition to keep people alive. When my father had cancer, the nutritional side of his treatment was so lacking and pathetic that it made me scream in frustration. While he was undergoing chemo and radiation, they wanted us to feed him ensure every day for months through a tube. That was the best they had to offer. He lost weight and weight is the most important indicator of health after a certain point.

    A little more money on nutrition and health research is really overdue, even if it won’t make hospitals money like million dollar machines will.

    So, cut the dismissal of nutrition already – you guys are making me sick.
    -Richard

  20. #20 trevmar
    June 19, 2010

    NCCAM is not alone in promoting sub-optimal therapeutic concepts. I am on the NHLBI mailing list. NHLBI had a budget of 2 billion, last I heard, and I just get flooded with newsletters from NHLBI about “Wear Red for Heart Disease” and other similar efforts to make the public think they are actually doing something positive for the health of this nation…

  21. #21 Orac
    June 19, 2010

    Look, I may not want our tax money to go to Christian Science or other
    faith based programs, but the blatant dismissal of nutrition and
    exercise as being perfectly acceptable to cut is making me sick.

    Nice big straw man argument ya got there, dude. You’re a newbie here, aren’t you?

    No one’s “dismissing” nutrition. What we’re dismissing is the coopting of nutrition by woo-peddlers who make overblown claims for it (such as the claim that it can cure cancer–a claim for which there is no good evidence, although there is good evidence that diet can help prevent cancer) and conflate pumping people full of unproven supplements with “nutrition.” Nutrition is a science-based endeavor. Nutrition in CAM is, for the most part, not. Get the two straight.

  22. #22 Skeptico
    June 19, 2010

    I’m surprised no one has commented on the irony of a woo cancer organization calling itself “Occam.” If ever “Occam” (the other meaning) were needed it would be in the evaluation of woo.

  23. #23 db
    June 19, 2010

    Given hard science’s awesome track record at curing cancer with minimal side effects (not), anything and everything should be studied. Chemo and radiation are “optimal”? They’re barbaric. But they’re what we understand.

    People have been using the placebo effect for ages, call it faith healing or whatever. Now that it’s been labeled and studied by scientists (but still not fully understood) it’s suddenly legitimate, “real” science? What arrogance.

    You can use something to your advantage without fully understanding it, we do it every day. And you can study it to help you make better use of it, whether it’s massage or berries or aspirin. The line between real science and “crazy claims” is a shifting one, and it’s drawn where the research happens.

  24. #24 raven
    June 19, 2010

    Given hard science’s awesome track record at curing cancer with minimal side effects (not), anything and everything should be studied. Chemo and radiation are “optimal”? They’re barbaric. But they’re what we understand.

    As opposed to the nonscientific track record of curing cancer? Which is about zero.

    A century ago, the average US life span was 47. Today it is 77. Hard science has given us an average of 30 extra years. Most people are glad for the additional three decades.

    Contrary to what a few kooks who haunt the internet claim, most people appreciate modern science. The big problem in medicine isn’t people rejecting it. It is the fact that demand and ability to pay for state of the art medicine has outstripped the supply.

  25. #25 augustine
    June 19, 2010

    Raven: “A century ago, the average US life span was 47. Today it is 77. Hard science has given us an average of 30 extra years. Most people are glad for the additional three decades.”

    Hard medical science? Not hardly? You must be kidding. Do you even know what the hard sciences are?

  26. #26 augustine
    June 19, 2010

    An 80 year old has about 7.9 years of life expectancy today.
    In 1900 an 80 year old male had about 5.11 avg. life expectancy.

    It must be the 13 prescription avg. that 80 year olds take today to give them the 2.8 extra years. All that hard science.

    A 45 year old in 1900 had on avg. 24.14 years of life expectancy. 2003 he has 32.8 years of life expectancy on avg.

    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr54/nvsr54_14.pdf

    Raven, you’d be surprised what drinking unclean water, poor nutrition, outhouses, living in closed quarters, etc., can do to one’s lifespan.

  27. #27 Chance Gearheart, NREMT-P/EMD
    June 19, 2010

    @23, DB

    “You can use something to your advantage without fully understanding it, we do it every day. And you can study it to help you make better use of it, whether it’s massage or berries or aspirin. The line between real science and “crazy claims” is a shifting one, and it’s drawn where the research happens.”

