Respectful Insolence

More than just quackademic medicine

For years now, one of the major themes of this blog, between laying the cluestick on anti-vaccine loons and examining quackery and pseudoscience in all its forms, has been to examine the infiltration of quackademic medicine into medical academia. The reason, as you might expect, is because, as an academic surgeon myself who runs his own laboratory, seeing pseudoscience and religious quackery such as reiki, therapeutic touch, naturopathy, and even homeopathy and anthroposophic medicine, has in the past usually disturbed me far more than seeing this sort of nonsense in private practice settings has. Arguably, perhaps it shouldn’t; both should bother me equally. However, one can’t deny one’s roots, and my roots are in academic medicine. There, they more than likely will stay. Even in the event that the crappy funding environment ever forces me to close my laboratory, I’m at home in an academic medical center; so I’d have to adapt and figure out how to rebrand myself as a clinical researcher and/or educator. Hopefully, it’ll never come to that, but I’m under no illusion that I’m so good that such a fate could never await me.

Leaving all that aside, I still think that the infiltration of quackademic medicine into academic medical centers is still the most important driver behind the influx of quackery in to what should be bastions of science-based medicine. The reason is that, for hospital administrators and the private practice physicians who provide the vast majority of every day medical care to Americans, particularly in the heartland, one of the most potent arguments in favor of permitting quackademic medicine a foothold into the local community hospital or offering it in the local health clinic is the observation that Harvard, Yale, and Stanford study it and offer it to their patients. Quackademic medicine is indeed a powerful legitimizer, giving modalities that 20 or 30 years ago would have been called the rankest quackery the patina of scientific legitimacy. I was reminded of the results of this legitimization of quackery by academic medical centers by an article from a couple of days ago that appeared, in all places, in the Asheville Citizen-Times. That’s Asheville, North Carolina, as in western North Carolina. Yesterday, I just learned that Asheville is apparently thriving as a regional center of “integrative medicine”:

The city’s sole acupuncturist worked in secret in 1985, the year Cissy Majebe moved here to practice Chinese medicine.

“Back then when people heard acupuncture, they thought it was voodoo,” she said. “I would never have thought I’d be sitting here practicing with seven other acupuncturists and be president of a college.”

Today, Majebe is one of at least 50 acupuncturists in Asheville. She helped to open the Daoist Traditions College of Chinese Medical Arts in 2003 across the street from her Chinese Acupuncture and Herbology Clinic in Montford.

People from across the country now travel to attend Asheville’s herbal medicine and massage schools, something economic development groups want to promote, along with the city’s abundance of alternative medicine practitioners.

Twenty-five years ago, the residents of Asheville had it right. How things have changed! Now physicians integrate quackery with science-based medicine, which is all that “integrative medicine” really is. Of course, Asheville is well known as being a bit of a hip city, having been named “America’s new freak capital” by Rolling Stone. On the other hand, AARP named it as one of its “Best Places to Reinvent Your Life.” Contrary to the surrounding countryside in western North Carolina, Asheville is clearly hipper and there appears to be a New Age contingent. Even so, it’s still the heartland. It’s still the Bible Belt. And it’s a major center for quackery.

The spin put on this story that really caught my attention, more so than the typical story about some “alternative medicine” clinic or other opening or about a concentration of woo in some city or other, is the economic angle. Woo sells, in Asheville at least, and the city elders see it as an economic engine that will bring prosperity to the city:

The Institute for Emerging Issues at N.C. State University recently said Western North Carolina should invest in integrative medicine — the intersection of Western and alternative medicine — to generate high-quality jobs.

The Asheville Hub Alliance, a regional economic development group, hopes to grow the sector in the way it’s helped generate action around green jobs.

“Green jobs”? I suppose so, but only if no traditional Chinese medicine remedies made of bear bile or rhinoceros horn, which result in the death of animals from endangered species. TCM is big, and it consumes lots of animal parts to produce various nostrums and medicines.

Critter parts as medicines aside, the alt-med business is really booming in Asheville, so much so that it’s becoming known as a hub for quackery alternative medicine. Indeed, it’s become an educational center for quackery, complete with schools of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, including the Daoist Traditions College of Chinese Medical Arts, three herbal medicine schools, and numerous massage schools. The name of one of them sounds as though it comes straight out of Deliverance, namely the Appalachia School of Holistic Herbalism and the name of one of the clinics in the area sounds as though it could be featured in a Harry Potter book, namely Chinese Acupuncture and Herbology Clinic. Calling Madam Professor Pomona Sprout! And calling all woo-friendly students who want to turn themselves in to quacks:

Executive Director David Brown said the area has a high concentration of Western and alternative medical providers and the health industry is one of the few areas that has grown during the recession.

“If you put all these things together, you conclude that Asheville could have a competitive advantage in advancing integrative health,” Brown said. “We have something unique in the Southeast region.”

For the region and even the country, the number of alternative practitioners and the opportunities to study alternative medicine in Asheville stands out.

And to use their new found skills to go beyond just sticking needles into people:

In other areas, students are looking beyond seeing patients.

The majority of graduates at the Appalachia School of Holistic Herbalism end up using their knowledge to make their own product line of body care products or herbal medicines, rather than becoming practitioners, said Ceara Foley, the school’s owner.

Although Asheville is more woo-friendly than one might expect given its location in western North Carolina, the infiltration of woo has definitely proceeded from the coasts and from the academic medical centers that first made the mistake of abandoning scientific principles and embracing quackery, be it in the name of a misguided “tolerance” or for whatever reason. It used to be mainly chiropractors, who can be found in virtually any city and small town throughout the U.S., but it’s gone beyond that now. Naturopaths, acupuncturists, practitioners of TCM, you can find them all deep in the heartland, where you wouldn’t expect such modalities. At least, you wouldn’t have expected them up until around a decade ago.

More importantly, this story is an indication that woo can pay well. In fact, if this is any indication it can pay so well that local governments and chambers of commerce can come to view it as a potential engine of economic development through the proliferation of alternative medicine clinics, the founding of schools to teach practitioners, the production of herbal medicines, and various other facets of a growing industry. This sort of transformation of attitudes towards what used to be viewed as quackery and this proliferation of an industry that depends on unproven methods and medicines are unlikely ever to have occurred without the embrace of these modalities by academic medicine centers like Duke (the North Carolina connection, of course), my alma mater the University of Michigan, Harvard, Yale, UCSF, Stanford, and many others. These quackademic medical centers legitimize what used to be correctly characterized as quackery. Once legitimized, once the stigma of quackery is stripped of it, once it is “integrated” with science-based medicine, the woo that used to be known as quackery no longer has to hide in the shadows. It can become big business, and that’s what appears to be happening. Asheville is just one example.

Now, I know what your’e thinking. Asheville is the Berkeley of the South; it’s woo-ey, crunchy, and full of New Age nonsense. True enough, but it is in the middle of the South. Another example: Even where I live, in the heart of the conservative Midwest, I’m within walking distance of at least four chiropractors, a psychic, an “angel healer,” a “functional medicine” center, and a big time “alternative medical” center that offers everything from chiropractic (complete with–I kid you not–prenatal chiropractic care!) to naturopathy to “detoxification,” even “detox” foot baths, to “biophoton” scanners. It’s in the same shopping center as one of my favorite diners; so I see it all the time; its fliers are all over town. Just the other day, I saw them in the cleaners where I take my shirts and suits. A major woo concentration exists there, less than a mile from my house. And as goes middle America, so goes the rest of America.

Unfortunately, this trend for what once was woo to become respectable business is a major impediment to dislodging it from medicine once “integrated.” That is exactly what I fear is happening right now. The only question is whether this “integration” has gone beyond the point where removing the parasite will cause irreparable damage to the host.

Comments

  1. #1 cervantes
    March 22, 2011

    I think we need to work harder at figuring out why this is happening. While I can’t diagnose the affirmative reasons why there is so much interest in nonsensical “healing” modalities nowadays, including at medical schools, it certainly suggests that people are unhappy with health care and the medical institution. And that obviously must include a fair number of academic physicians. Something is driving them to seek alternatives, however witless those alternatives may be. I think Orac should give that problem more consideration. From time to time I try to suggest some of the reasons in my comments here, but I haven’t noticed much interest.

  2. #2 titmouse
    March 22, 2011

    Alt med is popular because patients have been led to believe it works, particularly where standard medicine has little to offer. The convincer for most patients has been the rise of alt med at prestigious medical schools. Harvard wouldn’t promote Chinese medicine if there were nothing to it, amirite?

    Get alt med out of our medical schools and it will become less popular.

    Sadly, once young people devote themselves to an alt med career path, they are forced to propagate the pseudoscience to future generations, regardless of the evidence against them. It took a hundred years to push chiropractic nearly off the map until its renaissance thanks to Scientology and Tom Harken.

    I expect another hundred years will be needed to recover the general commitment to science we once enjoyed in the 1980s at our teaching hospitals.

  3. #3 Anthro
    March 22, 2011

    I’m completely with cervantes on this and have had the same experience. One commenter even called me a “concern troll” for leaving a similar comment.

    Unless we all take a good look at what drives this movement, and find real world ways to stop it, or at least limit it, we are going to be left with nothing more than this blog to counter the “disease”.

    To me, the bottom line is that this is the result of our national obsession with religious tolerance. All of the new-agey people I know (and there are many) used to be catholics or some other mainstream denomination. They are very proud of “leaving the church”, but what they don’t see is that they’ve simply traded it for a more “modern” type of woo. It does seem that we are hard-wired for belief and that only a very sound scientific education can begin to counteract this. Even so, we see more and more doctors getting into all this.

  4. #4 Denice Walter
    March 22, 2011

    Our greatest asset in the war on woo is ….money: more exactly, revealing the waste and fraud engendered by pseudo-science.

    Our job involves detailing how this is done: suppose that I have read that a certain character generates $10 million of spurious gains based largely on mis-informing his audience. Many of the procedures Orac lists above just don’t work. Then there is downright criminality. We can increase our message’s probability of being heard and increase its liklihood of emotionally affecting people by focusing on money.

  5. #5 titmouse
    March 22, 2011

    The Scientologists and their allies have been running a black PR campaign against physicians for a long time. One part of that campaign directed at MDs specifically rather than the public is something called “introversion,” which is a technique meant to weaken and deflect an enemy from his objectives.

    The argument, “The people are turning to alt med because MDs have been a disappointment,” is the introversion.

    It is not possible to separate that part of the public’s motivation toward alt med that is due to lies verses that part due to disappointment until the lies have been exposed.

    BTW, life itself is one disappointment after another. Can’t be helped. Yet it’s also pretty wonderful.

  6. #6 BKsea
    March 22, 2011

    I think Orac nailed the reason for this: Alt med is “hip.” People into alt med are treated as if they are intellectually superior or at least allowed to live in a bubble feeling that way. The solution is to point and laugh.

  7. #7 sadmar
    March 22, 2011

    cervantes: My brother! I’m absolutely with you on the desire for a deeper diagnosis, though I’m an outsider here. FWIW, I would see CAM in North Carolina as less a woo-vs-science issue, and more of a woo-vs.-fundie issue – going back to Orac’s Reiki is a sin post. The reason you expect woo to be in-the-closet in the South is not because they’re rationalists. They believe in Angels, divine intervention, that Obama is the Anti-Christ and what-not. Asheville is in the congressional district represented by Heath Shuler, a resident of the infamous ‘C Street’ house operated by the religous known as ‘The Family.’ NC going CAM is just a shift from one form of woo to another. And I think this is part of the deeper diagnosis: Not only are people dissatisfied with traditional medicine (for a lot of good reasons, most of them relating to the effects of corporatization on family care), but the roots of bullshit run very deep in our culture, and this is where people turn for solace, to ‘faith.’
    The thing about the Asheville CC loving the economic boost is disgusting, but not confined to CAM in Carolina. Here’s another one to make you want to puke, about a small town in Iowa that has embraced the sham on-line ‘college’ that has bought property there to legitimize their
    . (Yes, the expose is from HuffPo. Business Section. No woo.)
    Perhaps the medical schools too are responding to the economic realities of supply and demand in Palin’s Amerika?

