Respectful Insolence

ResearchBlogging.orgIt’s Friday. That means I’m in the mood for something more amusing. In the past, I used to use Fridays to have some fun with some particularly outrageous bit of woo, such as quantum homeopathy or DNA activation. Lately, I haven’t done Your Friday Dose of Woo nearly as often as I used to, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate good woo when I see it. However, some bits of craziness just aren’t suitable for YFDoW not so much because they aren’t crazy enough but because of the deadly seriousness of the intent or because they lack that light-hearted bit of looniness that characterizes the very best woo. Either that, or they’re just as loony, but they are primarily based on an utter misunderstanding of science that, because it is so utter and willful, might end up being just as amusing as any installment of YFDoW but somehow leaves a bad taste in the mouth, which is why I don’t included the YFDoW tag on it.

Which brings us to Mike Adams.

Mike Adams, a.k.a. the “Health Ranger.” Adams veers wildly between hilarious and despicable in his nearly daily excretions on his website NaturalNews.com. He’s so hilariously off base whenever he tries to discuss science and medicine seriously that he never fails to give me a chuckle at his antics. Truly, there is no human being I can think of who is better at demonstrating the power of ignorance to entertain and inspire by provoking mockery. At least, he would, if it weren’t for the potential harm that comes from people actually listening and paying attention to his rants against science, science-based medicine, and anything that seems to him to have anything to do with those evil “pharmaceutical” medicines. Just such a rant appeared earlier this week entitled Nearly all drug trials scientifically invalid due to influence of the mind; Big Pharma science dissolves into wishful thinking.

Oh, looky. Mikey has discovered the placebo effect! And he hasn’t figured out that nearly all of the quackery he promotes only appears to work because of placebo effects! Indeed, he makes this clear from the very first paragraph:

A new study in Science Translational Medicine has cast doubt over the scientific validity of nearly all randomized, double-blind placebo controlled studies involving pharmaceuticals used on human beings. It turns out that many pharmaceuticals only work because people expect them to, not because they have any “real” chemical effect on the body. As you’ll see here, when test subjects were told that they were not receiving painkiller medications — even though they were — the medication proved to be completely worthless.

Here’s the study to which Adams refers.

Reading that paragraph exploded yet another one of my irony meters, of course. Not that I expect that Adams will ever reimburse me for their loss, or anything like that. The truly hilarious part about this paragraph is that Adams seems blissfully oblivious (or is being willfully ignorant) about how the vast majority of “alternative” therapies that he endorses only appear to “work” because of placebo mechanisms. (See? I can use bold text as well!) True, there are often also regression to the mean, confirmation bias, and confusing correlation with causation, but the main driving force for most “alternative” medicine therapies remains placebo effects. Think homeopathy, which is water. Think reiki, which is faith healing substituting Eastern mysticism for Christian beliefs. Think “therapeutic touch,” which does not involve touching and is not detectably therapeutic in any way.

Of course, scientists performing clinical trials already do their best to try to account for placebo and nonspecific effects. Why else do you think that in recent years physicians studying, for example, acupuncture have gone to such lengths to develop retractible needles and various other devices designed to hide from both the patient and practitioner whether or not the needles have actually penetrated the skin or designed studies such that acupuncture needles were placed in the “wrong” places in control groups? And, guess what? The results of those studies have been resoundingly negative, with acupuncture performing no better than placebo or “sham” acupuncture. This is but one example.

Before I look at the rest of Mike Adams’ rant, what was this study, and what did it really show? After all, usually Adams’ description of a what a study shows and what the actual study shows are related only by coincidence. Either that, or Adams is very good at ignoring the nuance and qualifications, misrepresenting a study as somehow condemning all of medicine, which is what he does right here when he states:

As pointed out by George Lewith, a professor of health research at the University of Southampton, these findings call into question the scientific validity of many randomized clinical trials. He said, “It completely blows cold randomized clinical trials, which don’t take into account expectation.”

Actually, I tried, but couldn’t find this quote from George Lewith in the BBC article reporting this study, which makes me wonder whether it was removed from the article. Perhaps this is an example of nefarious pharma-whores swooping in and complaining, as Majikthise did when she complained about the reporting on this article. Of course, these sorts of stories about this study are usually at best clueless or lazy reporting. Adams goes far beyond that into twisting the story and study into his ideological pretzel. Indeed, the hypothesis that expectancy effects can influence the level analgesia achieved by pain medications is nothing new; it’s been known for decades at least. Yet Adams treats this study as though it’s a bolt out of the blue, without context or nuance. I know, I know, it’s Mike Adams. What else would we expect? What makes this study interesting are the study design and the state-of-the-art brain imaging that allowed scientists to hone in on the areas of the brain responsible for expectancy effects. The investigators summarize it this way in the introduction:

Placebo analgesia represents the best-studied placebo response (4) and is mediated by an activation of the opioid-dependent endogenous pain modulatory system (5-7). Nocebo effects, including nocebo hyperalgesia, are less well investigated but have also been associated with an interference with the endogenous opioid system (8). The effects of positive or negative expectation of the effectiveness of the treatment may therefore be mediated by the same biological systems through which drugs exert their treatment effects.

