Respectful Insolence

A couple of weeks ago, in the immediate aftermath of Steve Jobs’ death, I took issue with the claims of a skeptic that “alternative medicine killed Steve Jobs.” At the time, I pointed out that, although it was very clear that Steve Jobs did himself no favors by delaying his initial surgery for nine months after his initial diagnosis, we do not have sufficient information to know what his clinical situation was and therefore how much, if at all, he decreased his odds of survival by not undergoing surgery expeditiously. To recap: Did Steve Jobs harm himself by trying diet and alternative medicine first? Quite possibly. Did alternative medicine kill him? As I’ve argued before, that’s impossible to say, and any skeptic who dogmatically makes such an argument has taken what we known beyond what can be supported. Jobs might well have died anyway, given that he appears to have had a more aggressive form of insulinoma than its initial clinical presentation indicated. Regular readers know that when I see a story that looks as though “alternative medicine” directly contributed to the death of someone, I usually pull no punches, but in this case I had a hard time being so definitive because the unknowns are too many, with all due respect to Ramzi Amri, a Research Associate at Harvard Medical School who in my opinion also went too far. I did, however, point out that I’m always open to changing my opinion if new evidence comes in.

It turns out that, with the imminent release of a major biography of Steve Jobs, more information is finally trickling out. For instance, Walter Isaacson is going to appear on 60 Minutes this Sunday, and apparently he is going to say this:

Everyone else wanted Steve Jobs to move quickly against his tumor. His friends wanted him to get an operation. His wife wanted him to get an operation. But the Apple CEO, so used to swimming against the tide of popular opinion, insisted on trying alternative therapies for nine crucial months. Before he died, Jobs resolved to let the world know he deeply regretted the critical decision, biographer Walter Isaacson has told 60 Minutes.

“We talked about this a lot,” Isaacson told 60 Minutes of Jobs’s decision to treat a neuroendocrine tumor in his pancreas with an alternative diet rather than medically recommended surgery. “He wanted to talk about it, how he regretted it….I think he felt he should have been operated on sooner… He said, ‘I didn’t want my body to be opened…I didn’t want to be violated in that way.'”


Isaacson is quoted as saying about Jobs:

He’s regretful about it… Soon everybody is telling him, ‘Don’t try and treat it with these roots and vegetables and these kinds of things…’ By the time they operate on him they notice it has spread to the tissues around the pancreas.

You know, I might well have to buy this book when it comes out next week, if only to read the chapters on Jobs’ illness. Be that as it may, assuming the account above is true, what does this tell us? First, it doesn’t significantly change my original assessment that, at the time of surgery in 2004, Jobs didn’t have metastatic disease. The reason I say that is because if Jobs had any evidence of metastatic disease, it is highly doubtful that a surgical oncologist would undertake as huge an operation as the Whipple procedure, an operation that is usually only done with curative intent because of the potential for complications. What this implies to me is that his tumor got larger and started to invade through the capsul of the pancreas into the surrounding fatty connective tissue. Further, it’s also not clear whether this was seen on imaging before his operation or whether it was the finding of microscopic tumor deposits outside of the pancreas in the surgical specimen removed. Given how indolent these tumors are, especially if they’re functional, as Jobs’ tumor appears, from all news reports, to have been, given that when it recurred Jobs attributed his medical leave to a “hormone imbalance,” it’s not clear that there wouldn’t have been tumor spread found outside of the pancreas if he had undergone surgery right away. As Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society has pointed out, people live with these tumors far longer than nine months before they’re even diagnosed. I suggest going back and read my post on the early detection of cancer, particularly the part about lead time bias, for an explanation of why the nine month delay might not have mattered much. As I said before, biology is king, and for certain tumors in certain patients biology trumps whatever we can throw at them.

Another interesting tidbit of information coming out just now is just what Jobs did during those nine months during which he delayed having surgery? This ABC News report hints at it:

Jobs, fascinated by Eastern mysticism in his youth, believed in alternative herbal treatments, and sources have told ABC News in the past that they thought he minimized the seriousness of his condition. One source close to Jobs said he kept his medical problems private, even from members of Apple’s board of directors — who finally had to persuade him his health was of critical importance to Apple’s success and the value of its stock to shareholders.

And this AP report states:

Instead, he tried a vegan diet, acupuncture, herbal remedies and other treatments he found online, and even consulted a psychic. He also was influenced by a doctor who ran a clinic that advised juice fasts, bowel cleansings and other unproven approaches, the book says, before finally having surgery in July 2004.

This is fairly vague, although one wonders if this acupuncturist is identified in the book, you know, the one who allegedly told Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez that she was trying to get Jobs to see him. Maybe Gonzalez wasn’t lying after all, because the description in the passage above does sound a lot like the Gonzalez protocol, which involves juice fasts, a whole lot of supplements, various other radical diet manipulations, plus daily (or more) coffee enemas. Could it be that Gonzalez did for a while influence Jobs?

Perhaps the book will tell.

Then there’s this video from the ABC News report:

Yup. At right about the 2:00 mark, there he is: Dr. Dean Ornish. In fact, from the news report, it appears that Dr. Ornish was not only Jobs’ friend but his doctor as well. As I’ve pointed out in detail, Dr. Ornish is a problematic woo-prone physician. He tries to do science but unfortunately just doesn’t do a particularly good job of it. That in and of itself wouldn’t be so horrible, except that he draws very strong inferences from what his data show that go far beyond what is supportable by the science.

So, until I can get my hands on the book (and actually have time to read it, or at least the chapters on Jobs’ illness), what can we reasonably conclude based on what is known now? First, my assessment changes only slightly. Based on this new information, it appears likely that Jobs did indeed decrease his chances of survival through his nine month sojourn into woo. On the other hand, it still remains very unclear by just how much he decreased his chances of survival. My best guesstimate is that, thanks to the indolent nature of functional insulinomas and lead time bias, it was probably only by a relatively small percentage. This leads me to point out that accepting that Jobs’ choice probably decreased somewhat his chances of of surving his cancer is a very different thing than concluding that “alternative medicine killed Steve Jobs.” The first statement is a nuanced assessment of probabilities; the latter statement is black-and-white thinking, in essence the mirror image of Nicholas Gonzalez’s claim that if only Jobs had come to see him he could have been saved.

Lastly, what does this incident say about alternative medicine for cancer? Certainly, it shows that even someone as brilliant as Steve Jobs can be prone to denial, and, yes, even magical thinking, as this ABC News report points out:

How could Jobs have made such a decision?

“I think that he kind of felt that if you ignore something, if you don’t want something to exist, you can have magical thinking…we talked about this a lot,” Isaacson told CBS News.

Yes, there’s another key component of the appeal of alternative medicine: Magical thinking. Just eat this root, do these colon cleanses, let this healer manipulate your energy fields, and everything will be fine. No nasty invasive surgery that will permanently alter your body and how it functions. No poisonous chemotherapy. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t work this way.

It’s often been said that there was a sort of “reality distortion field” around Steve Jobs. It was a part joking, part derogatory, part admiring term applied to Jobs’ talent for persuasion in which, through a combination of personal charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, and persistence, Jobs was able to persuade almost anyone, even developers and engineers, of anything. In particular, it referred to his ability to convince so many people that each new Apple product was the greatest thing ever, even when that product had obvious flaws.

Unfortunately, aparently Jobs had his own medical reality distortion field that allowed him to come to think that he might be able to reverse his cancer with diet plus various “alternative” modalities. Ultimately, reality intruded, and Jobs realized he had made a mistake. It’s not clear whether his time in the medical reality distortion field ultimately led to his demise or whether his fate was sealed when he was first diagnosed. There’s just too much uncertainty ever to know, and even if he did decrease his odds of survival it’s impossible to say whether delay meant the difference between life and death in his specific case. What is clear is that no reality distortion field can long hold cancer at bay. Reality always wins.

Comments

  1. #1 Laura
    October 21, 2011

    A friend of mine who’s an auto mechanic – not rich, but he’s self-employed and one of those self-employed people who work all the time – told me that every year he gets all sorts of body scans – MRI’s of various sorts, whatever – just to check. I thought this very wise.
    And someone as rich as Jobs or Patrick Swayze – they could afford to get various sophisticated cancer tests every few months or so. Why not get a whole-body MRI every few months? Why couldn’t Jobs have had any cancer detected in the very early stages? It’s a human foible not to.
    A few years ago, I talked with a funny guy in the checkout line in the health food store. He was going out with berries and heavy cream … He told me he was doing a “liver cleanse”. I had the impression the berries and cream were part of the liver cleanse, maybe he adds bentonite clay or something to them. So he says he has hardening of the arteries and he shouldn’t be eating the cream. I said, I hope you don’t do that often. “Oh, I’m not eating it.” “How do you do a liver cleanse without eating?” So he admits he IS actually eating the berries n cream, guiltily. I look at it, somewhat horrified. “All that saturated fat!” I tell him you can clear your arteries out with the Ornish diet. He didn’t want to hear it, but he asked me what it was and I said lowfat and vegetarian, he grimaced. It’s the human spirit don’t you know, while he’s in the shadow of death, eating his berries and cream and doing a soothing “liver cleanse”.

  2. #2 Elvin
    October 21, 2011

    It will be interesting to see if the biography reveals any details that can be verified or followed up.
    The default position of ‘alt-med did it’ is very but perhaps this is one case that can’t be laid at their doorstep. So it goes…

  3. #3 Elvin
    October 21, 2011

    Should have read as “The default position of ‘alt-med’ did it’ is very _tempting but…”

  4. #4 Todd W.
    October 21, 2011

    @Laura

    Down side of frequent body scans are radiation (if CT or other X-ray-related device is used; probably not a problem with MRI) and, more importantly, false positives. The more you go looking for something, the greater the chance of finding something that looks fishy, leading to further tests (some possibly invasive), that lead to nothing but the expenditure of time, money and risk of complications.

    Body scans are not a panacea.

  5. #5 Vicki
    October 21, 2011

    In addition to false positives, frequent scans for no particular reason are wasting the time and energy of the doctors, technicians, and other professionals involved (even if the patient considers lying in an MRI machine to be as good a use of their own time as whatever else they’d do with that amount of free time). It’s not as though we have a surplus of doctors, or as though it wouldn’t be nice for more of them to actually get to spend time with their families. The last time my doctor asked me about whether I was exercising regularly, and I told him I go to the gym twice a week, he was somewhat envious, because he doesn’t have time to do that.

  6. #6 Denice Walter
    October 21, 2011

    Much of alt med consists of (supposedly) preventive medicine: by eating a vegan diet /taking supplements you’ll “prevent” the onset of serious illnesses like cancer. By doing this people feel that they are actively taking steps towards health: there’s something about activity that makes people feel better: ” I’m taking care of it”, “It’s under control”.It’s like purchasing insurance they might feel.

    Another function that woo provides is self-soothing: ways to calm yourself down (yoga, meditation, breathing) and getting treatments like massage. Outlets like these can assist people who are having difficulties with stress,including that which might accompany a serious illness and uncomfortable treatments.

