Respectful Insolence

Christmas is over. Heck even Boxing Day is over. Still, Orac is doing something very unusual for him in that he’s taking a bit of a staycation at home. Consider it a sanity break. Even though I’ll be working on grants and a variety of other projects at home and even though I haven’t signed out my pager to one of my partners, it is still a very good thing indeed not to see the inside of my office for ten days. As for blogging, understandably, given that readership has fallen off markedly the week between Christmas and New Years each and every year since I started blogging way back in 2004, I don’t feel as driven as I usually do to produce a post every day. That’s not to say I won’t be blogging, but unless something major happens before January 3 that either really inspires or angers me, I doubt I’ll be producing any of my logorrheic magnum opuses before 2011 rolls around. Still, that doesn’t mean I won’t be laying some not-so-Respectful Insolence down when it’s appropriate.

And, boy, is it appropriate for this particular topic. True, it’s been a few days, as I found out about this right before Christmas Eve, but better late than never. I’m referring to a bit of news sent to me right before Christmas Eve. Consider it a followup on a post I did in November about how Oprah Winfrey produced a despicably credulous shill job for faith healer John of God. I never thought I’d be saying this, but it looks as though CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, someone who has had a pretty decent history in the past when it comes to keeping the science in his medical reports, has fallen prey to the worst tendencies in medical reporters when it comes to reporting on John of God. In fact, I have to say that I was profoundly embarrassed, almost as badly as I’ve been embarrassed by Dr. Michael Egnor, so much so that I almost feel as though I need to dig that Doctor Doom mask out again. After all, Dr. Gupta is a fellow surgeon.

Don’t believe me? Let’s go to the tape:


First, Dr. Gupta does something that I really, really, really, really despise. He starts out referring to science-based medicine as “Western” medicine. I don’t know how many times I have to say this, but I utterly reject the false dichotomy of “Western” medicine versus non-science-based woo like faith healing. Language matters, and by framing science-based medicine as “Western,” it implies that there is some sort of cultural aspect to it, that it’s somehow the product of a specific culture, rather than science, and, worst of all, that this cultural aspect makes science-based medicine no more or less valid than any other form of medicine. Worse, Dr. Gupta describes “Western medicine” as “running tests,” “prescribing medicines,” etc., contrasting it to the type of “medicine” faith healer John of God allegedly practices. Let’s get this straight. John of God does not practice medicine. He practices religion. It’s truly pathetic that someone like Dr. Gupta would characterize him as anything else. The rest of the segment consists of an interview with Susan Casey, editor-in-chief of O Magazine and the reporter responsible for the execrably credulous report about John of God, and Dr. Jeff Rediger, a psychiatrist who claims to be a “skeptic” but in reality is as gullible as they come for a bunch of carney tricks.

What’s really disappointing about this interview is that at no point does Dr. Gupta challenge either Ms. Casey or Dr. Rediger with even the faintest whiff of a seriously skeptical question. In essence, both Casey and Rediger are given the opportunity to tell their stories without even a hint of science. One notes immediately the Casey states at the outset that she was looking for stories of people with terminal illness whom “Western” medicine couldn’t help but John of God did. One also can’t help but note that she didn’t produce a single example of such a case.

Next up, Dr. Gupta asked Dr. Rediger about John of God’s “psychic surgeries.” As he did in the Oprah segment, Dr. Rediger represented himself as a “skeptic” without showing a single ounce of real skepticism. Also, the surgeon in me can’t help but marvel at the ignorance of basic anatomy demonstrated by a psychiatrist like Dr. Rediger (sorry, readers who might be psychiatrists, but it’s true). Dr. Rediger seems to be claiming that it’s “physiologically impossible” for the nose to accept an instrument as long as the instruments John of God sticks in the nostrils of some of those whom he claims to heal. First off, even if it were impossible for the human nasal passages to accommodate instruments of the length that John of God inserts in the noses of his penitents, it would not be “physiologically impossible.” It would be “anatomically impossible.”

It’s not anatomically impossible, however. Far from it! Ask any ENT surgeon Ask any general surgeon who’s placed a bunch of nasogastric tubes. Ask any anesthesiologist who’s done fiberoptic nasal intubations. There’s a lot more distance from the nostril to the nasopharynx than is commonly believed, several centimeters in fact. Indeed, I remember when I was a medical student in anatomy class how amazed I was at how much distance there was from the nostril to the back of the nasopharynx when I examined a human head cut in half sagittally. Moreover, the instrument that John of God uses looks to me like your basic curved Kelly clamp, whose gentle curve would easily allow someone with a modicum of knowledge to follow the curve of the back of the throat to pass the tip there and downwards, just as we do when we place nasogastric tubes.

[NOTE: Upon listening to the video again, it appears that Dr. Rediger does say "possible," not "impossible," but in context I still have a hard time figuring out what he meant. In all fairness, however, I do mention that I probably misheard what he said, even though I listened three or four times.]

Oddly enough, Dr. Rediger admits that he does believe that “some of what goes on down there is sleight-of-hand. If that’s the case, then, how does he know that it isn’t all sleight of hand? He doesn’t, and it almost certainly is. He claims that he saw things there that can’t be explained by sleight-of-hand, but, again, how does he know? Is he a magician or an illusionist? No, he is not, and, when it comes to sleight-of-hand, I’m far more likely to believe real magicians like The Amazing Randi or paranormal investigators like Joe Nickell who are familiar with various forms of sleight of hand, both of whom have concluded that nothing John of God does is anything more than hoary old carny tricks.

Casey, for her part, echoes Dr. Rediger’s proclamation that “just because we can’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s not happening.” The problem, of course, is that there’s nothing that John of God is doing that we can’t understand. The only reason Casey and Rediger don’t understand it is because they don’t want to understand it. The want to believe, so much so that Casey even claims that, “Maybe 100 years from now energy healing will be one of the forefronts of medicine.”

I won’t be alive 100 years from now, but I’d be willing to bet that “energy healing” will not be at the forefront of medicine in 100 years. I’d even be willing to bet that it won’t be at the forefront of medicine in 20 or 30 years (when I should still be alive, accident or serious illness aside). Of course, Casey threw a nice bit of misdirection in there, didn’t she? After all, what John of God does is not “energy” medicine; it’s faith healing. I also can’t help but notice that Dr. Rediger claims that he tried to verify some of the anecdotes of people who claimed to have found healing through John of God by looking at medical records and scans, but, strangely enough, he either can’t or won’t produce a single example of real healing by John of God. The best he can come up with is the lame observation that this sort of research is “complicated,” which implies to me that he hasn’t really found a convincing case. If he had, no doubt he would have trumpeted it to anyone who would listen.

Finally, I expect people like Susan Casey and Dr. Rediger to lay down a barrage of credulous excuses for John of God. It doesn’t surprise me. What I don’t expect is to see someone like Dr. Gupta wrapping up his report by saying that he is “honestly not sure what to make of this” and that this is something he should see for himself. This worries me. It sounds as though Dr. Gupta is planning on taking a trip to Brazil sometime soon to visit John of God. If he exercises the same lack of skepticism that he just exercised in this interview, I expect that his report, should he do it, will be no better than the segment on John of God that Oprah Winfrey aired last month. At the very least, if Dr. Gupta plans on going through with this, I hope he talks to someone like James Randi or Joe Nickell first. He desperately needs an education.

Comments

  1. #1 Travis
    December 27, 2010

    Considering the large numbers of actually skeptical people out there, people like you and many other medical bloggers, people like Randi, people like Phil Plait, why do they go to some silly unknown “skeptic” with no track record of actually being skeptical?