However, placebo and nocebo experiments have been performed with biologically inert compounds, the use of which in daily clinical practice is constrained by ethical and legal limitations (9). Knowledge regarding the effect of psychological factors on the efficacy of active pharmacological treatments is surprisingly sparse. Furthermore, there is scant information about the neural mechanisms by which the effects of expectations interact with the pharmacological effects of biologically active drugs. However, behavioral observations from studies that compared the open and hidden application of drugs or explicitly modulated the expectancy regarding a given drug by verbal instruction show that psychological treatment effects can influence drug efficacy (10-17).

In the experimental design, the investigators studied the effect of positive and negative expectations on the efficacy of an analgesic (the u-opiod antagonist remifentanil) at a standardized infusion rate related to the patient’s weight, age, and gender. Twenty-two patients were hooked up to an IV and monitored by an anesthesiologist, so that they were blinded to whether they were receiving opiate or saline solution. They were then subjected to heat to a level that causes pain and told to rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 100. The initial mean pain rating among the subjects was 66 (baseline). Subjects were then administered remifentanil without being told that they were receiving it (no expectancy), after which the mean pain score declined to 55. Next, they were told they were being given a painkiller (positive expectancy), and the score declined further, to 39. Finally, without changing the dose, subjects were told that the opiate was being turned off and that they should expect that their pain would return (negative expectancy). Their mean scores then returned to 64, which is a level that was statistically indistinguishable from no drug at all. The results are summarized in the graph below:

i-35f45151cf50d04ae60c3bfed3dee38f-expectation1.jpg

While the patients were undergoing these procedures, their brain activity was measured using functional MRI, which revealed that the observed placebo and nocebo effects were reflected by changes in activation of core areas of the cerebral pain network, including the insula, bsal ganglia, contralateral thymus, and brainstem, including the periaqueductal gray. The authors conclude:

Our results suggest that a consideration of the contribution of negative experience and expectancy to analgesic efficacy is necessary, but the conclusions may also apply to any pharmacological treatment, particularly in chronic disease. A new and systematic appreciation of the role of individual differences (genetic, psychological, and neurological) among humans is ushering in the exciting possibility of personalized medicine. Understanding and controlling the psychological context in which medicines are delivered will be an important part of making this move from the general to the personal successful.

Basically, this study demonstrates that expectancy effects can be more powerful than we had previously thought. In this one artificial situation, such effects were capable of boosting analgesia significantly or completely wiping out the apparent effect of the analgesia. These results, if confirmed (and, remember, this is a very artificial situation using only one drug and one painful stimulus), they do suggest that more care might well be needed to take into account the power of expectancy effects. What this study does not mean is what Adams says:

This leads to the fascinating conclusion that in today’s medical system, many drugs may only work when patients expect them to because it is the patient’s mind creating the physiological effects, not the drug itself.

No, not exactly. Adams has taken one trial of one drug and one physiological effect (pain) and generalized it to all pharmaceuticals, which is, of course, utterly ridiculous. Let’s just put it this way. There’s no good evidence that expectancy, either positive or negative, will determine whether a chemotherapy agent eliminates your cancer. Of course, when you live in a world of fantasy, like Mike Adams, that leads to some true howlers. For example, he states that the only way to design a “truly scientific” clinical trial is to completely eliminate expectancy effects this way:

The answer to that is simpler than you think: In humans, you must eliminate the trial subjects from learning of any expectation of the drug’s effects. In other words, you can’t sign patients up for a “blood pressure drug trial” because right there you’ve set the expectation that the drug will lower blood pressure.

You essentially have to sign people up for a trial of a “mystery drug” with no expectation of any effects whatsoever. That way, the mind of the study participants is no longer a variable in the outcome of the drug trial. From there, all the various physiological effects of the patients must be tracked. With the patients’ minds now out of the picture, you can get an honest assessment of the genuine chemical action of the drug itself.

He then goes on to note that it is “fascinating” that no drug trials are performed this way. Never mind that, even if Adams weren’t a stark, raving loon about this study and were completely correct in his claim that the way to overcome placebo effects would be to eliminate any mention of what a drug is supposed to do in the patient education literature for the trial, such a trial as the one Adams describes would be completely unethical. The reason would be because informed consent would not be possible in such a trial. Besides, there are ways to control for placebo and expectancy effects that have been used for decades. Indeed, doing so in more rigorous clinical trials of CAM interventions is exactly what has led to the conclusion that the vast majority of such interventions only appear to “work” because of placebo and expectancy effects. What this study does is to raise the bar; it tells us that, for measures with a major subjective component at least, such as pain, anxiety, depression, etc., we need to be more careful than perhaps we have been in designing clinical trials to take into account expectancy effects. That’s all. It’s science building on previous results and refining what we know about expectancy. It’s also an unreplicated study. Remember the “decline effect”? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if future studies designed like this one found that expectancy effects were not as large as to be able to eliminate the analgesic effect of a powerful opiate. At the very least, what I would expect in future studies is that the magnitude of these expectancy effects will likely vary depending upon the symptom measured and the specific drug used. Not that any of that stops Mike Adams from doing what Mike Adams does and dismissing all clinical trials based on a small, provocative study of 22 subjects! It’s a friggin’ pilot study, and Adams is ready to declare all of clinical science invalid based just on this!