    That’s the thing: We do understand what Alternative Healthcare scammers are pushing – atleast we understand the scientific and underlying physiological mechanisms behind it. And that’s the thing, many of the things that are purposed by these practicioners: Reiki, Faith/Psychic Healing, Nutrition Cures “X” disease (Not counting diseases that actually ARE caused by nutritional defecits, such as BeriBeri/Werneke’s/Rickettes/etc), homeopathy works by doing X, Your the cause of your disease by negative thoughts, etc violate the laws of the known universe, and have never held up to scientific scrutany – instead causing despriate patients to waste time, hope, and expecially money on false cures and hope – and further erode the scientific education of America. People believe that Stackers will make them thin, or taking vitamins will make them live forever – or that food is better when “Juiced”, aside from some cases taste – with no actual foundation in science or true nutritional studies. Vaccines some how cause mercury toxicity and autism, without following the known prodrome of acute or chronic mercury toxicity. Their explanations make no sense on things – or they delve into the immesurable and religious, such as Faith or Chi.

    While science doesn’t pretend to or claim to have all the answers, neither do shills who have fallen into the dark side of “Alternative Medicine”.

    “People have been using the placebo effect for ages, call it faith healing or whatever. Now that it’s been labeled and studied by scientists (but still not fully understood) it’s suddenly legitimate, “real” science? What arrogance. ”

    Yes. The Placebo effect has been observable for some time. To fully explain it would take literally typing a textbook on stress response. However, it’s just that – a baseline – and most alternative medicine is worse, if not useless, compared to the placebo effect. Even those “Alternative” therapies that have been vindicated, such as massage, have identifiable physiological mechanisms that work.

    Explain that using homeopathy, or antivaccination rhetoric.

  28. #28 canukistani
    June 19, 2010

    I was told the life span thing is because we evolved…

    Every MD I have ever seen has asked aboot diet, exercise, lifestyle etc. I was recently in a placebo controlled RCT for Big Pharma and I was not a number (to paraphrase #6, the original 1) nor was I kept ill, although the course made me quite so. I’m glad for Ensure as it helped me keep my weight up and collect my nutrients.

    “And you can study it to help you make better use of it…”

    What we understand, is that study may also show there is no better way to make better use of it because it is as useless as earthworms for phlegmmy throats. A practice which predates homeopathy by quite some time, yet I don’t see many (un)naturopaths offering it

  29. #29 phoenixwoman
    June 19, 2010

    I’m still in shock over my encounter with the NASH journals. The whole homeopathy business is worse than I thought — much, much MUCH worse.

    From what I’ve read in the NASH journals, going back to the mid-1990s, their editors (all classical homeopaths) apparently hold the opinion that around 90% of everything worthwhile in medicine began and ended with Hahnemann’s Organon and its aphorisms. They may go for the occasional modern-sciencey-sounding thing, but really they don’t seem to want to admit that anything worth calling medicine exists outside of the aphorisms, or whatever a few of Hahnemann’s 19th-century followers practiced.

    Instead of peer review, they have “provings”. Instead of viruses, bacteria, genetic disorders and the like, they have “miasms”. Oh, and all allopaths are indoctrinated into a giant scam (which is complex and evil) to suppress real medicine (which is simple and understandable without any sort of degree). And 19th-century allopaths who forsook allopathy for homeopathy are paraded about as proof that allopathy is evil.

    I just kept shaking my head.

  30. #30 raven
    June 20, 2010

    augustine the crackpot:

    An 80 year old has about 7.9 years of life expectancy today.
    In 1900 an 80 year old male had about 5.11 avg. life expectancy.

    It must be the 13 prescription avg. that 80 year olds take today to give them the 2.8 extra years. All that hard science.

    Is that a strawperson I see or just a pile of straw and a crackpot?

    I said average life span. You gave data for maximum life span which is irrelevant to the point. Because the point is blindingly, obviously true. All you crackpots have are lies.

    For the average person, the average life span is what is important. To live past 80, one has to first make it to 80.

    The major advances since 1900 are the Germ Theory of Disease being implimented (clean water and food), antibiotics, and vaccines. All products of hard science including such things as water and sewage treatment plants.

    A lot of the mortality prevention has been in younger age groups. So what? Children are people too.

