Respectful Insolence

i-e7a12c3d2598161273c9ed31d61fe694-ClassicInsolence.jpgLast night, seeking to expand the name of Orac rather than his waistline, I did a skeptical meetup with a local skeptics’ group to discuss the topic of quackademic medicine. A fine time was had by all (at least as far as I can tell). What that means, unfortunately, is that I got back too late last night to have time to prepare a helping of new insolence that you all crave. (And you know you do crave it so.) Fortunately, the archives are here and chock full of excellent woo to republish from time to time, perfect for this situation, and I’m taking advantage of them now. The installation from Your Friday Dose of Woo that I’m about to repost dates back almost three years. If you haven’t been reading at least since early 2008, it’s new to you, and if you have been reading that long, thanks and I hope you enjoy seeing this gem again. If not, well, nobody’s perfect, not even Orac. I know, I know, it’s hard to believe, but it is true nonetheless. I’ll be back with new material soon.

i-52064cad4ebe1ba6698d34c4dc6ecd63-hope.jpg

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about woo in the more than a year and a half that I’ve been doing this regular Friday feature, it’s that there’s definitely a religious element to virtually all woo. In essence, it requires believing in something that cannot be demonstrated scientifically, often despite science outright refuting it. For example, there have been several “victims” (I mean subjects) for this Friday feature that have been explicitly fundamentalist Christian in nature1, 2, 3, 4, even a parody of such beliefs. Of course, if you’re a New Age-type woo, you wouldn’t call it “religious,” at least not in the same way that Christians, Jews, Muslims, or other mainstream religions are religious. Instead, they’d call it “spiritual,” which is how we end up with concepts like the “global orgasm,” “sacred science,” and “spiritual sound healing.” Heck, the ultimate in woo, namely homeopathy, can best be described as a quasireligious belief system, in which water has remarkable power to “remember” the essence of whatever it has been “succussed” with in what can only be described as a magical or religious ritual that homeopaths do to “potentize” their remedies. Although I’ve seen a lot of Christian woo and New Age-type woo, though, there are types of religious woo that I have never encountered. And this week’s target (I mean subject) appeared in a place that I would never have expected, namely the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a group dedicated to translating and documenting media reports from various Middle Eastern countries to show what is really bing

Are you ready for some serious Koranic water woo? Sure you are.

This woo comes in the form of a translated transcript of a television show that aired on DubaiTV on December 13, 2007. It begins with an Iraqi journalist named Akran Al-Hashemi, who apparently survived an assassination attempt. He began his story thusly:

Akran Al-Hashemi, Iraqi journalist: “I survived an assassination attempt in Iraq. I was hit by bullets – more than 70 bullets. I used oils, lotions, and all sorts of medicine, but unfortunately, nothing helped. I happened to meet Hajja [Samiya], and she said: ‘I can heal you. I will recite Koranic verses over olive oil for you – the Al-Fatiha chapter, the Al-Kursi verse, and the Al-Ma’wiztein.’ From the very first night, I felt a difference, and after one week I started walking normally.”

Now, I know what you’re saying. Did he fire five woos or six? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement of the last week, with the Paulbots and antivaxers showing up I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful woo destroyer in the world, and would blow this woo clean up, you’ve got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

Sorry. I don’t know what came over me. Too many Clint Eastwood movies, I guess. In any case, you might be thinking, “What’s so special about this woo?” After all, it just sounds like your standard-issue religious miracle healing testimonial common to many religions. Nothing special there. So Hajja blessed the oil and it supposedly healed Akran? Stories like this are a dime a dozen and not a fitting topic for Your Friday Dose of Woo.

Patience, O Skeptical Ones. Have I ever let you down before? Wait, don’t answer that.

Listen to Egyptian Islamic scholar Zaghloul Al-Naggar explain:

Egyptian Islamic scholar Zaghloul Al-Naggar: “We have recently realized the value of the use of amulets. It has been scientifically proven that water is affected by what is recited over it. Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto has had a unique experience. He said that he had read in a book that each snowflake falling from the sky is unique. He said that his scientific instincts told him that this was not true. The geometric shape of the snowflake is determined by its chemical composition. The composition of water is well known – two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. So how come snowflakes that fall from the sky are different from one another? He said: ‘I was determined to prove that this theory was false.’ He built a laboratory, consisting of a deep freezer with a regulator, because no liquid subjected to sudden freezing can assume a geometric shape. The freezing must be slow, so the atoms have the chance to crystallize into the shape decreed by Allah.”

Zamzam Water Is Not Affected by Witchcraft or Jinns.

Yes, it’s that Masaru Emoto! All I can say is: Koran + Emoto = Woo! Yes, it’s the same Dr. Emoto who claims that speaking over water with “intent” will impart that intent into the water, with, or so he claims, therapeutic effects. In any case, if speaking or singing with “intent” over water is so powerful, just imagine how much more power one cold impart into water with prayer! Of course, the Catholics thought of that one long ago. Heck, Catholic holy water even burns vampires. It’s potent stuff, as any horror movie aficianado knows. So how potent is the Islamic version? Apparently Dr. Emoto sought to find out, as Al-Naggar continues:

There was a deep freezer with a regulator, a cold room at a temperature of -7°C, and several microscopes equipped with cameras, so he could photograph the snowflake before it melted. The scientists working in this room wore warm clothing. He said: ‘I took samples [of water] from two faucets in the laboratory, I froze them, and each sample gave me a different snowflake. The samples came from two different wells, two different rivers, two different lakes. I almost went crazy and thought it was witchcraft.’