    The problems arise when the psychologically effective is mistaken for being physically effective as well: the woo-entranced patient feels that the changed diet et al or the stress reduction techniques are also working against the illness, in Jobs’ case, the cancer: ” I’m taking action.”

    If woo can lull that sense of dread that people experience when contemplating their own mortality which could possibly goad them into taking efficient actions then soporific ideas might be the last thing a cancer patient needs. Woo-meisters effectively get their marks to transfer that sense of dread and fear unto SB treatments and medical personnel: altho’ they often rant, rage,and rail against the drugs and poisons provided by Pharma they in effect are selling opiates that put rational fears to sleep and poisonous, often deadly, ideas.

    In Jobs’ case, it isn’t clear if alt med affected the outcome: the same isn’t true for others.

  7. #7 Karl Withakay
    October 21, 2011

    “The first statement is a nuanced assessment of probabilities; the latter statement is black-and-white thinking,”

    While certain outcomes such as death are fairly black and white, reality is often subtle and nuanced, no matter how much we would like to simplify it and boil it down to a single, easy to understand PowerPoint bullet point.

  8. #8 BadDragon
    October 21, 2011

    @Denice Walter Also, let’s not forget that the “evil” things like pain, fear, discomfort when foul smells are present, all of them are Nature’s way to help us protect ourselves. Wear permanently a perfumed tissue in front of your nose, opiate away fear and pain and get killed in no time. It is like sending permanent chemical signals to your immune system that everything is fine in order to avoid fever. Or like going empty handed to pet a wild tiger in the forest because you are not afraid of anything (or because the Big White Monkey Spirit protects you)

    (just to avoid confusions, where I wrote “you”, I meant a generic person, not Denice Walter, of course)

  9. #9 BadDragon
    October 21, 2011

    Oh… and by “Nature’s way” I meant “evolutionary mechanisms”.

  10. #10 Greg Fish
    October 21, 2011

    @Laura, #1:

    Why not get a whole-body MRI every few months?

    Because a whole-body MRI that frequent could actually generate cancerous tumors in some patients. Frequent exposure to radiation is not a good thing and presents an interesting dilemma. Scan some people often and you detect cancers at a very early stage, early enough to cure them. Scan others just as often and you can trigger tumors which would’ve never grown were you to go easy on the scanning.

  11. #11 Dave Ruddell
    October 21, 2011

    Because a whole-body MRI that frequent could actually generate cancerous tumors in some patients. Frequent exposure to radiation is not a good thing and presents an interesting dilemma.

    Please tell me more about this radiation that’s used in an MRI.

  12. #12 frog
    October 21, 2011

    Not that it will matter, but the post’s suggestions regarding of metastasis, how it is detected, and why it is relevant to the question of whether delay is significant as to outcome, is flawed. The suggestion is that, if a tumor has metastized, you will find little tumors or fragments of tumors in other places. This is rarely the case when looking at a case like this. Far more often, the medical analysis – as presumptive as it is – will rely on the idea that single cancer cells can be loosed from the primary and may travel or lay around until they find their place to grow.
    That is the reason it is difficult to argue whether earlier detection would have mattered. The statement “it is highly doubtful that a surgical oncologist would undertake as huge an operation as the Whipple procedure, an operation that is usually only done with curative intent…” if there had been metastisis at the time doesn’t really compute in that context. Aside from that, the Whipple is about the only thing they can do in this context, and it is often done with the hope of prolonging life- or the quality of life – with no real percentage hope for cure. The five year survival rates for pancreatic cancer show this. Cure is extraordinarily rare.
    I share the skepticism for “alternative” medicine that is promoted by magical thinking. While I agree that overselling the point is simply wrong, the strong statements that ultimately are meant to point out that these delays in real treatment deprived Jobs of much of his chance for cure are headed in the right direction.
    (disclaimer- not all “alternative” medicine or concepts are wrong, and this commenter is a user of some that are not wholly approved by the blogger)

  13. #13 trrll
    October 21, 2011

    No, MRI radiation is non-ionizing, so there is no risk of creating additional tumors. The major concern of excessive screening–even one such as MRI that is perfectly safe–is the risk of false alarms, leading to unnecessary medical interventions that do carry hazards.

  14. #14 Mattand
    October 21, 2011

    @Laura, #1 wrote

    I tell him you can clear your arteries out with the Ornish diet. He didn’t want to hear it, but he asked me what it was and I said lowfat and vegetarian, he grimaced. It’s the human spirit don’t you know, while he’s in the shadow of death, eating his berries and cream and doing a soothing “liver cleanse”.

    Maybe I’m missing something, but didn’t Orac demonstrate that Ornish is fairly woo-prone? I’m curious, Laura; you rightly critizcised the health store patron for eating a fatty diet in the mistaken attempt to “cleanse” his liver. Yet you promote a method from a doctor who appears to be heading towards Dr. Oz territory.

    Is there any hard, non-woo evidence that Ornish’s diet does clear arterial blockage?

  15. #15 Knightly
    October 21, 2011

    I’m really impressed with the due diligence, Orac. I know you have no sympathy for the woo-slingers but I’m glad you give evidence against it the same level of scrutiny you give “evidence” in favor. It gives you extra credibility.

    Thanks for the post.

  16. #16 Narad
    October 21, 2011

    Is there any hard, non-woo evidence that Ornish’s diet does clear arterial blockage?

    Not in any reliable fashion, but maybe sometimes. You could start here and work forward through the related papers.

  17. #17 Narad
    October 21, 2011

    I suppose I should have said “maybe sometimes somewhat.”

  18. #18 qetzal
    October 21, 2011

    Even in the worst case, I don’t think it would be correct to say “alternative medicine killed Steve Jobs.” That implies that the alternative treatments themselves caused his death, which is certainly wrong.

    If Jobs could initially have been cured by surgery, I think the correct statement would be that promoters of alternative medicine contributed to his death. If there’s any blame here, it falls on the quacks, not the quackery.

  19. #19 palindrom
    October 21, 2011

    One thing to keep in mind (which Orac alluded to) that may help explain Jobs’ hesitation is that the Whipple procedure is not just ‘invasive’, it’s ‘practically sawing you in half’. It’s a horrible operation for the patient. A friend of mine had one some years ago and he was out from his sedentary work for something like 6 months.

    The scenario in his case is that they found a tumor on his pancreas when he got an MRI for an unrelated problem (kidney stones). The tumor proved to be benign, but they didn’t know that at the time, and they thought they might get a rare ‘save’ from pancreatic cancer.

  20. #20 anthrosciguy
    October 21, 2011

    This whole episode is interesting in what it shows about how Jobs worked, and why he succeeded at a lot of things he did. First, he was able to convince people he was right even when he was wrong, which led to business failures like Lisa and NeXt. But he was also smart enough to see that he’d made a mistake, which led to his being able to learn from those failures.

  21. #21 Warren Terra
    October 21, 2011

    Separately from whether he indeed committed Suicide By Quack, what about his queue-jumping to get a liver transplant – a transplant that may have extended his life somewhat, but that might otherwise have gone to someone not already suffering incurable metastatic cancer, someone who might have lived for decades?

  22. #22 Mattand
    October 21, 2011

    @Narad #16:

    Thanks for the link. At first blush, I’m not sure what’s so experimental about Ornish’s protocol as described in the abstract. It would seem like that even in 1990, things such as stopping smoking, stress management training, and moderate exercise would hardly be classified as experimental.

    I’ll have to see if I can get a copy of the whole thing. I’d be curious to see what distinguishes Ornish’s protocol from what is described as a “usual-care control group”, other than diet.

    I could be wrong, but it almost sounds like one of the bait-and-switches that the alt-med gang like to use. Orac has detailed in the past that this group tends to promote things like exercise and stopping smoking as something mainstream doctors don’t promote.

  23. #23 Mrs. Woo
    October 21, 2011

    I very much appreciate your even-handed approach to this subject. More rational people swayed by alternative theories should hopefully find you more credible when they realize that you do not jump to immediate conclusions without first having the information necessary to make an informed response. Too bad most purveyors of woo begin shoving supplements in patients’ faces as soon as they see the first published studies suggesting that mice respond such and such way to such and such thing.

    I wish there was a way to make some of what you share more accessible for the less-informed. People less educated in human nature prefer the absolutes of quackery to the rational percentages of science, because science is honest enough to never guarantee an outcome.

  24. #24 David Westenkirchner
    October 21, 2011

    @frog #12:

    You wrote: “not all “alternative” medicine or concepts are wrong…”

    Which would you suggest are not wrong?

  25. #25 Roadstergal
    October 21, 2011

    Oh, gawd. I saw Ramzi Amri cited in an SF Gate article, and they mentioned his ‘one and one-half years’ studying cancer. I wasn’t sure who needed a slap more, Ramzi or the SF Gate editors.

    Thank you for keeping things sensible, and using this as an opportunity to educate, despite the temptation to do the woo-meisters’ trick of ‘He killed himself through x!’

  26. #26 Schenck
    October 21, 2011

    On the Whipple Surgery normally only being used with the intent to cure:
    If a rich guy says ‘do whatever you can do to fight this cancer’, I suspect it gets done, medically warranted or not. A regular person, their doctor would probably tell them that they can’t do the Whipple Surgery, because its really aggressive and you only do that if you think it has a good chance of curing you. Which means there’s a tiny tiny tiny chance it can cure you. And if you’re rich, like Jobs, you get that, even if its a slim chance.

  27. Yes, let’s keep it real. I agree that the claims that a more holisitic attitude to health care killed the man are simply unsustainable. We do not have a clone of him to start a random trial. I would much rather hear people acknowledging that he exercised the freedom to make a choice how he wanted to look after his health/wanted to be cared for. The fact that he didn’t make a recovery does not prove that the non-evasive treatments did no good at all. It is not only about the body, but also what suits us emotionally, i.e., what is in line with our belief system, to go against this is not likely to promote health either.

  28. #28 Roadstergal
    October 21, 2011

    @Madeline #27: non-evasive treatments

    I disagree, ‘alt-med’ tends to be startlingly evasive when you try to nail down just how it works or what it does.

  29. #29 Krebiozen
    October 21, 2011

    Roadstergal,
    To be fair to Ramzi Amri he spent 1.5 years researching insulinomas in Holland, not cancer generally. My experience of insulinomas has been in clinical biochemistry investigating unexplained hypoglycemia which occasionally turned out to be due to insulinoma. I was always taught that insulinomas are easily treated, so I was surprised to read that’s what killed Jobs.

  30. #30 Warren Terra
    October 21, 2011

    @#27
    Golly, I hope that’s how people in London are supposed to spell the word that we in the US spell “psychotherapist”. Otherwise, it rather damages your professional credibility – although judging by your misuse of the word “evasive” to mean “invasive” and, less pedantically, your endorsement of the “holistic” embrace of woo for its Placebo potential in preference to useful treatment, the loss of credibility may not be a novel experience for you.