  31. #31 Militant Agnostic
    June 20, 2010

    augustine the crackpot:

    An 80 year old has about 7.9 years of life expectancy today.
    In 1900 an 80 year old male had about 5.11 avg. life expectancy.

    It must be the 13 prescription avg. that 80 year olds take today to give them the 2.8 extra years. All that hard science.

    Which is a 55% increase in life expectancy for an 80 year old – nothing to sneeze at. Not to mention the greater proportion of the population that makes it to 80 years old.

  32. #32 Techskeptic
    June 20, 2010

    Augustine,

    “Raven, you’d be surprised what drinking unclean water, poor nutrition, outhouses, living in closed quarters, etc., can do to one’s lifespan.”

    Leaving aside your other silly strawman, even the point you are trying here to make favors the side of science.

    The reason we started employing water treatment and regulation, washing hands before eating and surgery (and after the bathroom), and understanding what nutrition even is, is solely due to the last 200 years of scientific advancement. The same process working on the medical aspects of our longevity.

  33. #33 augustine
    June 20, 2010

    Raven:
    “I said average life span. You gave data for maximum life span which is irrelevant to the point. Because the point is blindingly, obviously true. All you crackpots have are lies.”

    No I didn’t. The chart given is for avg. life expectancy. It just so happens to also give more detail to the context by providing avg. life expectancy for different age groups across the century. Totally relevant and not as misleading as the vague reference you gave.

    Raven: “All you crackpots have are lies.”

    What lies. Apparently some so called science people don’t like data.

    Raven: “For the average person, the average life span is what is important.”

    No it’s not. That’s a statement of mediocrity. That’s personal for you.

    Raven: “To live past 80, one has to first make it to 80.”

    The avg life expectancy was lower because many children died very early from poor living conditions. Vaccines do not change poor living conditions and poor nutrition.

    Raven: “The major advances since 1900 are the Germ Theory of Disease being implimented (clean water and food), antibiotics, and vaccines. ”

    The ideas of clean water and food is not a scientific product. It is recorded way back in history before the modern scientific age.

    Antibiotics? Name the scientific first principle that Fleming was working from when he discovered penicillin and then describe how any other antibiotic would have been discovered without using this first principle. I’ll save you some time. It was luck or divine intervention. The science was applied after that.

    “All products of hard science including such things as water and sewage treatment plants.”

    Maybe you’re an admirer of the scientific process and amazing discoveries but not a scientist yourself. You’re confusing pure science (hard sciences) with applied science.

  34. #34 augustine
    June 20, 2010

    Techo: “The reason we started employing water treatment and regulation, washing hands before eating and surgery (and after the bathroom), and understanding what nutrition even is, is solely due to the last 200 years of scientific advancement.”

    Yeh, we all know how modern scientific doctors totally embraced Ignaz Semmelweis and his preposterous hand washing.

    “A doctor is a gentlemen and a gentlemen does not cause disease.”

  35. #35 Phoenix Woman
    June 20, 2010

    Augustine, the whole reason sanitation came into vogue was because of scientific advances that linked it to prevention of disease.

    It was the scientists, not your woo buddies, who figured out that sterilizing anything that might touch a patient before, during or immediately after surgery was a good idea; when that happened, surgeons went from doing mostly dentistry and amputations to being able to muck about extensively with other parts of the body. The development of effective anesthesia (again, by scientists) around that same time led to surgery coming into its own as a treatment of disease.

  36. #36 raven
    June 21, 2010

    augustine the idiot:

    No I didn’t. The chart given is for avg. life expectancy. It just so happens to also give more detail to the context by providing avg. life expectancy for different age groups across the century. Totally relevant and not as misleading as the vague reference you gave.

    google capture:

    Life expectancy in the USA, 1900-98
    Life expectancy in the USA, 1900-98. men and women. Year. M. F. 1900. 46.3. 48.3. 1901. 47.6. 50.6. 1902. 49.8. 53.4. 1903. 49.1. 52.0. 1904. 46.2. 49.1 …
    http://www.demog.berkeley.edu/~andrew/1918/figure2.html – Cached – Similar

    As I said and redocument here, the average US lifespan in 1900 was 47, now 77. Modern science has given us 30 more years.

    Augustine isn’t very bright and a kook as well. It isn’t worth wasting any more time on this one.