  2. #2 Militant Agnostic
    December 27, 2010

    Notice how when woo is presented there is no attempt to have “balance”. Promoting this crap is going to have a body count. However it does fill in between commercials and as someone pointed out on Pharyngula (in a thread on a CBC television program on the top 10 “micales” of 2010), a gullible audience is more valuable to advertisers. If advertisers have ways of gauging how effective advertising is on particular programs beyond just number of viewers, air time on credulous programs is going to be more valuable.

  3. #3 Militant Agnostic
    December 27, 2010

    @2 – “micales” should be “miracles”

  4. #4 Bob Calder
    December 27, 2010

    CNN often makes colosal blunders by providing nutcases with a platform:

    http://articles.cnn.com/2010-08-28/opinion/knight.beck.bunch_1_christian-nation-declaration-general-principles?_s=PM:OPINION

    The poison continues to flow from Fort Lauderdale’s Coral Ridge Ministries: Obama is a socialist and the ever-popular liberation theology as vehicle for overthrow of government meme from Breitbart and Beck.

  5. #5 Bob Calder
    December 27, 2010

    CNN often makes colosal blunders by providing nutcases with a platform:

    http://articles.cnn.com/2010-08-28/opinion/knight.beck.bunch_1_christian-nation-declaration-general-principles?_s=PM:OPINION

    The poison continues to flow from Fort Lauderdale’s Coral Ridge Ministries: Obama is a socialist and the ever-popular liberation theology as vehicle for overthrow of government meme from Breitbart and Beck.

  6. #6 Richard
    December 27, 2010

    When I heard about this on Skepchick, I wrote an angry letter to CNN. Here is the link I used. You might know of a better one, but let them hear from us.

  7. #7 andrew
    December 27, 2010

    Nice post. I was flipping out when I saw that video. Couldn’t believe that bullshit!

  8. #8 Not House
    December 27, 2010

    Every time I see “balance” in the news like this, I am reminded of Dara O’Briain’s tirade:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMvMb90hem8

  9. #9 Militant Agnostic
    December 27, 2010

    @8 – In practice it is worse than that – when they feature “Barry who thinks the sky is a carpet painted by god” they do not go to an astronomer for balance, they go to a carpet weaver for balance if they go to anyone at all.

  10. #10 Shrikant
    December 27, 2010

    Nice sleight of words there at 6:00 into the clip.

    Question: Did you look at scans of people, or try to do medical confirmations of some of these things as well?

    Answer: Yes I did. I went down there after initially resisting going down there, and just tried to see what was true. I tried to collect CT scans and laboratory data from before and after these healing events, just to see what the evidence said was going on. I do believe this kind of research is complicated.

    So basically the good Harvard-trained doctor answered “Yes I did” to “did you… try to do medical confirmations..?”. Oh wow, it must be true then, because he “tried to collect CT scans and laboratory data”, and everyone knows trying to do something is pretty much the same as actually doing it.

    I think I’ll go try to climb Mt. Everest now.

    Summit! In your face, Edmund Hillary!

    Also, I — as someone whose last brush with biology in an academic setting was in high school nearly 10 years ago — have a revelation for Dr. Rediger: You’re wrong. This kind of research is not complicated at all.

  11. #11 hedberg
    December 27, 2010

    I watched the video before I finished reading the article and I heard “physiologically possible” instead of “physiologically impossible.” Went back to check, and he does say “physiologically possible,” not impossible, though his diction leaves a lot to be desired. He deserves criticism for being insufficiently skeptical, and, perhaps for some anatomic ignorance, but not for saying you can’t get a 4″ long probe up somebody’s nose.

  12. #12 Denice Walter
    December 27, 2010

    Larry King provided air-time to Jenny & Co., so I had thought ( alas, prematurely) that perhaps things might improve now that he has retired. Unfortunately, Gupta has traded creditability for ratings, it would seem : going the Oz route.

    Energy healing and energy medicine may appear to be the latest buzz-word – however, it’s the same old woo: vitalism tarted up for a new audience. Similarly, *shamanism*- January’s Harper’s Bazaar featured a tale of journalist Kimberley Cutter’s experiences with shamanic healing: the “new substitute for psychotherapy”.( Hah!) I wish they would stick with stories about designers, fashionistas, and the newest accessories- I’d rather see creativity in design than “creative pseudo-science” getting free advertisement.

  13. #13 davep
    December 27, 2010

    Orac: Dr. Rediger admits that he does believe that “some of what goes on down there is sleight-of-hand. If that’s the case, then, how does he know that it isn’t all sleight of hand? He doesn’t, and it almost certainly is.

    I don’t get why people don’t realize that if somebody lies in the process of making their case, then the rest of their argument is likely suspect (that is, that somebody isn’t credible).

  14. #14 Anonymous
    December 27, 2010

    Why would anyone with medical knowledge or research experience take this seriously for even one second?
    “The medium Joao Teixeira has no formal medical training. Instead he gives over his consciousness and incorporates the spirits of past doctors and saints. These entities give talks, examine the waiting masses and conduct the visible and invisible operations.”
    http://www.johnofgod.com/index.php/about-john-of-god.html
    It’s bad enough that Susan Casey and the Oprah crew went for it, but the CNN team? Shocking.

  15. #15 The Crack Emcee
    December 27, 2010

    One of these days, Orac, you’re going to give me the credit I’m due – I can spot these jokers a mile away, and I tell you so every time – but (because you don’t like my style) you reject my counsel and have to come back, later, acting like you didn’t know. And I’ma call you on it, every time, reminding you I told you first.

    Let’s see now: Railien-lover Gupta + John of God + Oprah (who, along with John-Roger follower, Arriana Huffington, made the news together for that Jon Stewart rally) + Obama.

    Quite a crowd, quite a crowd. But none of it’s connected, right? Even as the NewAgers repeatedly tell us “it’s all connected”? O.K., fine.

    You’ve always got to learn the hard way.

  16. #16 Orac
    December 27, 2010

    @hedberg

    Actually, I watched (and listened to) the video three or four times, and it sounded like “impossible’ to me each time. Listening to it again, I agree that it is ambiguous and might well have been the word “possible.” Oddly enough, listening to it this time, it sort of sounds to me as though there might be an edit there, but I could be wrong about this. In any case, I’m not above admitting that perhaps I misheard. I suppose I could remove the paragraph where I criticize Dr. Rediger for that, but he has so much else to be criticized for that I consider his possible unclear knowledge of anatomy to be the least of his errors, particularly in the context of his previous appearance on Oprah:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/11/for_shame_oprah_winfrey_shills_for_faith.php

  17. #17 Phoenix Woman
    December 27, 2010

    I’d like to see if anyone’s done any analysis of woo belief/usage by country, and see how many nations are seeing a rise in woo, state-sanctioned or otherwise, that corresponds with a reluctance to pay for real medicine.

    China openly encouraged woo after Mao took over, woo that in part was made up out of whole cloth by Mao and his advisors, because they didn’t have the money to train their “barefoot doctors” in real medicine; nowadays, they don’t even pay for the barefoot doctors anymore — you get sick, you have to pay cash on the barrelhead and hope you don’t get a quack.

  18. #18 Scott Cunningham
    December 27, 2010

    Sadly, it appears “telling a good story” matters more than facts in journalism. I’d have expected better of CNN, but I’ve been watching every concievable news agency in Canada publish “balanced” promotional material for Zamboni treatment for MS for so many months, I’m not surprised by any bad medical journalism now.

    Even if it is literally the oldest tricks in the book, like the forceps-up-the-nose and scraping-an-eyeball-with-a-blunt-knife carnival tricks.

