Respectful Insolence

Quackademic medicine invades Cancer

ResearchBlogging.orgI don’t know if I should thank Peter Lipson or condemn him.

What am I talking about? Yesterday, Peter sent me a brain-meltingly bad study in so-called “complementary and alternative medicine” that shows me just how bad a study can be and be accepted into what I used to consider a reasonably good journal. I say “used to consider,” because the fact that this journal accepted a study this ludicrously bad indicates to me that peer review at the journal is so broken that I now wonder about what else I’ve read at that journal that I should now discount as being so unreliable as to be not worth taking seriously. Maybe everything. I don’t know. What I do know is that seldom have I seen such a blatant example of quackademic medicine in action, and, worse, seldom have I seen such a bad study in such a good cancer journal.

No doubt at this point, some of you are thinking that I’m being way too harsh on the editors of this journal for having accepted such a steamy, stinky turd of a paper. I expect that you’ll come around to my way of thinking after I describe the paper. In fact, I fully expect that some of you will come to the conclusion that I didn’t go far enough after you take a look at this paper. So let’s dig in, shall we? The journal is Cancer, which is the official journal of the American Cancer Society and has an impact factor of 5.131, which is, as we say, not too shabby. The investigators are from the Samueli Institute, the University of California San Diego, the RAND Corporation, and Healing Light Center Church, and the paper is Complementary Medicine for Fatigue and Cortisol Variability in Breast Cancer Survivors A Randomized Controlled Trial. It’s about as perfect an example of what Harriet Hall refers to as “Tooth Fairy Science” as I’ve ever seen.

Fatigue is a big problem in cancer patients, and this study is designed to test the effect of what the authors call “biofield” therapies on fatigue in 76 breast cancer patients with fatigue. For purposes of this study, “biofield” therapies are more or less the same thing as energy healing, which includes reiki, therapeutic touch, healing touch, and others. In actuality, from a scientific standpoint, the experimental design of this study wasn’t half-bad. The problem comes from how this study examines a therapeutic modality for which there is no evidence, namely something the authors call “energy chelation.” (I kid you not. That’s what they call it!) To sum up the study in a nutshell, it was a phase 2 randomized, intention-to-treat clinical trial that compared biofield healing with a “mock healing” control, and a waitlist control.

Never having heard of “energy chelation before,” I read with interest how the authors described this new woo modality:

The specific technique used in the biofield healing group is termed energy chelation, and was selected by 1 of the authors (R.L.B.), whose healing techniques have been incorporated in modalities such as Healing Touch and Therapeutic Touch.26,27 During energy chelation, the practitioner practices hands-on healing with standard hand positions, beginning with hands on the feet, then to the knees, hips, bladder area, stomach, hands, elbows, shoulders, heart, throat, head, and back to the heart. The practice of energy chelation is 45 to 60 minutes, with a practitioner generally focusing for 5 to 7 minutes on each position.

Naturally, I wondered who “R.L.B.” is and what “energy chelation” is. R.L.B., it turns out, is Reverend Rosalyn L. Bruyere, not surprisingly from the Healing Light Center Church. So I did some Googling and found her quickly. On her website, she is described thusly:

Founder and director of the Healing Light Center Church, Reverend Bruyere has committed her life to the teaching of these sacred and ancient disciplines, thereby providing her students with practical tools for living the spiritual life, while introducing them to the venerable traditions from which those tools are derived. Her goal is to encourage the compassionate healing and empowerment of the individual, believing that as we each heal, we can be of greater assistance in the healing of the world.

She is the originator of the whole-body technique known as Chelation which has become a classic, taught in many modern healing schools, as well as Brain Balancing and a pain-reducing skill which some have called Pain Drain.

Her book, Wheels of Light, A Study of the Chakras, is an invaluable text for the bridging of ancient and modern healing arts. Rev. Bruyere has studied extensively in areas of Egyptian temple symbology, Sacred geometry, ancient Mystery School rites, international shamanic practices, the pre-Buddhist Tibetan Bon-Po Ways, and various Native American Medicine traditions.

Rosalyn’s knowledge of ancient traditions and practices has led to requests for her technical assistance on several films and documentaries. Among the more notable features on which she has served as technical consultant are “Resurrection” and “The Last Temptation of Christ”.

Although I don’t recall having blogged about it before, let me just mention right here that Brain Balancing is pure quackery. Pain Drain is a healing touch technique in which the quacktitioner practitioner holds one hand above an area of complaint until the pain recedes and then places the other hand near the area of relief. In other words, it’s quackery too. As for energy chelation, I Googled that as well and found quite a few links describing it. For instance, here is a Q&A by a healer named Kay Morris Johnson who charges $65 an hour for her energy chelation who ensures us that it “works by moving heavy or stagnated energy, once this movement takes on a transformation then your whole body system reacts similar to downloading, accepting the changes in your energy field into your physical being” and that there is indeed detoxification with energy chelation (much like real chelation, I would imagine). She even gives a helpful primer on the difference between energy chelation and reiki:

Reiki is best use for general consistent work to maintain your energy whole field balance. Energy Chelation is best applied to detailed energy needs in defined areas of one energy field. Energy Chelation also has different vibrations associated with it, such as sound energy. Sound Energy is described as a deep vibration and is very effectively use on areas of old stagnate energy, such as childhood issues. These old issues are stubborn dense often times large energy blocks that require that extra boost of vibration to initiate movement.

Well, that’s useful. Reiki is faith healing in which the person being healed is usually not touched but the practitioner believes that he’s channeling healing energy into the patient from a “universal source,” while energy chelation “hands on” energy healing. They’re, like, totally different, dude! Really!