“A Saudi student at the University of Tokyo happened to meet him, and asked him what was wrong. Masaru told him his problem. The student said to him: ‘We have blessed water, called Zamzam water. I will give you a sample of this water so you can experiment on it. The Zamzam water is not affected by witchcraft or jinns, so using it can prove or disprove the whole theory.’

“Emoto took a sample of Zamzam water, and said: ‘I couldn’t crystallize it, even by diluting the water by 1,000.’ In other words, he turned one cubic centimeter into one liter.

[...]

“He said that when he diluted the water by 1,000 and froze it, he got a uniquely-shaped crystal. Two crystals were formed, one on top of the other, but they assumed a unique form. When he asked his Muslim colleague why there were two crystals, he told him it was because ‘Zamzam’ is made up of two words: ‘Zam’ and ‘Zam.’”

Couldn’t “crystallize” it? Is Emoto saying that the Zamzam water won’t freeze at the same temperature that water normally freezes at? Did he actually check the chemical composition of the water? After all, adding a bit of alcohol could decrease the freezing point. It’s something for Dr. Emoto to think about. I could be wrong, but I humbly suggest that perhaps the Zamzam water that he tested was really Bambam water.

Or it could just be a lot of salt in the water.

Of course, this idea naturally lead Al-Naggar to wonder: “If A Glass of Water is Affected By the Koran, Wouldn’t the Human Body Be Affected?”

Here’s where we find out that Zamzam water is even better than homeopathy. After all, there’s none of that difficult and annoying succussion or that pain-in-the-rear task of serial dilutions. All there is is prayer over the water, and it does amazing things, as Al-Naggar explains:

“Emoto said: ‘My Muslim colleague offered to recite Koranic verses over the water. He brought a tape recorder and played some Koranic verses, and we got the most perfectly shaped crystals. Then he played the 99 names of Allah. Each name produced a uniquely-shaped crystal. Then he began cursing the water. We said: Water, you are impure. You are not suited for consumption. The water, in this case, did not freeze, or produced an extremely ugly crystal.’ When they uttered bad words like ‘war’ or ‘fighting,’ the water did not freeze, or else produced an ugly shape. When the man completed these experiments, which lasted 15 years, he published a five-volume book called Messages from Water. He wrote: ‘I have proven that water, that peculiar liquid, is capable of thinking, fathoming, feeling, becoming excited, and expressing itself.’ Okay, the human body is composed mainly of water. If a glass of water is affected by the Koran, wouldn’t the human body be affected?”

I’m convinced. How about you? Of course, the real question is how this Koranic holy water imbued with the “intent” of the Muslim praying over it affects the human body. Is it better at quenching your thirst than Satanic water? Does it heal you of every ill? Does it give you wings like Red Bull? Inquiring minds want to know!

Before we can find this out, we have to know that an engineer named Sharif Shukran invented a device that contains water. He records Koranic verses in it, and the voice turns into electromagnetic waves that pass through the water, giving it healing powers. I have to ask right here how the “intent” of the person praying is put in the water if that person is not there Shukran is apparently just using an MP3 player or similar playback device to run a current through the water rather than through speakers, but perhaps I’m overthinking this. After all, as Sharif Shukran says:

Sharif Shukran: “I was trying to deal with a problem that has not been discussed so far – Satan uses humans to record negative thoughts in water.

[...]

“For 14 centuries, we’ve known for certain that Koran verses are recorded in water, but we never imagined that everything that is said is recorded in water. I found out that one of the methods employed by Satan is to make human beings think certain thoughts, while cooking, for example. When a human being is near any type of liquid, he might pass his negative thoughts on to the water.

So watch out around swimming pools. Your negative thoughts may cause someone to drown. But I digress. Let Shukran continue:

“When a mother cooks… I’ve asked many mothers what they think about when they are cooking, and they said they were thinking about problems. Without realizing it, they insert all the problems into the food.

[...]

“What does this device do? It supplies enough water to offset the water in the body that carries negative words. A person cannot go every day to someone who would read the Koran over him, nor can he recite it himself all day long.”

I’ll admit that this is a problem. Imagine how many problems it would cause if everyone had to have someone following them around reciting Koranic verses over him or her all day. And who would recite the Koranic verses over the reciters? Or are they protected by their own recitations? What languages does water understand? Do the prayers have to be in the original Arabic, or would a translation of the Koran work? After all, According to Dr. Emoto, apparently “intent” is more important than language, but my understanding is that, to Muslims, the only true Koran is the Koran in the original Arabic.

I know, I know, I’ll stop.

I lied.

I can’t stop. I can’t stop mainly because I think I have found an early candidate for the absolute best woo-quote of 2008:

If a Person Replaces Most of the Water in His Body With Koranic Water, His Body Begins to Emit Steam Which Contains the Koran.

Because there’s nothing more powerful than millions of steaming Muslims emitting the Koran. I imagine they could convert the world to Islam. Against such awesome might, even Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, or P.Z. Myers might struggle in vain to remain atheists. Expect mass conversions to Islam soon, if this report is true.