But that’s not all. This is, after all, Mike Adams. Simply invalidating all clincial trials of pharmaceuticals based on an intriguing pilot study is not enough for him. Oh, no. He has to proclaim science as having rejected the “mind”:

That is why the pharmaceutical industry is trying to deny the existence of the mind. It’s why medical journals are reluctant to publish studies that invoke the power of the mind, and it’s why medical schools refuse to teach medical students about mind-body medicine.

The placebo effect — perhaps the single most powerful tool for healing — is utterly discarded as worthless by the entire medical profession!

The mind is so powerful that it can render drugs obsolete. When doctors truly understand and are able to harness the power of the mind, they won’t need routine pharmaceuticals. They will only need to empower patients with the factually correct belief that they have the power to heal within them, and chemical drugs have only been symbolic metaphorical chemicals that allowed the mind to believe healing was taking place.

This is a cultural issue, of course. The culture of our modern world is one of reductionism. Western science refutes the power of the mind and denies individuals the power to heal. Healing must come from external intervention, we are taught: through chemicals, radiation or surgery.

In a parallel world, with the exact same biology, consciousness and environment, another race of human-like creatures might have chosen a different path — the path of patient empowerment where doctors are mere guides who teach patients how to heal themselves. Healing is a personal art, done from the inside out, not through dangerous chemical interventions. All that is necessary for this parallel world to become a reality is a shift in the beliefs of the people. When society accepts as real the power of the mind, it suddenly becomes believable to the weak-minded masses who always look to figures of authority to tell them what’s real.

But the deeper truth of the matter is that what’s real is what you make real. Your mind, all by itself, can alter your physiology, neutralize toxic drugs, halt pain and probably even achieve other seemingly miraculous feats such as re-growing lost limbs. What’s necessary to get there isn’t technology but rather belief in the ability of the mind to shape the outcome of the body.

“What’s real is what you make real”? Geez. What is this but The Secret, the New Age belief that you can have anything you want if you just want it badly enough, that you draw what you want to you? In other words, wishing makes it so! Although there is a grain of truth to such beliefs (wanting something and taking positive steps to pursue it are far more likely to lead to obtaining it than not wanting it and not taking steps to pursue it), at its core Adams’ Secret-like wishing is a profoundly childish belief based on fantasy and desire rather than science. What’s even more mockery-worthy is that Adams seems to think that the power of the mind could even regrow lost limbs! Good luck with that, Mike. One pictures Adams, having lost a limb in a traumatic accident, staring at the stump and wishing fervently for his limb to grow back. A pathetic image, but no more pathetic than Adams’ apparent belief that he could do that if only those horrible reductionistic scientists would see things his way and start studying his woo.

Moreover, it’s a massive straw man to claim that scientists “deny” the existence of the mind? WTF? Science does not deny the existence of the mind. Rather, modern neuroscience is consistent with the hypothesis that what we call “consciousness” or the “mind” is nothing more than the product of the brain. In other words, there is no magical, mystical “mind” that is separate from the nervous system. That’s all. Adams is simply asserting a mind-body duality that science has failed to confirm, and, again, he’s doing it on the basis of a study that is not only a small pilot study but that actually implicates a neurological mechanism for placebo and expectancy effects.

When I see a screed like this one, I have to wonder whether Adams truly believes what he is saying. Given his Internet empire built on snake oil, I often think that he must know that what he’s saying is complete nonsense and that he says it anyway out of utter contempt for his readers and followers. On the other hand, he asserts such nonsense with extreme confidence and with such vehemence, such that at times I think he really does believe it. Only Adams knows for sure which is the case, and he might well be deluding himself. Whatever the case, no misrepresentation of science appears to be too egregious for him.

REFERENCE:

Bingel, U., Wanigasekera, V., Wiech, K., Ni Mhuircheartaigh, R., Lee, M., Ploner, M., & Tracey, I. (2011). The Effect of Treatment Expectation on Drug Efficacy: Imaging the Analgesic Benefit of the Opioid Remifentanil Science Translational Medicine, 3 (70), 70-70 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001244

Comments

  1. #1 dusonfnp
    February 25, 2011

    My family members insist on using Airborne, and when I say “it’s no better than placebo,” they get very upset with me, saying that if the placebo effect is helping them stay healthy, I shouldn’t poke holes in it. Fortunately, they do other things to protect themselves, like get flu shots and wash their hands thoroughly. But since they rarely do get sick when they travel, it MUST be the Airborne!