  8. #8 Beamup
    March 22, 2011

    The reasons seem simple to me – $$$. Quacks can scam victims out of their money, medical schools can bring in donations and other forms of funding, and as the number of people profiting off it grows, it becomes seen as “normal.”

  9. #9 Pliny the in Between
    March 22, 2011

    Sadly, I suspect much of this is simply marketing by administrators. They are looking for ways to appear kinder, gentler and more ‘holistic’. The fact that it’s nonsense is less important. “That hospital may provide the best care, but we have the best paint colors and a more comfortable atmosphere.”

    Add to that the political agendas that attempt to paint science as just another extreme position and media that paints scientists as the villians, is it any wonder the public is confused?

  10. #10 Denice Walter
    March 22, 2011

    We’ve had a terrible economy since late 2007 ( trust me, I follow this): while I have found conflicting data about vitamin/ supplement sales post-recession – at least *some* people are buying *more*, and why is that? They probably believe that it will keep them healthier in hard times. Those on a tight budget may be spending their limited income on a false hope. How much are sales rachetted up by anti-SBM diatribes with which we’re all too familiar ? Since the beginning of the Great Recesssion, a few woo-meisters have increased their rants’ scope to include the economy and politics: perhaps capitalizing on the audience’s fears translates into sales. Similarly, post-Fukushima, they write about nutrition for radiation.

    How much money do compounding pharmacies make? Or vites for autism? Is there any evidence that *any* of these sCAM’s work? If not, they are throwing their money away.

  11. #11 sadmar
    March 22, 2011

    cervantes: My brother! I’m absolutely with you on the desire for a deeper diagnosis, though I’m an outsider here. FWIW, I would see CAM in North Carolina as less a woo-vs-science issue, and more of a woo-vs.-fundie issue – going back to Orac’s Reiki is a sin post. The reason you expect woo to be in-the-closet in the South is not because they’re rationalists. They believe in Angels, divine intervention, that Obama is the Anti-Christ and what-not. Asheville is in the congressional district represented by Heath Shuler, a resident of the infamous ‘C Street’ house operated by the religous cult known as ‘The Family.’ NC going CAM is just a shift from one form of woo to another. And I think this is part of the deeper diagnosis: Not only are people dissatisfied with traditional medicine (for a lot of good reasons, most of them relating to the effects of corporatization on family care), but the roots of bullshit run very deep in our culture, and this is where people turn for solace, to ‘faith.’
    The thing about the Asheville CC loving the economic boost is disgusting, but not confined to CAM in Carolina. Here’s another one to make you want to puke, about a small town in Iowa that has embraced the sham on-line ‘college’ that has bought property there to legitimize their operation. (Yes, the expose is from HuffPo. Business Section. No woo.)
    Perhaps the medical schools too are responding to the economic realities of supply and demand in Palin’s Amerika?
    (Sorry for the HTML mess-up above. Can anyone delete it?)

  12. #12 altın çilek
    March 22, 2011

    The reasons seem simple to me – $$$. Quacks can scam victims out of their money, medical schools can bring in donations and other forms of funding, and as the number of people profiting off it grows, it becomes seen as “normal.”

  13. #13 titmouse
    March 22, 2011

    Only a moran would advocate for a fight against religion generally.

    Again, that component of the public’s motivation specifically due to religious belief or feeling verses that part due to lies cannot be understood until the lies are exposed.

    The lies will be exposed the day that MDs at our medical schools cease misleading patients about the effectiveness of alt med.

  14. #14 Denice Walter
    March 22, 2011

    In conclusion: let’s ferret out the weasels!

    ( Pardon my split comments- it tricks the system)

  15. #15 sadmar
    March 22, 2011

    titmouse wrote:

    Alt med is popular because patients have been led to believe it works, particularly where standard medicine has little to offer. The convincer for most patients has been the rise of alt med at prestigious medical schools. Harvard wouldn’t promote Chinese medicine if there were nothing to it, amirite? Get alt med out of our medical schools and it will become less popular.

    I could not disagree more. Look at mouse’s first sentence, and note the contradiction that follows. If Harvard promotes it, then has become standardized, institutionalized. The backbone of CAM’s appeal is the ‘Alt’ part – the notion that the establishment is stuck in some narrow-minded world of numbers, blind to the whole world of the Mystical Powers of Nature. People susceptible to CAM are more likely to grant it legitimacy because people like Orac rail against it than because the Med school in Orac’s state has let it in the door.

  16. #16 titmouse
    March 22, 2011

    “effects of corporatization on the family.”

    Whatever, no.

    People lie for many reasons. Expose the lies and they will stop.

  17. #17 Clare
    March 22, 2011

    Is it possible that people now expect too much? Since the vast majority of things that used to kill and maim people in the 50s and 60s are no longer such an issue people expect modern medicine to solve all of their problems. When it doesn’t they turn to woo because that offers complete certainty while medicine almost never does and people tend to like certainty.

  18. #18 Dangerous Bacon
    March 22, 2011

    In addition to TCM helping to drive endangered animal species to extinction, “herbology” plays a role in threatening the survival of some wild plant species (for instance ginseng, whose wild populations have plummeted, and goldenseal). It needs to be made clear that credulousness about plant cure-alls that lack evidentiary backing and which leads to unsustainable wild plant harvesting, is not a “green” activity.

    Incidentally, when did “herbology” become the new “in” term for herbalism? Is this supposed to add a new gloss of respectability, or imply that “herbologists” have an advantage over herbalists? Did this jargon come from the same folks who gave us “dis-ease” and “wholistic” medicine?

    Combatting quackery is always going to be a multi-front effort. What I’d like to see is mandatory coursework in critical thinking and introduction to the scientific method, beginning no later than 6th grade or so.

    *In the category of “point and laugh”, I’ve noticed a recent tendency for holistic healing to be grouped with more laughable forms of woo, as in the “Psychic Fair and Holistic Health Expo” phenomenon. These things are now held all over the country, including one coming to Cleveland next month and featuring such luminaries as:

    Rev. Jimmie Burke, Pscyhic
    Spirit Connection
    Illuminated Answers
    Brittany Verrette, Pscyhic (sic), Medium, Reiki Master
    Sensitive Sophia
    Harmony Now
    The ‘Green’ Stcokbroker (sic)
    Ms. Margo, The Bone Reader
    Bath Fitter for Healthy Living
    Larmco Windows and siding

    I have no idea how those last two wound up on the list, but I guess there’s a market for Holistic Home Improvements as well.
    Note in the link an upcoming Health Freedom Expo featuring (in addition to Mike Adams), Sherri Tenpenny and Kevin Trudeau. Looks to be a dynamite huckster and quack-fest.

  19. #19 sadmar
    March 22, 2011

    titmouse:
    ‘Only a moran’ would conclude that a generalizing bitching against religion in a blog post here is necessarily a call for “a fight against religion generally.” And no, the lies would not be exposed if med schools rejected CAM because CAM has been doing very well for decades (if not centuries) without any establishment endorsement whatsoever.
    Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens may be morans, verses merely being jerks, but they know how to spell-check.
    religious belief or feeling verses
    THERE WAS A YOUNG MAN FROM MIAMI,
    WHOSE FRIENDS ALL CONSIDERED HIM BARMY.
    HE DRESSED UP IN A SHEET,
    AND TOOK TO THE STREET,
    AND TELLS ALL HIS FRIENDS HE’S A SWAMI!!
    ‘A sermon’, thought Father O’Quinn,
    ‘I should write ’bout ‘The Evils Of Sin’
    But my mind is a blank
    So I’ll sit here and wank
    ‘Til I’m feeling inspired to begin.’

  20. #20 Reverend Rodney
    March 22, 2011

    Since “mainstream medicine” is falling more and more under the influence of pharmaceutical corporations, where not only are expensive prescriptions given for most ailments, while not a word is said about preventative measures, e.g. exercise, avoid pigging out on fats and meat products, and so on, it is no wonder that people are turning to Eastern medicine and, unfortunately, to quacks.
    You cannot say that everything not “western” is quackery! Science is based on more than laboratory experiments but on experience as well.
    Acupuncture, thousands of years in development and improvement, has been proven an effective, safe, and sound treatment for many ailments.

  21. #21 Lawrence
    March 22, 2011

    Rev. Rod – you mean “acupuncture” as it was created by Chairman Mao during the Cultural Revolution, since most of the traditional doctors were imprisoned or just killed outright? That acupuncture?

  22. #22 sadmar
    March 22, 2011

    Danger Bacon noted of the ‘Health Expo':

    Rev. Jimmie Burke, Pscyhic
    Spirit Connection
    Ms. Margo, The Bone Reader
    Bath Fitter for Healthy Living
    Larmco Windows and siding
    I have no idea how those last two wound up on the list.

    Joke reply: I guess you’ve never talked to a siding salesman then?
    Serious Reply: Advertising consistently presents consumer products as able to perform magic. See classic essay by Raymond Williams. Woo is at the very heart of capitalist consumer society.
    Dangerous Bacon: Is your handle a reference to the philosopher, the painter, pork products, or all three? On the red meet side, is Canadian bacon as dangerous as All-American bacon strips? Are fake bacon bits the answer. :-) cheers, s.

  23. #23 OleanderTea
    March 22, 2011

    ….”mainstream medicine”…not a word is said about preventative measures, e.g. exercise, avoid pigging out on fats and meat products…

    What doctor has Rev. Rod been going to? Mine won’t shut the hell up about diet and exercise.

  24. #24 Pablo
    March 22, 2011

    So the question is multi-fold.

    1) Why do institutions (schools, cities, etc) embrace quackery? Money. And lots of it. For schools, it increases the pools of potential donors. For cities, it increases the potential for commerce. So these administrative moves are driven not by an embracing of woo, but by an embracing of money.

    But that begs question 2:
    2) Why is there so much money to be made in quackery?
    That’s a more challenging issue, but my contention is that it is simple: because quacks have no qualms lying to people. For exhibit 1, see post #20. Science-based medicine has this drawback that it actually works in the world of evidence and applied statistics, and hence can’t promise anything, and acknowledge that things aren’t perfect. Quacks, on the other hand, work in fantasyland where they can throw out anything that they don’t like (including scientific principles) and just assert that it works.

    I’ve mentioned the example many times of Suzanne Sommers and her back about doctors who (claim to) cure cancer. In an interview, she stated the problem as clearly as anyone could: You go to a doctor and they will tell you about these terrible things they will do (radiation, chemo) but they won’t promise that they will cure you. These guys in my book can actually cure cancer.

    Keep in mind those guys in the book include the nut that thinks that you can cure cancer with baking soda and the guy that recommends multiple enemas a day. But hey, they are good because they will tell you that they cure cancer. They are lying through the teeth, but at least they promise you that. Those hopeless western doctors won’t make that promise.