But wait! Just when you thought that millions of steaming Muslims emitting the Koran aren’t powerful enough, it turns out that Zamzam water has an even more useful property to Muslim men:

A couple on the verge of divorce began using the water. The wife used to complain all the time. After a month and a half, she stopped entirely. Things that she used to make a fuss over seemed simple all of the sudden. I asked myself how this could be, and I realized something – or at least, this makes sense to me. If a person replaces most of the water in his body with Koranic water, his body begins to emit steam which contains the Koran. This creates a halo of steam around him, containing the Koran, which fends off Satan.

That’s right. The Koranic holy water fends off Satan. That’s to be expected, though. What holy water worth its salt, be it Christian or Koranic, can’t fend off Satan? After all, isn’t that a minimum expectation of holy water of any kind? No, fending off Satan isn’t enough. The water makes uppity women who complain too much become docile. Sadly, to some that’s a far more useful property than merely curing disease and fending off Satan.

Lest you think, though, that the whole holy water thing is limited to just Catholics and Muslims, I just learned that Madonna is spending $10,000 a month to supply herself and her family with Kabbalah Water. Of course, it’s “scientific” too:

Just as it did at the first moment of Creation, the growth of every living organism should follow this blueprint. All the metabolic and regulatory processes of life require information — and because of its unique crystalline structure and fractal design, Kabbalah water is an excellent information transmitter. Positive, health-giving information is defined by symmetry and high energy, while low energy and entropy — like static in TV or radio reception — characterize muddled information. Therefore, the condition of the water we take into our bodies determines the quality of the information being transmitted to our immune system, digestive system, circulatory system, and even to every atom of our bodies.

The scientific findings regarding Kabbalah Water are fascinating and important. But the essence and foundation of Kabbalah Water is the consciousness of sharing which infuses it. Once, all the waters of the world were imbued with this consciousness. The Kabbalistic blessings and meditations that are used to create Kabbalah Water, for example, bring about elegant and balanced crystalline structures in water, while negative consciousness has an opposite effect. This is hugely important. In a very literal way, Kabbalah Water is life’s original blueprint information brought into the modern world.

Shades of Masuru Emoto! It makes me pine for the straightforward honesty of the Catholic Church when it comes to holy water. It doesn’t make any claims for “intent” or “consciousness.” It just says that the water is blessed by God through the bishop who blesses it. In any case, I guess it’s a good thing that Emoto apparently shows no inclination one way or the other to favor one religion over another. To him, it’s all good.

Good woo, that is.

Comments

  1. #1 augustine
    November 12, 2010

    [If there's one thing I've learned about woo in the more than a year and a half that I've been doing this regular Friday feature, it's that there's definitely a religious element to virtually all woo.]

    When SBMers worship scientism then everything that is outside of empirical realm is considered woo.

    This loyalty to scientism is why there are atheistic undertoness to the SBM version of science.

  2. #2 Jojo
    November 12, 2010

    Bawhahaha! Zamzam water creates two crystals because its made up of two words? Come on people, you’ve got to work a little harder than that. I mean really, Koranic steam force fields? How does that keep Satan away? Is he afraid that his hair will frizz or something?

    My favorite part was

    The water makes uppity women who complain too much become docile.

    Yeah, good luck with that. May I suggest that a nice bottle of red wine might have better results?

  3. #3 Composer99
    November 12, 2010

    Having spiritual/religious/animist sentiment regarding water is, I imagine, perfectly natural for humans given its importance in maintaining human life.

    That this sentiment would lead to downright bizarre claims about healing properties of water – especially when combined with a ceremony such as the Catholic bishop’s blessing, the recitation of Koranic verses, or the homeopath’s succussion – is also quite understandable.

    However, now that we know what we do about the chemical nature of water and its uses in physiology, we can marvel at the unique importance of H2O and its astounding properties without ascribing to it magical healing powers that are, suffice to say, unlikely to stand up to rigorous testing.

    Not to say that the religiously-minded cannot or should not continue to use water for symbolic purposes (e.g. baptism in Christianity), but I think that the symbolic level is where the ascription of special properties to water should end.

  4. #4 sng
    November 12, 2010

    One would think that if you started emitting steam that would be a Very Bad Thing Indeed.

  5. #5 Birger Johansson
    November 12, 2010

    “”I was trying to deal with a problem that has not been discussed so far – Satan uses humans to record negative thoughts in water.
    [...]

    “For 14 centuries, we’ve known for certain that Koran verses are recorded in water, but we never imagined that everything that is said is recorded in water. I found out that one of the methods employed by Satan is to make human beings think certain thoughts, while cooking, for example. When a human being is near any type of liquid, he might pass his negative thoughts on to the water.”

    I should rip off this idea, and market it to Xian fundamentalists. The book deals alone would make me a millionaire.
    When the scientologs try to follow suit, saying the evil spirits trapped in volcanoes use water to teleport evil thoughts I will sue their asses, getting even richer!

  6. #6 Sastra
    November 12, 2010

    Because there’s nothing more powerful than millions of steaming Muslims emitting the Koran. I imagine they could convert the world to Islam. Against such awesome might, even Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, or P.Z. Myers might struggle in vain to remain atheists.

    Uh oh. Orac seems to have inadvertently entered into the “what would/should prove God to PZ Myers” debate.

  7. #7 JohnV
    November 12, 2010

    Given the dates Orac cites in his post, it appears that this guy may have copied Dethklok (“Dethvengeance”, aired October 7, 2007). Well probably not but its amusing to think that he did.