    Dr. Gupta used pseudo-skeptic Dr. Rediger for “balance” again. No surprise there. Heck, the latest MS article I read used a forestry engineer as their “actual scientist” who believes in the Zamboni treatment. Coming soon: get a plant ecologist to prescribe your chemotherapy drugs! The false balance of a wrong-field expert has become a mainstay of journalism.

    But this is all just my jaded opinion. For balance, we now turn to Dr. Sanjay, a professor of Economics, who says the real purpose of medical journalism is to fill the empty space between Viagra ads.

    A tip of the hat to Brian Deer and Ben Goldacre for actually doing good investigative reporting.

  19. #19 natural cynic
    December 27, 2010

    I had an early anatomical lesson on the length of the nasal passages when the family cat got a weed seed lodged in his sinus and then watched the vet pull it out with some type of foreceps that extended about halfway into the head. Never in my 17 years had I encountered something so nausea-inducing.

  20. #20 Militant Agnostic
    December 27, 2010

    Railien-lover Gupta

    Railien? – really? Please elaborate, this could be quite interesting. I do have a special interest in our Canadian cults. Although the Railiens were started by a Frenchman, the cult unsurprisingly did not gain traction in France but found fertile ground in Quebec similar to the more deadly Solar Temple cult.

  21. #21 Reginald Selkirk
    December 27, 2010

    What a blizzard of cliches!

    Some of it may have been slight of hand, but the rest can’t be explained…
    Faith healing could be the forefront of medicine…
    I don’t know what the danger is in false hope.

  22. #22 Jeremy Poiven
    December 27, 2010

    Orac, I generally love your blogs, but I have to call you out on this one. First off, I am concerned you aren’t doing your research in your zeal to publish, making you more guilty than your subjects. The skepticism you raise about the sleight of hand is the exact issue Dr. Gupta raised in the interview. He pointed out that corneal scraping was quackery. That sounds pretty skeptical to me. The issue about nasogastric tube placement you presented was again, raised by Gupta during the interview. Granted John of God is not worth of credibility, but you are starting to lose it with your incomplete and lopsided presentation. I do generally admire your diligence, and have even recommended your blog to my students. This latest one is populous drivel. Please watch the video again, and give a scientific and accurate assessment, as opposed to some pundit rant.

  23. #23 supratall
    December 27, 2010

    I had an early anatomical lesson on the length of the nasal passages when the family cat got a weed seed lodged in his sinus and then watched the vet pull it out with some type of foreceps that extended about halfway into the head. Never in my 17 years had I encountered something so nausea-inducing.

  24. #24 Orac
    December 27, 2010

    @Jeremy

    You’ve got to be kidding. Yes, Dr. Gupta mentions sleight-of-hand, but he mentions it in the context of “some people say that this is quackery,” not as though he believes or has decided whether it is or not. That’s where Dr. Rediger responds that he “does believe” that “some” of what John of God does is sleight-of-hand, after which I asked: If he believes some of what John of God does is sleight-of-hand, how does he know it’s not all sleight of hand? And how does he know what’s not sleight-of-hand and what is? He’s not a magician, and he’s already shown that his skepticism is not particularly skeptical at all.

    Watching it again, particularly grating is how Dr. Gupta buys into Casey’s assertion that it “doesn’t matter” if we prove or disprove this stuff and that a hundred years from now “energy medicine” will be at the forefront of medicine.

    Worst of all, at the end, Dr. Gupta states that he’s “not sure what to make of all this.” Sorry, but if you look into it with a skeptical, science-based eye and a knowledge of sleight-of-hand, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that John of God is a charlatan.

  25. #25 Dangerous Bacon
    December 27, 2010

    Jeremy, what exactly is “populous drivel”?

    How can drivel contain lots of people???

  26. #26 Anonymous
    December 27, 2010

    Militant Agnostic,
    Dr Sanjay Gupta interviewed the Raeliens’ Rael or Brigitte Boisselier five times over the cloning story. Here’s a transcript of Howard Kurtz’s show discussing it. Tim Rutten of the LAT and Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post criticized media treatment of the story.

    “Should Media Have Covered Raelians’ Cloning Claims?”
    http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0301/11/rs.00.html

  27. #27 qbsmd
    December 27, 2010

    He claims that he saw things there that can’t be explained by sleight-of-hand, but, again, how does he know? Is he a magician or an illusionist?…

    if Dr. Gupta plans on going through with this, I hope he talks to someone like James Randi or Joe Nickell first. He desperately needs an education.

    How much training does it realistically take to be able to reliably catch sleight-of-hand: years or experience, or is it possible to quickly learn where and when to look? If there’s a shortcut, does James Randi, Joe Nickell or any other skeptic have a video up demonstrating how to catch such trickery?

  28. #28 Todd W.
    December 27, 2010

    For those who are interested, here’s an article James Randi wrote about John of God back in 2005.

  29. #29 davep
    December 27, 2010

    Jeremy@22 “The skepticism you raise about the sleight of hand is the exact issue Dr. Gupta raised in the interview. He pointed out that corneal scraping was quackery. That sounds pretty skeptical to me.”

    No, a real skeptic would not have interviewed two people who believe it’s valid (and just those two people). It’s a common and standard rhetorical technique to indicate that “some people criticize” something and then allow the other side an exclusive opportunity to “disprove” those criticisms. If Gupta was a real skeptic, he would not have even presented this!

  30. #30 davep
    December 27, 2010

    Orac@16 Listening to it again, I agree that it is ambiguous and might well have been the word “possible”.

    I think it’s fairly clear that he is saying “possible”. The thing that is confusing is what point his is trying to make.

    It seems that that confusion might be the result of editing. I think he’s making the point that, while it might seem remarkable, the stuff up the nose trick is “physiologically possible” (and hence is explainable).

  31. #31 davep
    December 27, 2010

    Of course, Rediger begs the question as to what purpose it serves.

    Gupta also basically plants the notion that Casey is “objective” before she establishes that she isn’t.

    It’s a really bad piece of “journalism”.

  32. #32 lilady
    December 27, 2010

    More voodoo “medicine” featured on CNN and other mainstream media. Dr. Gupta should be ashamed, as the more exposure John of God and other charlatans receive, the more an unsuspecting and gullible public will consider this “alternative medicine” as a possible option for health care.

    Dr. Gupta needs to take some courses in responsible journalism…it is too late for Susan Casey and her ilk employed by Oprah.

  33. #33 Militant Agnostic
    December 27, 2010

    If Dr. Gupta was the least bit skeptical, “editor-in-chief of O Magazine” should have raised a big red flag. I think he is at best a “shruggie”, but I suspect “willful blindness”.

    qbsmd @27 IANAM (I am not a magician) however;

    I have found that slow motion replay is helpful. I think not watching the eyes of the conjurer is probably helpful since they often look in the direction they want you to look. Don’t assume you know how the trick is done since there are often many different ways of doing a given trick.

  34. #34 prn
    December 27, 2010

    “‘physiologically impossible’ for the nose”

    I always wondered who got off with that big jar of metallic sodium from our high school chem lab.

  35. #35 Sastra
    December 27, 2010

    There seems to be something about the Christmas season that encourages newscasters to look around for a story which will inspire or support Belief. The cute little hoax about Santa Claus seems to spill out of the box labeled “fun for the kiddies” and justify virtually anything that will encourage the viewer’s wide-eyed sense of childlike wonder over maaaaagic.

  36. #36 Jeremy Poiven
    December 28, 2010

    Orac, I completely disagree with you. Do you even do your research anymore? How could Gupta decide whether something is sleight of hand? He wasn’t there. More importantly, neither were you. Your blog has become a poorly sourced sham. What about his comments regarding the NG tube? He raised the issue, for which you take credit. You are beginning to represent a second caliber scientist.

  37. #37 Orac
    December 28, 2010

    Yawn.