  37. #37 Chance Gearheart, NREMT-P/EMD
    June 21, 2010

    @ 36, RE: Augie.

    Raven, Augustine is a very prolific and recent troll that tends to lurk here on the blog. He often tries to expose the “hive mind” that praises the “flawless” scientific community on this blog and is closed to any other possibilities. He’s also tried to paint everyone here as athiests, anti-religious, and has even made fun of and glorified the death of one poster’s child at the hands of a vaccine-preventable disease in previous thread. His most common post is a semantic and pseudo-academic attempt to correct what he percieves to be someone else’s logical fallacy while simultaneously commiting many of his own, or attempting to lampshade another poster with rediculous attempts at sarcasm and wit. That’s if he’s not attempting to be a grammar scholar and correct everyone else.

    Basically he made a wrong turn at google and ended up here instead of at 4chan.

    There’s a reason most people on here don’t even bother addressing his posts anymore – and it has nothing to do with him being right to any extent. And why his posts have to go through moderation.

  38. #38 Davis
    June 21, 2010

    I love this medically advanced country.
    The USA…I’m proud to have been born here and I take pride in the research and hard work that scientists do. I respect sound science in the name of helping the human race.
    I’m confused though—Infant Mortality Rate—-why are we ranked 44th in the world??
    Something doesn’t add up.
    Now, I’m not an anti-vaxxer, or whatever the hell those people are called, however, I do believe we should listen to all opinions—study their facts (if any) and work hard to figure out what the hell is going on. I’m not talking autism or anything like that—I’m talking dead babies.
    I believe in science and I fully understand that there’s going to be collateral damage when developing medicines/vaccines/etc…—–but as I’m working from the bottom of this list:

    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2091rank.html

    starting from Monaco….all the way to number 180,
    I find an odd coincidence—or maybe something beyond coincidence—
    Get this—-> the Childhood Vaccination Schedules are milder for the countries with the lower infant mortality rate.
    Do the research. Maybe it’s just coincidence.
    Czech Republic, yep better than us, Norway, yes, Finland, oh yes, France??, yes even France, Bulgaria, Croatia, South Korea, Germany, Singapore, Italy, Greece, United Kingdom, Portugal, Slovenia, Israel, Cuba, etc…I think you get my point.
    But what about the countries that are worse than us—that also have a milder schedule?
    Great question.
    Ghana, India, Iraq, Cameroon, Rwanda, Pakistan, Sudan, Liberia, the mother fucking Congo…etc.
    Damn, that’s some hard livin’ baby!
    What do you make of it? A combination of shitty living conditions and lack of access to great hospitals/medicine. Maybe.
    This isn’t Botswana where AIDS eats babies for lunch…this is the United States of America. We are the fucking powerhouse. Right?
    Why the hell is the USA sandwiched between Croatia and Cuba?!?!
    Am I trying too hard to connect dots that aren’t there?
    Please, I’ve pulled an all-nighter writing my crappy novel about a gangbanger who turns his life around—it’s almost 6am here—someone shed some light on this.
    What am I missing here? This has nothing to do with anything, right?
    I mean—if I was to travel to the jungles—I would get the vaccination for Malaria and other crazy shit that could wipe me out—but the flu?? I don’t know man.
    I never get the flu shot and I haven’t had the flu in like 11 years.
    Maybe I’m lucky.
    My friends get the damn shot and they always get the flu.
    I don’t know what to believe.
    It’s all too weird and surreal.
    Can’t we harness the nanotechnology that’s readily available and create tiny robots that can fix/repair cells that are being damaged by the invaders?
    Is that close to happening?
    Good night all.
    Peace!

  39. #39 Chris
    June 21, 2010

    Davis:

    I’m confused though—Infant Mortality Rate—-why are we ranked 44th in the world??
    Something doesn’t add up.

    It is as simple as a difference of what is considered a live birth according to Bernadine Healy.

  40. #40 Richard Graves
    June 21, 2010

    Orac,

    I am not trying to make a strawman argument about nutrition. I am simply saying the flippant way people are taking about how the cost of cutting all of this research that isn’t up to scientific standard, would be also cutting legitimate research into nutrition. I have a friend who works on nutrition with AIDS patient in Africa and what she found is the patients she was working with have eight times the survival rate with good nutrition. Yes, they need drugs. But before they were fed nutritious food, they were still dying.