    Plot summary via wikipedia:

    The assassin from the episode “The Metalocalypse Has Begun,” is seen torturing a Klokateer, trying to find out how to get into Mordhaus. The Klokateer swallows a cyanide pill, ending the interrogation. It is then revealed that a UN resolution allows Dethklok to act as a police force. As a result, Klokateers begin kidnapping and torturing people who illegally download Dethklok songs from the internet. At the same time, Dethklok starts experiments with recording on water—the purest of analog formats. Every “record” is produced as a cannister of water, requiring huge amounts of power and pollution. Meanwhile, one particular fan is kidnapped by roadies and tortured at Mordhaus for pirating the group’s songs, only to meet Edgar Jomfru from episode “Mordland”. Edgar places a mask made of the remains of his brother’s face on the fan. He and the fan escape before being found by the assassin, who carries them to safety.

  8. #8 Staceyjw
    November 13, 2010

    Ha ha ha, I thought of that Dethklok episode right away too!

    LOL, this is just TOO funny : ) If nothing else, it shows how similar people really are- they all share the same woo!!!

  9. #9 peicurmudgeon
    November 13, 2010

    What journal would this be published in? We already know that the International Journal of Cardiology is on board.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/11/islamic_apologetics_in_the_int.php

  10. #10 sally
    November 13, 2010

    re: “In essence, it requires believing in something that cannot be demonstrated scientifically, often despite science outright refuting it.”

    this is a great argument, i.e., because something can’t be scientifically demonstrated.

    aspirin has been manufactured and marketed since 1899 and wasn’t understood till the 1970′s when research showed that NSAIDs such as aspirin worked by inhibiting cyclooxygenase, the enzyme responsible for converting arachidonic acid into a prostaglandin.

    because something can’t be explained doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. this is a basic premise of science.

    there are processes in the body that are still not understood, like central fatigue, delayed onset muscle soreness, unconsciousness caused by physical trauma…does this mean they don’t exist because they haven’t been scientifically reproducible?

  11. #11 Tonto
    November 13, 2010

    While I don’t know the effectiveness of the treatment described having never experienced it, I am shocked that so many supposed ‘scientists’ would dismiss it out of hand without any investigation. That’s called bias. Modern doctors have a lot of nerve criticizing alternative medicine considering the history of modern medicine.

    People would be still be dying of scurvy today if SBMers had their way, because they would certainly mock anyone claiming that citrus fruits cured scurvy (imagine, the wooness of curing a serious illness with fruit! I can just hear the fruit puns that would be made). We can all be grateful that the cure for scurvy was discovered before SBM.

    The SBMers patients would be all dying of scurvy since there was no “scientifically proven” reason why eating citrus fruits would work, while the alternative doctors would be curing their patients with lime juice but not really knowing why, and perhaps coming up with incorrect justifications like “fruit energy” or the like.

    I would rather see an alternative doctor who can cure me without knowing why than an SBM doctor who is happy to let me die to stay within the strict confines of their limited and often misguided SBM.

  12. #12 Chris
    November 13, 2010

    Tonto, what you are doing is denigrating the first real random controlled test by James Lind. It was Science Based Medicine through actual experiment. Next time you try to use an example, look it up.

    Come back when you find an “alternative” modality that has been tested as well and actually showed that it worked.

  13. #13 madder
    November 13, 2010

    @Tonto:

    Wow, are you ignorant. Lind’s scurvy experiments were the first ever clinical trial.

  14. #14 Tonto
    November 13, 2010

    “Tonto, what you are doing is denigrating the first real random controlled test by James Lind. It was Science Based Medicine through actual experiment. Next time you try to use an example, look it up.”

    Not surprisingly you missed the irony of my comment, since any commenter who isn’t a med student is considered an idiot. Even though many people knew eating limes could cure scurvy throughout the ages, the medical establishment took centuries before they would even consider such “woo” as a viable treatment, same as today. Lind’s “trial” would be mocked by SBMers today as pseudoscience due to the small sample size and many other “scientific” reasons. No doubt in my mind, Lind would be ridiculed as a quack today by the SBMers, and any success he had treating scurvy with fruit would be labeled as placebo effect.

  15. #15 novalox
    November 13, 2010

    @11

    Going for the “SBM treats symptoms, CAM cures disease” argument there?

    Sorry, but such a fictitious argument isn’t going to work.

  16. #16 Chris
    November 13, 2010

    Tonto, when the hole you are digging is that deep stop digging!

  17. #17 sally
    November 13, 2010

    no, tonto is simply observing your bias. (you can’t see it. that’s why it’s called bias.)

    to show how biased they are, tonto, they cite Lind’s experiment for their convenience (and ignorance).

    “The history of clinical trials dates back to approximately 600 B.C. when Daniel of Judah [1] conducted what is probably the earliest recorded clinical trial. He compared the health effects of the vegetarian diet with those of a royal Babylonian diet over a 10-day period. The trial had obvious deficiencies by contemporary medical standards (allocation bias, ascertainment bias, and confounding by divine intervention), but the report has remained influential for more than two millennia [2].” http://www.ajronline.org/cgi/content/full/183/6/1539

    lind’s trial also had obvious deficiencies by contemporary medical standards, which these guys are too biased or ignorant to recognize (only 12 people, in a noncontrolled environment, etc.).

    and besides, we don’t know what pharma trial is legit or not…cuz much of it employs illegal off-label prescribing and marketing, ghostwriting, cherry-picking clinical trials that only show positive results though the majority show negative results, etc. (just do google searches and you’ll find stuff like “Novartis joins a growing list of pharmaceutical companies that have settled government investigations into health care fraud in the last few years, including Pfizer, which paid $2.3 billion; Eli Lilly, $1.4 billion; Allergan, $600 million; AstraZeneca, $520 million; Bristol-Myers Squibb, $515 million; and Forest Laboratories, $313 million. Pfizer, Lilly, Allergan and Forest pleaded guilty to crimes in the cases.”