  31. #31 BadDragon
    October 21, 2011

    @Mrs. Woo

    My personal opinion is that “people less educated in human nature prefer the absolutes of quackery to the rational percentages of science, because science is honest enough to never guarantee an outcome” it is only the rationalization, not the cause. As somebody around here said some days ago, science is a herculean process, something you have to dive in and spend a lot of time and energy (not to mention the need of a certain intellectual ability) to master. Moreover, the results of science are sometimes counter-intuitive, sometimes they flow against the popular stream. While to an educated mind the argument of majority in science matters is insignificant, to an uneducated mind it is easier to run with the flow (specially now when the flow is so strong and vocal having internet and tabloids and profit-only-oriented press).

    Then, let’s not forget about the need of world re-enchantment that is more and more present nowadays. If I had to chose between a little magic (that I feel I need) and some complicated science (that I have no clue about and it is difficult to follow), I would probably end up choosing the magic.

  32. #32 Dianne
    October 21, 2011

    According to this article Jobs believed that his initial flirtation with CAM led to his eventual death. Which doesn’t, of course, make it true, but FWIW, Jobs wanted his death to encourage people to seek real medical care for their illnesses.

  33. #33 Mc Kiernan
    October 21, 2011

    “…even consulted a psychic.”

    Think Sylvia Brown…

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sylvia-Browne/196312131222

  34. #34 Narad
    October 21, 2011

    I’ll have to see if I can get a copy of the whole thing.

    All of the Ornish JAMA stuff is open-access at this point, which may be sufficient. My understanding was that the main issue is one of compliance. If you’ve ever tried cooking out of Eat More, Weigh Less, it makes Cuisine Minceur seem downright exciting.

  35. #35 Candy
    October 21, 2011

    If you’ve ever tried cooking out of Eat More, Weigh Less, it makes Cuisine Minceur seem downright exciting.

    I once had an unfortunate customer service job answering phones for Rodale Books. In addition to many other irritations, customers used to call and complain about that very thing! How that takes me back . . .

  36. #36 Facts time
    October 21, 2011

    Steve Jobs lived 8 years with pancreatic cancer.
    Only 4.7% will make it 5 years!!
    He lived longer than 99% of pancreatic cancer patients!!!
    His alternative treatments extended his life.

  37. #37 Candy
    October 21, 2011

    Facts time, where are your facts? You do understand that there are different types of pancreatic cancer, right?

  38. #38 novalox
    October 21, 2011

    @facts time

    [citation needed]

  39. #39 Narad
    October 22, 2011

    I once had an unfortunate customer service job answering phones for Rodale Books.

    For those not familiar with J.I. Rodale, Dick Cavett’s account of the unfortunate incident.

  40. #40 Mrs Woo
    October 22, 2011

    @BadDragon –

    My own reaction to life experiences seems to have inoculated me from much magical thinking. As an eight-year-old praying fervently for a dying mother and then being assured that “God took her because she was so good” (granted, the chemo and radiation didn’t help her either, apparently), I really don’t hold out much hope for faith or magic to do much to improve my luck.

    The occasional well-done, double-blind study, however, at least gives me numbers where I can say I have a six in ten chance, or a 140 in 300 or whatever. Since so far I haven’t had much luck with faith healing I’m more comforted by stark numbers than hopes that if I shake a vial of water enough it will cure me.

    Reality often goes against our wishes, no matter what we do to try to change it. At least if I have percentage chances I can hope that I’ve made the best decision possible rather than accepting someone who assures me they have one substance that cures everything. For some reason I find it impossible to put faith in anyone who promises me the whole world.

    I just wish that I could somehow convince Mr. Woo that the one who promises you everything rarely (to this date has never) been able to successfully deliver.

  41. #41 lilady
    October 22, 2011

    @ Narad: I always fancy myself as a “collector” of trivia and minutiae…most of it useless…that is stored in my brain. I bow to your superior abilities of storing and retrieving.

    @ Mrs Woo: I knew from your first posting that I was going to enjoy your comments.

    Regarding this latest blog and the anticipation of Steve Jobs authorized biography…I am surprised that Steve Jobs actually talked about his use of CAM during the nine months after his diagnosis of pancreatic insulinoma and the time he had the Whipple procedure. IMO he was a very “private” man and I expected that he would have held back details of the use of CAM. The interview with the biographer on “60 Minutes” should be quite informative.

    I also suspect that CAM practitioners will be watching to see what is revealed in the book…and perhaps “sweating it out”…which to me is a good thing.

  42. #42 Collin
    October 22, 2011

    It’s not rational to choose woo over surgery. However, I think it’s rational in some cases to choose doing nothing over surgery, provided you admit that you’re letting yourself die to avoid complications you consider worse than death.

  43. #43 T-reg
    October 22, 2011

    Excellent article by Orac.
    It also serves to drive home the point that scientific analysis is not based on personal bias. Instead, an objective evaluation of the evidence to draw conclusions is the correct approach.

  44. #44 Sam
    October 22, 2011

    The large number of controversial comments shows how concerned we are. A worldwide discussion about traditional medicine and adjuvant alternative treatment measures is to be welcomed – regardless of the tragic illness Steve Job had. We should always remember the urgent appeal for healthy lifestyles, cancer precaution examinations and early diagnosis! Thousands of lives could be saved.

  45. #45 xyz
    October 22, 2011

    It sounded like Jobs, with a whopping 1-2 years of college education, thrashed around for 9 months to avoid sharp objects and painful decisions. “Fruit juice,” as one CAM cited, sounds less popular amongst heresies. Even fruitarians, a vegan-like subset favor an expansive definition of whole fruit.

    I looked up Orac’s favorite posterboy, Mercola. Mercola was railing against fructose and fruit juices several years ago, as a linked cause of pancreatic cancer.

  46. Well, I have actually heard of a juice treatment in Mexico that has a very positive effect on bowl cancer, but I am with you xyz to be cautious on high sugar juices.
    More importantly, however, I want to agree with Sam – it is vital to keep an open mind and to do more research. Was it Paracelsus who said, “Let your medicine be your food, and your food be your medicine”?
    This shouldn’t be an “either or” approach.

  47. #47 BadDragon
    October 22, 2011

    @Mrs. Woo

    I am very sorry you had to learn about the failure of “faith healing” that way. Fortunately for me, I had no such experience.

    Just to make sure I was not misunderstood (it happened before), what I am trying to do is to understand why the woo-world is so appealing to some people, a lot of people (science is difficult, results of science are sometime counter-intuitive, the need for re-enchantment and so on).

    From my point of view, it is not enough to tell them they are wrong (one thing Orac and participants at this blog do very well). Often people refuse arguments specially because they prove them wrong. It is a terrible thing for one’s psyche to discover that one’s world view is flawed and inconsistent and it usually fights back. That’s why I consider that the next step should be taken: understand the frame of mind necessary for someone to dive into woo and fight it at the roots. Mainly through education, proper, efficient education, not just walking someone through school for 12-15 years.

  48. #48 T-reg
    October 22, 2011

    I agree with BadDragon – a proper, efficient education is more likely to make an individual flexible enough to change her/his views when presented with evidence which goes against them.

  49. #49 Denice Walter
    October 22, 2011

    About Rodale:

    He’s an important figure in Woo because he consolidated many ideas from Europe and the US and presented them in accesible mainstream magazine form.

    15 years ago, I was sarcastically given his 1960 compilation of articles,” The Prevention Method for Better Health”, by my late father; nearly synchroniously, my relative became employed by Rodale’s daughter and son-in-law**. Because the founder’s son died young, his empire is now run by his grand-daughter.

    Leafing through this tome, I find many themes that would be right at home @ NaturalNews: natural foods and supplements are contrasted to the evils modernity has wrought ( food additives; fluoridation; pharma; de-natured, processed foods; vaccines). Similarly, studies by nameless researchers and anecdotes reign supreme.

    ** the former Miss Rodale married a physicist ( who had worked on you-know-what in the 1950s) and before you can say, ” Quantum woo”- well, no: they created an entirely legit technology-based company.

  50. #50 Krebiozen
    October 22, 2011

    Facts time,

    Steve Jobs lived 8 years with pancreatic cancer.
    Only 4.7% will make it 5 years!! He lived longer than 99% of pancreatic cancer patients!!! His alternative treatments extended his life.

    If you want some real facts take a look at this article which compares survival in different types of pancreatic cancer. Jobs had an endocrine tumor – around 42% of people with this kind of tumor live for 5 years and about 28% are still alive after 10 years. We don’t know for sure if his alternative treatments shortened or extended his life, but the likelihood is they shortened it.

  51. #51 Schenck
    October 22, 2011

    “This shouldn’t be an “either or” approach.”
    Probably should be an ‘either it works’ ‘or it doesn’t’ approach. Diet won’t cure cancer. Surgery and chemotherapy might, or at least give you a longer lifespan.

  52. #52 Candy
    October 22, 2011

    Denice Walter: One nice thing about working on the Rodale line was that I had access to some of their gardening and cook books which weren’t particularly wooish. I got a nice book on herbs which was really just about growing and drying various plants, with no alt med stuff attached. As I was into container gardening, I got quite a lot of use from that book. Most of their stuff was just silly, though, even to me who at that time had a mind so “open” it’s surprising my brain didn’t fall out.

  53. #53 Candy
    October 22, 2011

    Narad, thanks for posting that link! I never knew that. Oh, my, I felt guilty but I laughed out loud.

    I was quite wooish for many years, although never eschewing conventional medicine, and then I had the misfortune to watch someone die due to woo, treating penile cancer with – I’m not kidding – aloe vera, prayer, and mushroom powder. Penile cancer is very aggressive,the woo failed as badly as one might expect, and it absolutely opened my already beginning-to-be-skeptical eyes. It’s terrible to learn these things from observation.

  54. #54 Jon H
    October 22, 2011

    I may have mentioned this before, but there’s an irony in Jobs’ death.

    One of Jobs’ favorite sayings was “the journey is the reward”.

    Back in the NeXT days, some hard-worked engineers made some t-shirts that said
    “the gurney is the reward”.

    In the end, it was Jobs that wound up on the gurney. I suppose Jobs’ over-worked employees can take some comfort in knowing that Jobs didn’t push them any harder than he pushed himself.

  55. #55 Jon H
    October 22, 2011

    @20: “which led to business failures like Lisa and NeXt”

    I don’t see how NeXT could be considered a failure, given that it was sold to Apple for $429 million, after which NeXT effectively took Apple over, and NeXT’s technology serves as the foundation of today’s success at Apple.

  56. #56 Jon H
    October 22, 2011

    Warren Terra wrote: “what about his queue-jumping to get a liver transplant – a transplant that may have extended his life somewhat, but that might otherwise have gone to someone not already suffering incurable metastatic cancer, someone who might have lived for decades?”

    He didn’t jumpt he queue, he was able to choose his queue by moving. Most people don’t have that freedom, but I’m sure you would have done the same if you were in the same position.