Another website helpfully proclaims the “physical reality on which human energy chelation therapy is based” as:

Human Energy Chelation Therapy (HECT), a process of transmitting or channelling energy, is based on the electromagnetic nature of the human body. The body’s electromagnetic or auric field is generated by the spinning of the chakras. As it spins, each chakra produces its own electromagnetic field. This field then combines with fields generated by other chakras in the body to produce the auric field. An individual’s auric field is manifested via a combination of energies from three chakras. Generally these are the first, third and fifth chakras, which empower the person’s physical, intellectual, and etheric bodies. It is a combination of these three chakras that produces the primary auric field (the inner shell of the aura), which can be physically felt by the therapist’s hand as it is passed over the client’s body in the process of scanning.

And where does energy chelation get its name? Here’s an explanation:

Heavy metals are toxic to the human body. Chelation has been a tried and true method in removing them from the body. The toxins must be removed before the body can benefit from any health promoting actions.

Stuck emotions are very similar to heavy metals in that they too are toxic to the body, mind and spirit. Healthy emotions are energy in motion. However when emotions are stuck, not acknowledged, stuffed and ignored they become like heavy metals and are toxic to the human system. They need to be removed before health-promoting actions can produce beneficial results. Just like chelation removes heavy metals from the body, energy chelation is a method which removes sticky, heavy dark energy from the human energy field.

Is “sticky, heavy dark energy” anything like the long, dark tea-time of the soul? It rather sounds that way to me. In actuality, it might as well be because energy chelation is every bit as much a work of fiction as anything ever written by Douglas Adams. In any case, I love it when CAMsters start using metaphors as names for their woo. Be that as it may, the next question I had, after having learned that energy chelation is the laying on of hands for faith healing hands-on energy healing was what the control group would be. In other words, what was “mock healing”? (And please note that it is taking all of my limited self-discipline not to make a whole bunch of jokes riffing on the term “mock healing.”) You’ll see why I resisted in a minute, as the mock healing group is funny enough without my forced sarcasm. Here is a description of the mock healing control group taken straight from the Methods section of the paper:

Mock healing practitioners were skeptical scientists who were trained to use the identical hand placements as biofield healing practitioners. Mock healing practitioners were asked not to intend to heal the patient when touching, but rather to disengage into ”planning mind” by contemplating current and upcoming research-oriented studies and grants they were currently involved in. Given that biofield healing practitioners would have more familiarity with working with patients than mock healing practitioners, to preserve participant blinding mock healing practitioners practiced procedures with study personnel until the mock healing practitioner demonstrated mastery of the hand placements and confidence interacting with and fielding potential questions that a patient might ask the mock healing practitioner before or after the session.

I’m tellin’ ya, ya can’t make stuff like this up. (At least, I can’t.)

OK, OK, in actuality, it’s not a bad control group–if you accept the premise of the study. What is that premise? It’s that there is a human energy “biofield” that healers using “energy chelation” can manipulate to therapeutic intent and that there has to be a degree of belief for that to work. I do like how that evil “planning mind” (as opposed, I suppose, to a “believing mind”) can destroy the woo rays that supposedly heal by chelating all that bad energy. Damn, we skeptics are powerful that way, aren’t we? Or perhaps it’s that the woo is actually so weak.

So, after all that, what were the results? What do you think they were? I’ll give you a hint. These results were entirely consistent with placebo responses or effects or whatever you want to call measured changes in outcome due to placebos. Basically, there was no difference in total fatigue levels between biofield healing and mock healing. Both produced a decrease in fatigue that patients on the waitlist control did not. In other words, “biofield” therapy didn’t work compared to the “mock healing” placebo control. So, given this completely negative result, what did the authors do next? They did what any good woo-meister does (and, for that matter, all too many scientists do) and started mining the data for associations, delving into the Multidimensional Fatigue Symptom Inventory short form subscales. Not surprisingly, they found barely statistically significant differences between biofield healing and mock healing in a couple of measures. They also measured salivary cortisol levels and found a significant decrease in cortisol slope over time for the biofield healing versus both mock healing and control. What this means, I have no idea, given that they measured salivary cortisol rather than serum cortisol, and salivary cortisol “variability” (which they calculated) isn’t really validated as a reliable diagnostic tool for anything that I’m aware of or correlated with fatigue.

I’m not impressed. Here’s why. First, I can’t help but note that none of these differences were mentioned in the abstract, which implies to me that even the authors didn’t consider them particularly significant. More importantly, we have multiple comparisons among small groups of patients. (Remember, there were only 76 patients in this study.) Finally, fatigue is a variable symptom that waxes and wanes frequently. it’s very prone to regression to the mean, placebo responses, and reporting bias. It’s very hard to say a lot about whether these barely detectable differences in a couple of subscale measures are in any way clinically significant. Probably not. Not that that stops the authors from laboring mightily in the discussion section to make it sound as though their biofield therapy is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

There are a number of terms that are so spot-on in terms of describing a phenomenon that I wish I had coined them. One, of course, is “quackademic medicine,” which I did not coin but which has become associated with me because I use it so much. Another is “tooth fairy medicine,” which perfectly describes what this study is. As Harriet Hall puts it:

You could measure how much money the Tooth Fairy leaves under the pillow, whether she leaves more cash for the first or last tooth, whether the payoff is greater if you leave the tooth in a plastic baggie versus wrapped in Kleenex. You can get all kinds of good data that is reproducible and statistically significant. Yes, you have learned something. But you haven’t learned what you think you’ve learned, because you haven’t bothered to establish whether the Tooth Fairy really exists.

Exactly. The investigators never established that “biofields” even exist, much less that “energy chelation” is anything more than the laying on of hands. They’ve gotten a bunch of data that seems as though it might show something, but, even if it all were anything more than random noise and experimental bias producing false positives, they haven’t shown anything other than having measured whether the payoff from the Tooth Fairy is different if the tooth is wrapped in Kleenex. It’s quackademic medicine triumphant.