    Not that I’m any stranger to the placebo effect – I’ll never forget the woman whose PCA epidural for her knee replacement worked perfectly all night long, with completely textbook pain relief. Except that when it was time to change the bag inside the pump, I could see that the bag was almost completely full, clamped off inside the pump so no occlusion alarms were triggered, and her own report of her pain level and pain relief was in perfect accordance with the pump’s record of her PCA use. It was impressive.

  2. #2 Denice Walter
    February 25, 2011

    I’ve come to believe that Mikey is ( at least partially) sincere though undeniably, and most breathtakingly, entirely deluded. While I no longer use irony meters( I’ve learned to make estimates similar to the subtle judgments we make about nuances of color or shades of meaning), I reckon that this essay is right up there with Mercola on the Dunning-Kruger effect or Null on statistical analysis.

    Alas, and it may have been be *just* too much for me: I look out my window – suddenly, the shining silver curtain of rain parts, revealing brilliant Turneresque swirls of cerulean, aquamarine, and citron-colored light circumambulating the White Light that is at the end of each of our paths or so they tel………

  3. #3 SC (Salty Current)
    February 25, 2011

    the periaqueductal gray

    :) That’s lovely.

    Of course, scientists performing clinical trials already do their best to try to account for placebo and nonspecific effects.

    Ideally.

    ***

    Adams:

    Your mind, all by itself, can…probably even achieve other seemingly miraculous feats such as re-growing lost limbs.

    Good luck with that.

  4. #4 Scott Cunningham
    February 25, 2011

    Well, at least Mike’s learned to bold things instead of hitting caps lock.

    The mind is so powerful that it can render drugs obsolete. When doctors truly understand and are able to harness the power of the mind, they won’t need routine pharmaceuticals. They will only need to empower patients with… belief

    Placebo doesn’t make a good penicillin replacement, doesn’t kill gram – bacilli, and sucks in antibiotic disc diffusion tests.

    This is a cultural issue, of course. The culture of our modern world is one of reductionism. Western science refutes the power of the mind and denies individuals the power to heal.

    I get this a lot as an undergrad. It’s an abnoxious real-life TV trope.

    In a parallel world… [we] might have chosen a different path — the path of patient empowerment where doctors are mere guides who teach patients how to heal themselves… All that is necessary for this parallel world to become a reality is a shift in the beliefs of the people.

    That world’s already come and gone. It was the dark ages, when people prayed for miraculous healings and wallowed in sewage. They believed. It didn’t work.

    But the deeper truth of the matter is that what’s real is what you make real.

    Now I know who wrote those awful Matrix movies.

    Your mind, all by itself, can… probably even achieve other seemingly miraculous feats such as re-growing lost limbs.

    Reductio ad absurdum. Also known as lol noob.

  5. #5 stripey_cat
    February 25, 2011

    When you wish upon a star…

    I wonder if MA isn’t on psychedelics or something.

  6. #6 rob
    February 25, 2011

    whenever i hear people say that the placebo effect helps them and that is all they need–mind over matter etc. i am reminded of Steve Martin’s monologue on SNL where he mentions placebos. Then I am reminded of a story he wrote years ago, in which a little girl triumph’s with her mind over matter:

    CRUEL SHOES (by Steve Martin, in his book Cruel Shoes)

    Anna knew She had to have a new pair of shoes today, and Carlo had helped her try on every pair in the store. Carlo spoke wearily, “Well, that’s it. That’s every pair of shoes in the place.”
    “Oh, you must have one more pair. . . .
    “No, not one more…Well, we have the cruel shoes, but no one would want to try…”
    “Yes, let me see the cruel shoes!”
    “No, you don’t understand, you see, the cruel shoes are…’
    “Get them!”
    Carlo disappeared into the back room for a moment, and then reappeared carrying an ordinary shoebox. He took off the lid and removed a hideous pair of black and white pumps. But this was not an ordinary pair of black and white pumps; both were left feet, one had a right angle turn with separate compartments that pointed the toes in impossible directions. The other shoe was six inches long and was curved inward like a rocking chair with a vise and razor blades to hold the foot in place.
    Carlo spoke hesitantly,”…Now you see…they’ re not fit for humans…”
    “Put them on me.”
    “But..
    “Put them on me!”
    Carlo knew all arguments were useless. He knelt down before her and forced the feet into the shoes.
    The screams were incredible.
    Anna crawled over to the mirror and held her bloody feet up where she could see.
    “I like them.”
    She paid Carlo and crawled out of the store into the street.
    Later that day, Carlo was overheard saying to a new customer, “Well, that’s it. That’s every pair of shoes in the place. Unless, of course, you’d like to try the cruel shoes.”