  57. #57 otbricki
    October 22, 2011

    This issue of whether or not alternative medicine killed Steve Jobs is a giant red herring. What is important is whether or not it kills people.

    Clearly it does.

  58. #58 Narad
    October 22, 2011

    NeXT’s technology serves as the foundation of today’s success at Apple.

    NeXTstep still puts OS X to shame, IMNSHO. My NeXTstation Color’s disk is all but dead, but to my amazement I found a NeXT CD-ROM drive in the dumpster last year that I might be able to boot from. Once I tracked down the guy who was moving out, it turns out that not only had he worked for them, he had left a fully functional mono station in the alley as well. The thought that this was picked up by the scrappers who regularly cruise for junk around here breaks my heart.

  59. #59 Brightness
    October 22, 2011

    Clearly the adventures with alternative medicine didn’t help Jobs. Whipple procedure recipients have an 80-90% 10 year survival rate although the statistics are somewhat uncertain due to the rarity of this type of cancer.

  60. #60 Narad
    October 23, 2011

    Whipple procedure recipients have an 80-90% 10 year survival rate although the statistics are somewhat uncertain due to the rarity of this type of cancer.

    They may also be somewhat uncertain by virtue of being pulled out of your ass. Care to be more specific?

  61. #61 Jon H
    October 23, 2011

    “NeXTstep still puts OS X to shame, IMNSHO.”

    Nah. I have a cube and a mono station, and worked for various companies developing NeXTStep or OpenStep software through the 90s. And some of my best friends worked for NeXT.

    NeXTSTEP was awesome for the time, but I’ll take the modern features of OS X, the great, affordable hardware it runs on, the enormous market for software, and the much-improved development tools being free rather than costing $5000.

  62. #62 Krebiozen
    October 23, 2011

    Brightness,

    Whipple procedure recipients have an 80-90% 10 year survival rate although the statistics are somewhat uncertain due to the rarity of this type of cancer.

    That looks like the sort of survival rate you would expect in those rare patients who have a Whipple procedure for chronic pancreatitis, not cancer.

    In cancer patients 10 year survival is, sadly, considerably lower than that.

  63. #63 Pareidolius
    October 23, 2011

    Only 62 comments on this subject? I’m kinda floored, where are my altie trolls? How are we supposed to eat this thin gruel off agreement? Not even a rollicking OT OS battle after that hilarious pean to neXT a few comments up thread . . . The weather must be really nice everywhere today.

  64. #64 Narad
    October 23, 2011

    Not even a rollicking OT OS battle after that hilarious pean to neXT a few comments up thread

    Oh, I can do it if you really want:

    WHAT KINDA MEATBALL OS WON’ LEMME POINT-TA-FOCUS CUZ THE CRYBABIES NEED A POLACK TASK BAR??!!?1!

  65. #65 Madeleine
    October 24, 2011

    @62
    Thank you for that info/link, Krebiozen. That’s very useful.

  66. #66 Tsu Dho Nimh
    October 24, 2011

    @22 – Most experts who have reviewed the studies published by Ornish point out the studies were not double blind, they used a very small sampling of individuals hand picked by Ornish, and addressed multiple risk factors, including fat and cholesterol intake, exercise, weight reduction, stress reduction, meditation and quitting smoking.

    Which one of these factors actually produced the results he claims for his diet?

    You can’t tell, but the AMA and the AHA have been promoting stopping smoking, increasing exercise and controlling weight for DECADES. Ornish cherry-picked his results and launched a big PR campaign for his book.

  67. #67 Jon H
    October 24, 2011

    Re: NeXTSTEP vs. OS X, I will say that it would be nice to have NeXT-style tear-off and reposition able menus, especially when using multiple monitors.

    I find that the single menu bar on OS X makes it awkward to use multiple monitors. I end up using the extra screens as little more than LCD picture frames, because it’s such a hassle going to and from the menu on the main screen.

    In lieu of the NeXT-style menus, it’d be nice if each screen had a menubar, synced to the application that owned the frontmost window on that screen.

  68. #68 Myaushka
    October 24, 2011

    Have you ever seen this fascinating way to present cancer survival rates?

    Pancreatic cancer is at the very bottom, sadly.

    I’m also terrified by how bad the prognosis is for cancer of the larynx and the esophagus.

    http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0000Jr

  69. #69 Chris
    October 25, 2011

    I wonder which kind of diet he was on, what kind of veggies and supplements he was taking.

  70. #70 ChemoMan
    October 26, 2011

    Myauska @ 68

    If reading cancer stats terrifies you then you might want to read an article By Stephen Jay Gould called “The Median Isn’t The Message”. I have it bookmarked and it is a cherished piece of prose I read and reflect on often. I see hope in each graph ;)

  71. #71 Jack
    October 26, 2011

    Check out Richard Schulze from HerbDoc.com, could be the woo they refer to.

  72. #72 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2011

    No idea if it killed him. Though it would seem to be as much a phobia against conventional medicine or surgery. I haven’t read what he said on the subject. Some people don’t get treated without trying other things, some because they don’t have medical insurance. The insurance-medical industry probably kills a lot more people than the snake oil industry, about orty thousand folks a year, though they’re not rich and famous like Jobs was.

  73. #73 Antaeus Feldspar
    October 26, 2011

    The insurance-medical industry probably kills a lot more people than the snake oil industry, about orty thousand folks a year, though they’re not rich and famous like Jobs was.

    Argument by unsupported assertion and a tu quoque argument in one. Nice work.

  74. #74 Wow
    October 26, 2011

    Well, if he’s talking about the USA, then since the costs are FAR higher than the cost of treatment anywhere else and you can’t get treatment unless either

    a) you have insurance that covers the treatment

    or

    b) you are a candidate for emergency treatment

    then there’s pretty good evidence that the insurance companies are causing many more deaths than the snake-oil peddlers. If only because they affect 100% of the population.

  75. #75 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2011

    Amtaeus, remarkable you could know a term like tu quoque while the meaning of the word “probably” escapes your notice.

    Though, it being a Scienceblog, it’s not all that remarkable.

    In order to know in Jobs would have put off having treatment for his cancer even without “alternative medicine” you would at the least have to know what he said on that, the only real insight you’d get into his motives. One thing that is certain, he didn’t put it off because he was indigent or struggling with a lack of adequate insurance, a quite common reason for people to delay medical care.

    Orac, you written on the estimates of the tens of thousands of people who die from lack of timely treatment due to the way the insurance-medical industry works lately?

  76. #76 Beamup
    October 26, 2011

    “Probably” doesn’t insulate you at all, ESPECIALLY when you then proceed to claim a specific number of deaths. Unless you meant it to mean “I have no clue whether what I’m implying is accurate or not” in which case saying in the first place is grossly dishonest.

  77. #77 lilady
    October 26, 2011

    I don’t believe we will ever know just how the nine months delay of Jobs’ surgery might have impacted on the course of his illness.

    What we do know is that his friend Dean Ornish is a medical doctor. I’m wondering if Ornish did or did not urge Jobs to have the surgery done as quickly as possible…which “might” have given Jobs a better chance to survive. If his involvement with Jobs during these nine months, was just giving him advice on nutrition, then I think he really is incompetent as a physician.

    Of course…Ornish will never reveal if advice on Jobs’ diet was his only involvement during those 9 months.

  78. #78 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2011

    Do you guys read the news, even a little bit?

    http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2009/09/new-study-finds-45000-deaths-annually-linked-to-lack-of-health-coverage

    As usual, you’d rather blather and snark on your limited number of hobby horses than think about what really happens in the real world.

    Jobs made his own choice. Someone who can’t be treated because the insurance-medical industry wants to see the money, doesn’t have that choice. That’s a huge difference. And there are a lot more poor folks who would choose to have health care if they could get it in time to save their lives than there are nutty millionaires who choose not to get it.

  79. #79 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2011

    lilady, do you have any information that Jobs consulted Ornish and what Ornish might have said? If you don’t, you’re just spreading malicious speculation.

  80. #80 lilady
    October 26, 2011

    Mr. McCarthy: I think you need to get off your high horse and re-read my comment.

    Dean Ornish was a close friend of Steve Jobs and according to Jobs’ biographer, Steve Jobs engaged in “magical thinking” (consulted “spiritualists and tried various diets), during the nine months elapsed time when surgery was recommended and the time that surgery was performed.

    I only “wondered” about any advice, if any, Ornish provided to his friend Steve Jobs.

    You need to take some English comprehension courses and refrain from posting here and insulting other posters.

  81. #81 lilady
    October 26, 2011

    Mr. McCarthy: How can you state in one posting,

    “The insurance-medical industry probably kills a lot more people than the snake oil industry, about orty thousand folks a year, though they’re not rich and famous like Jobs was.”…

    then cite another article that states 45,000 thousand deaths a year are attributed to lack of health care insurance?

    Before you go off on another rant against me, the “regulars” here know that I post frequently about the need for major health care reform to provide medical coverage to everyone.

    BTW, you do understand that licensed physicians are held to a higher standard that self-styled “nutritionists”, don’t you?

  82. #82 W. Kevin Vicklund
    October 26, 2011

    lilady – Anthony McCarthy is a well-known troll on ScienceBlogs. As such, it is a reasonable assumption that he deliberately phrased his comment so that regular commenters here would take it one way, even though he meant it a different way.

  83. #83 Mrs. Woo
    October 26, 2011

    @BadDragon#47

    If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m Mrs. Woo because I married someone who embraces woo fanatically, not because I embrace it myself. I’m a bit baffled by him, to be honest. He is a licensed and practicing nurse and you would hope he would be more rational. Then again, as I’ve been on this journey a while now, I have found other nurses equally enamored with “CAM,” which suggests a good education might not be as helpful to a rational perspective as one would hope.

    I originally (naively) thought that as a nurse what alternative suggestions he embraced would probably be a bit better proven, etc., (like the fact a good diet contributes to a healthier person). However, he actually is every bit a conspiracy theorist-loving, ‘NWO is out to get you,’ ‘Big Pharma is meant to depopulate earth’ type of woo lover. For a while I attempted to curb some of his more frightening beliefs, especially since they can cause quite a bit of anxiety, but he holds onto them as fiercely as a momma bear protects her cub.

    I’ve begun to speculate now if perhaps the people most enamored with woo come from a personality type/background type that makes them more susceptible to that type of manipulation instead. I’ve noticed that most who go to church with him are equally enamored with alternative and even rather creative attempts at healing. I have a chronic incurable illness that is difficult to treat and once was taken to a faith healer (had to laugh at your “faith healing” comment – to me praying for someone fervently isn’t the same as the faith healing I’ve been subjected to). When they couldn’t “heal” me after laying hands, spilling olive oil all over me (they decided I needed more than just a little on the top of my head) and babbling in tongues, they announced I was obviously possessed and the spirit must need prayer and fasting to remove it.