ADDENDUM: Best comment ever, from Blake Stacey on Peter’s blog:

“Energy chelation” is just one of several ways to remove interphasic parasites which live in subspace rifts and feed on the biogenic fields of organic life-forms who encounter them while using warp drive. . . .

Wait, you mean my Star Trek fanfiction can get published in peer-reviewed medical journals now? Well, if that don’t just take the Vulcan biscuit!

Yup. That about describes this particular study.

REFERENCE:

Jain, S., Pavlik, D., Distefan, J., Bruyere, R., Acer, J., Garcia, R., Coulter, I., Ives, J., Roesch, S., Jonas, W., & Mills, P. (2011). Complementary medicine for fatigue and cortisol variability in breast cancer survivors Cancer DOI: 10.1002/cncr.26345

Comments

  1. #1 Delurked lurker
    August 19, 2011

    I smell a drug soaked sock puppet.

    I loved my Chemo, mainly because it worked.

    Suck eggs druggie

  2. Orac, you overlooked a cracker: the term “auric field”.
    From the contaxt, they probably think it means “of an aura”.

    Those of us who have opened a dictionary at some point in our lives know it means “of, or containing, gold in the trivalent state”

    Apparently the adjective they need is “auratic”. Can’t even get the mumbo-jumbo right…

  3. #3 Orac
    August 19, 2011

    Yeah, pot troll Jacob did try to annoy my readers again. He’s been dealt with. Again.

  4. #4 Sami
    August 19, 2011

    What it sounds like to me that this study actually proves is: “Having someone come in and pay attention to them, giving them human contact and a diversion from the misery of cancer treatment, has tremendous psychological benefit which is reflected in the patient’s feeling of wellbeing.”

    Which isn’t particularly earth-shattering, but I think that is the real appeal of quackery for a lot of people.

    A friend of a friend is being treated for cancer. She’s getting radiotherapy, and all proper medical treatment, but she’s also doing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help her maintain a positive outlook. I suspect that will do as much for her as “biofield” therapy ever could, probably more.

    When my non-religious mother spent a couple of months in hospital a few years ago, her life was saved by the extensive efforts of her surgeon. But in the darkest period of pain and exhaustion, she was also saved by the nuns from the convent attached to the hospital. That wasn’t faith healing either, it’s just really rather nice to have someone stop by every day to chat and keep you company while your family are all at work or school and can’t visit. It helped keep her from giving in to exhaustion and despair.

    I don’t have a problem with woo so long as it doesn’t interfere with proper medical treatment, because if it makes people feel better, that can help too. The placebo effect can do an awful lot. But I do wish they’d stop trying to prove that it actually does something real.

    They’d be better off studying how best to induce placebo effects. As Dara O’Briain said in his rant about homeopathy and other quackery: “We all feel better when we’ve had a bit of a rub.”

  5. #5 Dunc
    August 19, 2011

    Is “sticky, heavy dark energy” anything like the long, dark tea-time of the soul?

    Sounds more like heavy electricity – “it’s like being hit by a ton of invisible lead soup.”

  6. #6 qetzal
    August 19, 2011

    Whoever dubbed this “energy chelation” wasn’t thinking very clearly. OK, that’s obvious, but what I mean is they should call this an energy colonic! They’ve already convinced half the poor saps in CA that they need frequent ‘regular’ colonics. Convincing them to pay for energy colonics as well would be a cinch.

    They could even combine them into one procedure. They’re already laying hands on the hip and bladder area. Simple enough to slip in a nozzle at that point, no? The mark – I mean patient – gets cleansed of both their imaginary physical toxins and their imaginary emotional toxins. Not to mention being cleansed of more of their actual money.

  7. #7 MikeMa
    August 19, 2011

    They don’t even go to much trouble to make the therapy sound all sciency. Dark energy? Stuck emotions? The Healing Light church’s participation should have been a serious red flag for the journal.

    Mock healing sounds like a fraud of a fraud A double whammy. The whole thing sounds too incredible to believe it exists let alone got published.

  8. #8 Greg Fish
    August 19, 2011

    “Wait, you mean my Star Trek fanfiction can get published in peer-reviewed medical journals now?”

    Well, I’m sure that Blake knows that you can get it published in a physics journal so why not in medical literature too? I’m eagerly awaiting the first description of how we’ll be uploading our minds to computer chips in Neuroscience.

  9. #9 Dangerous Bacon
    August 19, 2011

    “Mock healing practitioners were asked not to intend to heal the patient when touching, but rather to disengage into ”planning mind” by contemplating current and upcoming research-oriented studies and grants they were currently involved in.”

    This should have tipped Orac off that the article was a put-on intended to mock quackademic research. It is simply not possible that anything this goofy was published as serious research.

    Though it would be interesting to have the mock healers think of various topics and measure salivary cortisol levels in the patients. I speculate that if the mock healers thought long and hard about a Michelle Bachman presidency, those levels would go through the roof.

  10. #10 puppygod
    August 19, 2011

    Well, I’m sure that Blake knows that you can get it published in a physics journal so why not in medical literature too? I’m eagerly awaiting the first description of how we’ll be uploading our minds to computer chips in Neuroscience.

    To be honest, there is no law of physics that makes it impossible to digitize data stored in our brains and use it to run simulated processes in another hardware – sure, it’s way beyond current engineering capability, but it’s not impossible per se.

    Now auric fields and bad emotions being stale energy, well, wtf is that even supposed to mean?

  11. #11 Mu
    August 19, 2011

    What it really proves is that the auric field around my wallet can be moved to the location of the practitioner’s wallet without the practitioner actually concentrating on the effect.

  12. #12 BadDragon
    August 19, 2011

    I have told you, I have told you. Here you have a nice application of the Qwooantum Mechanics. So, the chakras spin. And if they spin, they produce electromagnetic fields. Well… now I wonder if the said chakras are bosons or fermions.