  25. #25 Vicki
    March 22, 2011

    I suspect it goes with a right-wing machine that insists that truth is irrelevant, and has convinced most of the press not to check facts. Consider the recent attack on NPR: someone who was a well-known liar, with a history of having faked videos to attack his enemies, showed up with a video that made someone look bad. Instead of saying “This guy is a liar” and ignoring it, or running a “hacks try to slander NPR” story, large amounts of the press printed his lies. And then defended themselves by saying “well, we knew a lot of it was probably faked, but we thought there was probably some truth in it somewhere.” Funny, they didn’t mention that they knew about the lies when they ran the attacks.

    In a culture where reporters think “we know it’s mostly lies, but it sounds good” is a sufficient defense for publishing lies to force someone out of his job, who is going to point out that the kindly acupuncturist or homeopath is a con artist? And how many people will listen, rather than say “that’s just your opinion” because they’re prepared to claim that 2+2=5 if you tell them that their opponents added 2+2 and got 4?

  26. #26 VaxGhost
    March 22, 2011

    My two cents: People have gotten the impression that mainstream medicine is simply too expensive for the average person, with or without insurance coverage. All the political rhetoric has reinforced this to the point that many folks now are looking for cheap alternatives. A visit with a woo practitioner doesn’t cost nearly as much as an office call with a medical doctor, especially for first time patients where the first visit may run over $200.

  27. #27 sadmar
    March 22, 2011

    Danger Bacon noted of the ‘Health Expo':

    Rev. Jimmie Burke, Pscyhic
    Spirit Connection
    Ms. Margo, The Bone Reader
    Bath Fitter for Healthy Living
    Larmco Windows and siding
    I have no idea how those last two wound up on the list.

    Joke reply: I guess you’ve never talked to a siding salesman then?
    Serious Reply: Advertising consistently presents consumer products as able to perform magic. See classic essay by Raymond Williams. Woo is at the very heart of capitalist consumer society.
    Dangerous Bacon: Is your handle a reference to the philosopher, the painter, pork products, or all three? On the red meet side, is Canadian bacon as dangerous as All-American bacon strips? Are fake bacon bits the answer. :-) cheers, s.

  28. #28 Beamup
    March 22, 2011

    Since “mainstream medicine” is falling more and more under the influence of pharmaceutical corporations, where not only are expensive prescriptions given for most ailments, while not a word is said about preventative measures, e.g. exercise, avoid pigging out on fats and meat products, and so on

    Can I know the name of your doctor? I’d love for mine to stop bugging me about getting more exercise and eating better.

  29. #29 sadmar
    March 22, 2011

    Danger Bacon noted of the ‘Health Expo':

    Rev. Jimmie Burke, Pscyhic
    Spirit Connection
    Ms. Margo, The Bone Reader
    Bath Fitter for Healthy Living
    Larmco Windows and siding
    I have no idea how those last two wound up on the list.

    Joke reply: I guess you’ve never talked to a siding salesman then?
    Serious Reply: Advertising consistently presents consumer products as able to perform magic. See classic essay by Raymond Williams. Woo is at the very heart of capitalist consumer society.
    Dangerous Bacon: Is your handle a reference to the philosopher, the painter, pork products, or all three? On the red meet side, is Canadian bacon as dangerous as All-American bacon strips? Are fake bacon bits the answer. :-) cheers, s.

  30. #30 Jarred C
    March 22, 2011

    [blockquote]I think we need to work harder at figuring out why this is happening.[/blockquote]

    I’ll throw in a small tidbit. When I was in high school (the 90s), a cultural shift happened in the education in America. The focus shifted from grade-based education to self-esteem-based education. During the 90s, it was much more important for a child to have good self esteem and feel good about him/herself, than it was for the child to receive good grades. We developed a culture where it is more important to feel good about something than it is being correct.

    As an example of what I mean, my high school had no failing grades. None. We had four letter grades: A, B, C, I. An I is “incomplete” and you could redo whatever project that was giving you the I grade as many times as you wanted until you “passed” (this also bred procrastination). I did most of my major projects during summer school; it gave me something to do during the summer, and reduced my workload throughout the year. I didn’t really care that because I did them late, I could only receive a max grade of a C. Heck, most of my major projects were graded A (crossed out), with a C (because it was late). What’s the point of doing the homework on time when you could just do it later, and still pass the class.

    So literally, I went to a high school were you could not fail. At all.

    I also had multiple projects in high school that were graded on how much you tried, not whether you were right or wrong. My freshman project (a poster and presentation to a committee) had most of its facts based on a Stephen Siegel movie, so you automatically know most of it is wrong right there, but I still aced it, because the poster looked good, and I presented well; I had put in the effort, and it didn’t matter that the content was completely false.

    This kind of educational background breeds an acceptance of woo.

  31. #31 BB
    March 22, 2011

    My cynical view regarding how and why alt med creeps into med schools: insurance companies will pay for woo and it’s cheaper than real med.

  32. #32 sadmar
    March 22, 2011

    Hi Vicki:
    Right on! “Well known liar” being one James O’Keefe of the fake ACORN expose, and also his slimeball sponsor Andrew Breitbart. Political reporters may think “there was probably some truth in it somewhere,” because they’re fairly jaded and likely to consider most people to be slinging some kind of BS that they are hiding. But they are extremely constrained in expressing this form of skepticism, since they can’t level it against anyone with real power without getting their heads chopped off. This is why the concerns about Oprah expressed here have some validity. She has genuine power in the media world. This is the primary reason they don’t challenge O’Keefe et al., they just don’t want to deal with the shit-storm that would rain down on their heads from Fox, the right-wing blogosphere, and Tea Party politicians.
    The reason they print the NPR ‘expose’ story in the first place is summed up in your comment “but it sounds good.” Before the ascendency of Fox, few things had been subject to more sociological studies than the political bias of the news media. Most of these studies drew conclusions that news media have some sort of political bias, but these conclusions always reflected the biases of the researcher.
    If you take the concrete findings of the studies, and remove the assumption that bias must be political, the studies are extraordinarily consistent. They show a bias toward spectacle (which is fundamentally superficial) over ideology (which requires at least _some_ amount of depth). This can have ideological consequences, but it’s not the same thing as advancing an ideological position.
    So there’s no direct connection between giving O’Keefe a pass, and giving woo a pass. To the contrary, most quacks are the kind of low level scam artists the media have traditionally loved to target for exposes, since taking them down doesn’t really piss-off anyone important or threaten ad revenue. 60 Minutes especially has a history of plucking the low-hanging fruit.
    However, even this kind of story seems to be less in evidence these days, probably due more to the general decline in ‘straight’ news and public affairs programming, and the rise of more profitable programming centered around celebrity… WINNING!
    Of course, the irony of total fakers like Breitbart and O’Keefe undermining one of the last sources of detailed information about public affairs is just, well, nauseating.
    P.S. can anyone tell me why some comments go through, and others are held up ‘for review,’ which seems to mean they never appear?

  33. #33 Jarred C
    March 22, 2011

    Sadmar,

    Usually it’s because there’s too many links, although there may be some other uncommon reasons. It just means that you have to wait for Orac to check his blog, and approve it, which it most likely will. As far as I can tell, the only thing Orac doesn’t allow is obvious spam.

  34. #34 Cervantes
    March 22, 2011

    Well, let me not be so elliptical. Among the suspects:

    Many people feel that their doctors are too rushed and don’t have enough time for them.

    And, physicians are not trained in communication and relationship building — at least they weren’t until recently, and we don’t really know how effective the new efforts are. So, they often seem aloof, arrogant, don’t explain well, and don’t listen well. Fact. (Not all docs of course, but it’s not uncommon.)

    All of the scandals about drugs that were found to be not so safe and/or not so effective only after they were approved and mass marketed have people suspicious of pharmaceuticals in general.

    Biology is complicated and we do a really crappy job of teaching it, partly because religious fanatics won’t let it be taught properly. So a large segment of the public just doesn’t grasp the basics they need to distinguish between the plausible and the implausible.

    Let’s face it, medical treatment can be pretty damn unpleasant. Just ask Cervantes who recently had his tongue biopsied.

    Other candidates?

  35. #35 ebohlman
    March 22, 2011

    sadmar: You mention “more profitable programming centered around celebrity” and I think the same mechanism is at play in media woo-promotion. The reason celebrity programming is so profitable is that the majority of the work done to produce it is done by the celebrities’ publicists, not the media outlets’ staff. Similarly, whenever there’s a story involving religious beliefs, the fundie POV gets disproportionate coverage because the hardline churches will go directly to the media and give them ready-to-run responses, whereas the mainline churches still expect the media to send out reporters to interview them. Remember that for all practical purposes a TV news producer has only two words in his vocabulary: “budget” and “deadline”.

    So woomeisters can present the media with advertorials and the media run with them because it’s cheap filler. Plus, that sort of thing gives them feel-good stories to run right after all the stuff that leads because it bleeds.

  36. #36 Dangerous Bacon
    March 22, 2011

    I agree about educating people on the high cost of woo (in dollars spent on it, and the later cost of cleaning up problems exacerbated by quack treatments), especially as it may mushroom under expanded federally funded health care). Even “sober” conservative voices like the Wall Street Journal seem to be setting the stage for demands that government finance all forms of health care, no matter whether it is evidence-based or not (see the 3/18 Journal editorial, which goes from condemning a state panel for questioning pediatric diabetes monitoring, to a jaw-dropping condemnation of using randomized trials to verify that a medical intervention is justified (clinical trials only evaluate averages, doncha know, and doctors treat individuals, so anything that is thought by somebody to benefit an individual must be paid for by the rest of us).

    sadmar: “Dangerous Bacon: Is your handle a reference to the philosopher, the painter, pork products, or all three?”

    None of the above. It’s the name of a favorite Stackridge song.

  37. #37 Sastra
    March 22, 2011

    There are multiple factors explaining the popularity of alt med. Money, certainly, and the self-assured certainty of quackery, certainly. Put in an ideology where people have “self-esteem” by making their “own choices” against an “uncaring establishment.” Toss in a romantic view of the maverick, the little guy with heart who showed the intellectuals how wrong they were: thinking that the old ways are the best ways is actually “cutting edge.” Science is only now starting to catch up with the past: see the Brave Maverick Scientists.

    Now mix it with a firm belief that religion and spirituality are repositories of ancient wisdom which are due automatic respect. Throw in the conviction that we need to be tolerant of other ideas, and other ways of knowing. Assure yourself that any time someone somewhere thinks something made them better, then that person has ‘personal experience’ that something worked — and personal experience is the Gold Standard. “Do what works for you.”

    Now combine this with the belief that science is converging with religion and confirming what we’ve always sensed to be true: the universe is moral, it is on our side, and if we only follow what is natural then we will be as happy and well as we were originally meant to be. We will make medicine more rigorous and thorough if we add in our “spiritual side.”

    Result: alternative medicine

  38. #38 Lawrence
    March 22, 2011

    The profit margins on “alt-med” are much, much higher than the vast majority of conventional medicines or treatments (that are actually regulated to meet standards – as opposed to alt-med).

  39. #39 JayK
    March 22, 2011

    So what can individuals do to stop the flow of woo into the schools? Nothing. I demanded that my school withdraw the tenure for Scott Minnich and look into firing him, but he still sits there with a smug smile and a flagellum up his rear. I won’t donate, they won’t budge, they don’t need my minuscule dollars.

    I suspect that the same dynamic is working for other schools. Woo brings them money and more students. It allows them to “treat” the public using students and that in turn increases the visibility of the school. The American public has become complacent towards alt-med, if not downright accepting of it because it offers a choice.

    And all we seem to do is complain about it.