  18. #18 VD
    November 13, 2010

    geez, todd…talking about holes (besides you)…how about this hole being dug:

    “In a rare move, the Justice Department on Tuesday announced that it had charged a former vice president and top lawyer for the British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline with making false statements and obstructing a federal investigation into illegal marketing of the antidepressant Wellbutrin for weight loss.

    The indictment grabbed the attention of pharmaceutical executives who have been bracing for a long-promised government crackdown on company officials — rather than the corporations themselves — in drug-fraud cases that have resulted in billions of dollars in fines and payments.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/10/health/10glaxo.html?_r=1&ref=drugspharmaceuticals

    lol.

  19. #19 LW
    November 13, 2010

    re: “In essence, it requires believing in something that cannot be demonstrated scientifically, often despite science outright refuting it.”

    this is a great argument, i.e., because something can’t be scientifically demonstrated.

    aspirin has been manufactured and marketed since 1899 and wasn’t understood till the 1970′s when research showed that NSAIDs such as aspirin worked by inhibiting cyclooxygenase, the enzyme responsible for converting arachidonic acid into a prostaglandin.

    Ah, that was nice and subtle. The requirement that something be scientifically demonstrated is transmuted into a requirement that it be scientifically understood.

    No, that’s not how scientists think. Lots of things cannot, or could not in the past, be understood or explained, but there’s no doubt at all that they can be demonstrated. Sunspots were observed by Galileo, and he could easily demonstrate their existence, but he had no explanation for them; indeed they are not fully understood to the day (as best I can tell). No scientist denies their existence.

    If the effects claimed by woo supporters could be demonstrated, they would be accepted even if they could not be understood or explained. The difficulty is that they can’t even be demonstrated. Careless, biased tests may seem to demonstrate some of them; more careful testing always, somehow, fails to show the claimed effect.

  20. #20 VD
    November 13, 2010

    LW, you goomba…

    address aspirin.

  21. #21 Chris
    November 13, 2010

    VD, address basic grammar. And hand the shovel back to Tonto.

  22. #22 VD
    November 13, 2010

    LW, address the quote that sally #17 gave. where is the scientific demonstrability of for those drugs where pharma was fined?

    there was little evidence…it was marketing fraud.

    goomba.

  23. #23 VD
    November 13, 2010

    good one, chrissy.

  24. #24 LW
    November 13, 2010

    “address aspirin.”

    What’s to address about aspirin? Its effects were and are demonstrable, and are now understood. Which is what sally said, although VD and sally seem to think that aspirin can be cited to make some point against science-based medicine.

    As to addressing “the quote that sally #17 gave. where is the scientific demonstrability of for those drugs where pharma was fined” — what of it? Big companies sometimes make unwarranted claims about their products, sometimes are negligent in manufacturing, and sometimes even commit fraud.

    What does that have to do with whether “alternative” medicine has any demonstrable beneficial effect? What does that have to do with the nonsense about water that Orac quoted?

  25. #25 novalox
    November 13, 2010

    @23

    Going with the ad hominem attack to support your position.

    For shame, for shame.

  26. #26 VD
    November 13, 2010

    LW

    lemme lay it out for you, tough guy.

    because something can’t be demonstrated scientifically does not mean that it does not work or exist. in the last week we were able to partially demonstrate the big bang effect (In an experiment on the Franco-Swiss border conducted on Nov. 7, scientists managed to create temperatures a million times hotter than those at the centre of the sun and create a mini-Big Bang by smashing together lead ions instead of protons, Reuters reports.)

    regardless of this experiment, the big bang was widely accepted as fact. do you see the connection?

    “What does [quote #17] have to do with whether “alternative” medicine has any demonstrable beneficial effect?”

    It’s a statement made to say that those who most criticize other modalities of medicine, i.e., pharma, for not meeting criteria are the biggest bull shitters on the block when they’re getting fined billions for lying about their own evidence. Capiche?

    Or shall I reword it yet again for you, goomba?

  27. #27 Gray Falcon
    November 13, 2010

    VD, it’s called physical evidence. We know about the Big Bang because there is evidence that confirms the hypothesis. Please stop trying to redefine science. You’re not the first person to try this line of argument, and it’s never worked before. Ever.

  28. #28 VD
    November 13, 2010

    ah, dumbo falcon…

    how about addressing this:

    “What does [quote #17] have to do with whether “alternative” medicine has any demonstrable beneficial effect?”

    It’s a statement made to say that those who most criticize other modalities of medicine, i.e., pharma, for not meeting criteria are the biggest bull shitters on the block when they’re getting fined billions for lying about their own evidence.

  29. #29 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 13, 2010

    VD,

    I fail to understand why you’ve chosen to be belligerent and abusive.

    Science (and science based medicine) is not defined by nor limited to large pharmaceutical companies. If such companies are falsifying information, that’s a distortion of science and, incidentally, violation of law.