    What concerns me and this is something I have seen in tech and science circles is such a hostile attitude to this stuff, that you are describing as ‘woo’, that even the research you deem as acceptable, you are willing to see cut to get rid of the research you see as unacceptable. I think reforming the centers to focus on what they should be researching might make more sense then axing them completely.

  41. #41 Just Sayin'
    June 21, 2010

    Did you know that in classical homeopathy (which is practiced by 90% of North American homeopaths) the best way to treat venereal disease is with (drum roll, please) mercury?

    If you take enough mercury, you’ll never have to worry about contracting any STDs. There is that minor side effect called….oh, what is it again?…oh, right DEATH. But that’s just a minor detail.

    Studies have shown that arsenic, strychnine, and lead have the same effect in sufficient quantities.

    See, homeopathy is good for something after all.

  42. #42 AnthonyK
    June 21, 2010

    I would get the vaccination for Malaria

    Alas, no – not available. Though you can be sure that when it does get invented, the anti-vax crowd will disavow it and claim that any reduction in malaria is down to cleaner mosquitoes, or something.

    Talking of whiny, irritating pests, I see that Augie’s still here, analoquating as always. One of his problems, apart from the arrogance of ignorance, is that he just doesn’t understand figures or statistics, and so is completely unable to see why scientists reach the conclusion they do on…well, on anything really.

    And to think, he could have learned so much from this site.

    (Incidentally, I don’t think you can make make any simple comparisons between vaccination schedules and infant mortality – too many confounding variables: I would say, though that the phrase “the Childhood Vaccination Schedules are milder for the countries with the lower infant mortality rate” is most unlikely to be true)

    In better news, the drive to eradicate polio is back on track as the religious morons who refused it back in 2002 are now, apparently, coming round to the idea that children shouldn’t suffer horrible diseases, which at least puts them one step ahead of the augies and bensmysons of the world…

  43. #43 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 21, 2010

    I am simply saying the flippant way people are taking about how the cost of cutting all of this research that isn’t up to scientific standard, would be also cutting legitimate research into nutrition.

    It would? Please give us an example.
    Nutrition is a well-established science with a large body of legitimate research. It would not be affected by the closure of the NCCAM.

  44. #44 Poogles
    June 21, 2010

    “Can’t we harness the nanotechnology that’s readily available and create tiny robots that can fix/repair cells that are being damaged by the invaders?
    Is that close to happening?”

    In a word: no.

    AFAIK, scientists are still at the point of constructing very basic “motors” on a nano scale – there is much much much more to be done and investigated before the possibility of having little nano-bots to repair cellular damage (assuming, of course, that we’re able to do it at all).

  45. #45 jen
    June 21, 2010

    My friend with MS is now in a wheelchair. She just got back from New York after having had a doppler and 3 MRV’s. She has a “high grade stenosis” on her right jugular vein. The MS society will have nothing to do with helping this and she will either get it done in her home city (Toronto) by showing them her test results but mentioning nothing about the MS, OR go all the fucking way to India to have the liberation procedure re. her CCVSI. Interestingly, she has always noted to her doctor and neurologist that she has a funny sensation in her head when she bends over. Pharma looks pretty god-damned evil when it is obvious they do not want to lose all their dollars in MS treatments (meds) if, for many people, a surgery would fix it. One doctor in Canada is using his own money to treat and study the effects of this procdedure. I am sure people like yourselves will be hoping for him to get “Wakefielded.” Honestly, how do you live with yourselves??? Even vaccination doesn’t live up to “evidence-based” standards.

  46. #46 Todd W.
    June 21, 2010

    @jen

    I am sure people like yourselves will be hoping for him to get “Wakefielded.”

    If the doctor is conducting unethical research, then yes. If he is doing the research in a responsible manner, then no. Now, whether or not he behaves ethically, the quality of the research and resulting data is an entirely different question. Furthermore one must consider how he will react if his results come up negative. Will he accept the results and move on to a different question? Will he lie or twist the data to meet his expectations?

    Nice way to make assumptions about us, though, jen. Nothing but blind disdain, if not outright hatred, for us, eh?