  40. #40 sadmar
    March 22, 2011

    Hi ebohlman:

    Good points about media shoveling PR because it’s easier. But TV News producers actually have three words in their vocabulary: “budget,” “deadline,” and “sexy.”
    FWIW in indicting ‘programming based on celebrity’ I include not only ET type gossip-news, but the celebrity-creating ‘Reality TV’ genre of Survivor, Bachelor, Apprentice, Hell’s Kitchen, Jon and Kate Plus 8…
    These wider connections are why skeptics should not dismiss critical studies sui generis. It offers lots of ‘tools to think with’ about this crap. One of the main reasons conservative ‘intellectuals’ like Roger Kimball and Dinesh D’Souza ran a vilification campaign against a straw-man version of ‘postmodernism’ is because critical studies is often actually, you know, critical, and useful for de-mystifying the crap spread by the corporate media.
    The first inkling I had that the jig was up for ‘reality’ was in 1981, when, as I was watering the front lawn, a wandering market researcher ambled up and solicited my opinions about a prototype of what was to become ‘USA Today’. I noted not only it’s general shallowness, but the irony (or so I thought at the time) that the segment devoted entirely to Entertainment stories and trivia was titled ‘Life.’
    As I ponder the rise of woo, I am reminded of something Fred Jameson wrote 28 years ago, in ‘Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,’

    For political groups which seek actively to intervene in history and to modify its otherwise passive momentum, there cannot but be much that is deplorable and reprehensible in a cultural form of image addiction which effectively abolishes any practical sense of the future and of the collective project, thereby abandoning the thinking of future change to fantasies of sheer catastrophe and inexplicable cataclysm — from visions of ‘terrorism’ on the social level to those of cancer on the personal.

  41. #41 Denice Walter
    March 22, 2011

    A long time ago, there was a report that a screwdriver cost $700 when purchased by the military. Waste! Fraud! Outrage! I still recall “screwdriver” and “$700″.

    Numbers can solidify issues: I propose that we focus more on numbers when we discuss woo and its advocates. Exactly how much does that GreenPowder or SuperVite formula cost to produce? What is retail? ( Remember no research costs). How much does that accupuncture treatment cost? ( Remember no college,med school, training costs).

    Woo-meisters have co-opted the label of “profit-based” to be hurled at SBM/ Pharma, conveniently deflecting attention from their own MO. Turn-about’s fairplay when we can hang numbers on their products and services contextually.

  42. #42 Dangerous Bacon
    March 22, 2011

    JayK: “So what can individuals do to stop the flow of woo into the schools? Nothing.”

    By your anecdote, true. On a larger basis, I’m not convinced. A sure way to have no impact is to say and do nothing.

    The best advice to follow is still Frederick Douglass‘s.

  43. #43 Dorothy
    March 22, 2011

    It isn’t as bad as it looks. At my local medical center, it’s my impression that the new stuff is the penalty box for doctors, and mostly staffed by non-physicians. The prevailing attitude is that a doctor’s real job is to treat sick or injured people using allopathic techniques. I hope though that someday medicine can work better with nutrition (could it be that nutrients other than fats affect HDL, for instance?), but we need the research and that just isn’t happening. So doctors in that area are generally no better informed than their patients, and therefore not taken as seriously.

    I wish there were better supervision of the alternative specialties. For example, acupuncturists apparently may legitimately claim that they can affect pain perception but only a quack claims to be able cure liver disease using acupuncture (and some do and get away with it). People need to be better informed about what they can realistically expect from these treatments. But, no, you won’t find these quacks at the medical centers.

  44. #44 The Crack Emcee
    March 22, 2011

    “I think we need to work harder at figuring out why this is happening.

    Go on, guys, keep “figuring out why” it’s happening – you, too, Orac (you dope):

    I can wait.

    What did Randi say? This work is like trying to “empty the ocean with a paper cup.” It requires patience – it’s a shame he didn’t tell me that warning pertained to the so-called “smart” ones.

    Be sure and click the links now, boys and girls, or you’ll miss everything,…

  45. #45 The Crack Emcee
    March 22, 2011

    Dangerous Bacon,

    The best advice to follow is still Frederick Douglass’s.

    Atta boy.

    Pay attention to this one, Orac, he can teach you something.

  46. #46 JayK
    March 22, 2011

    OK, Bacon, we agitate, then do it again, and another time for good measure. Can you, or anyone else, explain how that agitation can catch the attention of those it needs to? I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do anything, but merely threatening to withhold alumni money isn’t doing anything. We don’t have Templeton to fund good science communications, we have HuffPo publishing Breitbart, Hyman and so many other woosters with impunity. We seem to have little to offer the public.

    I want to organize, I want to see progress, I’d like to see America become a nation that supplies science rather than just profits from it. I’m horrible at figuring out how to get groups organized and working towards a goal, so I’m asking others to do it.

  47. #47 Phila
    March 22, 2011

    “Unless we all take a good look at what drives this movement, and find real world ways to stop it, or at least limit it, we are going to be left with nothing more than this blog to counter the ‘disease.'”

    One thing that drives it, I suspect, is the lack of affordable access to healthcare. Not only does this cause people to seek alternative treatments, but it also provides a sense of security and control – however illusory – that people might otherwise lack.

    Treating it simply as “irrationalism” is a mistake, IMO. When the nation’s healthcare policy boils down to “don’t get sick,” and sick days often tend to be unpaid, it’s no surprise to see people grasping at straws, or preferring faith-based happy talk to dwelling on personal vulnerability.

  48. #48 Orac
    March 22, 2011

    Then how do you explain the proliferation of quackery in England and Germany, to name two examples, both of which have universal health care? Actually, quackery is prevalent in Europe, and pretty much every nation in Europe has some form of universal health care. Ditto Australia.

    Your reasoning is…flawed.

  49. #49 GlaxxoPharmaCom Mobile
    March 23, 2011

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    Lord Draconis Zeneca
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  50. #50 Militant Agnostic
    March 23, 2011

    In Canada, I think one driving force for “integrative” medicine is financial on the side of MDs. They can charge what the market will bear for CAM instead of being limited by the fee schedule of the provincial health care plan. While universal health care reduces the incentive for the patient to get woo, it increases the incentive for the doctor to offer woo.

    In addition, there is a shortage of MDs as a legacy of a misguided attempt to reduce healthcare costs by limiting the number of places in med schools. This results in rushed appointments and long waits to see specialists or have surgery.

  51. #51 Patrick
    March 23, 2011

    In my case alt medicine has kept me alive 10 years past my diagnosis with Cushing’s which incidently the Western Medical system failed to diagnose properly. It took me a blue collar worker with no medical background to make the diagnosis. Your system is broken -it is bankrupting this country.

  52. #52 Zippy
    March 23, 2011

    This is rich. An alleged defender of reason uses this as an excuse for an irrelevant political tirade, and then defends postmodernism.

    Dude, google “Alan Sokal Social Text” and see what you come up with.

    I’m not defending Dinesh D’Souza, and sure, some of the attacks on NPR are probably unfair. But that has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic at hand.

    But since you brought up postmodernism — the whole lefty/feminist/postmodernist/deconstructionist axis is an attempt to undermine Western “phallocentric” science, and reduce it to just another “way of knowing.” This is exactly the position taken by advocates of CAM — they try to reduce Western “allopathic” science-based medicine to just another way of knowing, one that can be supplemented by these other ways of knowing.

    It is, shall we say, convenient that all evil and irrationality flows from those with whom you disagree politically, but it probably isn’t, well, true. In fact, lots of those granola-eating locavores who refuse vaccination and line up to be poked with needles are humanities majors from good schools who listen to NPR and are totally down with Foucalt (whom they have probably never actually tried to read, but they know he’s cool).

    Heck, they’re not postmodernists, but Huffpo is home to anti-vaccine and anti-Western Med agitation, and they are generally associated with the political left. Likewise Senator Tom Harkin, sponsor of All Things Woo, and, the last time I looked, a liberal Democrat. (Liberal in the modern sense, not the Hayekian.)

    Note that I am NOT asserting the opposite. I’m quite certain you can find vaccine skepticism among conservatives (particularly religious ones), and embrace for other forms of woo-ism. And then there is the whole evolution thing. Not to mention the Libertarian senate candidate who turned himself blue by drinking silver.

    But turning everything into left/right screamfest in which everything bad is the fault of Evil Right Wing Corporationists is tiresome. And also not, you know, accurate.

  53. #53 Beamup
    March 23, 2011

    In my case alt medicine has kept me alive 10 years past my diagnosis with Cushing’s which incidently the Western Medical system failed to diagnose properly. It took me a blue collar worker with no medical background to make the diagnosis. Your system is broken -it is bankrupting this country.

    Evidence please.

  54. #54 Vicki
    March 23, 2011

    Zippy,

    You are painting feminism and the left with as broad, and misleading, a brush as you accuse them of using. It is, as you say, convenient to lump all of a group together in inaccurate ways. Note: “not all woo-sters are feminists,” which you note, is different from “not all feminists are woo-sters,” the point I am making here.

  55. #55 titmouse
    March 23, 2011

    I hate this thread for the over-thinking.

    1. Derp. Of course lies are profitable.

    2. Let the people have their lies.

    3. Get the lies out of the medical schools.

    The expert’s duty is to reason from evidence. The non-expert’s duty is to determine who is an expert. To do that non-experts need a reliable signifier of expertise –e.g., medical degree, specialty board certification, academic appointment, published work in peer reviewed journals.

    Thanks to “integrative medicine,” we can no longer separate the evidenced based from the woo friendly using our old familiar signifiers. So we must set aside a place within academic medicine where science is respected once again.

    Once a structure exists where science is respected above the wish to make money or to pander to narcissistic needs such as “empowerment,” the major battle against widespread fraud within medicine will have been won.

  56. #56 Pieter B
    March 23, 2011

    Sadmar, you should know your memes.

  57. #57 Zippy
    March 23, 2011

    Vicki, I agree that I was probably being a bit broad-brushed about feminism and leftism generally. At one time, the left saw itself as being on the side of Science and Reason — hence, “scientific socialism.” Likewise, I’m sure that there are at least some feminists who embrace science and evidence-based “ways of knowing.” Though academic feminism, as found in Women’s Studies departments, is pretty much locked into the whole rejection of “phallocentric” science.

    But I will retreat not one millimeter on the whole postmodernist critical theory enterprise, which is rotten to the core and as committed to irrationalism as Reiki.

  58. #58 Zippy
    March 23, 2011

    Vicki, I agree that I was probably being a bit broad-brushed about feminism and leftism generally. At one time, the left saw itself as being on the side of Science and Reason — hence, “scientific socialism.” Likewise, I’m sure that there are at least some feminists who embrace science and evidence-based “ways of knowing.” Though academic feminism, as found in Women’s Studies departments, is pretty much locked into the whole rejection of “phallocentric” science.

    But I will retreat not one millimeter on the whole postmodernist critical theory enterprise, which is rotten to the core and as committed to irrationalism as Reiki.

  59. #59 waggs
    March 23, 2011

    alt medicine back 100 yrs ago was a joke,and it turned out to be quite real. Anything that works that cant be explained away is dismissed by today’s hedonistic For Profit health-care conglomerates.
    curious- nobody can see radiation,gamma rays,love,etc… But we know they exist. I accept acupuncture as most certainly real, and some reiki people actually DO have something going on[ and many work free,too,I might add]

  60. #60 The Crack Emcee
    March 23, 2011

    Look, I think you “science” guys are really a bunch of morons, but I’m going to try to help you here, this one time, a little bit at a time, to walk you through to ‘enlightenment” – Zippy, you said this right?

    Some of the attacks on NPR are probably unfair.