    Do you really think I care what you think of me, Jeremy? Now bugger off like a good little troll.

  38. #38 Todd W.
    December 28, 2010

    @Jeremy Poiven

    How could Gupta decide whether something is sleight of hand?

    He could have, oh, I dunno, done a bit of research before doing the interview. Read about the accounts that some actual skeptics have written, like that one I linked to by James Randi. There’s plenty out there that shows John of God is pretty much just using sleight of hand and carny tricks.

    While that would not establish with absolute certainty that that’s what John of God was doing, it is orders of magnitude more likely than miraculous healing.

  39. #39 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    December 28, 2010

    “Dr. Rediger seems to be claiming that it’s ‘physiologically impossible’ for the nose to accept an instrument as long as the instruments John of God sticks in the nostrils of some of those whom he claims to heal. First off, even if it were impossible for the human nasal passages to accommodate instruments of the length that John of God inserts in the noses of his penitents, it would not be “physiologically impossible.” It would be ‘anatomically impossible.

    It’s not anatomically impossible, however. Far from it!”

    Obviously, Rediger’s a chiropractic psychiatrist!

  40. #40 Photalistic
    December 28, 2010

    My take on religion and quackery, a poem in free verse:
    Transcendentalism
    transcendental sympathy
    seeping through dry eyes
    pedestrians blown by lies
    gusting up the streets

    snow balling into fists
    quiet down the cry
    frozen lips stop asking why
    begging comes in lists

    hierarchy of desperate needs
    food, warmth, love
    economic shoves
    a harsh desperate plead

    transcendental sympathy
    marked by religious bound
    food, warmth, love wound
    in stipulated decree

    snow balling into fists
    pummeling into bone
    splintered lights shown
    bloodied hair wisps

    whispered desperate plead
    harsh in guttered streets
    warm flesh, loved meat
    economic need

    bound religious texts
    limit the seeping eye
    splintered lies defy
    the paganistic hex

    minds pummeled into race
    sex, gendered lies
    of who to warm, who to love
    transcendental disgrace

    —-

    transcendental sympathy
    vapor rising off crystallized kindness
    coin operated vending machine dispensing
    coffee warmed cups

    insulin impregnated steam from riddled vents
    pumping out addictive trends
    minds addled with hungered exhaustion

    music in the background
    young lips painted bright
    parting notes tuned to
    rise emotions high

    bread lines end at the
    church door opened in strong
    arms throwing off the snow
    trading rusty benches with indoor heat

    —-

    hollow stomach pains
    transcendental sympathy
    food given freely

    crystallized kindness
    dissolving in warm water
    enduring sweetness

    —-

    transcendental

  41. #41 Jeremy Poiven
    December 28, 2010

    Orac, I am not a troll by any means. I simply don’t understand how you can write something inaccurate, and then insult anyone who questions you. I don’t think Johm of God is legit, and I expected a well founded blog from you explaining that. Instead, you make unwarranted attacks on Dr. Gupta, and source Randi in your posts on this matter, in comparison to Redinger, a Harvard MD. As it turns out, you are likely right, but a magician is now your source? As I have said, much of your writing has been excellent, but perhaps your surgical duties have become more of a burden? After all, you are the only academic surgeon with a certain NIH grant…

  42. #42 Orac
    December 28, 2010

    @Jeremy

    Spare me the concern trolling.

    As Popeye would say, I am what I am and that’s all I am. As I would further point out, in my post I also linked to my nauseatingly detailed deconstruction that I wrote in November about the original Oprah segment about John of God in which Susan Casey did and Dr. Rediger originally appeared. In this post, you will find my usual ridiculously detailed explanation as to why John of God is pure quackery. It’s right there in the second paragraph. If you were too lazy to click on the link and read (which you obviously were), it’s not my fault. Links to stuff I’ve written before exist for a reason, namely so that I don’t have to repeat myself every time I address a topic. It doesn’t always work, obviously. You’re evidence of that.

    Finally, I do find it rather interesting that, apparently above all else, you object to my use of Randi as a source. Do I detect a bit of the arrogance of ignorance in your attack? Why, yes. Yes I do. Be that as it may, who better to spot a sleight-of-hand charlatan than a magician? This has been demonstrated again and again and again. Once again, it’s not my fault if you appear unaware of it. Many are the MDs from prestigious universities who have been fooled by sleight-of-hand tricks that Randi spots right away.

  43. #43 Dangerous Bacon
    December 28, 2010

    Now all we need is for someone to come along and point out that Susan Casey is a “classically trained journalist”, and how dare we as vulgar skeptical plebeians question the CNN report.

  44. #44 Militant Agnostic
    December 28, 2010

    @Jeremy

    source Randi in your posts on this matter, in comparison to Redinger, a Harvard MD. As it turns out, you are likely right, but a magician is now your source?

    If something is wrong with your car, whose opinion do you value higher, a mechanic or a Harvard trained MD? Do they teach conjuring at the Harvard medical school?

    @Jeremy

    How could Gupta decide whether something is sleight of hand?

    Now let’s see, there are 2 possibilities:

    1. Everything we know about physics and biology is completely (not just a little bit) wrong.

    2. John of God is practicing sleight of hand just like the old psychic surgeons in the Philippines and thousands of other con artists.

    Which one is highly probable and which one is highly improbable?

    If someone offers you a no-risk investment with a guaranteed rate of return of 60% per annum, do you really need to do a detailed investigation to tell if it is a scam? If someone offers to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge do you need to do a title search to see if they own it?

    This leaves us with 2 possibilities:

    1. Dr Gupta has the critical thinking skills of an oxygen deprived newt.

    2. Dr Gupta doesn’t care what nonsense he puts on the air as long is it gets ratings, especially among the highly desired “gullible people with disposable income” demographic. He doesn’t care even if it results in people delaying or avoiding medical treatment for potentially fatal conditions.

  45. #45 Skeptico
    December 28, 2010

    It could be worse. Remember, this douche-bag could have been surgeon general.

  46. #46 The Crack Emcee
    December 28, 2010

    I’m trying to post something on this at my blog but, unfortunately, I can’t type so it takes me a lot longer to assemble these things (with the pictures and all) than you can imagine. Still, here’s the opening so you can get a taste of it:

    Poor Orac. The guy’s a fucking cancer surgeon and he has to deal with the kookiest NewAge shit imaginable being rubbed in his face for shits and giggles. Seriously, if you ever thought adulthood isn’t all you thought it was cracked up to be, put yourself in his shoes:

    Years and years of training, study, and life-and-death experience, but more people would still rather listen to Jenny McCarthy – that’s fucking brutal.

    I’ll keep you posted when it’s done.

  47. #47 Dangerous Bacon
    December 28, 2010

    Another example of the oh-so-skeptical physician who experiences a revelation about Woo That Our Science Cannot Explain is featured in today’s New York Times.

    The author of this article in the Science section is an Iraqi doctor, Amir Afkhami, who finds that a mullah who moonlights as a faith healer compares favorably to evidence-based physicians in treating mental illness.

    “I came to Iraq deeply skeptical of its traditions of religious folk treatment. To my surprise, I found a concerned faith healer who was sometimes more successful in treating the mentally ill than the few medically trained psychiatrists and general practitioners in the country.

    Mullah Eskandar’s example shows us that psychiatric progress cannot be achieved by cutting-edge science alone — it can be attained only when patient-centered care leads the way.”

    Of course, Afkhami was “deeply skeptical” before observing the mullah in action. Uh-huh. And whatever his evidence is that this guy is superior to physicians in handling mental illness, we don’t get to hear it – there’s just one anecdote. And he mentions (but quickly glosses over) that part of what the faith healer does bears a marked resemblance to “supportive therapy” that is a staple of modern psychiatric care.