  7. #7 L.F.File
    February 25, 2011

    This explains the lack of side-effects from homeopathic remedies. Patients are never told to expect them!

    lff

  8. #8 JayK
    February 25, 2011

    Imagine Mike’s over the top ranting if he were to contact something from evolutionary psychology that deals with the anthropological evidence that humans have been using psychoactive chemicals for over 10,000 years, and our actual ancestral history with psychoactive chems probably extends back as far as you want to look. Then to really blow his mind you can attempt to open up his mind to the idea that plants evolved alongside animals to encourage usage, which then had the effect of encouraging the development of cultivation. There are multiple animal examples, as well as insect.

    We’ve evolved to use pharmacological chemicals. We have a system that metabolizes them and a system that encourages their usages. Some psychoactive plants have other beneficiary minerals and vitamins, some through human intention and some not. We have a special mucus membrane that efficiently transports these chemicals into the bloodstream.

    But no! Mike says that it is all about the mind, screw all that other biological and psychological evidence.

  9. #9 Lowell Gilbert
    February 25, 2011

    Orac: some of your wording implies that “expectation” and “placebo” effects aren’t quite the same thing. Is there any interesting distinction between them?

  10. #10 titmouse
    February 25, 2011

    Theocratic wedge strategy, part II: attack “neuroscience.”

    All that integrative medicine stuff in our hospitals now –yoga, Ayurveda, TCM, naturopaths, etc.– that’s the “safe harbor” for the coming armies of “life coaches” and “psychotherapeutic counselors” and “certified TIRs (something to do with trauma) to come, thanks to e-learning.

    By sheer volume of participants, Bravewell and friends home to squeeze out science-based psychiatry with a more spirit friendly mental health industry.

    About half the psychiatrists over 50, I’m guessing, really wouldn’t mind the shift backward in time. I remember watching a couple thousand of them giving Ornish a standing ovation a couple of years ago.

    I’m sad because it’s a fight every day to encourage self-skepticism and use of reliable, verifiable terms among people working with psychiatric patients. A Gish Gallop of “empowerment” and “mind” and “trauma” and “memory” and “healing” and “spirit” and “leadership” and “intention” and “respect” and “dignity” and “wellness” and “optimum” all the rest from thousands of sources within academic medical centers will easily drown the half dozen of us asking, “what do you mean concretely?”

  11. #11 SC (Salty Current)
    February 25, 2011

    Am I imagining things or did you add to the title?

  12. #12 titmouse
    February 25, 2011

    Orac: some of your wording implies that “expectation” and “placebo” effects aren’t quite the same thing. Is there any interesting distinction between them?

    Expectation, along with natural course of illness, regression toward the mean, conditioning, social attention, and environment, are the “nonspecific factors” that may confound any true effect of a given intervention.

    A double-blinded trial controls for all the above.

    If the doctor can guess whether a patient is getting the drug verses the placebo, the social attention factor will not be well controlled.

    If the patient can guess whether he’s getting the drug or the placebo, expectation will not be well controlled but the other nonspecific factors still should be.

    Unless specifically studied, we cannot separate the effect of expectation from all the other nonspecific factors, and so we think of the whole lot as “the placebo effect.”

  13. #13 Lowell Gilbert
    February 25, 2011

    I appreciate the explanation, “titmouse.”

    My understanding of the post is more precise as a result. Thanks.

  14. #14 Scote
    February 25, 2011

    “Orac: some of your wording implies that “expectation” and “placebo” effects aren’t quite the same thing. Is there any interesting distinction between them?

    Posted by: Lowell Gilbert | February 25, 2011 2:45 PM”

    I’m wondering that myself. The fact that there is a higher archery of “effectiveness” with placebos (shots “work” better than pills, for instance) would suggest that basically the placebo effect is expectation and vice versa. However, Steven Novella explains that the placebo effect isn’t a single effect at all:

    “The operational definition of a placebo effect is any health effect measured after an intervention that is something other than a physiological response to a biologically active treatment. In clinical trials the placebo effect is any measured response in the group of study subjects that received an inert treatment, such as a sugar pill. However, “the placebo effect” is a misnomer and contributes to confusion, because it is not a single effect but the net result of many possible factors.”

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=24

  15. #15 Scote
    February 25, 2011

    Errata:
    “higher archery” should read “hierarchy”.

    (My copy editor is soooo fired. :-) )

  16. #16 Sauceress
    February 25, 2011

    A friend of mine works in a treatment program for drug addiction. He suggests that Mike Adams find a few random heroin addicts, who are experiencing severe withdrawals from heroin, and give each of them a packet of powdered glucose after having convinced them to believe that these packets contain high quality heroin. Placebo effects should immediately alleviate their withdrawal symptoms.
    Then, if he is still physically capable, Adams should blog about his experience and observations.

  17. #17 Sauceress
    February 25, 2011

    Ooops…left out this quote..

    This leads to the fascinating conclusion that in today’s medical system, many drugs may only work when patients expect them to because it is the patient’s mind creating the physiological effects, not the drug itself.

  18. #18 Chance Gearheart
    February 25, 2011

    Orac, sometimes, I believe that you must be a regular lurker on FARK with the way you title your blog posts.