    Let’s just talk about that for a second. Forget everything else. Forget the topic of the thread – everything. Just focus on NPR. You think you know it, right? It’s your soft-spoken buddy, right? Fuck NPR. Fuck NPR, PBS, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Fuck Big Bird. Fuck all them motherfuckers. Why? As the cultists say, “It’s all connected.”

    Go here. Then go here. Then go here. Then go here.

    I’ll check in with you guys later. And don’t forget I accept donations.

  61. #61 Yojimbo
    March 23, 2011

    @58 waggs

    I accept acupuncture as most certainly real, and some reiki people actually DO have something going on

    And you know this how?

  62. #62 sadmar
    March 23, 2011

    Zippy, you ignorant slut:
    (that’s an SNL reference, i.e. a joke)
    Yow! It’s obvious from your post you know absolutely nothing about “the whole postmodernist critical theory enterprise.” I’m guessing you read one of those straw-man diatribes and bought into it. (If you’ve read any of the primary sources, you surely didn’t ‘get it.’)
    If you intend to attack my rationality, you might want to learn the rules of argument. Like accurately quoting or recapping a position anyone can see by scrolling up the thread. I did not say: “all evil and irrationality flows from those with whom [I} disagree politically.” First, there was no ‘all.’ Would you care to take issue with “the most dangerous irrationality and rejection of science in 2011 flows from the right?”
    I am not screaming. If you’re hearing it that way, that’s your problem. I’m making two separate points. First, the only really serious attack against reason and science is being mounted by the Fundie/Corporatist right-wing nut jobs. Are you unaware that the funding for climate-change denial comes from the Koch brothers and other oil billionaires?
    Second, I’m arguing that woo lands in a fertile cultural petrie dish that has been prepared by consumer capitalism. This is not a group of people advancing a particular ideology. It is the cultural consequences of economic practices. And what happens, especially in advertising, is that the sizzle replaces the steak. TV shows are ‘Life’. Go to the link above, READ the Raymond Williams essay on advertising, come up with an argument against it, or shut the fuck up. (Are we having fun yet?)
    For the record: there is no comparison whatsoever between the ‘science studies’ folks and the anti-rationalist right. For one thing, the people in the humanities are woofing. It’s SUPPOSED to be hyperbolic. When Luce Iragary says “E=MC2 is a gendered equation,” she doesn’t mean it literally. (FWIW, I make no assertion to actually understand Iragaray, and what I do understand I mostly disagree with, but I feel quite safe in the general assertion above). The right opposes all education. The left supports it. The right now totally rejects any empirical notion of truth in favor of a transcendant Truth which translates into the real world as a totally unrestrained will to power. ‘We get to say ANYTHING, because we are RIGHT, and the (Godly) ends justify any and all means.”
    Science studies, critical theory, etc. still believe in truth with a small ‘t’. They don’t reject science or reason, they reject science’s claim’s to be the sole source of knowledge, to know absolutely, to have transcended the political. They do not seek to displace or disregard science, as does Glen Beck, but to rein in it’s philosophical excesses. They poke science with a stick, while the right lines it up against a firing squad.
    Oh BTW Zippy, I know a hell of a lot more about the Sokal affair than you do. I realize many people are under the delusion that Prof. Sokal landed some kind of definitive knock-out punch against ‘postmodernism,’ but that’s a flimsy house of cards I shall soon be blowing off the table.

    Well maybe not that soon, but it’s coming. In the meanwhile, ponder this: the woo Orac attacks is causing real people to get sick or to die. If you actually care about this, why are you attacking people like me who want to fight against this outrage? Orac’s been railling the skeptical line here for years (with wit, style and more fairness than one might expect, given the absolute psychotic nature of some of his antagonists). How much progress you all making?
    Maybe you NEED an outside eye to offer some tips on presentation and persuasion. Maybe you need some speculative cultural analysis to figure out why those Lit majors who didn’t really read Foucault – and certainly didn’t read Baudrillard – are so entranced by woo.
    The worst that can happen if YOU pay attention to stuff from the Humanities is that you’ll think it’s wrong and move on. But there’s a chance you’ll get a flash of insight that helps you put the empirical facts you’ve observed into some kind of useful context.
    If only by exercising in an intellectual debate, you might come up with an effective strategy for something that you care about, that really matters. And what’s to lose? I guess the self-help-bullshitters have ruined the whole ‘chicken soup’ concept, but having grown up in St. Louis Park, MN (the Skokie of the tundra), I still gotta say, “It wouldn’t hurt!”

    Finally, Zippy, do you know who Bill Griffith is?

  63. #63 scientist
    March 23, 2011

    I am not so sure what the OP and most of your are complaining about.
    From my perspective, and I am a mathematical physicist, most of the medicine is quackery, except perhaps surgery, which is closer to engineering.
    If repeating something 10, 50 or a sometimes even few hundred times is science in your opinion, I urge you to read a short book by Darrell Huff, “How to lie with statistics”.
    I know some doctors who went through the medical school and who have deeply flawed understanding of statistics, which is a basis for the attribute of “science” in our mainstream medicine.
    Economics also called itself a science, but we can see what it has brought us.

    Also the argument that somehow the alternative medicine has money and is beating the mainstream medicine is laughable.
    The top earners are mostly regular MDs, while the alternatives make significantly less money. A few alternatives who might have made some money are still a minority compared to MD’s who made good money.

    And finally the mainstream medicine is funded by legal drug dealers (aka pharmaceuticals) who make huge money through the MD community as their pushers. There is no way that they will allow losses (drug sales reduction) to happen, if that is what alternatives will bring.
    I currently work in Finance (another non-science, marketing itself higher than it deserves) and know this first hand, since I advised the dealers on their finances and have heard how they view the world.

    So wake up, maybe if you provide people with better service/value, they will come to you instead of to those alternatives. Standing by the government protection racket does work until it doesn’t. Fannie Mea is still alive, but nothing compared to its previous self. The comments on this blog remind of FMA executives in years before the 2008.

    I normally don’t read this, but I saw the post on google-news and was surprised by the tone of both Orac and his followers. Try to find better ways from the inside, not by blaming the other guy. I guess you also believe that all those poor Mexicans are the reason for our economic greed and troubles.

  64. #64 Pieter B
    March 23, 2011

    nobody can see radiation,gamma rays,love,etc… But we know they exist

    We can see radiation and gamma rays (a form of radiation) with various measuring instruments. That’s how we know they exist. No one has been able to detect any of the “energy” that is the basis of most alt-med claims. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but since we’ve been able to detect myriad forms of energy for many decades now, you’d think we’d have found it if it existed.

  65. #65 Chris
    March 23, 2011

    scientist:

    And finally the mainstream medicine is funded by legal drug dealers (aka pharmaceuticals) who make huge money through the MD community as their pushers.

    You are no scientist, and are barely literate. The reason I know this is because a real scientist would back up these kinds of statements with actual evidence.

  66. #66 herr doktor bimler
    March 23, 2011

    alt medicine has kept me alive 10 years past my diagnosis with Cushing’s

    Meanwhile in the real world, Cushing’s disease is treatable and non-terminal.

  67. #67 sadmar
    March 23, 2011

    See, Zippy, as “scientist” informs us, we’re all just squishy fakers in the light of ‘mathematical physics.’
    I guess I’d be more inclined to respect “scientist”s perspective if he knew how to use the article “the”. Perhaps his native language is German — and perhaps he grew up in Uraguay.

  68. #68 Pablo
    March 23, 2011

    Meanwhile in the real world, Cushing’s disease is treatable and non-terminal.

    The best part? Look at the recommended actions for dealing with it on WebMD (you know, that home of the evil western medicine allopaths): diet and exercise

    (except in acute cases caused by tumor or overdose of steroids)

    I was wondering myself how this “blue collar” alt-med guy a) did the blood test to verify the diagnosis, and b) treated it alt-medly?

  69. #69 titmouse
    March 24, 2011

    The top earners are mostly regular MDs, while the alternatives make significantly less money.

    The MDs are promoting alt med now and making good money at it, as there’s no insurance hassle.

    Apparently you didn’t get the memo.

  70. #70 sadmar
    March 24, 2011

    Hi Pieter B:
    Well, consider me schooled on the moran meme. Given titmouse’s confusion of “verses” and “versus” I’m going to cling to my belief tip wasn’t make a hip reference there. And, it was mainly an occassion to toss a couple limericks into the thread, which I hope gave at least one-or-two folks a giggle.

  71. #71 Kevin
    March 24, 2011

    Darn! Late to the party.

    Asheville is the hippie capital of the Southeast. If there is some loony, woo-filled, bat-shit-insane-crazy idea out there, it will be in evidence in Asheville.

    Most of it is harmless — other than being separated from the contents of your wallet. Funny, though, I don’t really see woo practitioners cutting into the business of allopathic medicine. It’s used almost exclusively adjuctively.

    So, you get conversations like:
    “My reiki practitioner really helped me with my bad back.”
    “Oh, so you didn’t go to the doctor, then?”
    “Oh yes, and he gave me some pills and exercises to do. But that reiki really worked!”

  72. #72 Militant Agnostic
    March 24, 2011

    Pieter B

    we’ve been able to detect myriad forms of energy for many decades now, you’d think we’d have found it if it existed.

    I am surprised that the woos haven’t latched on to the concept of “Dark Energy”.

  73. #73 The Crack Emcee
    March 24, 2011

    There’s too many comments here for me to go down the line and present evidence against, but as long as you guys insist NewAge is about being “hip” (or $$$) then you’ll miss the problem, completely, and allow these people to keep running over you for the rest of time.

    Like I said, you’re morons – morons blinded by a regard for your own intelligence – which, obviously, ain’t the same thing as actually being intelligent.

    Otherwise, you wouldn’t be losing to a bunch of stupid NewAgers.

  74. #74 Orac
    March 24, 2011

    Because you’re doing so much better than we are against that same bunch of “stupid New Agers.”

    Yeah, right.

  75. #75 The Crack Emcee
    March 24, 2011

    Oh – and BTW:

    Sadmar, you’re probably the biggest idiot in this entire set of comments. You attack colloquial speech as though it’s a crime. You’re a knee-jerk Liberal, AKA a trained seal. I won’t go on – it’s too easy – but I do want to answer this one on Zippy’s behalf:

    The woo Orac attacks is causing real people to get sick or to die. If you actually care about this, why are you attacking people like me who want to fight against this outrage?

    My wife, working as a quack’s assistant, killed three people with this nonsense so I, probably more than most and probably even more than Orac, want to see it defeated. But, as you can see, I’m not Orac’s biggest fan (a fan, but with caveats) and I’d certainly not be one of yours. Why? Because the both of you lead people away from the answer to the problem – you’re incapable of learning from anyone who doesn’t follow your line of thinking – even as you admit your line of thinking is ineffectual. As the song says, you’re blinded by science, and thus incapable of leading anyone anywhere. That’s why you’re losing. You’re spinning your wheels – and those who follow you – while NewAgers are eating your lunch and laughing at you. On the other hand, I’m just one “stupid” guy, speaking colloquially, but I put my adversary out of business and, when I’m done, I’ll be putting him in prison, too.

    That’s more progress against NewAge than all of you put together – and I could do it because I focussed on the real issues – not what my love of science led me to think.

    Considering these fools aren’t interested in science, except as a cover for what they’re up to, that just seemed like the “smart” way to approach things.

  76. #76 The Crack Emcee
    March 24, 2011

    “You’re doing so much better than we are against that same bunch of ‘stupid New Agers.'”