    I get very angry at most “alternative medicine” outlets, and most angry at ones that now hijack “religious freedom” as a way to be able to continue to practice medicine without a license and stay in business and exempt from regulation. I think it’s shameful to take money hand over fist for ineffective and sometimes even dangerous cures. Most people willing to try these things never even complain to the proper authorities when they don’t work or even ask for their money back. Since they’re already desperate they shrug and say, “That didn’t work; what do I try now?” and go spend another few hundred dollars on the next charlatan’s “cure.”

    I don’t know if Steve Job’s choices shortened his life or not. I’m relieved that Orac demonstrates the rational analysis he does. I just wish there was a way to help people desperate for absolutes to understand that an honest “72%” is a much better guarantee than some charlatan’s “I cure everyone who comes to me.”

    :(

  84. #84 Beamup
    October 26, 2011

    Do you guys read the news, even a little bit?

    In what world does not being able to guess that your unattributed claim was meant to be a reference to an article just published in one particular journal (and which you didn’t even have the decency to cite directly) lead to that comment? Not on Earth. Not even on Htrae. Only in the mind of a foolish troll.

  85. #85 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2011

    lilady, for all you know Ornish knew nothing about him being sick for those nine months. He doesn’t seem to have been broadcasting the news.

    You clearly want to target someone by name without any evidence. That’s close to libel.

    Jobs was an educated adult with lots of money and who was seeing a doctor, maybe he made his own nutty decision for reasons that don’t involve getting bad advice from a well known medical professional who you obviously don’t like. Maybe he was afraid of being operated on and it took him that long to deal with it. Who knows? Without direct evidence, it’s irresponsible to try to involve named individuals in the issue.

    What is obvious is that he didn’t have to worry about having to beg someone to give him medical care because he was destitute.

    Vicklund, I’ve commented on Scienceblogs off and on, most of them aren’t worth bothering with. If any of the owners of those blogs want me to not comment on their blog, all they have to do is say so. If you want to tell me not go comment on your blog, get one and I won’t. Provided I happen to see a link to what you’ve posted, which I doubt I would.

  86. #86 Raging Bee
    October 26, 2011

    Are you the same Anthony McCarthy who tried to flog that “we can’t possibly know about the origin of life” nonsense on Grag Laden’s blog? The same one who pretended to be a skeptic with no religious affiliation, only to be exposed as a standard Christian obscurantist by reference to previous blog comments?

    And are you really trying to conflate “deaths due to lack of medical coverage” with “deaths caused by conventional medicine?” Your original wording implied that you are, which is extremely dishonest.

  87. #87 Raging Bee
    October 26, 2011

    Just checked the URL. Yep, same blithering obscurantist.

  88. #88 Raging Bee
    October 26, 2011

    Vicklund, I’ve commented on Scienceblogs off and on, most of them aren’t worth bothering with.

    Then why did you bother with them? Or did you only conclude they’re not worth the trouble AFTER you lost whatever arguments you were trying to push?

    You sure spent a lot of trouble repeating (or repasting) those bogus accusations of yours on Greg’s blog, without ever backing any of it up with specifics, let alone citations. So now you sound a bit silly — not to mention childish — retroactively declaring this place unworthy of your time.

  89. #89 lilady
    October 26, 2011

    “lilady, for all you know Ornish knew nothing about him being sick for those nine months. He doesn’t seem to have been broadcasting the news.

    You clearly want to target someone by name without any evidence. That’s close to libel.”

    I see Mr. McCarthy, you haven’t taken any quicky reading comprehension courses and you are totally clueless about libel law.

    I tried to keep my posting (*musings) non-judgmental…and succeeded. You on the other hand have a strange way of interpreting basic English and are engaging in semantics.

    The only meeting of the minds that we share is your statement to Mr. Vicklund:

    “Vicklund, I’ve commented on Scienceblogs off and on, most of them aren’t worth bothering with.”

    * Try to define “musings”.

  90. #90 Antaeus Feldspar
    October 26, 2011

    Frankly, in my view, the phrase “insurance-medical industry” betrays pretty shallow analysis.  It sounds like Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex,” and to a certain kind of mind that’s enough to recommend it, that it sounds like a previous thought which was honest and apt.

    But what Eisenhower pointed out was that the military and the military’s industrial suppliers, when they were tempted into error from their own self-interests, reinforced each other’s wrongdoing.  If the military, eager to justify its own existence, pushed for an unneeded show of force somewhere, industry leaders whose business would boom as the military called on them for supplies were certainly not likely to advise against such a venture, but add their own voices to the call.

    But if we look at the insurance industry and the field of medicine, do we see the same situation?  No, we do not.  It’s not that either party is immune to error motivated by self-interest (if there is any such party, it’s a rare beast) but that their self-interest errors work in opposite directions.  When insurance companies err from self-interest, it’s on the side of denying medical care, not prompting it!  And medical professionals, of course, do not have their vested interest in such stinginess.  If anything, these conflicting interests push towards a middle position where insurance companies invest in preventative medical care to try and reduce the cost of reactive medical care, and pay for reactive medical care but are selective in which treatments they cover, favoring evidence- and science-based medicine that can demonstrate the value it provides in exchange for its cost.  Anyone who wants to argue that an alternative system would be superior will need to spell out not only how that alternative system would work, but how it would be funded on a continuing basis.

  91. #91 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2011

    lilady, you are a thin-skinned character assassin. That’s par for the course on the Scienceblogs.

    And I see Raging Bee, the “materialist Pagan” is here too.

    My condolences, Orac. I’m sure you must ask yourself, once in a while, if this is the kind of intellectual following you really wanted to get.

    When you going to write about the number of people who die from lack of treatment due to for-profit insurance-medicine?

  92. #92 lilady
    October 26, 2011

    Mr McCarthy: Who is doing character assassination and here…and who is doing character assassination and generalization on your own blog:

    “What is the real value of a university education if the people they tout in the alumnae propaganda are proven liars and incompetents? And that doesn’t even begin to ask about law school graduates. It also doesn’t go into the fact that the faculties of many of our most prestigious universities are well salted with corrupt corporate hacks, crooks and liars.”

    Me thinks you are not at all educated in any profession and you are “projecting”…”lilady, you are a thin-skinned character assassin. That’s par for the course on the Scienceblogs.”

    BTW, I am a university educated Registered Nurse and my husband is a law school graduate and an attorney. Neither one of us appreciate your accusations and generalizations about our professions.

  93. #93 Denice Walter
    October 26, 2011

    @ Mrs Woo:

    While there has been speculation about personality type/ psychological conditions and woo (maybe lack of cognitive complexity, executive dysfunctioning; Kalichman postulates a whole range from suspicious normals to paranoid/ delusional) I think that it’s more important to ask what situations call this tendency forth.

    Uncertainty and uncontrollablity often create a feeling of helplessness: certain conditions are sporadic, fluctuating, and cyclic. Many times they are not entirely controlled by meds and SBM; in addition some illnesses have a low probability of cure or improvement.

    While SBM offers probabilities**, woo offers “cures” and “100% improvements”. I like to think of woo as being more advertising and sales technique than it is science: as you can see the conditions described above are ready made for selling- there is a base of customers who are unsatisfied and there is an historical archive of discarded methods- herbs, homeopathy, folk medicine, religious ceremony and magic, from around the world that can be re-packaged for current use.

    While being a nurse involves SB education and training, no one is immune from wishful thinking: remember many of the doctors Orac writes about go woo *and* it was a scientist who wrote:”You are the easiest person to fool”.

    Because I survey the lowest level of muck in that swamp we call Woo, I have observed: those entrepreneurs who capitalise upon the public’s fears and worries about health have transferred what they have learned dissembling, conniving, seducing, and manipulating emotions to an entirely different avenue- as the economy worsened and fears grew, they became overnight economic “experts” heralding the next collapse and guiding their followers. Similarly, they instruct their charges about surviving rising sea levels, solar storms, gang takeovers of suburbia, food shortages, radiation from nuclear meltdowns, and whatever else frightens people. For a price. DVD or live-streaming.( NaturalNews; ProgressiveRadioNetwork)

    ** my faith rests in probability. Hossannah!

  94. #94 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2011

    lilady, you are a thin skinned character assassin who floated a speculation on this blog that Dean Ornish might have advised Steve Jobs in a way that could constitute professional misconduct, with no evidence that he even knew about Jobs’ condition. If you’re that irresponsible I wouldn’t want you overseeing my health care.

    The rest of your last comment is unhinged invention out of your mind, having nothing to do with what I said.

    Raging Bee, I was familiar with her fantasy life from our encounters at Ladens blog back in the beginning of August. The Sciblog fan couldn’t quite get around the idea that in order to know something with science, you had to have material evidence to base it on. Quite fun to have to defend the necessity of evidence in science against the sci-fans. If anyone wants to look at what happened there instead of depending on a “materialist Pagan”. I’d have thought Paganism would qualify as “woo” round here.

  95. #95 Chris
    October 26, 2011

    Take heed everyone! I have seen an appropriate sign!

  96. #96 Raging Bee
    October 26, 2011

    lilady, you are a thin skinned character assassin who floated a speculation on this blog that Dean Ornish might have advised Steve Jobs in a way that could constitute professional misconduct…

    It’s not “character assassination” if she admitted it was speculation. I just reread the comment (yes, we can fact-check your assertions here, so we know when you’re lying), and yes, she was clearly speculating, not accusing.

    Raging Bee, I was familiar with her fantasy life from our encounters at Ladens blog back in the beginning of August. The Sciblog fan couldn’t quite get around the idea that in order to know something with science, you had to have material evidence to base it on…

    And again, you lie about the whole debate: it was repeatedly pointed out to you that our current theories about the origin of life are indeed based on material evidence — not a lot, of course, but some, and we’re making progress toward a better understanding. Your ignorant assertions kept on getting refuted, all you could do is repeat them over and over, and you still can’t stop stamping your little feet, move on, and admit you were proven wrong. Obsessive lying troll is obsessively lying (and confused about my gender, as so many blustering liars tend, strangely, to be).

    And now it appears you’re about to do the same thing with lilady: you made an ignorant assertion, you were proven wrong, so all you can do is repeat the assertion. Hopefully the sooner you throw your tanty, the sooner you’ll go to bed.

  97. #97 Raging Bee
    October 26, 2011

    Anthony, you say “materialist Pagan” like it’s a bad thing. Let’s see you try to explain why you think it’s bad. I bet you can’t.

  98. #98 Raging Bee
    October 26, 2011

    If anyone wants to look at what happened there instead of depending on a “materialist Pagan”.

    By all means do. Here’s the URL:

    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2011/07/we_can_know_nothing_about_the.php

    Your bluff is called, Anthony. Go ahead and find the quote from me that proves you right. I even made it easy for you.

  99. #99 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2011

    Raging Bee, I’m not ashamed of anything I said in that discussion, a few typos and editing lapses aside. No one can know what the origin of life on Earth was like unless you have physical evidence of it. Not creationists, not materialists. What was most interesting about that discussion was how a Harvard trained quasi-science guy didn’t seem to get that. That the Scienceblog sci-kids didn’t quite twig onto that was funny but not very interesting.