  19. #19 lilady
    February 25, 2011

    I’m about to rent a van and depart to local hospice units so that I can personally rip the fentanyl patches off cancer patients. Next stop will be local hospital post op units to confiscate all PCA machines and then on to maternity wards to make certain namby-pamby pregnant women do not receive any epidural anesthesia for Caesarian section deliveries.

    I’ll be certain to write to the governor of my state for emergency legislation so that no psychotropic drug medications will ever be prescribed again. Those on anti-convulsants will have to learn mind over matter techniques and understand the placebo effect, according to Mikey.

    Now that adults have finally figured out that there isn’t any tooth fairy, there isn’t any Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny doesn’t exist, I am soooo impressed with Mikey’s take on the biggest lie of all…Big Bad Pharma.

  20. #20 Matthew Cline
    February 25, 2011

    Does Adams anywhere say that double-blinding doesn’t work, or does he just imply it?

  21. #21 RobertC
    February 25, 2011

    I do wonder if mike adams would be willing to sacrifice a portion of a little finger to prove his beliefs.

    Just a 1/2″ off the end.

  22. #22 Militant Agnostic
    February 25, 2011

    @21 – Maybe a 1/2″ off something else.

  23. #23 Antaeus Feldspar
    February 25, 2011

    What gets me is that Adams concludes that “doubt [has been cast on] the scientific validity of nearly all randomized, double-blind placebo controlled studies involving pharmaceuticals used on human beings” because the placebo effect has been shown to exist. Except that the fact that the placebo effect exists is exactly why we use randomized, double-blind placebo controlled studies. The placebo effect should affect equally subjects who are subject to equal expectations, so by removing any reason for the subjects or the experimenters to have differing expectations for particular subjects, the structure of the double-blind RCT effectively nullifies the placebo effect as a factor.

    It’s as if we showed Mike the Müller-Lyer illusion and then showed him with a ruler that all the arrows were really of the same length, and his response was to say “the accuracy of all measurements made with rulers has been cast into doubt!” He’s managed to not only miss the point but extract very nearly the diametric opposite of the point.

  24. #24 Don Matesz
    February 25, 2011

    “Rather, modern neuroscience is consistent with the hypothesis that what we call “consciousness” or the “mind” is nothing more than the product of the brain.”

    This is so false it is laughable and shows your lack of philosophical training. The brain is an object with mass, spatial location, etc. Consciousness is observer of the brain and all other objects. To deny its existence is a self-contradiction because to make a denial, you have to be conscious. Try as you may, you can never produce a lump of consciousness. You can’t locate consciousness in space or time; on the contrary, space and time exist IN consciousness as objects of consciousness.

    There is not a shred of science demonstrating that or consistent with the hypothesis that consciousness is “nothing but” a product of the brain. Simply, if consciousness was a product of the brain, it would have mass and spatial location. But in fact, consciousness has no qualities at all, never the less its existence can’t be denied. Anything you can describe is an object of consciousness, not consciousness itself–including the brain, which is another object of consciousness.

    You reductionists are so damn ignorant of your own direct experience that I can’t believe it. Just take some time to examine your own experience before you accept statements about consciousness being a product of the brain. Just what do you think is studying the brain?

  25. #25 Aaron
    February 25, 2011

    “Just what do you think is studying the brain?”

    At this point, I assume the brain is studying itself. The reason I think this is because if consciousness is not merely a product of the brain, then why is our health directly tied into our ability to remain conscious? Why is our ability to remain realistically conscious dependent on our mental health? For example, a schizophrenic is consciously aware of voices, images, and events that aren’t actually there. I could use more examples, but I think that is sufficient for my point.

  26. #26 SC (Salty Current)
    February 25, 2011

    There is not a shred of science demonstrating that or consistent with the hypothesis that consciousness is “nothing but” a product of the brain.

    Wut.

  27. #27 Jarred C
    February 25, 2011

    There is not a shred of science demonstrating that or consistent with the hypothesis that consciousness is “nothing but” a product of the brain.

    My repsonse: Ramachandran.

    Anything you can describe is an object of consciousness, not consciousness itself…

    This reminds me of the type of philosophy (I can’t remember what it’s called, it’s been nearly ten years since I took a philosophy course) which asks a person to answer, “What is a ball?” Well, a ball is spherical, but that’s an attribute of the ball, not the ball itself; the ball is rubber, but that’s another attribute, not the ball itself; the ball is [color], but that’s an attribute, not the ball itself…. And on and on and on. I always thought it was complete b.s.

  28. #28 reasonablehank
    February 25, 2011

    See. Now that’s where The Black Knight went wrong. He needed to enlist the Health Danger to grow those limbs again.

    Picturing Adams: “come back and fight you cowards”

  29. #29 ZenMonkey
    February 25, 2011

    And of course the flip side of that whole mind/Secret diatribe is that you must be doing somethIng wrong if you get sick and/or can’t be cured. It’s the “blame the victim” mentality. As someone with an as yet incurable illness, I find both sides of that coin equally offensive, repulsive, or hilarious, depending on my mood. (Adams, however, is so batpoop over the top that I find it difficult to be offended by him.)