    A big piece of the faith healer’s “therapy” is telling his female patient that she needs to get married because it’s her “responsibility”*. This is similar to what Evil Western Physicians were telling “hysterical” women back in the days of Hippocrates. What an advanced solution. What happens to the mentally disturbed women for whom marriage does not solve all problems? How many potential Iraqi Andrea Yates does this terrific advice create?

    The article’s author, Dr. Afkhami appears to be yet another case of someone conditioned to accept woo who tries to establish bona fides by declaring himself to have been a skeptic.

    *Other therapeutic interventions included chanting a Koranic verse into her right ear and diagnosing her as having been possessed by a jinn (evil spirit).

  48. #48 Pareidolius
    December 28, 2010

    Jeremy,
    Having had the privilege to sit across the dinner table from Randi this summer, I watched him closely as he made various bits of cutlery disappear, as they say, “right before my very eyes.” His abilities are still . . . well, amazing. This, while I was watching him closely to see how he was doing the tricks. I guarantee you that Penn Gillette or Banacek or Randi would be a better judge of John ‘o Gawd’s carny-trick “surgery” than any M.D. without a comparable magic background. Read about Project Alpha. Oh, and, are you always this snotty to your hosts?

  49. #49 The Crack Emcee
    December 28, 2010

    It should go without saying that James Randi or Teller (of Penn & Teller) would be a better judge of what’s going on here than anyone in medicine or science.

    That anyone would think otherwise is merely an example of foolishness.

  50. #50 Pieter B
    December 28, 2010

    Jeremy, there was a Harvard MD, in fact a Professor at Harvard Med School, name of John E Mack. Like Dr Rediger, he was a psychiatrist. Although he’s now deceased, he’s still regarded by many people as the leading authority on abduction by extraterrestrial aliens, a field of study to which he devoted more than a decade. Although he claimed to simply be studying people’s beliefs in their abduction experiences, it’s pretty clear he came to believe that something “real” was going on. http://www.ufoevidence.org/documents/doc1382.htm

    Impressive credentials are no guarantee of critical thinking.

  51. #51 Adam_Y
    December 28, 2010

    Orac, I am not a troll by any means. I simply don’t understand how you can write something inaccurate, and then insult anyone who questions you. I don’t think Johm of God is legit, and I expected a well founded blog from you explaining that. Instead, you make unwarranted attacks on Dr. Gupta, and source Randi in your posts on this matter, in comparison to Redinger, a Harvard MD. As it turns out, you are likely right, but a magician is now your source? As I have said, much of your writing has been excellent, but perhaps your surgical duties have become more of a burden? After all, you are the only academic surgeon with a certain NIH grant…

    Its a freaking magic trick you idiot. Randi has performed this freaking magic at least once times on national television. He was so convincing that even while telling people he was a fraud that they actually thought what he was doing was real.

  52. #52 Jackrabbit
    December 28, 2010

    Wasn’t psychic surgery debunked in the seventies? Who would let someone scrape their cornea with a paring knife?

    My first clue regarding Ms. Casey’s lack of journalistic credibility, was her eagerness to play the pretty little victim who never was able to get over her daddy’s death. That just sets the whole thing up for a monumental eye-roll/channel change.

    As for the other two, I wouldn’t want either of them anywhere near my brain. Psychiatrists are notoriously batty, but neurosurgeons? Yikes!

  53. #53 Jeremy Poiven
    December 29, 2010

    My point is not whether it is a magic trick or sleight of hand. Rediger agreed with that, when Gupta raised it. My point is that Orac never saw anything other than a video, and suddenly proclaimed himself well informed. Yes, Randi is likely right, but why the he’ll is orac writing as if he is an expert on this topic? That is poor science, the very thing orac rails against. And, what kind of arrogant prick writes “I am the only academic surgeon with ro1 funding and a blog?” That is such a douche bag thing to write and smacks of inadequate love and validation from mommy. It is a doubly douchey that it is untrue. No other self respecting surgeon would point it out orac. Perhaps education makes you feel a little inadequate compared to the Harvard trained of the world. Get off the stupid blog, do some work, and maybe you will be a professor one day, as opposed to an assistant. Respectful insolence, my ass. Go ahead, sign on as one of your pseudonyms and berate me, you douche.

  54. #54 Adam_Y
    December 29, 2010

    Yes, Randi is likely right, but why the he’ll is orac writing as if he is an expert on this topic?

    Because he is you dimwitted babboon. Jesus fucking christ I spell it out to you plainly and clearly but as others have all ready pointed out you are too arrogant and pompous to accept that he might know what the hell he is talking about.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxMGxz6-oTs&feature=player_embedded

  55. #55 Adadm_Y
    December 29, 2010

    Ooo yeah it also bears repeating that in your infinite stupidity Jeremey you actually are defending a psychiatrist. Its a bit of a double standard on your end to be attacking Orac for using the wrong experts when the source you are defending yourself has absolutely the incorrect qualifications for evaluating the criteria.

  56. #56 davep
    December 29, 2010

    Jeremy Poiven@53 “My point is that Orac never saw anything other than a video, and suddenly proclaimed himself well informed. Yes, Randi is likely right, but why the he’ll is orac writing as if he is an expert on this topic? That is poor science, the very thing orac rails against.”

    You really can’t be this clueless.

    He’s criticising this as a piece of journalism. And if “Randi (annd a whole mess of other peopl) is quite likely right”, then the Gupta piece utterly FAILS as a piece of journalism!

    If you know it’s “quite likely” charlatanism, why do you require people to prove that it is charlatanism (over and over again) but allow people like Gupta to not require that charlatans not to prove that it isn’t?

    Given what we know, to be intellectually honest, Gupta is required to assume that the “john of god” crap is just magic tricks. At this point, people who make claims like “john of god” should be required to present very strong evidence before people like Gupta give them any sort of positive air time.

    From one short blog post, you are ASSUMING that orac “never saw anything else”! There is ample evidence that such things as “john of god” is doing are almost certainly magic tricks.

    “The sleight of hand is the exact issue Dr. Gupta raised in the interview” is raised so that he and the other two can essentially DISMISS that criticism (it’s a standard rhetorical technique).

    “Harvard trained of the world”? What is the obsession with this? What Rediger says makes no sense regardless of where he got his degree!

  57. #57 Orac
    December 29, 2010

    You really can’t be this clueless.

    Apparently, he can.

    “The sleight of hand is the exact issue Dr. Gupta raised in the interview” is raised so that he and the other two can essentially DISMISS that criticism (it’s a standard rhetorical technique).

    Indeed. Dr. Gupta frames this criticism as “some people say” that it’s all sleight-of-hand, meaning that it’s not him making the criticism. Then, in a common rhetorical trick, Dr. Rediger “concedes” that he does believe that “some of what goes on down there” is sleight-of-hand, but then he immediately insists there are things John of God is doing that cannot be explained by sleight-of-hand–hence my questions: How can Dr. Rediger tell the difference between the things that he concedes are due to sleight-of-hand and the things he thinks can’t be explained by sleight-of-hand? And, if, as Dr. Rediger appears to concede, some of what John of God does is sleight-of-hand, then why on earth does he trust John of God in anything, given that he has already conceded that John of God uses deception in at least some of what he does? Instead of recognizing that contradiction, Dr. Rediger instead retreats into the lame “the world is a more mysterious place than we can imagine” gambit.

    Then Susan Casey chimes in, arguing that just because we don’t understand what’s happening doesn’t mean that something isn’t happening. This is, of course, true on a trivial level but also completely irrelevant to the case of John of God because those who’ve studied the matter actually do understand quite a bit about how John of God does what he does, and there does not appear to be anything particularly mysterious going on. She even states baldly that in essence it doesn’t really matter much to her if we prove or disprove John of God!