    Can we have more than one chakra in the same plane of existence? Are chakras waves or particles? Do they produce diffraction rings? If so, is bad karma actually a dark ring of a diffraction pattern? What happens with a chakra in a magnetic field?

    Another question is if they are made of smaller particles and, if so, are they called quarks or quacks? Ohhhh… so much to learn…

    “Generally these are the first, third and fifth chakras, which empower the person’s physical, intellectual, and etheric bodies.”

    By the way, even the way they use the Hindu texts is wrong. The third chakra (or fifth if you count the other way round), Manipura, has nothing to do with either intellectual or etheric body, it is the chakra of digestion and volition.

  13. #13 Vicki
    August 19, 2011

    I notice that as well as abusing the electromagnetic spectrum, she’s got really weird ideas about sound energy. Which is a shame, because for a moment there I thought they were actually playing different sounds in the patients’ rooms, which is at least an actual, physical intervention. (And maybe the right music could be soothing or invigorating: I remember once, being tired and walking through a long tunnel in the subway system, picking up my pace to match a busker who was drumming down there. Temporary, but real, and even temporary relief can be useful.)

  14. #14 cervantes
    August 19, 2011

    The Editor in Chief of Cancer is Raphael E. Pollock, MD, PhD
    UT MD Anderson Cancer Center Houston, Texas. He may be reached via:

    canceredoff@cancer.org

  15. #15 Denice Walter
    August 19, 2011

    Again, Douglas Adams is wildly appropriate**. It’s *always* tea time over here and rather dark at that.

    To be serious, while fatigue is being addressed, are other relevant psychological issues? People who are ill get depressed. When I survey the plethora of woo-ful entanglements available to patients, so many seem to be ways of soothing folks through their own dark times. Saying: “It’s all going to be alright”. The problem occurs when promises beyond immediate sensations are made: is it a massage or an ancient ( or new age) healing method that repairs DNA, balances Chakras, or improves Chi circulation thus affecting *healing* or even *cure* in their universe of unliklihood?

    So is this a substitute for medical or psychological care? I tend to think it’s mostly the latter: however, no coping mechanisms are discussed ( other than make an appointment when you feel poorly?) Energy healing and EFT ( a fave of Mercola) are best described as substitutes for relevant self-care and a trip to the spa. However the *religious* add-on imparts an aura of spirituality to the “good rub”.( A running joke amongst my friends concerns a local Chinese fellow they want to send me to who does Tui Na- i.e. manually re-balancing your Chi through rubbing. To which I respond: ” All depends on *what* he rubs. And what he looks like.”)

    It’s interesting how the woo-*afficionados* focus on the physical and call it something else: in truth, physical activities can make you feel less depressed ( and stressed) with the added benefit of the feeling of agency they might impart ( as well as possible physical benefits ). I play tennis with quite a few people who returned to the game after dealing with cancer. It helps to negate the helpless or weak self attributions associated with being a “patient”.

    In addition, if you don’t drench your studies in miasmic woo, you might actually be able to study things like stress, physical activity, emotions, and depression. I guess that’s just my planning mind speaking- I have the Double Whammy of having a planning mind and also studying them.

    I can tell you why the woo-meisters look askance at the “planning mind”: not only will it hurt the woo rays but it’s liable to hurt their business as well.

    ** one of my pranks involves telling people I’m taking them to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe- after a long car ride and lively conversation, we usually end up at some Indian place with ceiling fans and no alcohol. Then we go to an Irish pub afterwards.

  16. #16 Eric Lund
    August 19, 2011

    Healing Light Center Church

    I am aware that some journals don’t let referees see the names and affiliations of the authors (as this is not my field I do not know whether Cancer is among them; all of the journals I have refereed for do let the referees see author names and affiliations). But the editor has to have looked at the author list, in order to ensure that close colleagues of the authors are not selected as referees. Just seeing that affiliation was enough to trip my woo alarm, and I am not in biomedical science. I see that this was not a false alarm. I fully agree with Orac that this is a case of “How the #^*& did this get past the referees?”

  17. #17 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    August 19, 2011

    How can I get a study done testing the effect on fatigue of sitting under a maple tree in Akron, Ohio drinking beer with an attractive person of the opposite sex who listens to you talk about things that you’ve never told to anyone – things that are locked … deep in here, and says “Poor thing. You poor, poor thing.”?

  18. #18 Mike
    August 19, 2011

    “chelation is every bit as much a work of fiction as anything ever written by Douglas Adams.

    Not a fair analogy. Unlike all the Energy Healing nonsense, Adams’ “Last Chance to See” wasn’t fiction!

    -M

  19. #19 Tsu Dho Nimh
    August 19, 2011

    Maybe a regular 1-hour rest every day, lying in a comfortable position, in addition to whatever sleep they are getting, helps fatigue?

    Did they do a “lying down without the presence of another person” control?

  20. It’s fascinating how energy field manipulation healing is apparently impossible to do wrong. It either works or it doesn’t, but it doesn’t seem possible to accidentally do harm and make things worse. It is apparently also impossible to reverse the process and take a healthy person and manipulate their energy field in such a way to produce a problem.

  21. #21 Richard
    August 19, 2011

    God, what nonsense! And in a respected medical journal.

  22. #22 Dangerous Bacon
    August 19, 2011

    I’ve sent a copy of the paper to Senator Tom Harkin.

    Obviously this is the kind of research NCCAM should be funding.

  23. #23 Thomas
    August 19, 2011

    After a quick look at the paper, it seems that they justify there pretty dubious results because of a low p-value. This is probably another good example where Bayesian statistics might help in medicine; if you factor in your prior’s that probability doesn’t look so good.