    Aspirin could be shown to work in controlled tests, and the Big Bang theory made predictions that could be tested against. Even if we didn’t know the exact mechanism, it’s clear (based on lots of experience) that a chemical substance can have an impact on a body once ingested. Likewise, the mathematics of astrophysics (backed by lots of observation) makes it probable that something like the Big Bang happened, though we have no way to know (yet?) what came before or caused it to occur.

    By contrast, thoughts and verses from holy texts seem unlikely to affect water based on what we know of chemistry and physics. That consuming such water would cause people to emit steam imbued with the Koran seems implausible in the extreme. Now, it might be true. Someone arguing that it does should really have a substantial amount of physical evidence to back that up.

    Is there as much evidence that thoughts change the properties of water as there is that, say, aspirin relieves pain?

  30. #30 Gray Falcon
    November 13, 2010

    VD, again, you’re not the first person to pull out that canard. First of all, one pharmaceutical company does not make up the entirety of the medical community. Secondly, your argument is a complete non sequitur. There are cases of fire departments getting in trouble for corruption, but that does not mean I can put out fires by opening my third chakra and thinking wet thought. Finally, scientists don’t reject alternative medicine because they don’t understand how it works, they reject it because nobody can show that it works better than a placebo.

  31. #31 augustine
    November 14, 2010

    [Science (and science based medicine) is not defined by nor limited to large pharmaceutical companies. If such companies are falsifying information, that's a distortion of science and, incidentally, violation of law.]
    ———————————————–
    Unfortunately you’re trying to control the TIGER by the tail. Even ORAC does Big Pharmaceutical work for hopeful profits. No SBMer appears to be immune, except the naive. Does Paul Offit Profit from his conflict of interest and SBM patent?

  32. #32 VD
    November 14, 2010

    re: “First of all, one pharmaceutical company does not make up the entirety of the medical community.”

    are you really that naive? that bad a reader? or even worse…that ingorant? those quotations mentioned the following companies:

    Novartis, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Allergan, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Forest Laboratories.

    …6 of these are in the top 12 pharma earners in the world for 2009

    = 50% of the top 12 earners is committing fraud. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pharmaceutical_companies

    hold on, here’s the #1 revenue earner caught in fraud as well, Johnson and Johnson http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/16/business/16bizbriefs-JOHNSONJOHNS_BRF.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=johnson%20and%20johnson&st=cse

    geez, now that tips the scale to the majority of the top companies is or has committed fraud…but hold on!

    “Big companies that are criminally prosecuted represent only the tip of a very large iceberg of corporate wrongdoing.

    For every company convicted of health care fraud, there are numerous others…” http://www.allbusiness.com/human-resources/employee-development-employee-ethics/334869-1.html (in case you’re gonna whine about this source: “The site has received critical acclaim and notoriety from The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business 2.0, Fortune, The New York Times, US News & World Report, USA Today, and other publications.”)

    Wow, not a very pretty picture.

    So a lot of pharma companies drugs aren’t working or aren’t better than placebos, either…hmmm, but the off-labeling marketing, ghostwriting, suppressing negative studies, etc. seems to have you folks sold that it’s just “one pharmaceutical company.” (this says something else about you as well.)

    a bright discussion group we have going here. seems more like a blog for out-of-touch-with-reality cranks.

  33. #33 LW
    November 14, 2010

    because something can’t be demonstrated scientifically does not mean that it does not work or exist. in the last week we were able to partially demonstrate the big bang effect

    regardless of this experiment, the big bang was widely accepted as fact. do you see the connection?

    But this undercuts your argument. That the Big Bang occurred was deduced as a result of many observations which could be demonstrated and which everyone agrees on (the red shifts of distant galaxies, the cosmic background radiation). Now we have some experimental demonstrations of how the Big Bang occurred, but it was widely accepted before that. In other words, given sufficient demonstration of the effects of the Big Bang, scientists accepted that it existed even though it itself could not be demonstrated. Give scientists a satisfactory demonstration of the effects of chanting over water — different crystallization processes with different words perhaps — and scientists will accept it even if they don’t have an explanation for it.

    Likewise, pointing out that aspirin was accepted as effective medicine, because its effectiveness could be demonstrated even before its mechanism of action was known, undercuts the claim that scientists do not accept the existence of an effect if it cannot be scientifically explained. Demonstrate that homeopathic “medicine” works — that it has any effect at all that differs from the effect of a like quantity of ingredients that haven’t had the magic ritual performed on them — and scientists will accept that it works and enthusiastically try to figure out how it does work.

    The problem is that a satisfactory demonstration of some kind of effect must come first, and that has not occurred.

  34. #34 Composer99
    November 14, 2010

    sally, Tonto, and VD:

    Unfortunately for you, the fact that pharmaceutical companies occasionally, or even often, engage in corporate or scientific malpractice does not in any way validate water-based quackery such as that described above by Orac or such as homeopathy. It is a total non sequitur.

    It would be equivalent to me saying that, because you three have come onto this blog and engaged in logically absurd arguments, Vioxx ought not to have been withdrawn from sale and claims regarding its adverse effects were overblown.

    If you can appreciate how absurd such a claim on my part would be, then I am afraid you must concede that your own similar claims are without merit.

    Disclaimer: Since the above statements will amost certainly be cherry-picked by somebody (“Some jack@ss on Orac’s blog said Vioxx ought to come back!”), I should emphasize that they were made as an attempt to illustrate the non sequitur fallacy. If this is deliberately misinterpreted or misrepresented by others, on their head(s) be it.