    “Harvard trained of the world”? What is the obsession with this? What Rediger says makes no sense regardless of where he got his degree!

    Methinks Jeremy is the wrong kind of elitist, the sort who thinks that a Harvard education is a guarantee of producing the “best and the brightest,” and that my lowly University of Michigan degree can’t compete. That means, of course, to Jeremy that Randi, who dropped out of high school at age 17 to be a performer, is apparently so far below the rarified level of Harvard awesomeness of the good Dr. Rediger that he has nothing to offer to the discussion.

  58. #58 Jeremy Poiven
    December 29, 2010

    Orac, University of Michigan is a fine institution, no doubt. As usual, you are missing the point. You didn’t see the actual procedure. Gupta didn’t see the actual procedure. Redinger did, and is allowed therefore to give his opinion. If Gupta had not followed up, and said “others call this sleight of hand quackery,”then he would be guilty. He asked the right question of a poorly shot video, where the angles made it impossible to see. People criticize Redinger, because he is a psychiatrist, and for no other reason. Yet, they hold up a magician as their example. Makes no sense to speak in generalities, and then shout out such specifics. And, Orac, according to the first line of your response, you indicate that you knew what Gupta’s intent was when he asked the question. That you somehow knew what he was thinking. That is just rich, and confirms that you are an arrogant prick. That is a specific that I will shout from the rooftops.

  59. #59 Todd W.
    December 29, 2010

    @Jeremy Poiven

    People criticize Redinger, because he is a psychiatrist, and for no other reason.

    Wrong. People criticize him because he claims to have been skeptical of John of God, but exercised no skepticism. People criticize him for, in essence, promoting John of God. His being a psychiatrist only comes into play if it is used to establish some sort of credibility on the subject. For example, in arguing that, because he is a Harvard trained psychiatrist, he is therefore qualified to accurately judge what John of God did, you are relying on an argument from authority (and a false one, at that). Pointing out that his being a psychiatrist is not a qualification for judging sleight of hand tricks is not inappropriate.

    Yet, they hold up a magician as their example.

    Because a magician is a qualified expert to comment on sleight of hand tricks. You seem to keep missing this point.

  60. #60 davep
    December 29, 2010

    Jeremy Poiven@58: “Redinger did, and is allowed therefore to give his opinion.”

    No, it is not at all clear what Rediger “observed”. He observed some fraud shoving some things up people’s noises. He “tried to get CTs”, which means he did not observe any!

    Jeremy Poiven@58: “He asked the right question of a poorly shot video, where the angles made it impossible to see.”

    The credulous Carey provided the video. Why did she provide “poorly shot” video? Why is that presumably the best shot she had?

    Jeremy Poiven@58: “People criticize Redinger, because he is a psychiatrist, and for no other reason.”

    This is so clearly untrue that you must be lying. Regardless of his credentials, what he says doesn’t make sense on its face.

    Don’t besmerch the reputation of where you might have gone to school by revealing it.

    Jeremy Poiven@58: “Yet, they hold up a magician as their example.”

    Explain how being a psychiatrist is better qualification for detecting sleight-of-hand? Randi is not only a magician. He’s duplicated the same tricks that “john of god” uses.

    Jeremy Poiven@58: “that you are an arrogant prick. That is a specific that I will shout from the rooftops.”

    This is an ad-hominem. It isn’t relevant.

    Gupta’s report is a horrible piece of journalism.

  61. #61 Erik Kab
    December 30, 2010

    My mother’s best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. Instead of going straight to mastectomy & chemo she flew to Brazil for faith healing.

    She was dead six months later.

    We don’t hear enough about the tragic consequences of believing in faith healing.

    Thank you for calling attention to this charlatan.

  62. #62 The Crack Emcee
    December 30, 2010

    Here you go, folks. It’s called:

    After Awhile Insolence Doesn’t Require Respect

  63. #63 Steven Sullivan
    December 30, 2010

    “That is just rich, and confirms that you are an arrogant prick. That is a specific that I will shout from the rooftops.”

    Hmm, you claim to be a teacher, Mr. Poiven. Is that true or is it ‘populous’ drivel? If the former, I do hope your grasp of logic and your rhetorical prowess are better in the classroom than here.

  64. #64 youngskeptic
    December 30, 2010

    “People criticize Redinger, because he is a psychiatrist, and for no other reason.”

    Where the hell did that come from? I think you may be engaging in just a wee bit of projection.

  65. #65 The Blind Watchmaker
    December 30, 2010

    The best person to spot slight-of-hand is a slight-of-hand expert.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u14JFjF9jBg

  66. #66 Anne
    January 1, 2011

    sigh, Gupta did get an education U of MIchigan Interflex ’93

    -U of Michigan BSChem ’84, MBA ’90

  67. #67 Criss Wilhite
    January 6, 2011

    Although he is better than many television MDs, I have been disappointed by Dr. Gupta for a number of reasons. He does not look for confounds in research in ways I have trained undergrads to do. He fell for facilitated communication which was discredited by scientists and courts in Australia before it was brought here. Then it was again discredited in courts and by scientists here. But Gupta saw the film about it and uncritically accepted it. I just read the recent research on prayer and it is full of confounds. They are so obvious that we will use that research for beginning students in the course that is a pre-req to become a major (sophomores and juniors). I think they will be able to identify the problems without much instruction at all.

  68. #68 joe
    January 6, 2011

    Was the world flat before Columbus or better yet the Vikings came across the Atlantic? JOG helps people how it works is not known but it works. How many times when you go to the dr they have no clue what is wrong. What is the placebo effect? Using the scientific method as the metric for understanding is narrow and extremely limited. It only works if you have all of the variables and its obvious that is not the case. Considering how many changes take place in our understanding of science and this method has never changed. Critical thinking is important but sceptics use it as their religion. The proof is in the results. We know very little about the nature of our reality. However we do know that beliefs can be beneficial and healing.

  69. #69 Chris
    January 6, 2011

    joe:

    Was the world flat before Columbus or better yet the Vikings came across the Atlantic?

    Actually the Greeks knew the planet was a spherical several thousands of years ago. Before you make pronouncements on how much we know about science and nature, perhaps you should educate yourself on the history of that subject.

  70. #70 Scott
    January 6, 2011

    JOG helps people how it works is not known but it works.

    Why don’t you provide some actual evidence that it does work, before making such claims? We have perfectly adequate explanations for all the facts, which do not include any claim that he is anything other than a fraud.

    How many times when you go to the dr they have no clue what is wrong. What is the placebo effect?

    Relevance?

    Using the scientific method as the metric for understanding is narrow and extremely limited. It only works if you have all of the variables and its obvious that is not the case.

    False. The scientific method does not require knowledge of all variables. All it requires is that one be able to make observations of the system in question. And since claims of recovery ARE observations in their own right, the scientific method is completely applicable.

    Considering how many changes take place in our understanding of science and this method has never changed. Critical thinking is important but sceptics use it as their religion.

    What in the world do these statements even mean?

    The proof is in the results.

    Indeed. And the scientific method gets excellent results, which no other method of inquiry has ever been able to compete with.

    We know very little about the nature of our reality. However we do know that beliefs can be beneficial and healing.

    Which has what to do with the fraud that is John of God?

  71. #71 Calli Arcale
    January 6, 2011

    And what’s more, Columbus was actually *wrong* about the Earth’s geometry, and only the surprise discovery of America saved him and his crew from a horrible death at sea. Columbus thought the Earth was much smaller than it actually is. In fact, the ancient Greeks had measured the Earth with pretty decent accuracy thousands of years earlier, so everybody was screaming at Columbus that he’d starve before reaching India. Columbus wasn’t a scientific maverick; he was a lucky fool who actually died believing that Hispaniola was part of the Indies.