  30. #30 autismandoughtisms
    February 25, 2011

    @ 24:
    “Consciousness is observer of the brain and all other objects.”

    “Consciousness” requires physical eyes to see, ears to hear, etc. It does not exist in a sensory vacuum. All concepts originate from and are informed by what we experience through our senses.

    “Try as you may, you can never produce a lump of consciousness.”

    *points at my children* What are those then? I “made” their brains, if we must use that word. Their brains gave them consciousness. No..?

    “You can’t locate consciousness in space or time”

    Awareness, consciousness, thought, exist in reference to things which have happened, have been thought about, have been experienced. That is space and time, no?

    That’s just for starters. I went through all of your statements, and those that were coherent (which I’m sorry, was not most of them), were unexplained, unfounded, and frankly a lot of hand-waving and table-banging (I assume you understand that philosophical reference).

    For what it’s worth I do have a philosophy degree. I’ve taught philosophy in university, to both philosophy and law students. So I don’t mind having a bit of a discussion about these issues, from a philosophy perspective. However, I do have the most dreadful head-cold so I’m not in top form. Still, A for effort! (Which is more than I’d give you on that explanation and argument about consciousness.)

  31. #31 kermit
    February 26, 2011

    stripey_cat: “Placebo doesn’t make a good penicillin replacement, doesn’t kill gram – bacilli, and sucks in antibiotic disc diffusion tests.”

    Duh. Did you think to tell the bacteria? The bacteria have to believe, for a placebo penicillin to work.

  32. #32 kermit
    February 26, 2011

    Don @ 24: “Consciousness is observer of the brain and all other objects. To deny its existence is a self-contradiction because to make a denial, you have to be conscious.”

    Who’s denying its existence? It is a subset of brain activity. All verifiable evidence indicates that consciousness only exists when there is a working brain. Alter the brain through trauma, strong magnetic fields, or drugs, and the nature of consciousness changes.

    I can point to your consciousness.

    Right there, behind your forehead. A little squeeze on the carotid arteries, reducing blood flow to the brain, and poof! The consciousness is gone. Release the pressure, blood flow improves, oxygenate the neural tissue, and consciousness reappears.

    Philosophy should *improve reasoning and communication.

  33. #33 Sauceress
    February 26, 2011

    kermit #31

    Did you think to tell the bacteria? The bacteria have to believe, for a placebo penicillin to work.

    I was musing to myself on this very issue earlier.

    I’d love to see Adams attempt to rationalize positive dose/response results obtained from drug bioassays where experimental animal models were employed.

    Mike Adams needs to write a detailed critique discussing the placebo effects of experimental systems comprising microorganisms, viruses, cell cultures, pieces of tissue or whole organs.

  34. #34 Sauceress
    February 26, 2011

    Alter the brain through trauma, strong magnetic fields, or drugs, and the nature of consciousness changes.

    The effects of alcohol are a great example. The effects of hallucinogens are another.

  35. #35 Denice Walter
    February 26, 2011

    @ Sauceress:

    Posting on 2/24/11, Adams decries the legalisation of THC at the bequest of BigPharma ( so it can be “sold to children”) however if some dude were to grow his own and ” extract the THC for his own personal use”, it’s a federal crime subject to “armed raid by DEA agents”.

    He sounds worried. Perhaps we can infer “consciousness changes” *does* mean hallucinogens.

  36. #36 purenoiz
    February 26, 2011

    Kermit @32

    I think consciousness has mass, it seems to get knocked out of people regularly in Boxing, MMA, Karate tournaments etc. The Rear Naked, Guillotine or triangle chokes used by Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners can help you “lose” it as well. Though earlier in 2010 I do remember that they discovered that some people in a vegetative state did actually have low level consciousness and experienced the world around them, as if in a dream state, however due to the trauma they had experienced, most of those in a coma were not able to interact with the real world. What was my point?

  37. #37 mikerattlesnake
    February 26, 2011

    I can’t produce a lump of “throw” either, but my arm can throw a ball.

  38. #38 DavePrime
    February 26, 2011

    I agree with ZenMonkee. Hidden in all of Adams ‘The Secret’ psuedo-theology is the converse thought that if one are sick or ill, then one must merely be weak-willed or stupid. That somehow one WANTS to be sick/hurt/poor/victimized. I have run across this underlying thought repeatedly since I became disabled a decade ago. I can no longer seem to find that funny. It is pure EVIL and should be called on the carpet as such.

  39. #39 Lycanthrope
    February 27, 2011

    @24, Don Matesz:

    There is not a shred of science demonstrating that or consistent with the hypothesis that consciousness is “nothing but” a product of the brain.

    As a case study, take the fascinating story of Phineas Gage:

    Gage suffered and barely survived a traumatic brain injury, and thereafter experienced a total personality change, such that those close to him described as being pretty much a completely different person.