  24. #24 Sastra
    August 19, 2011

    From time to time I’ve asked energy healing advocates why the energy can’t be measured or picked up on a machine. There is no other similar phenomenon — something that can be sensed by human beings but doesn’t show up on any technological device. I can think of many opposite examples, but nothing else like this. Why?

    Now and then I’m told that there IS a similar phenomenon — many, in fact. God. Angels. The power of prayer. You can’t see or measure the soul, but don’t we know it’s there anyway?

    Energy chelation therefore fits right on the normal continuum within the category of Spirituality — including the skepticism = bad meme. And since most people think “science” ought to involve the whole of reality, they will have no problem accepting a poor study as good enough. The rest is a leap of faith.

  25. #25 Denice Walter
    August 19, 2011

    @ Sastra: ” something that can be sensed by human beings but doesn’t show up on any technological device”

    you mean like hallucinations, illusions, etc?

    -btw- science *can* study the *whole* of reality, even the imaginary parts, because we can study *beliefs* and *ideas* and their effects on people and their relationships to other variables. ( see Wm James)

    I’m willing to bet real money that people who believe in angels, etc. vary in significant ways from those who don’t.

  26. #26 Nonsense on Stilts
    August 19, 2011

    Sorry about going off topic, but does Orac know where he will be blogging from in the future? The new ScienceBlogs overlords will no longer allow pseudonymous bloggers. Will Orac be joining PZ and Ed at Freethought? And who will be left on ScienceBlogs to keep Greg Laden company?

  27. #27 elburto
    August 19, 2011

    @dunc – call G.E.F.A.F.W.I.S.P.!

  28. #28 Doctor Smart
    August 19, 2011

    Quackademic medicine invades Cancer is an interesting title. It should read Quackademic medicine INVADED Cancer, and Now the cancer Industry is owned by the FDA and a Cure is illegal Becuase it is more prifitabe to treat a disease than to cure it and curing cancer puts global population control/wealth redistribution plans on the verge of being a problem.

    There are a number of different treatments/cures that have been tried outside of the modern doctoral dictatorship that exists in the medical community. Some have been successful, others not so much.

    Chemo and radiation are as much danger to the patient as the cancer itself and in some cases makes the cancer worse.

    There are a few things on the list that has proven successful to many patients without chemo and raditation. These are not “peer reviewed” as so many left wing nuts love to ask about, but peer reviewed is meaningless when the peers doing the reviewing hold the same views as the persons who wrote the study to be reviewed.

    cancer patients should stay away from procesed sugar and gluten. Cancer, like a fungus, feed off of sugar and gluten. Any fruther questions should be answered by my own site.

  29. #29 lilady
    August 19, 2011

    Could this be the same Dr. Smart who has posted on other articles?

    THAT Dr. Smart showed himself to be a bigoted xenophobic right wing nut libertarian with a whole lot of conspiracy theories.

    “There are a number of different treatments/cures that have been tried outside of the modern doctoral dictatorship that exists in the medical community. Some have been successful, others not so much.

    Chemo and radiation are as much danger to the patient as the cancer itself and in some cases makes the cancer worse.

    There are a few things on the list that has proven successful to many patients without chemo and raditation.”

    Yeah, I think it is That Dr. Smart, still citationless and now without “spell check” on.

    Please ignore the ignorant potty mouthed troll who is sure to post right after me.

  30. #30 peter
    August 20, 2011

    “cancer patients should stay away from procesed sugar and gluten. Cancer, like a fungus, feed off of sugar and gluten. Any fruther questions should be answered by my own site. Posted by: Doctor Smart ”

    I think that posting needs no further comment.

  31. #31 Psorta Psychic
    August 20, 2011

    I think that posting needs no further comment.

    Except lots of laughter.

  32. #32 BadDragon
    August 20, 2011

    @Lilady I am a bit of right wing nut libertarian myself. This doesn’t mean I automatically agree with Dr. Smart or any other libertarian nut as well as I don’t necessarily disagree with any left wing nut. Simply because character, intelligence and common sense have no political color.

    My point, I think it is irrelevant, even dangerous, to bring into discussion the political orientation of DrS. Dangerous because this pushes you into a stereotype-world and because it is insulting (maybe for people you don’t want to insult). DrS is an idiot just because he is an idiot. From his frustrated nickname to his terrible spelling.

  33. #33 lilady
    August 20, 2011

    @ BadDragon: The reply to Dr. Smart was based on the statement:

    “These are not “peer reviewed” as so many left wing nuts love to ask about, but peer reviewed is meaningless when the peers doing the reviewing hold the same views as the persons who wrote the study to be reviewed.”

    Yes, it is the same Smarty who just a few months ago, in the most vicious of terms, spoke about immigrants who are ruining America for us “real Americans”.

  34. #34 Mothrac
    August 20, 2011

    ‘Druggie’ is a hate-word, like ‘nigger’ or ‘faggot’ or ‘retard’.

    Nice people don’t use nasty words like that to describe other people who they are not close to.

  35. #35 Doctor Smart
    August 20, 2011

    They aren’t immigrant if they come illegally and steal money from us.

    Now, if they, and the other half of real Americans who do not pay taxes, would pay federal taxes and about 100 other taxes that burden our society, they might be viewed as respectable other than being an illegal sponge.

    I say if they come here illegally and get caught, they get to work for free for five years to make up for the money in taxes they have stolen fro the government.

    Our left leaning government loves to talk about the need to raise taxes. Income is a problem simply becuase half of american none of the illegals pay taxes. A simple nationwide sales tax in place of income taxes would suffice to fix the problem. Then we can cut 50% spending within the next 30 days.

    Loonie libs can mock me all day long. Why not? I do it to them.

    As far as the cancer industry goes, I’ll take my chances with my own treatments and cures.