    As far as critical thinking being a religion — I don’t think you understand what the term means, joe. It does not mean “automatic assumption that Science Is Right”.

  72. #72 Joe
    January 6, 2011

    Your missing the point. Perhaps I should of used the example of the people believing the earth being the center of the universe. Just because science can not validate something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist or isn’t true.

    Let me offer another thought. Prove to me that you love your mother. Is there a machine or device that can measure this? Not that I am aware of. Yet emotions exist don’t they.

    I am all in favor of exposing charlatans and con artists. Critical thinking is an invaluable tool to a better understanding. However, there are other variables that come into play that can not be used with this method. It’s no different than a person of faith making the claims that they make. Just because you don’t understand something or it can’t be verified by a method or machine doesn’t mean anything. It just means it can’t be quantified with our current technologies.

    The fact is the people have gone to see John of God and been healed.

    What evidence do you have that he is a fruad?
    Does everyone that see him get cured…no.

    Does everyone that goes to a dr get cured…

    I have no idea what his success rate is.
    I have no idea what a dr success rate is.

    For you to say that he is a fraud would require you to follow and interview people that have seen him then speak to their dr and confirm. And guess what even if one is healed by their visit then he is not a fraud.

    Typically people con for money or fame.

    I can imagine there a number of people that take people to see JOG and are making big $$ off it perhaps they are the cons…I don’t know.

    I do know a huge part of life is determined by what you believe and the faith that you have. Be it faith in GOD or faith in Science or the scientific method. Constantly looking for the burden of proof may limit your experience in life. Not everyone who believes in things that can not be proven is a fool or sucker.

  73. #73 Bronze Dog
    January 6, 2011

    Let me offer another thought. Prove to me that you love your mother. Is there a machine or device that can measure this? Not that I am aware of. Yet emotions exist don’t they.

    You really, really have no idea how science works, do you? Science isn’t about machines that go “Ding!” where there’s stuff. Science is about making and testing predictions. I can prove that I love my mother by doing things a loving son does: Visit her, get her presents for the holidays, express gratitude for the things she does for me, and so forth. Those are some of the behaviors people predict that love would inspire.

    You seem to be stuck in a lot of mainstream distortions of science. Sorry, Joe, but movies aren’t reality.

    The fact is the people have gone to see John of God and been healed.

    What evidence do you have that he is a fruad?
    Does everyone that see him get cured…no.

    What good evidence do you have for these healings? So far, all we’ve seen is evidence of standard placebo effect, regression to the mean, self-deception, and so on. In other words, John of God isn’t doing anything we’d even find surprising.

    Of course, when we bring up such alternative explanations, we’re often greeted with the mating call of the woo: “Impossible! Impossible! Impossible!”

    The problem isn’t that we’re dazzled by alleged weirdness, it’s that we’re unimpressed by the boring and everyday. Give us something new and unexpected. Of course, to do that, you have to have at least an inkling of what we do expect.

    As for evidence of fraud: You’re reversing the burden of proof. I would only trust a treatment after it’s gone through clinical trials designed to eliminate bias. Anyone who refuses to go through minimal scientific studies is only making themselves look suspicious. No free passes.

  74. #74 Scott
    January 6, 2011

    It’s also quite relevant to note that “does John of God actually heal people” is a proposition far more akin to “do dropped rocks fall down or up” than “do you love your mother.” That is, it is a question of objective, directly observable fact.

  75. #75 Vicki
    January 6, 2011

    Joe @72:

    You admit that you have no idea of John of God’s success rate. But you want us to stipulate that it’s greater than zero, in the face of evidence of fraud and the lack of any proof of success.

    One thing to remember is that some people get well, from some things, without treatment. I could invent any old nonsense and promote it as a “cure” for the common cold. If my only “evidence” was that some of the people who used it were feeling better ten days later, would you buy my snake oil? Or would you point out that most colds last less than ten days, so there’s no reason to believe my snake oil did anything, except for tasting bad and costing you money?

    That’s before we get into the question of follow-up. Ages ago, I read an old article (by Leo Rosten) about a charismatic religious leader who boasted “nobody dies in my house” (a large mission/soup kitchen/etc.). He managed this mostly by having any sick people, whether group members or visitors, taken immediately to some other location. When that failed—when someone dropped dead suddenly, or died in their sleep—he arranged for the body to be quietly taken to the home of a sympathizer, and the death reported from there. So, no lives saved, nothing resembling a miracle, but on paper there were no deaths at that address. One way to claim that your patients get better is to conveniently not follow up, so nobody can see the ones who don’t.

  76. #76 Joe
    January 6, 2011

    >>I can prove that I love my mother by doing things a loving son does: Visit her, get her presents for the holidays, express gratitude for the things she does for me, and so forth. Those are some of the behaviors people predict that love would inspire.

    You can not prove that you love your mother. You can only demonstrate behavior that indicates you love your mother but that is not proof.

    >>Behaviors people predict that love would inspire? What people? How did they determine that these behaviors equate to love? And is love the same for everyone?

    To place all of your faith in Science is limiting, especially since the Science is limited. No different than placing blind faith in Religion.

    I’ll ask again just because science cant prove or validate something does that mean that it doesn’t exist?

    The standard placebo effect. – I believe that the pill (sugar pill) will heal me and guess what with my belief I heal. This is huge and often overlooked. Perhaps if big PHARMA put as much money into understanding how the placebo effect works perhaps that would lead to a breakthrough. But there is no money in it for them.

    If John of God is the facilitator of curing someone of cancer by taping into that persons belief that he is a faith healer or whatever then who cares how it works. It works.
    The problem for you is that is that it can not be explained by science.

    From my limited understanding of John of God I don’t think like he is blinking people out of money like some of the televangelists. But I don’t know. I imagine that most go to see him as a last resort, after their dr’s have been unable to help them.

    If when seeing him he is taking large sums of money then I can see the harm. But if he is not and offering an alternative to someone then why not??

  77. #77 Rebekka
    January 6, 2011

    ]] I would only trust a treatment after it’s gone through clinical trials designed to eliminate bias. Anyone who refuses to go through minimal scientific studies is only making themselves look suspicious. No free passes.

    Perhaps you might think different if you were diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and your Dr give you 6 months to live. You might even consider praying in this situation.

  78. #78 Bronze Dog
    January 6, 2011

    You can not prove that you love your mother. You can only demonstrate behavior that indicates you love your mother but that is not proof.

    Oh, pardon me, I didn’t think you were asking for absolute certainty. That is the province of religious zealotry.

    >>Behaviors people predict that love would inspire? What people? How did they determine that these behaviors equate to love? And is love the same for everyone?

    No, it’s not the same for everyone, but there is enough common ground for most people. Of course, you’re missing the point I’m trying to get across: The “problem” isn’t for the scientific method, it’s a problem with your imagination being too tiny. Love is a hard topic to precisely define, and I’d rather come up with a vague but useful answer rather than do like you and succumb to defeatism and nihilism. Love has observable effects on a person’s behavior, therefore it fall under the ever-expanding scope of science.

    But when the going gets tough, you cave in.

    To place all of your faith in Science is limiting, especially since the Science is limited. No different than placing blind faith in Religion.

    Before you rail against something, you have to know what it is. What you’re describing isn’t the limits of science: It’s YOUR limits. Science is inherently expansive: It covers everything that has observable effects, and forms theories based on observations that fall into predictable patterns. Of course, people who sling around “unpredictable” too recklessly tend to show off how readily they choose to limit their imagination.

    I’ll ask again just because science cant prove or validate something does that mean that it doesn’t exist?