    Yes, Doc, I am. I “save” NewAgers, on and offline, and have the statements from them to prove it. You cater to other scientists and think, because you have their favor, you make progress against NewAge – it’s nonsense. You’re just a back-slapping society.

    You guys can’t even defeat homeopathy – the stupidest practice known to man!

    I’ve told you before, and I’ll tell you again, Orac old chum, you can’t beat in this. I know these people’s minds, inside and out, while you’re still guessing. There’s hardly one practice that you write about that my wife wasn’t into – she was a NewAge cartoon character, gobbling up everything they had to offer – and I got access to 20 years of her recordings, books, pamphlets, and diaries. I had her friends over to dinner. I know how they think. I know what makes them tick. You see what they want you to see and try to figure out the rest.

    You might as well join them reading tea leaves.

  77. #77 Orac
    March 24, 2011

    Yes, Doc, I am. I “save” NewAgers, on and offline, and have the statements from them to prove it.

    OK, I’ll bite. Prove it. So far, I see a lot of bravado and not much evidence.

  78. #78 JohnV
    March 24, 2011

    Pretty sure whenever crack emcee shows up it makes me pine for the days of bens parents posting their idiocy all over the blog.

    Although “scientist” did brighten my day by suggesting that, as a mathematical physicist, he has special insights into medicine.

  79. #79 The Crack Emcee
    March 25, 2011

    OK, I’ll bite.

    Gawd, you are such an idiot – the first time you deign to take me seriously and, of course, it’s a challenge.

    Prove it. So far, I see a lot of bravado and not much evidence.

    Yeah? And once I do, what are you going to do? Come on, smart guy, tie your hands good.

    And to the rest of you, pay attention to what’s happening here: is Orac a man of integrity or not?

    C’mon, big guy, it’s me and you – what are you going to do?

  80. #80 The Crack Emcee
    March 25, 2011

    Pretty sure whenever crack emcee shows up it makes me pine for the days of bens parents posting their idiocy all over the blog.

    Gee, wish I knew who Ben’s parents are (so I can do a comparison of my claims vs. theirs or your bad punctuation vs. anybody’s) but I guess giving respect to folks outside your little cult have to wait until I prove Orac wrong because you’re all too stupid to do it as a matter of course.

    You’re truly awful human beings, you “scientists”.

  81. #81 Beamup
    March 25, 2011

    The ridiculousness of your response to a simple request for evidence to back up your claims is quite telling. Generally it means you don’t have any and are, as it were, “making s[tuff] up.”

    Put up or shut up.

  82. #82 The Crack Emcee
    March 25, 2011

    Beamup,

    The ridiculousness of your response to a simple request for evidence to back up your claims is quite telling. Generally it means you don’t have any and are, as it were, “making s[tuff] up.”

    Put up or shut up.

    Damn, you “scientists” are stupid! First, though it says “posted by Beamup”, it’s obvious – since Orac clears posts on his site, he’s allowing you to do his dirty work for him. Second, a simple look at the endorsements on my blog should tell you I can back up my claim:

    “I’d love to be on your team. I AM on your team!!!

    As a former homeopathic ‘doctor’, I commend you for your bravery and brilliance.

    Your blog is like an antidote to the ‘New’ Age too-cool-for-school-aid that America’s been drinking like it’s going out style…which, with the help of brilliant minds like you, hopefully it is. The sooner the better, for all our sakes.

    I can’t thank you enough for saving me from the eau de toilet/oprahahaha cesspool…”

    — Donavan Freberg

    Busted! So I’ve already won. Now, I say again:

    If Orac is a man of honor (and how many “loons” are asking for that?) he’ll tell me what he’ll do. I know what I want, most of which will be very easy for him to accomplish, but there’s one in particular:

    He, too, will join my “team” and help me convince the other “smart” people out there where they’re going wrong in assessing this phenomena.

    Now, Orac – not one of your minions – put up or shut up.

    I told you I’m a fan of yours – you just always choose to fight me – so I’m hoping you’re the man of integrity I think (know?) you are.

    Oh, and one more thing:

    I’m about to blog this, just to keep you honest, in case I’m wrong about you.

    Sorry, but I’m not as dumb as you, or your flunkies, “think”.

  83. #83 Todd W.
    March 25, 2011

    Sorry, but I’m not as dumb as you, or your flunkies, “think”.

    I dunno. You seem pretty thick to me. For example, your statement that Orac “clears posts” here, by which I assume you mean he reviews posts and only allows certain ones through. Sorry, but that’s pretty much BS. The only posts I’m aware of that get sent into moderation are those containing 2 or more links, as well as certain keywords. That’s all automated.

    Frankly, you seem pretty full of yourself, and your posts come off as pompous and self-righteous. My impression, from your own posts, is that you’re kind of a jerk.

  84. #84 The Crack Emcee
    March 25, 2011

    Todd W.,

    Frankly, you seem pretty full of yourself, and your posts come off as pompous and self-righteous. My impression, from your own posts, is that you’re kind of a jerk.

    What a moron:

    1) I am “full” of myself (no going off to “find myself” for me) and a jerk (you numbskulls demand it as a way to get through) but so what? Is that a determinant of truth, or just a diversion your kind use to avoid admitting when you’re wrong? Changing the subject is a typical NewAge Leftist strategy (I told you I know it all by heart – including the demand that everyone be “humble” before you – fuck you).

    None of you can avoid what’s happening here:

    Orac said to meet his challenge, which – because he’s too arrogant to look at my site, or take it seriously, and too ignorant of what I do to care – I accomplished without even trying. That’s an arrogance which I notice you don’t mind in him (though he’s known to deliver “insolence” at will, and to whomever) so now your own hypocrisy becomes evident, doesn’t it, Todd?

    Can’t you fools see I’ve laid a trap for you? It’s called “reality” – that’s why I speak so much about integrity and honor – it’s a simple plot:

    Either you come to Daddy, and attain clarity on the issues, or admit you’re the loons now.

    I’ve toyed with you people long enough. I did my part. It’s on your leader to show what kind of man he is.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a blog post – pointing back to this exchange – to finish writing. I’ve already contacting my online allies to promote it when it’s done – this will not be staying amongst just us – so the mighty Orac better come clean:

    This is for real.

  85. #85 The Crack Emcee
    March 25, 2011

    Oh, I almost forgot – if Mr. Freberg’s endorsement wasn’t clear enough evidence for you of what my methods lead to (as opposed to Orac’s and the rest of the science community’s) here’s another statement from him, making it clear that I’m not your enemy but your own stubbornness, and ignorance, is:

    I might take the daring leap into full blown atheism. I was once a guy that read Tarot cards, believed in angels, played with pendulums and spent a fortune on books like “The Secret”. I now have no doubt that all of that stuff is at best, a fun distraction and at worst, a dangerous delusion. I feel like my eyes are opening to a new level of personal truth and with that truth, ironically perhaps, my long-time depression is slowly dissolving and a boyhood sense of scientific wonder is re-appearing.

    “A boyhood sense of scientific wonder is re-appearing.” Wow, scientific guys and gals, isn’t THAT supposed to be the goal? Ain’t that THE POINT of our efforts? Not patting each other on the back, because WE understand homeopathy is water, but because THEY FIGURE IT OUT, right?

    I’m telling you, you’re fighting with the wrong guy, and Orac’s been leading the pack.

  86. #86 Orac
    March 25, 2011

    @CrackEmcee

    Crack, ol’ bean, some of us here, this blogger included, have demanding day jobs and as a result can’t post detailed responses to comments right in the middle of a work day. Your premature crowing about victory because I haven’t responded to you yet in the middle of a work day is one reason why it’s hard to take you seriously.

    That’s all I have time to write right now. I have to go back to work. Maybe I’ll get back to you tonight or tomorrow. If I feel like it.

  87. #87 The Crack Emcee
    March 25, 2011

    Crack, ol’ bean. Some of us here, this blogger included, have day jobs and can’t post detailed responses to comments right in the middle of a work day.

    Fair enough. Somehow, you also can’t release posts that have already been written either.

    Your premature about victory in the middle of a work day because I haven’t responded to you is one reason why it’s hard to take you seriously.

    Yeah, like dissing me, because I’m not psychic and don’t know what you’re doing on the other side of my computer screen, is an effective response. Hmmm. What’s he doing over there? Working on a patient? Working in the lab? Trying to get a grant? Writing a blog post? Reading comments? How the hell am I supposed to know? But for you – a doctor, a scientist, a critical thinker, a college graduate – that *obvious* situation is not only something you haven’t considered, but (and this is where you really reveal yourself) that lame excuse, based on your own assumption of what I SHOULD KNOW, is enough for you not to take someone seriously.

    Really, Orac, sometimes, when you and I go head-to-head like this, you can make yourself look like a bigger dummy than the NewAgers we both fight against.

    Do what you have to, just don’t come back, twisting or turning the truth, looking for technicalities or a way out. I told you – I’m documenting this exchange, have already started promoting it to other bloggers to keep an eye on, and will be writing a post on it myself for dissemination. Come correct, Orac:

    Your integrity – not mine – is now on the line.

  88. #88 Narad
    March 25, 2011

    So, Natal Cleft MC, is that a GED you have in your pants?

  89. #89 The Crack Emcee
    March 25, 2011

    Narad,

    So, Natal Cleft MC, is that a GED you have in your pants?

    Why yes, No nads, it is. And, since it’s clear you meant that in a pejorative manner – proving, again, you’re a bunch of smug, elitist, ignorant bastards and not true scientists – I’ll let someone else inform you I’m in very good company, and my success in whatever my chosen field is no fluke:

    He has authored over a dozen books, written a syndicated newspaper column and countless essays and articles covering a broad range of subjects—sports, politics, mobsters, union thugs, cultural touchstones, booze, and blades of grass—all of it written in a smart, literate voice of the casual sophisticate who takes his subject, but not himself, seriously. And in the summer of 2010, Pete Hamill finally received an honorary graduate’s diploma from Regis High School, a Jesuit-run prep school from which he dropped out 59 years earlier. “It was the last period when you could do that and still have a life,” Hamill told the New York Times. “Try getting a job on a newspaper now without the résumé.”


    True. We live in an era where a well-educated journalist can declare the Constitution to be “over a hundred years old” and therefore difficult to understand, and remain credibly employed; it does seem that credentials matter more than ability. Demonstrating that one is able to conform to curricula currently trumps boldness; seat hours in the auditorium count more than audacity.

    

I wonder if that’s really good for America, though. To become educated is a marvelous thing; to have the opportunity to study is a privilege too many take for granted. But have we become a society that places too much weight on the attainment of a diploma, which sometimes indicates nothing more than an ability to keep to a schedule and follow a syllabus, and underappreciates the ability to wonder, to strike out on an individual path, and to learn on one’s own? When did non-conformists become so unromantic and undervalued?

    

In the wake of the press’ post-Tucson attack on Sarah Palin, James Taranto, the puckish and observant editor of the Wall Street Journal’s Opinionjournal.com and a member of that paper’s editorial board, suggested that Palin’s humble bachelor’s degree from the University of Idaho has contributed to the overt hatred the credential-obsessed media consistently betray, whenever the subject of Palin arises. In sympathy, Taranto informs the reader that he possesses no college degree at all; “For the record,” he notes, “our high school diploma is a GED.”



    Well, for nearly 60 years, a GED was more than Pete Hamill possessed. Or, for that matter, the late Peter Jennings, who managed to forge a distinguished journalistic career without a diploma. NBC news anchor and managing editor Brian Williams attended—like Sarah Palin—several universities in pursuit of a degree. Unlike Palin, he never did acquire one, but he is currently crushing the ratings against the noted University of Virginia graduate Katie Couric at CBS.