    I’m always interested in how the “we’re all about evidence” folks are eager to suspend that requirement of science when it suits their ideological preferences.

    But that’s an argument that’s not germane to this discussion. Not that I expect you to stay on topic or to understand what that means.

  100. #100 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2011

    Oh, and I brought up your self-identification of yourself as a “materialist Pagan” 1. Because this is allegedly a “woo” unfriendly blog and if Paganism doesn’t qualify as “woo” around here that’s an interesting lapse of integrity here. 2. Anyone who doesn’t quite get that materialism and Paganism are kind of mutually exclusive is pretty silly and self-discrediting. 3. It was just too weirdly funny to let go without saying.

  101. #101 Chris
    October 26, 2011

    Raging Bee:

    Obsessive lying troll is obsessively lying (and confused about my gender, as so many blustering liars tend, strangely, to be).

    Then ignore him.

  102. #102 Raging Bee
    October 26, 2011

    Raging Bee, I’m not ashamed of anything I said in that discussion…

    Good — that means you’re not at all afraid to go back and show where you proved me wrong. Go ahead, we’re waiting…

    if Paganism doesn’t qualify as “woo” around here that’s an interesting lapse of integrity here.

    Okay, show us exactly how not banning me from SciBlogs shows lack of integrity.

    Anyone who doesn’t quite get that materialism and Paganism are kind of mutually exclusive is pretty silly and self-discrediting.

    Go ahead and help us “get” that, using your superior knowledge of Paganism. I suggest you start by giving us your definition of the word “materialist,” as you use it, since (like most other religious obscurantists and anti-rationalists) you never did that in the earlier thread.

  103. #103 Narad
    October 26, 2011

    Anyone who doesn’t quite get that materialism and Paganism are kind of mutually exclusive is pretty silly and self-discrediting.

    I’m blissfully unaware of whatever running argument underlies this, but the statement itself is nonsensical. “You get elves.” Big deal.

  104. #104 Chris
    October 26, 2011

    Narad:

    “You get elves.” Big deal.

    Okay, I actually like this kind of troll food. ;-)

  105. #105 Raging Bee
    October 26, 2011

    “You get elves.” Big deal.

    The last (half-)elf I saw was Arwen. “Getting” her WOULD be a big deal. (Guess I’ll have to wait till Aragorn is away cleaning up after the Second World War of the Ring.)

  106. #106 lilady
    October 26, 2011

    “lilady, you are a thin skinned character assassin who floated a speculation on this blog that Dean Ornish might have advised Steve Jobs in a way that could constitute professional misconduct, with no evidence that he even knew about Jobs’ condition. If you’re that irresponsible I wouldn’t want you overseeing my health care.”

    Rest assured Mr. McCarthy…I wouldn’t want to oversee your health care…I only spent a short time in a psychiatric rotation during my nursing training, years ago.

    I think it is very interesting that you have your own blog and receive absolutely no comments. You then start posting at Greg Laden’s blog looking for “engagement” which wasn’t forthcoming and now arrive here attempting to drive the subjects of Orac’s blog while also misreading my posting and insulting me.

    Then too, anyone who is proud that his closest friends refer to him as “you goddamned little bastard”…is not someone who has the capabilities to either think or express himself rationally.

  107. #107 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2011

    Narad, you should have stopped with “I’m blissfully unaware.” It would have turned what you said into an accurate statement.

    So, Orac, what’s your position on a faith in “elves” and “Paganism,” in general? That would be as opposed to “woo”? Any kind of Paganism I’ve ever heard of involved some pretty alternative concepts of “healing”. It is certainly and obviously not a concept that could be contained within science. So, according to the typical mode of thinking among the materialists of the Scienceblog set, it must disable “Pagans” from thinking scientifically, mustn’t it?

    lilady, “Poor dear lil’ me, someone pointed out that I made a thinly veiled accusation of unethical professional behavior against a named person on the basis of absolutely nothing but sheer speculation.” Grow up.

    The phenomenon of “skeptics” who want to exempt themselves and their buddies from the requirements they demand of everyone else has always interested me. Some of the Scienceblogs contain high concentrations of that kind of “skeptic”. Even when the owners of those blogs try to maintain higher standards in what they say, they are complete cowards in calling their regulars on violations of the standards they claim to promote.

  108. #108 Raging Bee
    October 27, 2011

    Any kind of Paganism I’ve ever heard of involved some pretty alternative concepts of “healing”.

    In other words, SURPRISE(not), you don’t know what you’re talking about. Paganism and alternative medicine are two very different things. There’s a bit of overlap, to be sure, but they’re not the same thing.

    The phenomenon of “skeptics” who want to exempt themselves and their buddies from the requirements they demand of everyone else has always interested me.

    If it’s “always” interested you, then you should have plenty of specific examples, accumulated from so many years of study, to offer us. You know, names and quotes to prove your vague accusations, that sort of thing. Let’s have ‘em already, we’re waiting…

  109. #109 Raging Bee
    October 27, 2011

    Oh, and where’s that definition of the word “materialist” that you keep on failing to provide? You use that word a lot, so you’d bloody well better be able to tell us what (you think) it means.

  110. #110 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2011

    Raging Bee, I am pretty sure that most Pagans would embrace some kind of shamanism or animism or some related beliefs and practices. I’ve never read anything about or by a Pagan that didn’t involve those kinds of things. Show me where the other “materialist Pagans” elucidate their thinking. Are there five of them?

    Orac, let’s hear what you have to say on the idea of “materialistic Paganism”, since apparently at least the people in your fan base who have read this exchange seem to think it’s not a form of “woo”. I thought you were all about debunking woo.

    As to the rest of your drivel, Bee, I’m not under any obligation to follow you around and around the cul de sac that’s the limit of your thinking. Not when I came here to bring up an important issue.

    No one knows why Jobs chose to delay treatment, he’s hardly the only person who has done that, voluntarily. Given what his biographer is revealing out him, he wasn’t entirely rational in all contexts. He seems to have been able to convince himself that what he wanted, in some contexts, was right. In this case, it may or may not have cost him his life. There is no guarantee that the science based treatment would have saved his life, though I’d certainly encourage anyone to try it as their best chance.

    My point is that the insurance-medical industry in the United States takes that choice from an estimated 45,000 people a year, who die to little notice. Steve Jobs had a choice, they didn’t.

  111. #111 Raging Bee
    October 27, 2011

    Raging Bee, I am pretty sure that most Pagans would embrace some kind of shamanism or animism or some related beliefs and practices.

    Yeah, we do. And you’ve also stated a belief in the Abrahamic creator-god. Your point?

    Show me where the other “materialist Pagans” elucidate their thinking.

    I’ll do that as soon as you define what you mean by “materialist,” just like I’ve been asking you to do since August, you lying twit. Why is that so hard for you?

    As to the rest of your drivel, Bee, I’m not under any obligation to follow you around and around the cul de sac that’s the limit of your thinking. Not when I came here to bring up an important issue.

    Follow ME around?! I’m asking YOU to elaborate on YOUR assertions. And your refusal to do so proves you’re bluffing with an empty hand. Again.

  112. #112 Raging Bee
    October 27, 2011

    Orac, let’s hear what you have to say on the idea of “materialistic Paganism”, since apparently at least the people in your fan base who have read this exchange seem to think it’s not a form of “woo”. I thought you were all about debunking woo.

    So now you’re trying to get an authority-figure to put me in my place? You’re both pathetic and funny.

  113. #113 Raging Bee
    October 27, 2011

    As to the rest of your drivel, Bee, I’m not under any obligation to follow you around and around…

    Pardon my double-take, but that sounds suspiciously similar to Dembski’s famous “pathetic level of detail” evasion.

  114. #114 Vicki
    October 27, 2011

    Chris,

    Thanks for that sign link. I’ve saved it for possible future use (icons etc.).

  115. #115 Denice Walter
    October 27, 2011

    @ Raging Bee:

    Well sir, you don’t seem to realise that it is your job to be entirely comprehensible to anyone who should happen to jostle you on the internet.

    Here is my own take- restricted to me alone-
    I’m a materialist ( standard definition) and atheist *however* I have what I call “poetical leanings”- meaning that descriptions of human nature and interaction, as well as our interactions with Nature itself, are sometimes well explained by what I find in poetry, art, lit, and mythology- they address human concerns evocatively.

    Personifications- gods, goddesses, and even elves- are metaphors for human characteristics that are admired and emulated. And it would be really nice if there were a great goddess** or Jesus watching out for me for afar- not that I think there really is. In fact,I often refer to a few “sainted” gentlemen and ladies who I have known- it’s merely saying that these were really great, gifted people who helped me. I also really like traipsing around the redwoods or pines: guess my ancestors liked trees or something- and why shouldn’t they have?

    ** not sure which though.

  116. #116 lilady
    October 27, 2011

    Good morning Raging Bee…Let’s not play into Mr. McCarthy’s hands. I think you and I have shown him to be a stalking troll and I have no intention of providing “engagement” to feed the troll.

  117. #117 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2011

    Ah, Bee, as I told you at Laden’s I’m not a Christian. I am also not a Jew nor am I an adherent of Islam. I don’t believe in the Virgin Birth, the divinity of Jesus, he trinity, etc. I also don’t believe that there was a covenant made with someone named Abraham, that someone named Moses saw a burning bush or that the Quran was spoken into Muhammed’s ear. Not that that will prevent you from appealing to a widespread prejudice of current pop materialism.

    Anyone who wanted to go through that entire, long thing at Laden’s place, here or on any other blog I’ve ever commented on or written for would find anywhere where I have promoted a belief in the “Abrahamic religions”. Your continued obtuseness on that point is as obvious as your repeated assertions that me saying that in order to know what the first organisms on Earth, billions of years ago, were actually like, you would need physical evidence of them is evidence that I’m a creationist. Even as I say that, unlike the origin of life, that species evolved is the most massively documented fact in science.

    You and your pals aren’t a very good advertisement for the science literacy, or even basic literacy, of the typical Scienceblog-fan. I’m sure there must be someone here who can deal with those points but it ain’t you.

    Science lives or dies by physical evidence. It’s no different from any other speculation without it.

  118. #118 Denice Walter
    October 27, 2011

    Oh, and are not rituals and other forms of worship sometimes means of self-regulation- focusing attention, self-calming, self exploration, preparation for actions?

  119. #119 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2011

    Hey, Orac, what do you know? Your blog isn’t the woo free zone you present it as being.

    Conditional acceptance of woo, selective “skepticism”. Ideology in place of evidence.

  120. #120 Raging Bee
    October 27, 2011

    Ah, Bee, as I told you at Laden’s I’m not a Christian. I am also not a Jew nor am I an adherent of Islam. I don’t believe in the Virgin Birth, the divinity of Jesus, he trinity, etc. I also don’t believe that there was a covenant made with someone named Abraham, that someone named Moses saw a burning bush or that the Quran was spoken into Muhammed’s ear. Not that that will prevent you from appealing to a widespread prejudice of current pop materialism.