    Do yourself a favor and move out of the movie theater. That’s a straw man self-limiting people throw out to feel good about living in their tiny gray boxes.

    The REAL answer REAL people like me give: If it has observable effects on the universe, then it’s subject to science.

    The standard placebo effect. – I believe that the pill (sugar pill) will heal me and guess what with my belief I heal. This is huge and often overlooked.

    Did your corporate masters tell you that? The placebo effect isn’t that. It’s a combination of various human biases about interpreting symptoms, natural non-magical healing processes, and all sorts of various explanations we routinely give out. And then people like you slap us down for daring to imagine a different conclusion than you.

    Of course, you’re indoctrinated into anecdotalism, the idea that humans are incapable of self-deception.

    Perhaps if big PHARMA put as much money into understanding how the placebo effect works perhaps that would lead to a breakthrough. But there is no money in it for them.

    Then why are they buying up so many vitamin and herbal supplement manufacturers? It’s because those things are virtually pure profit: They can take a lot of filler and prestige price it for the altie pill poppers. You don’t even need a patent to do that.

    People like me force Big Pharma into performing extensive, usually placebo-controlled clinical studies to prove their products work. The placebo effect happens when you pretend to do something, and a real medicine has to out-perform pretending to be considered medicine.

    The problem for you is that is that it can not be explained by science.

    You haven’t been listening. Get out of your control freak fantasies. The problem is that we DO have explanations that you refuse to listen to. We have explanations that you declare impossible because they’re outside your tiny little box.

    From my limited understanding of John of God I don’t think like he is blinking people out of money like some of the televangelists. But I don’t know. I imagine that most go to see him as a last resort, after their dr’s have been unable to help them.

    If when seeing him he is taking large sums of money then I can see the harm. But if he is not and offering an alternative to someone then why not??

    Should I link to a video of Eric Idle doing the Money Programme song and jokingly claim it’s a video of you? Is money the only motivation you can think of? Is your understanding of human behavior that limited?

    Rebekka:

    Perhaps you might think different if you were diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and your Dr give you 6 months to live. You might even consider praying in this situation.

    If I get desperate, that makes me vulnerable to any vulture who wants to give false hope so that they can plunder the money I’d leave to my friends and family, as well as time I could spend coming to terms with the risk of death.

    If, however, I could remain rational, I’d sign up for experimental treatments with prior plausibility, rather than some controlling, paternal/maternalistic guru’s word. You know, the ones that test patients usually don’t have to pay for.

  79. #79 Scott
    January 6, 2011

    If John of God is the facilitator of curing someone of cancer by taping into that persons belief that he is a faith healer or whatever then who cares how it works. It works.
    The problem for you is that is that it can not be explained by science.

    Cart before the horse. Let us first establish that “John of God is the facilitator of curing someone of cancer.” Then we can worry about how.

    Of course, since you’re making these statements, you naturally have evidence documenting such a case. I await it eagerly.

  80. #80 Joe
    January 6, 2011

    Bronze Dog, I meant no offence to you. By your tone and personal attacks I can see that I have hit a nerve.

    Rather than answering the questions you attack on a personal level.

    My mind is far more expansive than you could imagine.

    Unlike yourself I don’t consider myself to be a man of science or faith. Because I know that they both only offer a fragment of the whole story.

    I won’t post any further since you have devolved the conversation to personal attacks.

    In other words I win and you lose.

  81. #81 Bronze Dog
    January 6, 2011

    Bronze Dog, I meant no offence to you. By your tone and personal attacks I can see that I have hit a nerve.

    Rather than answering the questions you attack on a personal level.

    My mind is far more expansive than you could imagine.

    Someone’s only reading what he wants to read. You just outright refuse to believe I ever offered well-known, common alternative explanations for John of God’s supposed healings.

    It must be quite the culture shock to meet someone who actually has deviations from the script by offering ideas that are new and heretical to you.

    I won’t post any further since you have devolved the conversation to personal attacks.

    In other words I win and you lose.

    That’s where you were when I arrived. You were acting like an arrogant, condescending know-it-all who has to invent imaginary positions for us. You don’t want my opinion because you think you gave it to me.

    That’s a real “expansive” philosophy, alright: We, as mere mortals, are defined by the limits of your godly imagination, not our own.

  82. #82 Scott
    January 6, 2011

    My mind is far more expansive than you could imagine.

    In other words, so open that your brains fell out.

  83. #83 Joe
    January 6, 2011

    Don’t try and teach a pig how to talk, it will only frustrate you and annoy the pig.

    Bronze Dog when you have to resort to name calling and refuse to answer any of the questions that I asked then it’s done you hit a wall.

    Perhaps you could hit up your Guru the great randi for some pointers. I am sure he has a few tricks up his sleeve.

    Just keep doing as your told and listen to everything that the AMA and Big PHARMA has to tell you and you will live a long and fruitful life. And please no matter what you do, don’t think for yourself, just blindly follow science just as a born again will follow Christ.

    Good luck and nice debating with you. That is until your lost your cool and let your unmeasurable emotions by science get the best of you.

    Peace

  84. #84 Scott
    January 6, 2011

    Claiming a “debate” is rather rich, since you’ve been completely unable to provide the least shred of support for a single thing you’ve said…

  85. #85 thomas kouns
    August 17, 2011

    I can assure you that John of God is not a fraud in the sense that nothing goes on there. However, the ‘Casa’ should be avoided at all costs from my own experience as whatever goes on there is not from this world.

    This is my story. I went to the Casa three years ago as I was extremely ill and ended up staying a year. At first I did not believe the Casa could do the things they claimed nor the accounts of the people who experienced such phenomenon. I put it down to a ‘placebo effect’ or people’s desperation to find God.
    I wanted to ‘have faith’ as well in order to recover from my own illness but I was still highly skeptical. However, as I experienced for myself things that defied my understanding and comprehension and witnessed more, I realized that what goes on there is beyond our understanding.

    People are often so desperate (as I was) or want to believe so much in something like God in a tangible way that they are willing to ignore the fact that they really have no idea what they are getting into. Those who go there are pressured to ‘have faith’ and ‘not question.’ Yet thousands of people are willing to entrust their lives and bodies to something that is not from this world.

    Since returning from my trip, I was attacked physically and mentally for the last several years in ways that defy explanation to most people. It has almost been unbearable at times and I have been in fear on my safety and my life and this is just the tip of the iceberg. I wish I had never gone to this place as nothing like this had ever occurred until I got involved with John of God.
    If you find this hard to believe I don’t blame you as I would be thinking the same thing had I not gone through it myself. I wasn’t some crazed ‘new agey’ guy either prone to believing in weird or unusual phenomenon’s. Prior to becoming ill, I had a career and had never thought much about this type of stuff but severe illness can make you open to almost anything if you think it will make you better.

    You will only hear rosy stories coming from the Casa guides and the Casa literature but what you don’t hear is the people like myself who have had horrible experiences. Most people and literature promoting the Casa try to explain what goes on there in a ‘bibleesque’ way that packages it so people feel safe, secure and can make sense of it. But having been there and experienced it myself, whatever it is, is beyond our comprehension and the ‘packaging’ of the Casa and ‘John of God’ is a highly effective form of manipulation.

    Furthermore, ‘John of God’ the man is not the real problem; it is whatever is working through him. Whatever this place is, it does not belong on this earth. My best advice if you are considering going there because 1) you or your loved ones are in a desperate situation as I was 2) you are seeking a deeper spirituality/God connection – think long and hard before getting into something that defies our understanding.

    Though there are thousands of people who have been helped by the Casa would strongly disagree with me, whatever this place is, it does not belong on this earth.

    Thomas Kouns

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