    As far as conspiracy theoy goes, Al Gore should win conspiracy theory award of the century for his global warming conspiracy crap. Actually he and a number of others should be sent to prison for fraud for their wealth redistribution scheme they call “protecting the environment”. If it were up to me they would be in prison and politicians making money from their ethanol production would be in the same cell with them. Ethanol damages engines as well as causes less horsepower and gas mileage. It is absolutely good for nothing other than to cause problems. We have plenty of oil, we just need to slap the liberals and move them out of the way of the drills.

  36. #36 Denice Walter
    August 20, 2011

    @ lilady:

    I sometimes ask myself how and why did I become a defender of SBM- I’m not a doctor or a nurse and I’ve never really been sick- however, I am an advocate of science and become incensed when I hear or read non-scientists giving spurious advice that launches the worried and ill-educated public on the path of shunning reality-based medicine. My uncle was married to a woman who- terrified of her cancer diagnosis- sought out the alternate path to horrifying effect. Right now, I know someone who submitted to surgery but not the recommended chemotherapy/ radio-therapy because of her fears- which she related to me. And another who agreed despite her despair and fear. How many cancer patients feel this way and suffer additionally? I wonder how much of that terror is inspired by the the type of “information” that’s put out on websites and books by the likes of the web woo-meisters I survey and spread virally through the matrix of sympathetic woo-aligned sites?

    At risk of invoking the dreaded “r-word” so reviled by the current crop of government-slashers: shouldn’t there be some kind of law about giving bad information? There is freedom of speech but that doesn’t give you the right to yell “Fire” in a theatre when there isn’t a fire. Bad information *hurts* people as surely as does that prevaricated “warning”. Pseudo-science about HIV/AIDS *unopposed* ( actually, *supported*) by the government in South Africa had breathtakingly horrible effects as I’m sure you already know. Yet to this very day, I hear and read about how AIDS can be *cured* by supplements and diet- you know the culprits’ names as well as I do. Bad information of course extends to passing off fictionalised research as real whether it’s in a decent journal or a penny-dreadful, crappy, miserable waste of paper or electrons *and* allowing supplement manufacturers to have their way with public health. I rest my case but I need a drink.

  37. #37 Gray Falcon
    August 20, 2011

    Tell me, Doctor Smart, why should we believe you? Because you say so? Because you’re arrogant? Why?

  38. #38 Psorta Psychic
    August 20, 2011

    Because he is psilly!

  39. #39 Jen
    August 20, 2011

    Is it just me or has Orac not done a post analyzing the new CATS (twins) study on autism that points to environment rather than genetics?
    If not, WHY not?

  40. #40 Orac
    August 20, 2011

    Because other things interested me more around that time and others covered it before I did.

  41. #41 Melissa G
    August 20, 2011

    *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*

    This paper is the worst.

    Seriously. I am _ THIS close to ordering that MedAlert bracelet!!! You know, the one that reads, “ALLERGIC TO NON-SCIENCE-BASED MEDICINE.” I am clearly going to have to add a clause about Bayesian statistical analysis. Also, that DNR I have to tattoo on my chest… my medical to-do list is getting longer by the day.

  42. #42 lilady
    August 20, 2011

    @ Denice Walter: Occasionally, I wonder about “free speech”, as well. Unfortunately, while the internet is a wealth of knowledge, the internet is ready-made for conspiracy theorists, racists and snake oil salesmen.

    Yes, we have certainly seen the damage that woo purveyors have caused in Africa with AIDS treatment but also the damage caused in developed nations with the anti-vax movement. The unbelievably sad stories of the infant who died from pertussis in Australia and the ten infants who died from the disease here in the United States during 2010, are heartbreaking and the most grim reminders of what anti-vaxers have caused.

    No Denice you don’t have to be a doctor or nurse to understand medical science; we see it all around us with our loved ones and in the broader community.

    I am thankful for the refuge away from the woo that I find on RI, the SBM blogs and other great websites…the perfect antidotes for the pervasive woo on the internet.

  43. #43 ken
    August 20, 2011

    Don’t blame those unvaccinated for the outbreak- here are two links which
    point to the possibilty of another strain of pertussis unfortunately. My sister in
    CA found these links in her research- her infant caught it even though the whole family was recently immunized.
    http://www.cidd.psu.edu/research/synopses/acellular-vaccine-enhancement-b.-parapertussis
    http://t.co/nERyQg8

  44. #44 Chris
    August 20, 2011

    ken, are you lost? What does pertussis have to do with the treatment of cancer?

  45. #45 lilady
    August 20, 2011

    (Just because there is a infinitesimal chance that Mothrac is not another of our pothead troll Jacob’s sock puppets)

    “Druggie” is a slang word for a drug addict, not a hate filled word…and certainly NOT in the class of the other three words linked by Mothrac.

  46. #46 ken
    August 20, 2011

    @chris-

    Oops wrong page…

  47. #47 herr doktor bimler
    August 20, 2011

    Is it just me or has Orac not done a post analyzing the new CATS (twins) study on autism that points to environment rather than genetics?

    The study is perfectly clear, Jen, though from the way you misstate its conclusions I am beginning to suspect that you haven’t bothered to read it.

  48. #48 lilady
    August 20, 2011

    @ herr doktor bimler: I suspect the prompting of “jen’s” comment came from this morning’s AofA edition. Editor Kim Stagliano writes that she has a new article on the Huffington Post about the CATS study with “her” analysis of the conclusions…now being parroted by “jen”.

    (I know, I know…I’ve got to stop “slumming” at AofA)

  49. #49 herr doktor bimler
    August 20, 2011

    biofield healing practitioners
    energy chelation
    Brain Balancing
    Pain Drain

    Orac says “quackery”. I say “stupidity tax”.