    Anyone who wanted to go through that entire, long thing at Laden’s place, here or on any other blog I’ve ever commented on or written for would find anywhere where I have promoted a belief in the “Abrahamic religions”.

    You’re lying again, and here’s the proof, from here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2011/07/are_evolution_deniers_scientif.php#comment-4642595

    And here’s the money quote:

    I believe in God, I believe God created the entire universe and everything about it. I believe that God is not susceptible to the network of causality that contains the subject matter of science. I believe it is an act of idolatry to turn some human conception of God into a mere thing that can be subjected to science. The insistence that God can be seen through science is an act of desecration. That God might be seen in the majesty of the universe is not the same thing, it is an acknowledgement that God is only knowable, in an absurdly miniscule part, through living experience of a kind far to broad and far too complex for science.

    Sounds pretty Abrahamic to me. More to the point, it carries the same anti-rationalism and appeal to supernatural authority as the right-wing Christians peddle. Even more to the point, it proves you’re just as religious as I am, so you can’t pretend my beliefs make me less rational. And EVEN MORE to the point, the above quote proves you’re a fucking liar. You were caught once in that lie; did you really think you wouldn’t be caught again?

  121. #121 Raging Bee
    October 27, 2011

    Science lives or dies by physical evidence. It’s no different from any other speculation without it.

    The only person not backing his assertions up with any evidence here, is you.

  122. #122 Narad
    October 27, 2011

    Ideology in place of evidence.

    Oh, but the elves are eminently testable. Did you not get the reference?

  123. #123 Calli Arcale
    October 27, 2011

    Mr McCarthy:

    The deplorable state of health insurance coverage in this country is a fine and noble topic. However, this thread is about Steve Jobs and whether or not delaying standard care to receive alternative care may have contributed to his ultimate demise. It’s part of a series (as you might note from the word “update” in the title) which has also covered such things as how much speculation is really warranted under the circumstances — after all, we don’t know what alt med (if any) he was actually using — and demolishing the claims of alties who have attempted to publish claims which of course Jobs is no longer in a position to refute.

    You don’t need to hijack this thread for your purposes, whether those be the very valid discussion of the state of our health care (which Orac has actually discussed before, though not recently to my knowledge, other topics having taken over more of his time) or the completely ridiculous “no true Scotsman” argument you seem to be making against Raging Bee, which in addition to being extremely rude, is totally irrelevant. You’re hardly in a position to criticize anyone for speculation, Mr McCarthy, given what you’ve just said to Bee. “You’re not like the Pagans I’ve read about, therefore you either are not Pagan or are someone that should be banned from Science Blogs.” Seriously, don’t you agree that’s a silly thing to say? Take the high road. Walk away from that. Address the topic. I realize you can’t start new topics here, but that’s something that all of us commenters have to accept, because this is a blog and not a message board.

  124. #124 Raging Bee
    October 27, 2011

    …a widespread prejudice of current pop materialism.

    Gee, who else routinely uses phrases like “pop materialism” (without defining what they mean by “materialism”)? Oh yeah, lying Christian anti-rationalists. You consistently quack like a Christian anti-rationalist, using all of the same lies and evasions, therefore for all practical purposes, that’s exactly what you are. Pretending you reject this or that specific folktale is meaningless.

  125. #125 Raging Bee
    October 27, 2011

    Oh look, here’s another bit of religious anti-rationalist nonsense from Anthony, from the same thread as the above quotes:

    Harmon, if there’s one thing I’m known as around here it’s as someone in favor of dumping Darwin and a skeptic of Darwinian fundamentalism. I’ve had some of my biggest blog fights over my criticism of him and his family.

    How many times did you insist you’re not a creationist? You sure sound like one here.

  126. #126 Mrs. Woo
    October 27, 2011

    @Raging Bee – May I ask – do you believe there is no way someone could be rational about much of their world but still choose to believe in something they couldn’t explain? Human beings are rarely completely rational and some draw comfort from choosing to believe such.

  127. #127 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2011

    Bee, I said you didn’t know the first thing about what you’re talking about. You have no idea what the phrase “Abrahamic religion” or “Darwinian fundamentalist (as far as I recall, a phrase invented by Stephen J. Gould, an atheist, th or just about anything else you spit out. But, then, you don’t seem to know what materialism or Paganism, your stated faiths, involve either. You might be about the most ignorant person I’ve ever encountered on a blog,.

  128. #128 Raging Bee
    October 27, 2011

    Bee, I said you didn’t know the first thing about what you’re talking about.

    You’ve said a lot of things you never managed to back up.

    But, then, you don’t seem to know what materialism or Paganism, your stated faiths, involve either.

    And you’ve never shown superior understanding of either subject. I’ve been a Pagan since 1981, so I’m pretty sure I know what that means. And as for “materialism,” I’ve repeatedly asked you to define what you mean by that word, and you have repeatedly run away from the issue. So you really can’t pretend I’m the ignorant one here.

    Mrs. Woo: No, I don’t believe that. We’re perfectly capable of compartmentalizing our thoughts, applying different thought processes to different subject areas, and selectively applying rational, or non-rational, principles as we choose. I, for one, assess an investment, a painting, a potential lover, and a car by very different yardsticks. That’s not always a good thing, but it’s how we roll. The important trick is to be as honest with ourselves as possible and keep the irrationality (supernatural beliefs, emotions, selfish desires, etc.) from interfering with rational assessment of reality, or blinding us to important material truths.

  129. #129 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2011

    Since 1981, um, hum, I see.

    Orac, enjoy your Pagan fan base. I’ve never had much of a problem with Pagans doing what they want, for the record. As long as no one gets hurt, they can do whatever they want. But when they try to square the circle like Bee tries to, I’ve got no problem telling them they’re full of flannel.

  130. #130 Raging Bee
    October 27, 2011

    Aaaand…*flounce* So long, Anthony, don’t let the “Back” button hit your bigoted ass on the way out…

  131. #131 Stu
    October 27, 2011

    Wait, is this “I’m banned at Pharyngula” “oh no I never said that” “I love the Colgate Twins” “I am a pathological liar” Anthony McCarthy?

    I thought that name sounded familiar!

  132. #132 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2011

    Stu, I forget if you’re one of the idiots I corrected on that urban myth of PZ’s Peanut Gallery or not. I’ve corrected it about a dozen times already. I’m not going to make a career out of it. As I said at the time, I wasn’t bawling my eyes out that my comments hadn’t posted. Their miraculous reappearance after I pointed it out in a discussion that PZ was a participant in was mildly amusing.

    Though it is funny that you guys feel it necessary to defend PZ about banning people, something he does more publicly, more openly and more cruelly than any other blogger I’m aware of. How come it doesn’t bother you that he does what you, obviously, think is such a horrible thing. I think he’s a jerk to do it the way he does, but, as I said at the time, he had a right to control the content of his blog.

    Bee, you really should consider anger management. That level of anger makes people stupid.

  133. #133 Stu
    October 27, 2011

    Yep, still your passive-aggressive tone trolling lying self, Anthony.

    PZ is a bad guy for banning, which he didn’t do to me, but my comments didn’t appear, so he kind of did, but I’m not bawling my eyes out over it, just still feel the need to point it out again, even though it’s been explained to me how things work and…

    Oh, and yes, we’re all cruel, and meanies, and angry.

    Things must be slow over at the Colgate Twins.

  134. #134 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2011

    Stu, when I get aggressive there’s nothing passive about it. Ask Orac.

    PZ is within his rights to ban anyone he wants to from his blog. It’s his blog. That he does it in about the most obnoxiously cruel way he could, to the glee of his thuggish fan boys and gals is noteworthy. That the same boys and girls take umbrage at someone commenting on their hero’s banning people is hilarious hypocrisy. All of which goes right over the head of the kind of kids PZ’s blog attracts.

    None of which has anything to do with Steve Jobs being a middle aged millionaire who made his own decision about his healthcare, whereas many tens of thousands of people in the United States die every year to little to no notice by the Amen choirs of the Scienceblogs.

  135. #135 Raging Bee
    October 28, 2011

    Stu, when I get aggressive there’s nothing passive about it.

    There’s nothing intelligent about it either, as your last silly incoherent tirade demonstrates. Pray tell, how does PZ manage to ban people “cruelly?”

  136. #136 Anthony McCarthy
    October 28, 2011

    Oh, I forgot, in order to appear impressive to you guys I’ve got to talk like a 7th grader.

    As I said, Orac, enjoy your regulars, such as they are. Especially Raging Bee.

  137. #137 NJ
    October 28, 2011

    AMC@136:

    As I said, Orac, enjoy your regulars, such as they are.

    ? When facts raised their ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled &#9835

  138. #138 Anthony McCarthy
    October 28, 2011

    Ah, MP and the HG, again. What passes as witty retort among the naked mole rats of the Scienceblogs.

    Will you guys make up your mind? Either I keep it up too long or I leave too soon.

    Or at least will you get another line? OK, someone should tell you. Monty Python and Doug Adams aren’t the sum total of a life of the mind. They aren’t the pinnacle of Western culture. Even the Pythons moved on, as John Cleese’s recent clips, available on YouTube show. I’d recommend the ones he has done on cog-sci and evo-psy as particularly good, though, I’d imagine, you won’t realize he’s mocking them.

    Come to think of it, you remind me of the Kevin Kline character in A Fish Named Wanda.

  139. #139 Raging Bee
    October 28, 2011

    Monty Python and Doug Adams aren’t the sum total of a life of the mind.

    They’re funnier than you are. More honest and intelligent too.

  140. #140 Raging Bee
    October 28, 2011

    Will you guys make up your mind? Either I keep it up too long or I leave too soon.

    What, now it’s OUR fault you want to flounce, but keep on coming back because you’re so desperate to get the last word? You’re the one who needs to make up what passes for his mind.

  141. #141 Narad
    October 28, 2011

    Either I keep it up too long or I leave too soon.

    I think you can rule out the second half of that disjunction.

  142. #142 Anthony McCarthy
    October 28, 2011

    Raging Bee, I’ve gotten a lot of laughs from you, only you’re not intending to give them.

    As can be seen here, John Cleese and some of the other Pythons moved on from forty years ago.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQjgsQ5G8ug

    Narad, calling something a disjunction doesn’t make it one. You do understand that “or” is a conjunction, “either… or” are correlative conjunctions. Or did they stop teaching grammar as well as other forms of higher thinking in your childhood? “Or” is a coordinating conjunction in this case.

    Are you 12?

  143. #143 Anthony McCarthy
    October 28, 2011

    Before I forget it, Bee, you seem to have an obcessive image of me “flouncing”. That an expression of homophobia? Because that wouldn’t surprise me, seeing that you’re an anti-Jewish, Christian, Islamic bigot as well. My experience is that gay bashers tend to be bigoted in other ways as well.