  35. #35 STD
    November 14, 2010

    re: “I fail to understand why you’ve chosen to be belligerent and abusive.”

    cuz you’re obviously too ignorant or biased to see that i’m only following Orac’s tone.

    re: “First of all, one pharmaceutical company does not make up the entirety of the medical community.”

    are you really that naive? that bad a reader? or even worse…that ingorant? those quotations mentioned the following companies:

    Novartis, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Allergan, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Forest Laboratories.

    …6 of these are in the top 12 pharma earners in the world for 2009

    = 50% of the top 12 earners is committing fraud. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pharmaceutical_companies

    hold on, here’s the #1 revenue earner caught in fraud as well, Johnson and Johnson http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/16/business/16bizbriefs-JOHNSONJOHNS_BRF.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=johnson%20and%20johnson&st=cse

    geez, now that tips the scale to the majority of the top companies is or has committed fraud…but hold on!

    “Big companies that are criminally prosecuted represent only the tip of a very large iceberg of corporate wrongdoing.

    For every company convicted of health care fraud, there are numerous others…” http://www.allbusiness.com/human-resources/employee-development-employee-ethics/334869-1.html (in case you’re gonna whine about this source: “The site has received critical acclaim and notoriety from The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business 2.0, Fortune, The New York Times, US News & World Report, USA Today, and other publications.”)

    Wow, not a very pretty picture.

    So a lot of pharma companies drugs aren’t working or aren’t better than placebos, either…hmmm, but the off-labeling marketing, ghostwriting, suppressing negative studies, etc. seems to have you folks sold that it’s just “one pharmaceutical company.” (this says something else about you as well.) why don’t you guys write about something like this that matters that more immediately affects your reader base and you that is a greater threat to consumers.

    a bright discussion group we have going here. seems more like a blog for out-of-touch-with-reality cranks.

  36. #36 Esther
    November 14, 2010

    re: “I fail to understand why you’ve chosen to be belligerent and abusive.” cuz you’re obviously too ignorant or biased to see that i’m only following Orac’s tone. re: “First of all, one pharmaceutical company does not make up the entirety of the medical community.” are you really that naive? that bad a reader? or even worse…that ingorant? those quotations mentioned the following companies: Novartis, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Allergan, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Forest Laboratories. …6 of these are in the top 12 pharma i th ld f 2009

  37. #37 Jj
    November 14, 2010

    re: “I fail to understand why you’ve chosen to be belligerent and abusive.” cuz you’re obviously too ignorant or biased to see that i’m only following Orac’s tone.

    re: “First of all, one pharmaceutical company does not make up the entirety of the medical community.” are you really that naive? that bad a reader? or even worse…that ingorant? those quotations mentioned the following companies: Novartis, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Allergan, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Forest Laboratories. ……6 of these are in the top 12 pharma earners in the world for 2009 = 50% of the top 12 earners is committing fraud. http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ List_of_pharmaceutical_companies hold on, here’s the #1 revenue earner caught in fraud as well, Johnson and Johnson http://www.nytimes.com/2010/ 10/16/business/16bizbriefs-JOHNSONJOHNS_BRF.html? _r=1&scp=3&sq=johnson%20and%20johnso

    geez, now that tips the scale to the majority of the top companies is or has committed fraud…but hold on! “Big companies that are criminally prosecuted represent only the tip of a very large iceberg of corporate of corporate wrongdoing. For every company convicted of health care fraud, there are numerous others…” http://www.allbusiness.com/human-resources/employee-development-employee-ethics/334869-1.html (in case you’re gonna whine about this source: “The site has received critical acclaim and notoriety from The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business 2.0, Fortune, The New York Times, US News & World Report, USA Today, and other publications.”)

    Wow, not a very pretty picture.

    So a lot of pharma companies drugs aren’t working or aren’t better than placebos, either…hmmm, but the off-labeling marketing, ghostwriting, suppressing negative studies, etc. seems to have you folks sold that it’s just “one pharmaceutical company.” (this says something else about you as well.)

    why don’t you guys write about something like this that matters that more immediately affects your reader base and you that is a greater threat to consumers.

    a bright discussion group we have going here. seems more like a blog for out-of-touch-with-reality cranks.

  38. #38 Chris
    November 14, 2010

    So it seems there us a sockpuppet brigade out. All extolling the idiotic “Big Pharma” is bad, therefore everything they do is bad, so the Koranic water works.

  39. #39 Scott
    November 14, 2010

    So the whole thing revolves around abnormal snowflakes?

    http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/class/class.htm

  40. #40 novalox
    November 14, 2010

    @35

    It would be interesting if a checkuser was done to see if VD (veneral disease?), sciblag, esther, and jj were the same person, (or at least using the same computer and/or IP address).
    All their posts have been similar in style (touting the big pharma is bad arguement, ad hominem attacks, etc.).

  41. #41 LW
    November 14, 2010

    Maybe the Legion of Sockpuppets would understand what we’re saying a little better if it were phrased in non-medical terms.

    Pretend that you are a defense lawyer, and your client is charged with burglary. Do you think you could effectively defend your client by repeatedly pointing out that the guy in the next cell was convicted of embezzlement? And if the prosecution offered overwhelming evidence of your client’s guilt, and you continued to point out that the guy in the next cell is an embezzler, instead of offering any evidence at all of your client’s innocence, do you think the judge would find your client innocent? You have to offer evidence in favor of *your client* if you want to prevail.