  47. #47 Mu
    June 21, 2010

    Off to full speed that early in the day Jen? Where is the indication that the MS-stenosis theory is “wakefielded? Actually, Wakefield’s theories were heavily investigated, so the best that can happen to a theory is wakefielding, that is, throwing the best science has to offer at it and see if it works. And the jump to vaccinations seem to be a non-sequitur even by you loose standards of logical thought.

  48. #48 augustine
    June 21, 2010

    Davis: I’m confused though—Infant Mortality Rate—-why are we ranked 44th in the world??
    Something doesn’t add up.

    Chris: “It is as simple as a difference of what is considered a live birth according to Bernadine Healy.”
    ————————————————————–
    A lot of the CDC and WHO numbers don’t add up. It’s what happens when scientists, researchers, and beaurocrats compete for money and power.

  49. #49 augustine
    June 21, 2010

    AnthonyK :”In better news, the drive to eradicate polio is back on track as the religious morons who refused it back in 2002 are now, apparently, coming round to the idea that children shouldn’t suffer horrible diseases, which at least puts them one step ahead of the augies and bensmysons of the world… ”

    Microbe eradication ideology mixed in with a little strawman. You’re assuming that one who doesn’t vaccinate must be for suffering. The logic field is small in this one.

    AnthonyK…not a scientist.

  50. #50 augustine
    June 21, 2010

    Raven: “As opposed to the nonscientific track record of curing cancer? Which is about zero.”

    Zero? How about spontaneous remission?

    How about explaining how chemotherapy kills every single cancer cell and that’s how cancer is “cured” (aside from the doses that also kills the patient). It doesn’t.

    Raven…not a scientist.

  51. #51 Composer99
    June 21, 2010

    augustine, you’ve made it very clear that you know almost nothing about science, history, philosophy, political science, or indeed almost any subject on which you have attempted to opine on this blog.

    So what exactly are you doing, imagining that you can tell who is a scientist and who isn’t? You can’t tell your arse from your elbows if almost everything else you’ve written is any guide.

  52. #52 AnthonyK
    June 21, 2010

    No, not a scientist (though I do have a chemistry degree, it gives me no expertise at all in this field – but then, unlike you, moron, I’m not disagreeing with those who do) but isn’t it typical that you don’t applaud the possible eradication of polio from the world?
    And at least I know that chemotherapy works (when it does) by killing the faster-muliplying cancerous cells “preferentially” as it were. making you ill, yes, but hopefully killing the tumour(s) in the process. Or perhaps someone who knows about this sort of thing – not you, idiot – can correct me.
    Your ignorance is breathtaking. Your lack of compassion for suffering human beings is astounding; and your complete faith in your own warped, nasty, intellectually corrupt project in posting here at all is beneath contempt.
    You are, truly, a waste of carbon atoms.

  53. #53 augustine
    June 21, 2010

    Composer: “augustine, you’ve made it very clear that you know almost nothing about science”

    But I know who is a scientist and who isn’t.

    AnthonyK: “No, not a scientist (though I do have a chemistry degree”

  54. #54 OurSally
    June 23, 2010

    @jen. I have MS too and I am not going to let Zamboni’s followers do surgery on my head until they have done some proper research and field tests, been published in the serious papers and so on. You can get the surgery done in Poland and in Stanford and a few other places, you don’t have to go to India. Though Indian clinics are also very fine and quite cheap if you are paying for it yourself.

    If you want to know more go to thisisms.com.

    MS is plagued by bogus therapies. Every year a new one. This may be the one that works, so keep watching, but don’t let them cut holes in your friend’s head till the research is finished.

    Big Pharma works for me and for many others, I would be in a wheelchair without it.

  55. #55 Caro
    June 24, 2010

    Other significant reason for better maternal and neonatal health: Socialised healthcare.

    I recognise several of those countries right at the bottom as countries with decent public healthcare, but I googled the top countries with “healthcare” to make sure, and those I didn’t know about mostly turned out to be countries with public healthcare, too. Except for Czechia (complicated-looking system with employers funding), Germany (which has mandatory health fund/insurance stuff), and Switzerland (ditto, but with public health insurance). Not sure about Hong Kong or Slovenia. That makes at most five countries (at least three) out of the twenty-five at the top countries without a state-funded public healthcare system.

    I don’t think that’s coincidental.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.