  50. #50 Medicien man
    August 20, 2011

    what is with liberals and “hate words”? Most any word can be used as a hate word if used the the right context.

    Bible thumper is a hate word. Neo-con is a hate word.

    See. I can make stuff up too.

    You may not like certain words and the person using those words probably should not be using them, but you have not dictatorial powers to keep people from speaking as they choose. You may not like it, but that is all you can do. Get over it. Ignore it and go on. There are many words and phrases that liberals use that I do not like, but I do not condemn them to death over it.

    I would challenge any of you to live in Mississippi for 90 days. I bet you will mutter some bad words and derogatory words before your 90 days is up. If you can put up with the crap that goes on down here, you can put up with it anywhere.

    A person cannot drive up to the gas pump without street thugs playing rap music in your ear down here. These people do not even buy gas. They pull up to the pump, roll the windows down, turn the radio and their jungle music up as loud as it will go so that all the white people get to hear it, and then go in the store to chat with friends for about 30 minutes and all they bought was a “pop”. They blocked the gas pumps for a lengthy time to make people hear their tribal jungle crap. Sometimes I get tempted rip their radio out and drive off laughing while I throw it in the nearest cesspool.

    This is some kind of trend that5 got started a number of years ago. I do know a many who pulled his .38 caliber revolver out and made the goon turn his beat meat rythym down. He got in trouble for it, but that trend stopped for a while.

    Usually the illegal aliens are ok. They rarely do something to piss people off. They usually mind their own business and keep to them selves. But, these little tribal thugs runnning around where I live are pure uncivilized heathens. Not much difference between them and the ones that live in Somolia. The only difference would be the actual language. The culture of violence, hatred, and stupidity still remains the same.

    They would get much more respect if they acted civilized and sane. People call this attitude of mine racism. It has nothing to do with them being black becuase there are white people who do the same stupid things. So, it is not racism. It is anti-dumbassism.

    I even had one of the little dummies to call me a “Y humpy” one day. In english that translates to “white honkey”. My response almost made her get violent. My repsonse was ” It doesn’t count unless you are smart enough to say it correctly”.

    Anyone up to the 90 day Mississippi challenge?

  51. #51 Chris
    August 20, 2011

    Oh, my. It is another psilly person. Perhaps this one is off topic due to not learning to read, going on his pspelling.

  52. #52 Chris
    August 20, 2011

    Oh, and he is going to claim I’m stalking him! Both him and his other voice in his head.

  53. #53 lilady
    August 20, 2011

    Sock Puppet Alert!!!

  54. #54 lilady
    August 20, 2011

    @ Chris: Smarty and his other sock puppets are paranoid. Too bad they never learned psentence pstructure, pspelling and psyntax.

  55. #55 Rogo5
    August 20, 2011

    You’re confusing me, lilady. You’re not making any psense.

  56. #56 Psorta Psychic
    August 20, 2011

    I know I pscrewed things up. Oh, well. I will pay the appropriate fine to Lord Draconis.

  57. #57 Militant Agnostic
    August 20, 2011

    It is anti-dumbassism.

    Sayeth the anti-science pig ignorant dumbass redneck.

    @52 & 54 – We haven’t heard from him for a while – He must have just finished cooking up another batch of crystal meth.

  58. #58 Logan
    August 20, 2011

    wow i just found these scienceblogs pages and wanted to thank you all for the important and underappreciated work you are doing. although my field is law, my background is evolutionary and molecular biology, and i believe that the future of life on earth ultimately will depend upon the ability of true understanders (how i describe people like dawkins, hitchens, chomsky, e o wilson, etc) to communicate messages like this to the broader population.

    it’s not that i believe joe barton questioning dr. stephen chu’s ridiculous assertion that things called “tectonic plates” move around under the ground or something is not a perfectly valid way of definitively determining empirical facts about the universe…

    it’s just that i’m worried about a MRSA epidemic

  59. #59 skybluskyblue
    August 20, 2011

    Gov. Perry’s stem cell ‘treatment’ sends wrong message
    If presidential candidate ignores evidence-based medicine for himself, what could it mean for the country?
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44207951/ns/health-cloning_and_stem_cells/
    Reminds me of the recent news about the father who got “stem cell treatment” for his child’s autism in central America.

  60. #60 stanfordlaw
    August 21, 2011

    I think a lot of this stems from the false equivalency bias exhibited by literally every news organization in America. Besides Jon and Stephen. It’s as though empirical facts are treated as opinions that people are allowed to argue and legislate about. There cannot be arguments about empirical facts. There can be OBSERVATIONS which indicate that one or another of several empirical possibilities is or is not actually the case…but still no one would be arguing…just adding and subtracting. Possibly some multiplying for M Theory.

    Science is the thing that does the observing. So, when science observes that evoluition (some of which occurs by natural selection) is the principle governing life on earth, that is now an empirical truth. One might assert that evolution is not the explanation for, say, human beings, but he or she would be objectively wrong. Literally, putting aside only the fundamental epistemological limitations of the inductive process itself, THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION IS A PROVEN FACT about the universe.

    This is the case for all accepted theories. If the theory changes in 100 years, the fact will change. But not because John Boehner doesn’t understand it.

    Personally, I think that there should be a legal mechanism in place constraining our elected officials to reality. NO ONE GETS TO VOTE FOR REALITY.

    I may be wrong, but I do not want to build policy affecting 350 million lives based on anything that hasn’t cured my goddamn polio, flown me to the moon, or at least given me a little blue pill for my…ya know…

  61. #61 stanfordlaw
    August 21, 2011

    Obviously, when i generalize to other theories, I only mean to advocate them to the extent they have been observationally demonstrated. Evolution, however, is probably the most empirically vetted scientific theory in the history of scientific theories.