    Obviously, the study of brain trauma has advanced since then, and there is plenty of evidence showing that damage to particular areas of the brain affects particular aspects of consciousness, with great specificity. As others have pointed out, alcohol and hallucinogenic drugs, which act on the physical brain, have profound effects on the conscious mind, in a dose-response line. (Curve?) Depriving the brain of oxygen similarly has profound effects on the mind. There is also the tragic case of brain-dead patients, who have suffered severe brain damage and consequently lost all or nearly all mental functioning higher than mere autonomic body system regulation. For all intents and purposes, the person they once were is dead, for only their body survives, not their mind or personality.

    There is plenty of good evidence against mind-body dualism out there if you look for it. For instance, I’d recommend this excellent YouTube video, a mirror of a video originally posted by the brilliant QualiaSoup.

  40. #40 Antaeus Feldspar
    February 27, 2011

    Simply, if consciousness was a product of the brain, it would have mass and spatial location.

    Two people have a conversation. The people both have mass and spatial location. Does it follow that the conversation has mass and spatial location?

  41. #41 Denice Walter
    February 27, 2011

    ” Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”

    Today Mike Adams ( @ NaturalNews), perpetually re-fueled and invigorated by his supreme, unassailable confidence in his scientific expertise and literary talent, graces us with: ” Vaccines found to activate moron genes that cause further belief in vaccines (satire)”

  42. #42 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    February 27, 2011

    @purenoiz

    The idea that consciousness has mass reminds me of a (tongue-in-cheek) theory in aviation that all the little (and not so little) black boxes that run various systems on modern aircraft work on smoke. Because if smoke comes out of the box, the box stops working.

  43. #43 Phoenix Woman
    February 27, 2011

    This explains the lack of side-effects from homeopathic remedies. Patients are never told to expect them!

    Fixed that for ya.

  44. #44 Jarred C
    February 27, 2011

    @ Gregarious Misanthrope #41

    There’s a similar idea about all computers. When the smoke comes out, they stop working, therefore all computers run on magic smoke.

    And yeah, I’ve actually experienced that, back when I was in high school, and I would overclock the heck out of everything I could. :)

  45. #45 lindaphn
    February 28, 2011

    Mike Adams! Check out his latest rant. Resorting to satire because he has no scientific grounds for rebuttal! Let’s conveniently ignore the mother who died of H1N1 in Tennesee & the imported measles cases & subsequent effects. Why does one have to have a Google account to comment on Natural News?

  46. #46 intercostal
    February 28, 2011

    @Lycanthrope: Whether Phineas Gage’s personality really underwent a total change is debated. Some reports say yes, some say no.

  47. #47 Aunt Benjy
    February 28, 2011

    Slightly OT, but this one looks like it’s just for you…

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/

  48. #48 attack_laurel
    February 28, 2011

    Phineas Gage is only one of many TBI patients studied, so “personality changes” are pretty well documented when the brain is injured. What happens most often is that the conscious inhibitors are lost, so the patient has a lack of control, usually manifested in irritability, excitability and sometimes sexual disinhibition. This certainly results in what close relatives and friends will call personality changes.

    It’s actually really fascinating, the brain injury research (yeah, okay, it’s my job, I confess) into which parts of the brain cause which changes, how micro-injuries can cause lasting effects, and how the brain can heal, but not repair itself the way say, a liver can regrow missing chunks. Of course, the brain is a lot more complicated!

    What annoys me about the mind-body dualists is that they won’t look at pharmaceutical healing processes, thinking of the brain as somehow “above” earthly things like being injured. This leads, I think, to a lot of the stigma surrounding brain injury (and stroke, and any injury that substantially changes the appearance and behavior of a person) that causes needless pain. The brain is an organ – a marvelous organ, to be sure – and is as vulnerable as any other organ (more so than some, since it’s on top, and we’re prone to falling over, bi-pedally oriented as we are).

    And placebo is well-studied. It’s one of our first concerns in our studies, since the brain is such a tricky thing to treat, and we have to rely to some extent on self-reporting. Pain is obviously a place where placebo plays a big part, but I challenge Mike Adams to infect himself with yersinia pestis and see how effective “thinking” himself better would be.

  49. #49 Aunt Benjy
    February 28, 2011
  50. #50 Prometheus
    February 28, 2011

    “Alter the brain through trauma, strong magnetic fields, or drugs, and the nature of consciousness changes.” [emphasis added]

    Strong magnetic fields? How strong? I haven’t heard that the 4T fields in MRI scanners causing any effects on consciousness. I have heard that varying magnetic fields (which can induce electrical currents in the brain tissue) can make some subtle changes, but not static fields.

    Did I miss something?

    Prometheus

  51. #51 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    March 2, 2011

    @Prometheus,
    There was a very cool discussion of changing the way the brain works via magnetic pulses on Nova scienceNOW in a technique called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/how-does-the-brain-work.html

  52. #52 Tony Ford
    March 2, 2011

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