    

One of my sons graduated a few years ago from a very good college at which he performed poorly. From his sophomore year forward, he hated college and seemed to work very hard at getting his parents to pull him out, but we were adamant about that degree. Since graduating, he has read non-stop—philosophy, economics, theology, mathematical theory; he reminds me of Winston Churchill, the famously poor student who asked his mother to send him books while he was stationed in India (in the cavalry because he was considered too stupid for infantry duty) and educated himself until he was the equal of any Oxford graduate, and then some.

    

It is a wonderful thing to sit in a classroom and grow in knowledge, if one is in fact doing that, but often it seems that degrees should be awarded in going through the motions; they come without a genuine expansion of thought, or an enlargement of wonder. And, to paraphrase Gregory of Nyssa, it’s the wondering that begets the knowing.



    Jeff “Skunk” Baxter dropped out of Boston University to start playing guitar in various local bands and became a founding member of Steely Dan and an occasional Doobie Brother. While he still accepts studio gigs, Baxter also chairs the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense and consults with the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, the intelligence community, and various defense manufacturers. His expertise in the area of missile defense systems and tactics is considerable, and he is self-taught. An interest in recording technology got him to wondering about military hardware, and things took off from there.

    See? You guys can’t compete (Didn’t I tell you, Orac, you’re all too sold on how smart you THINK YOU ARE? Well, No nads is “Exhibit A”.) You guys won’t be able to compete, or be successful against NewAge, until you learn to get over yourselves – even NewAgers are telling you that, when they say you “think you’re God”, or “Doctors don’t know everything.” Face it, you jerks:

    There ARE people smarter than you – much smarter – and a college degree isn’t the determinant.

    Whether or not you’re tethered to reality is. Orac, don’t I remember you saying “Believe it or not, there was a time when I didn’t consider acupuncture to be a form of woo”? And didn’t you have to come around to the idea there’s a “religious element” to woo – after a year and a half of studying it (and contrary to this it’s just “hip” bullshit you’re spreading today)? Not me. I figured out it’s cultish elements within minutes of investigating it. So who’s smarter? The big bad credentialed doctor or the rapper with a G.E.D.?

    Whoo-boy, when it comes to anti-NewAgers to follow, you “scientists” really know how to pick ‘em,…

  90. #90 Composer99
    March 25, 2011

    Anyone else think we should set up Crack Emcee vs augustine on an endless thread just for them?

    I notice Crack Emcee has not, in fact, replied to Beaumup thus far with evidence.

    Indeed, we have been treated to what amounts to an anecdotal testimonial from an ex-homeopath.

    But reliance on anecdote is one of the weaknesses of quack arguments regularly called out here (as the joke goes, the plural of anecdote is not data). Why should Crack Emcee’s anecdotes be any more compelling than Dr Jay Gordon’s?

    So it seems Crack Emcee’s declaration of victory – when no apparent confrontation has taken place – on this comment thread remains premature.

  91. #91 The Crack Emcee
    March 25, 2011

    Composer99,

    I notice Crack Emcee has not, in fact, replied to Beaumup thus far with evidence.

    Indeed, we have been treated to what amounts to an anecdotal testimonial from an ex-homeopath.

    But reliance on anecdote is one of the weaknesses of quack arguments regularly called out here (as the joke goes, the plural of anecdote is not data). Why should Crack Emcee’s anecdotes be any more compelling than Dr Jay Gordon’s?

    So it seems Crack Emcee’s declaration of victory – when no apparent confrontation has taken place – on this comment thread remains premature.

    Ahh, the twisting has begun in ernest! Let’s see what we’ve gotten so far:

    JohnV calls me an idiot – very respectable.

    Then comes Beaumup – Mr. “The reasons seem simple to me” – who simple-mindedly ass-u-me(s) I have nothing because I asked Orac what I get in return. As I pointed out, a simple look at my blog would’ve proved otherwise. Didn’t we all learn in elementary school that to assume is stupid?

    Then comes ToddW – oh my Gawd, I have to be a Buddhist to talk to scientists! Who knew!

    Next comes Orac – No, I don’t have to be a Buddhist, I have to be a mind reader engaged in remote viewing! He, too, assumes what’s going on, and then lays it on me – brilliant.

    And who can forget No nads? He’ll diss any education not up to his standards.

    And, finally, here’s Composer99, who doesn’t think the word “saved” means saved.

    Needless to say, you’re all doing science a disservice with your assumptions, arrogance, ignorance, and elitism.

    And I will expose you for the assholes you are.

  92. #92 Vicki
    March 25, 2011

    It’s starting to seem that the Crack Emcee is misnamed: that sort of looking for a fight is more suggestive of steroids or maybe alcohol.

    But I suspect “Emcee” is the key point: is this person seeking information, vindication, or the thrill of starting a fight with a large audience?

  93. #93 The Crack Emcee
    March 25, 2011

    This just occured to me and I think you “scientists” ought to seriously consider the implications of it:

    This is how you guys act after confessing YOU DON’T HAVE THE ANSWER.

    Like I said, you give science a very, very bad name.

  94. #94 The Crack Emcee
    March 25, 2011

    Is this person seeking information, vindication, or the thrill of starting a fight with a large audience?

    Hey, Vickie, way to stay on topic!

    Jesus, you guys are hilarious.

  95. #95 Narad
    March 25, 2011

    And who can forget No nads? He’ll diss any education not up to his standards.

    Actually, I’m just responding in kind. You’re a four-flusher and might as well be jabbering about how bad “the vibrations” are. What do you expect?

  96. #96 The Crack Emcee
    March 25, 2011

    No nads,

    Actually, I’m just responding in kind. You’re a four-flusher and might as well be jabbering about how bad “the vibrations” are. What do you expect?

    I expect assholes who DON’T KNOW something to listen to the people who say they do, but you jerks were no better to Zippy, when he tried talking to you, than you’ve ever been to me.

    Listen to Vickie – I’M the one looking for a fight against a group – NOT you assholes are a MOB who won’t listen to anyone outside your group. (Hey, Vickie, why don’t you, as a “scientist” who’s so interested in what makes me tick, do some psycho analysis on your own kind for a change? Oh yeah, because you people who, as a group, act like a bunch of jerks, are perfect in your own eyes.)

    No nads, if anyone was the type to look for bad “vibrations” (which would be “Believe it or not, there was a time when I didn’t consider acupuncture to be a form of woo” Orac, BTW) they could certainly find it by visiting this site and merely stating they know something you guys don’t.

  97. #97 Composer99
    March 25, 2011

    Crack Emcee:

    The testimonial you presented of the ex-homeopath is almost indistinguishable from a testimonial of someone claiming some quackery or another cured their cancer.

    There is, as far as I can tell, nothing particularly elitist from pointing out that testimonials are inherently unreliable due to the many pitfalls of human cognition (confirmation bias, hindsight bias, affect heuristic, ‘counting the hits & ignoring the misses’, &c, &c, &c), which is why they are given short shrift when offered up as a substitute for evidence in fora such as Respectful Insolence – or indeed, in the sciences as practiced today.

  98. #98 The Crack Emcee
    March 25, 2011

    Composer99,

    The testimonial you presented of the ex-homeopath is almost indistinguishable from a testimonial of someone claiming some quackery or another cured their cancer.

    No it’s not. I am an anti-cult activist, executing a clear strategy against NewAge – not an empty glass of homeopathy. I said I’ve “saved” people. Orac said prove it. BAM – there’s a guy saying I saved him on the front page of my blog. I didn’t write the testimonial, he did. He has a blog, ask him why he wrote it. What are you going to do? Tell him he’s delusional, as you would a person using homeopathy, because there’s nothing in my blog?

    Are you fucking kidding me?

    What’s wrong with you people? Are you so resistant to the idea that I could have better results than you do that you’ll throw up anything – anything – but say, “O.K., fine, you understand this better than us – and you’re on our side – what do we do?”

    Is that really so hard?

  99. #99 Narad
    March 25, 2011

    And don’t forget I accept donations.

    (||), amirite?

  100. #100 The Crack Emcee
    March 25, 2011

    BTW Composer99 – I didn’t mention it before:

    I appreciate the change in tone on that last post.

    It’s a start.

  101. #101 Todd W.
    March 25, 2011

    Hehe. TCE proves my point for me. Brilliant. Not only is he self-righteous and a prick, he reads like some comic-book villain stereotype. “You’ll see! You’ll all see! Muahahahaha!”

    It’s really hard to take someone like that seriously. Especially someone so dim as to think that everyone that posts here is a scientist by trade or training.

  102. #102 The Crack Emcee
    March 25, 2011

    No nads,

    (||), amirite?

    No, and I’m starting to get the impression you’ve never been right about anything in your entire sorry life – I’ve hidden personal information for obvious reasons:

    From: mik*****@comcast.net
    Subject: It’s not a Million Bucks, but….
    Date: January 24, 2011 3:59:39 PM MST
    To: themachoresponse@gmail.com

    ….I thought I’d send you a small token of my appreciation for the work you do on TMR.

    Although I’m not an atheist (I’m a somewhat unorthodox and deeply sinful Christian), I respect your take on the God/supernatural question because it’s CONSISTENT and INTELLECTUALLY HONEST. You seem to reserve your deepest scorn for people who’ve rejected Western monotheism, but who automatically accept (arguably) even crazier and more destructive spiritual paths without the slightest touch of critical thinking or common sense. As I too live in the Bay Area, I deal with that mentality constantly, and it’s good to see at least one other person who notices this immense disconnect with so many people here. I am only sorry that you came to that position through personal tragedy and heartbreak; I really hope that justice prevails some day for your ex and her quack paramour.

    Anyway, I wish you the best for your musical and online careers, and hope that this meager donation makes a small difference in your life. Your no-holds-barred style of blogging is both informative and entertaining, and I believe your influence is being felt in circles far outside TMR.

    Cordially,

    Mike Mar****ci

    And, yeah, I get more but not all of them come with testimonials.

  103. #103 The Crack Emcee
    March 25, 2011

    It’s really hard to take someone like that seriously. Especially someone so dim as to think that everyone that posts here is a scientist by trade or training.

    ToddW, like No nads, you’re a joke. if you think that kind of nit-picking (he called us “scientists”!) is effective ANYWHERE but on this blog, then you’re a bigger ass than I gave you credit for – which is really saying something because I had no respect for you already.

    You’ll notice that, except for a single crack about someone’s punctuation, I don’t engage in nit-picking, diversions, psycho analysis, or any of the other nonsense you guys will to avoid an issue. As I keep saying, I – and the rest of the public – expect those engaged in science and science issues to be more mature than you guys obviously are. That’s why the East Anglia emails killed Global Warming:

    Scientist are determined to live up to the worst behavior we can think of them engaging in.

    I hate to say it, but the participants on this blog are no different, and yeah, anyone can use it to bury you, too, just as it did Global Warming. You have no credibility.

  104. #104 Composer99
    March 25, 2011

    I don’t know if Orac will actually write up a follow-up post on Crack Emcee’s threadjack or not, but after having reviewed his blog, and in particular his write-up on Respectful Insolence as linked to in @89, I doubt it would be worth it.

  105. #105 jenbphillips
    March 26, 2011

    In the 4 or 5 years I’ve been following this blog, Crack Emcee has been appearing approximately biannually to napalm a thread or two with his special brand of ‘concern’ for our tactics. “Y’all are on the left/clueless elitist morons/blind to the One True Antiwoo that I invented!” “Visit my blog!” “See this rave review someone smarter than you wrote about me!” “Wimmen ain’t shit!” “Kiss my ass!” “Visit my blog!”.