  144. #144 Anthony McCarthy
    October 28, 2011
  145. #145 W. Kevin Vicklund
    October 28, 2011

    In logic, “Either..or..” is an exclusive disjunction (often denoted XOR in logic functions).

    Narad, how dare you claim that Anthony was making a logical statement!

  146. #146 Narad
    October 28, 2011

    Or did they stop teaching grammar as well as other forms of higher thinking in your childhood? “Or” is a coordinating conjunction in this case.

    Shouldn’t you be busy giving your grandmother tips on how to suck eggs? I wasn’t talking Schoolhouse Rock, you buffoon. If you pull my other finger, though, I’ll tell you what I do by trade. It just might go to asinine grammar insults.

  147. #147 Anthony McCarthy
    October 28, 2011

    If these guys don’t stop giving me something to laugh at, I might not be able to resist.

    The genius of the Scienceblogs on full display. You proud of your fans, Orac?

    Schoolhouse Rock? We used Warriner’s Grammar and Composition back when I was in school. Probably before some of your parents were born.

  148. #148 Narad
    October 28, 2011

    Schoolhouse Rock? We used Warriner’s Grammar and Composition back when I was in school. Probably before some of your parents were born.

    As has been pointed out to you, the role of lack of access to health care is an important public-health topic. I’m even sympathetic to the whole Monty Python whine. The problem is that you simply exude “asshole.” With this little diversion, that has rarefied for me to “really stupid asshole.”

    You’re going to pull Warriner’s out of your union suit as an example of your classical brilliance or something? Hell, skip the grammar and just wander around with the flap open. It would be more impressive.

  149. #149 Anton P. Nym
    October 28, 2011

    Um, folks, why are you feeding “Tail-gunner Joe” Troll so amply? It’s clear he’s got nothing of value to offer here, so why keep engaging?

    It’s past time to avoid eye contact and walk briskly way, I think.

    — Steve

  150. #150 Beamup
    October 28, 2011

    Heh. We folks here don’t reliably do that with the Thing. Not feeding trolls doesn’t seem to be a terribly strong point of this community.

  151. #151 Anthony McCarthy
    October 28, 2011

    Well, Narad, old bean, I know what correlative conjunctions are. That kind of thing used to be common knowledge among people who graduated in the college track when I was in high school. It didn’t count as esoteric knowledge.

    As for my age, if you want to avoid it there is a way, not that I’d recommend it. Lots of poor folks in the U.S. get to take that way out involuntarily. Which was my point before I started getting attacked by the marginally literate.

  152. #152 Narad
    October 28, 2011

    Well, Narad, old bean, I know what correlative conjunctions are.

    Apparently, you didn’t pick up on that “disjunctive conjunction” bit. I honestly have difficulty believing that anyone could cling to such stupidity while braying about the “marginally literate,” and that’s saying a lot.

  153. #153 Denice Walter
    October 28, 2011

    To the lurkers- unseen and unheard but never neglected ( well, by me at least):

    In summation- for the past 2 1/2 days you have been entertained by a visitor who appears, insults regulars, argues haphazardly, and then evaluates their levels of functioning as sorely inadequate. I believe I even heard something about education mentioned. What is interesting about this phenomenon? Why should apprentice sceptics prick up their ears when witnessing such an exchange? Do you think that such material- quoted verbatim- might make its premier appearance at a university theatre festival for young playwrights/ performance artists? Why not?

    Always remember that there’s a first time for everything and hopefully things will be looking up after this one.

  154. #154 Anthony McCarthy
    October 28, 2011

    D.W. I wouldn’t think it would make good theater. No development. Well, maybe as an unpleasant sequel to No Exit.

    There isn’t anything haphazard about anything I’ve said, it was all in response to what people said to me. I certainly didn’t insult anyone until they insulted me first. Once that happens I don’t feel any inclination to continue. Especially as this is the second go round with Raging Bee. She or he calls herself “raging”, after all.

  155. #155 Narad
    October 28, 2011

    Once that happens I don’t feel any inclination to continue.

    Thank goodness this gift of inclination (and ability, no doubt) hasn’t affected your general chattiness.

  156. #156 lilady
    October 28, 2011

    “I certainly didn’t insult anyone until they insulted me first. Once that happens I don’t feel any inclination to continue.”

    Really. I posted a comment at #77 about Steve Jobs’ relationship with his friend, diet guru Dr. Ornish, and in turn McCarthy started a volley of unprovoked, particularly nasty, insults…directed at me. Liar.

  157. #157 The Christian Cynic
    October 28, 2011

    That disjunct/conjunction exchange is perhaps one of the funniest things I’ve seen around here lately. Only an absolute ignoramus would read Narad’s comment as referring to the grammatical part of speech as opposed to the logical term, since conjunctions don’t have parts (although they certainly can travel in pairs).

  158. #158 herr doktor bimler
    October 29, 2011

    As can be seen here, John Cleese and some of the other Pythons moved on from forty years ago.

    This is coming from a man who is apparently stuck in the “argument clinic” skit.

  159. #159 Anthony McCarthy
    October 29, 2011

    lilady, pointing out that you had no evidence to base a veiled accusation of professional misconduct causing death, made against a named individual, wasn’t an insult, it was pointing out that, without that evidence, you were practicing character assassination.

    I don’t know of any more polite way to point that kind of thing. Certainly it was more polite than your attempt at character assassination with no evidence to back it up.

    h.d.b., I’m rather fascinated at the ways that the Scienceblog crowd tries to have it their way in all circumstances. It’s so much like how fundamentalist religionists operate that there must be something to learn from it being practiced by their avowed enemies.

    Blogs seem to develop cliques that aren’t’ interested in the real issues or learning anything but who engage in mutually reinforcing their prejudices. I’ve seen it all over the place on the blogs. Though, this being a “Science” blog, you figure you’ve got the authority of science and something you mistake for “logic” to support your prejudices. That interests me. I’m not going to pass up the opportunity to try to understand it when you guys so willingly present one.

    C.C. Explain the logical disconnect in me responding to NJ’s juvenile charge that I was chickening out at 137?

    I said: “Will you guys make up your mind? Either I keep it up too long or I leave too soon.”

    You do realize that sentences gain their coherence from the context they’re used in, don’t you? Or don’t you?

    Orac, you proud of your guys and their rigorous applications of logic and evidence?

  160. #160 lilady
    October 29, 2011

    McCarthy: Isn’t it “weirdly strange” that no one thought my comment that did not mention you, was character assassination?

    Isn’t it also true that you are a liar when you stated:

    “I certainly didn’t insult anyone until they insulted me first. Once that happens I don’t feel any inclination to continue.”

    So, being that you launched an unprovoked attack on me on this blog, proving that you are a liar, and you don’t “feel any inclination to continue”, why don’t you just leave?

    Get the hint already, your attacks are unwarranted, you have nothing of value to add to this blog and you are a proven liar.

  161. #161 Anthony McCarthy
    October 29, 2011

    lilady, I can’t account for why anyone else who read your obvious attempt to baselessly attribute blame for Jobs’ decision to put off effective treatment to Dean Ornish didn’t comment on it. Or why anyone who can read and see your continued inability to produce evidence that Ornish even know that he needed surgery, not to mention advised him to try unproven therapies, to back up your character smear wouldn’t now note that is what you did.

    My first comment to you at 79 above says, in total:

    lilady, do you have any information that Jobs consulted Ornish and what Ornish might have said? If you don’t, you’re just spreading malicious speculation.

    So, anyone with an ability to read would know I was challenging you to support your veiled accusation. If you had been able to do that, it would have turned what you said into a supported contention instead of malicious speculation.

    It’s rich for you to say I’m lying when it’s obvious to anyone who looks without bias to see you’re the one who was spreading false suspicions against Dean Ornish. I will e-mail him a link to this discussion if that’s possible.

    If Orac thinks I have nothing to add to the discussion, it’s his right to say so. Not yours as this is his blog, not yours.

  162. #162 Chris
    October 29, 2011

    Trolls tend to go away if they are not fed. Please do not feed the trolls. Please make this sign a goal.

  163. #163 lilady
    October 29, 2011

    Spot on Chris..I will adhere to policy of not feeding trolls.

  164. #164 Anthony McCarthy
    October 29, 2011

    Considering I’ve been trying to bring this back onto topic for most of the past eighty or so comments, who’s the troll?

    lilady, as I said, you’re a think skinned character assassin and not especially rational.

  165. #165 Chris
    October 29, 2011

    Please heed this sign.

  166. #166 lilady
    October 29, 2011

    Still ignoring troll!

  167. #167 Raging Bee
    October 30, 2011

    Repeating the same already-disproven lies that sank your credibility in the first place is your idea of “trying to bring this back onto topic?” Robotic troll is robotic.

  168. #168 lilady
    October 30, 2011

    Still ignoring boring lying troll.

  169. #169 Anthony McCarthy
    October 31, 2011

    Lilady, Raging Bee, etc. You are silly.

  170. #170 Marcus
    October 31, 2011

    I just bought the book on Steve Jobs and looking forward to it! I’ve read a few articles on your blog and the “biology is king,” line is a very good one. Regarding holistic health and convential medicine, is there a book or site you recommend that will help me and my family eat and live better that isn’t a quack (i.e. Dr. Mercola)? I am a carrier for Hep B and convential medicine worked, whereas holistic remedies did not, so I am grateful for traditional medicine. Like Steve Jobs, my disease affects my liver and I have heard different points of view that the Liver is a regenerative organ but I, as a layperson, doesn’t really know what that means. Thank you, Marcus

  171. #171 BJN
    November 3, 2011

    Fanboyism and skepticism make for some amazing changes in tone and uncharacteristic apologia.

    If this wasn’t about St. Steven of Cupertino I have no doubt that the tone of this post and the arguments in comments would be very different.

  172. #172 Orac
    November 3, 2011

    No, it would not have made a difference. Keep telling yourself that, if it makes you happy.

  173. ad 170
    Hi Marcus,
    Yes, I imagine that would be a good read.
    As to your question – I don’t know anything specific to your condition, but I have found some of Dr. David Servan-Schreiber’s writings helpful ( I recently researched Seasonal Affective Disorder), he has reviewed a lot of scientific research and comments on food, supplements, exercise, etc.
    (and before anyone has a go, yes, he died of cancer recently). I think you are right to use traditional medication if it helps – I would take Servan-Schreiber’s recommendations as an “extra” – not an “either or”.

  174. #175 agent
    November 14, 2011

    Everyone’s comments here made my day, seeing that a bunch of “intelligent” and “educated” people can argue like little children the same as the 10 year olds on a gaming forum. We humans truly are children who know nothing of life, let alone how to control other humans. :)

  175. #176 Chris
    November 15, 2011

    Dude, you are the one who had no clue that the death of children was extremely common just a century or two ago. You have nothing to brag about.

  176. #177 lilady
    November 15, 2011

    @ Chris: What the heck is a “gaming forum”? I never visited such a website…maybe “agent” can answer that question.

    Maybe agent ought to go back to his “gaming forum” website…that seems to be his preferred intellectual pursuit.

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