    Whether one, many, or even *all* Big Pharma companies have engaged in fraud is irrelevant to the question of whether water that has been chanted at, or had homeopathic magical rituals performed on it, is actually different from the same water before it was chanted at or had homeopathic magical rituals performed on it.

    You have to offer evidence in favor of magic water; you can’t prove it effective by attacking Big Pharma.

  42. #42 skeptiverse
    November 14, 2010

    Damn, I go away for one weekend and the comments on this blog become one big pile of burning stupid. VD, Jj, Esther etc your ad hominem attacks are not only ridiculous but unwarranted, the argument that Oracs tone is what made you personally attack some other commenter is ridiculous in the extreme. If Oracs tone is insulting then all that would mean is that at the most you could throw ad hom attacks at Orac, who i am sure would just ignore them! Further, why do you not start actually answering some of the questions that the other commenters have asked rather than just quoting eachother?

    Methinks that Novalox may be right and you are all the same person.

  43. #43 Tonto
    November 15, 2010

    “Damn, I go away for one weekend…blah blah blah”

    Wow, what an egotistical screed. Glad to see you “scientists” aren’t prone to hyperbole :/

  44. #44 Composer99
    November 15, 2010

    Tonto:

    You and your sock-puppet co-ideologue have yet to mount any defence of magic water as a clinically-effective treatment apart from the non sequitur of pointing to malpractice by large pharmaceutical companies.

    If that remains your first, last, and apparent only line of argumentation, then you are wasting your time and ours coming here.

    Orac mocks Koranic water woo because basic principles of physics and chemistry strongly indicate that it will not work.

    Ergo, the onus on the supporter of water woo is to provide satisfactory evidence showing that these basic principles of physics are somehow wrong. This will have to be a large quantity of very high-quality evidence, because the physics involved (those little Laws of Thermodynamics) has stood up to scrutiny for decades.

    No amount of whinging about corporate malfeasance is going to do the trick.

    It’s as simple as that.

    Short summary of this comment:
    “Put up or shut up”

  45. #45 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 15, 2010

    I do agree with the sock puppet brigade (SPB) that the abuses the various pharmaceutical companies are being accused of (and fined for) are bad if proven. These abuses allegedly include (note: not an exhaustive list) safety and effectiveness claims not backed by evidence; marketing drugs for unapproved usage; and inappropriate gifts to doctors.

    Drugs should be proven to be safe and effective prior to sale. Clearly any time someone falsifies results or deliberately misinterprets them it makes any of their other statements questionable as well.

  46. #46 Seb30
    November 15, 2010

    Re: the SPB posts, I think their main point of contention is that Orac is “going after the small fishes” (various CAM procedures) while hypocritically ignoring “the big fishes” (Big Pharma frauds or mainstream medicine-related deaths). A variation of criticizing the mote in one’s neighbor’s eye without noticing the beam in one’s eye.
    The actual effectiveness of the woo described in the post is of no importance, so insisting that they back it up is useless; and yet, they are not exactly out of topic.
    Pointing to them that Orac or others are regularly writing about the misbehavior of a pharmaceutical company or a physician will be dismissed as “lips’ service”, as it has been done in the past by some regular trolls on this blog.

    I don’t exactly agree with them. Beware, wall of text coming (scientist syndrome – ask a question, and the answer is a 25-min lecture. Argh)

    On one hand, each time “Big Pharma” is caught cheating, or something similar, I have to repeat myself that humans are error-prone, but, by golly, if we could manage to get a little closer to perfection, it would make the world so much better and safer…

    On the other hand, well:

    - To start with, Orac is in a free country. If he wants to blog about small fishes, but not about big fishes, he can. And someone has too.
    As LW, Composer99 and others have pointed, because there are bigger hungry fishes around doesn’t make the small fishes any more acceptable. Being chewed on by a piranha is not really better than being swallowed by a big white shark. I would prefer to avoid both events, if you don’t mind.

    - Small fishes? Not that small. This holy water dude may be a lone case, but his woo principle is related to bigger fishes one can find anywhere, like homeopathy, reiki, or acupuncture. It’s all about vitalism, or more precisely, magic. There are schools of them (yes, pun intended).
    Not to mention that a number of homeopath or supplement sellers are big fishes indeed (Boiron, on another thread) or have strong tie to big corporations (e.g. Johnson&Johnson)

    - One can argue that, by attacking small fishes, Orac may have an effect on bigger fishes. If making outrageous claims about sugar pills was no longer acceptable, exaggerated claims about a real drug may be easier to fight. Truthful claims should be the rule for big AND small fishes.

    - Since a number of the small fishes mentioned in past posts are (or were) physicians or scientists, and since CAM supplements could be found in any pharmacy, Orac is attacking mainstream medicine, or at least members of it with fuzzy ethics and/or a bad grasp of science.

    - And finally, if you believe there should be more well-thought, documented articles about the misdeeds of big corporations, why Orac should and not you?

  47. #47 Chris
    November 15, 2010

    Seb30:

    And finally, if you believe there should be more well-thought, documented articles about the misdeeds of big corporations, why Orac should and not you?

    Don’t forget Orac has criticized large corporations, quick examples are here and there.

    And I agree, if they don’t like what Orac writes then the Sock Puppet Brigade should start their own blog.