    So, enjoy it while it lasts this time :)

  106. #106 Chris
    March 26, 2011

    So we can basically ignore him. I actually like him, but he is most interesting when he is not in manic mode, and on his meds.

  107. #107 novalox
    March 26, 2011

    I’ll say this, tce does sure bring a whole new brand of stupid that I wasn’t aware of before.

  108. #108 Composer99
    March 26, 2011

    Anecdotes and AGW denial. With ‘allies’ like that for the sciences, who needs enemies?

  109. #109 The Crack Emcee
    March 26, 2011

    Anecdotes and AGW denial. With ‘allies’ like that for the sciences, who needs enemies?

    You guys really don’t get that you’re your own worst enemies, do you? Nobody killed AGW but you. I walked in saying it’s bullshit because YOU TOLD ME it was bullshit – just like you tell me you can’t relate to the average person on NewAge.

    I was thinking about it, and I it occured to me – in the entire time I’ve been doing this – I’ve only read three stories of true conversions through science. (Anecdotes that you assholes are happy to trumpet when you can claim a win but say are suspect when I do.) Sure, there are people who check out science AFTER they change (The Skepchick: “I was a hippie chick,…”) but science and scientists aren’t the ones who do CAUSE people to change. Everything you guys do is suspect – and for good reason:

    With only a few exceptions, you’re too full of yourselves to be trusted.

    Oh – and one more thing:

    I find it interesting, and revealing, that when he was in action, Panda Bear, M.D. – the plainspoken, straight-shooter Orac said was better than him at debunking nonsense – asked to be MY SISTER BLOG, and wasn’t even remotely interested in hooking up with Respectful Insolence or anyone else.

    Y’all just don’t understand.

  110. #110 The Crack Emcee
    March 26, 2011

    Hey, I’ve got a question for you, since people claiming to be “saved” from cultism isn’t sufficient evidence for you:

    What evidence would you accept?

  111. #111 The Crack Emcee
    March 27, 2011

    So I was right, huh, Orac?

    All that I’m-at-work-today nonsense was all a dodge to let your squirrels do your dirty work for you, take the heat off, change the subject, then get ‘em distracted to another post? It’s been TWO DAYS.

    Have you no shame? Even worse, have you no self respect?

    You’re a coward with no honor – not as I suspected, but just as I said.

  112. #112 Narad
    March 27, 2011

    You’re just trying to distract attention from our Boule masters.

  113. #113 Orac
    March 27, 2011

    Spare me, TCE. You have an overinflated view of your own importance. I’ve been working all weekend on a grant application that’s due tomorrow afternoon. Chances are good that I’ll be up most of the night because, fortunately, Monday is not a clinic or operating room day and I’m not on call, which means that I don’t have to worry about whether or not I get enough sleep tonight.

    Given how important it is for me to secure funding for my laboratory, do you honestly think that I give a rat’s ass about responding in detail to your macho posturing right now? For this entire weekend and at least through tomorrow, on my list of priorities, it’s so low it’s subterranean. Deal with it.

  114. #114 novalox
    March 27, 2011

    @111

    Like I said before, tce beings a whole nother level of childish stupid to the table.

  115. #115 The Crack Emcee
    March 27, 2011

    I can deal with anything but, as I’ll remind you again, I’m not a mind reader. Go on and get your money but, damn it, act like a man.

    And speaking of “a whole nother level of childish stupid”, novalox, I found this today. Notice any differences with what you’re used to?

  116. #116 novalox
    March 28, 2011

    @115

    Yawn, nice try, child. Your insults leave a lot to be desired.

    Try again, and possibly bring something a little more intelligent to the table next time.

    Not that I am holding my breath in your case.

  117. #117 Narad
    March 28, 2011

    That’s some mad no-homo, Crack.

  118. #118 Composer99
    March 28, 2011

    Nobody killed AGW but you.

    I wish we had.

    Arctic sea ice, glaciers worldwide, Greenland ice, and the global temperature record beg to differ.

    Insofar as radiative imbalance due to increasing concentration of CO2 from fossil fuel emissions can be ‘alive’ or ‘dead’, AGW is alive and fit as a fiddle.

  119. #119 Composer99
    March 28, 2011

    As I see it, one can parse the Crack Emcee’s comments into two distinct claims (disregarding disparaging comments about scientists/leftists/&c.):

    Claim of Quackbusting Effectiveness
    #1 – The Crack Emcee’s quackbusting methods work at de-programming/converting/term of your choice quacks and/or supporters of quackery.

    Claim of Superior Quackbusting Effectiveness
    #2 – The Crack Emcee’s quackbusting methods are superior at de-programming quacks/supporters of quackery than Respectful Insolence or other semi-organized skeptic sites/blogs (e.g. SkepChick).

    For claim #1, examples such as the testimonial from the ex-homeopath are, I would conclude, sufficient support.

    Claim #2 is where the objection to anecdotal evidence kicks in. After all, there are other posts on Respectful Insolence in which commenters report that Orac’s style eventually brought them out of magical thinking and/or being shruggies. These are all well and good, but like the testimonial from the ex-homeopath, they are not in and of themselves evidence that Orac does a better job of fighting quackery than anyone else.

    Further to The Crack Emcee’s question as to what evidence would be sufficient, I suggest that one possible line of evidence to test claim #2 (superior quackbusting effectiveness) would be a comparison of the ratio of converts per exposure between:
    – Orac’s blogging, live presentations & appearances on broadcast media (including podcasts); and
    – The Crack Emcee’s blogging, live presentations & appearances on broadcast media;
    for any instance of these where quackbusting is the principal topic of the exposure.

    Of course, that raises the questions of who would actually want to attempt such an analysis and how sufficient data could be gathered to make a meaningful comparison.

  120. #120 The Crack Emcee
    March 28, 2011

    Composer,

    If you’ll read back, I said in comparison to what the science community does, I’m kicking ass – and that’s true. I’m as ashamed to be associated with their efforts as they are with mine. Here’s the thing:

    I don’t attempt to marginalize them as they do me. I don’t think either my shit don’t stink, or my farts smell of elderberries, like they do. I can be convinced I’m wrong somewhere but there is no one – NO ONE – outside of the science community who thinks they can get through to you guys when and where you’re wrong. AGW is a prime example. The world has turned away and science takes no responsibility for anything. It’s just everybody’s stupid and they’re smart and this pseudo-religious shit that no one can explain to the average person is a major emergency even though nobody – even in the science community – acts like it.

    You guys seem waaay crazier than me, to others outside the MSM/ordinary blogosphere bubble, for not understanding that.

  121. #121 LW
    March 28, 2011

    Thank you for explaining TCM’s claims. Have you figured out what he’s demanding that Orac must do?

  122. #122 The Crack Emcee
    March 28, 2011

    Here’s a way to think about all this from my perspective:

    Last week, the so-called “very smart” Glenn Reynolds and a lot of other outlets gave a lot of attention to Julian Schnabel’s new film on the Middle East. Not one of them mentioned the man employs a pet psychic. Now, you tell me:

    What’s the point of listening to Julian Schnabel when he doesn’t understand psychics aren’t real?

    The same thing applies to the “very smart” science community – you guys have huge holes in your reasoning/perspective that you won’t allow anyone or anything to puncture, and – like the MSM – you won’t change for anything, and think you’re smart for doing so.

    It’s maddening.

  123. #123 The Crack Emcee
    March 28, 2011

    I thought you guys might want to see Part I of my online science expose. It contains more on Orac, including this wonderful quote:

    “Panda’s muscling in on my territory and doing a frighteningly good job of it, too. I may not always agree with his politics (in fact, I frequently don’t), but he definitely knows how to deal with woo.”

    Yeah, we conservatives will do that. Keep asserting we’re anti-science, you guys:

    We know you mean we’re more rational than you.

  124. #124 The Crack Emcee
    March 28, 2011

    Ahem.

    You’re right, folks, you’re the persuaders.

  125. #125 Composer99
    March 28, 2011

    I am posting a detailed reply. However it has something like 4-5 links so it will get put into the moderation queue.

  126. #126 Composer99
    March 28, 2011

    The Crack Emcee:

    Last week, the so-called “very smart” Glenn Reynolds and a lot of other outlets gave a lot of attention to Julian Schnabel’s new film on the Middle East. Not one of them mentioned the man employs a pet psychic. Now, you tell me:

    What’s the point of listening to Julian Schnabel when he doesn’t understand psychics aren’t real?

    Short answer #1:
    What’s the point of listening to you when you don’t understand AGW is?

    Longer answer:
    Julian Schnabel’s predilection for pet psychics appears to be irrelevant to a critical review of the film Miral.

    Since the film is an adaptation from a novel, there are two qualities which must be examined:
    – How well the book is adapted into cinema form;
    – How well the movie expresses the story, themes, &c of the book in an appropriately idiomatic fashion.

    There are also the universal requirements for a good movie: good plot and character development.

    Finally, as the story purports to be about a set of historical circumstances related to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict ranging from the 1948 War of Independence to the First Intifada of the 1980s, the manner in which the film treats the documented history is obviously of import.

    Now, in which of those three categories (adaptation quality, film quality, historical quality) does ‘pet psychic’ appear relevant to analyzing the film or any message Schnabel may be attempting to convey in it?

    On a somewhat similar note, consider Francis Collins, the current (to my understanding) director of the NIH.

    Collins is, it so happens, an evangelical Christian. However, his religious views have not distorted his work as a scientist. I don’t know if this will work, but I have linked to a Google Scholar search using the terms ‘f collins’ so you can view some of his publications.

    Claiming Julian Schnabel has nothing useful to say in a film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on account of a pet psychic is, quite simply, an irrelevant attack on the man – unless you can demonstrate that the pet psychic is central to any major failures in the movie.

  127. #127 The Crack Emcee
    March 29, 2011

    Composer,

    How many assumptions have you guys thrown at me in this one thread? Don’t any of you guys know assumptions are the sign of a very weak mind at work? Why would you assume I don’t know what AGW is? Because I don’t buy into it? (Is there anyone, by now, who doesn’t know what it is?) In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a LOT of people who aren’t buying it. And, as I’ve said, to a large extent I blame scientists.

    Dude, just as I’m not getting my cancer treated by a homeopath, I’m not getting my politics from a NewAger. And you may call my position an irrelevant attack on the man but guess what? That’s OK by me – he’s a NewAger. (Also, along those same lines, if you don’t understand the difference between a Christian and a NewAger, then why are we talking? Find me a NewAger whose beliefs haven’t distorted their views.) I think that’s one reason why you guys are no good at stopping NewAge – you don’t really understand it and, being a bunch of former or current hippie Liberals, you’re too pussy PC to stand up to it and defeat it. Not to mention, because you are a bunch of former or current hippie Liberals, it means challenging many of your own beliefs and assumptions.

    Zen fascists will control you
    100% natural
    You will jog for the master race
    and wear the happy face

    That sounds like a warning against Whole Foods Obama voters – not Right wingers. The problem is you lockstep liberals aren’t likely to associate such attitudes with yourselves, or with being bad, so you don’t understand you’re the problem threatening the rest of us and not the other way around. I want to crush NewAge, you want to be fair. Fuck fair – you either want our hospitals back or you don’t. Do you think NewAgers play fair? Hell no, so why tie our hands?

    You really don’t understand.

  128. #128 The Crack Emcee
    April 1, 2011

    Just as I said:

    Orac is a man with no integrity what-so-ever.

    Bah.

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