  62. #62 lilady
    August 21, 2011

    @ Skybluskyblue: That’s a terrific link to Arthur Caplan’s article about Rick Perry’s stem cell treatment. Digging himself even deeper into the pile of woo, Perry has written to the Texas Medical Board offering his “expert opinion” about adult stem cell treatment.

    Rick Perry was the first governor to sign a bill mandating HPV for young girls…which didn’t go over too well in Texas where everyone knows young people “save themselves for marriage”… because of their Christian beliefs. The anti-vax crowd also was not too pleased because of the “dangers” associated the vaccine. Now it turns out that his “super PAC” Americans for Rick Perry was organized by Bob Schuman who is the lobbyist for Merck, the manufacturer of Gardisil vaccine. What’s a poor candidate to do when faced with the possibility of being a “contender” for the Presidential race in 2012 and loyalty to his Big Pharma supporters and his base of god-fearing Christians. He did what is expedient and now declares that he made a mistake” when he signed the bill in 2007 that mandated the HPV vaccine.

    Do I see a strange dichotomy here? He opts for a woo treatment for his own personal care and pushes for the CAM with the Texas medical board…while “sleeping with” Big Pharma to fund his presidential campaign…you betcha!

    The Republican dream tick: Bachmann/Perry or Perry/Bachmann… could it get any better!

  63. #63 The Crack Emcee
    August 21, 2011

    The Samueli Institute, eh?

    You might want to check these two posts out:

    http://themachoresponse.blogspot.com/2007/09/new-age-democrats-what-new-age.html

    http://themachoresponse.blogspot.com/2008/06/this-revolution-will-be-televised.html

    They’ve been some very bad boys and girls,…

  64. #64 rob
    August 22, 2011

    really? energy chelation? that’s the best they came up with. i can do better. simply take a word from group a, add a word from group b and tack on “therapy” at the end and BINGO!! you have your own new cam modality that you can rip off people with.

    for a *really* cutting edge therapy, use *two* words from group a!

    i call dibs on “quantum phase locked homeopathy therapy.”

    group A
    energy
    quantum
    magnetic
    holotropic
    cellular
    enhanced
    polarized
    temporal
    frequency modulated
    amplitude modulated
    gravometric
    phase locked
    chromodynamic
    eutectic
    orthnormal
    perturbative
    anharmonic
    turbo

    group B
    chelation
    reiki
    homeopathy
    accupunture
    chiropractic
    aromatherapy
    astrology
    ayurvedic
    auricular
    autogenic training
    breathwork
    colonics
    cupping
    iridology
    ohashiatsu
    reiki
    encabulator

  65. #65 kayvaan
    August 22, 2011

    “Energy chelation” is just one of several ways to remove interphasic parasites which live in subspace rifts and feed on the biogenic fields of organic life-forms who encounter them while using warp drive. . . .

    Wait, you mean my Star Trek fanfiction can get published in peer-reviewed medical journals now? Well, if that don’t just take the Vulcan biscuit!

    Now wait – isn’t a lot of the conjecture in the Star Trek universe relatively science-based? It seems unfair to Star Trek to lump them in with quackademics and wooficionados.

  66. #66 Calli Arcale
    August 23, 2011

    Rob — I love that you included “encabulator”. :-D Is it capable of automatically synchronizing cardinal grammeters?

  67. #67 rob
    August 23, 2011

    Calli–only if it has a base-plate of prefabulated amulite, surmounted by a malleable logarithmic casing in such a way that the two spurving bearings are in a direct line with the pentametric fan.

  68. #68 Douglas Carnall
    September 3, 2011

    I think your denunciation of this paper, and by extension the journal it appears in, is somewhat hysterical. The study design isn’t bad. The take home message is “laying on hands, whoever is doing it, within whatever belief structure, makes the patient feel (slightly) better, compared with neglect on a waiting list.” You are right they over-egg the discussion and over-analyse the sub-groups. They’re not the first authors to do this, and they won’t be the last: welcome to planet earth. You’re right that self-respecting journals would demand revision of these elements of the paper. But the basic findings are still interesting.

    The tone of your post (and the commenters you have attracted) is more suggestive of a strong psychological need for an out-group to punish, than of a desire to participate in a scientific inquiry into the power of “healing hands.”

  69. #69 Douglas Carnall
    September 3, 2011

    I think your denunciation of this paper, and by extension the journal it appears in, is somewhat hysterical. The study design isn’t bad. The take home message is “laying on hands, whoever is doing it, within whatever belief structure, makes the patient feel (slightly) better, compared with neglect on a waiting list.” You are right they over-egg the discussion and over-analyse the sub-groups. They’re not the first authors to do this, and they won’t be the last: welcome to planet earth. You’re right that self-respecting journals would demand revision of these elements of the paper. But the basic findings are still interesting.

    The tone of your post (and the commenters you have attracted) is more suggestive of a strong psychological need for an out-group to punish, than of a desire to participate in a scientific inquiry into the power of “healing hands.”

  70. #70 Scottynuke
    September 3, 2011

    Mildly necromancic spam troll is… kinda meh, actually.

  71. #71 Orac
    September 3, 2011

    Boring Carnall is boring. Oh, how I long for CAM aficionados who can actually challenge me with science, rather than the same tired old polemics.

  72. #72 TBruce
    September 3, 2011

    The take home message is “laying on hands, whoever is doing it, within whatever belief structure, makes the patient feel (slightly) better, compared with neglect on a waiting list.”…the basic findings are still interesting.

    No, they’re not.

  73. #73 Ha-Vinh
    September 3, 2011

    Hi
    Excuse me but your rationale (not to test if not already proven) prevent to search for further evidence in such specialties like homeopathy.
    Testing this kind of medicine responds to a need knowing that most and most people undergoes this kind of therapies (for example David Servan Shreiber and is paperback for healing cancer).
    Respectfully yours.

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