Respectful Insolence

Does thinking make it so?

Last week, I wrote about how advocates of “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) or “integtrative medicine” (IM), having failed to demonstrate efficacy for the vast majority of the unscientific, anti-scientific, and/or pseudosciencitific treatment modalities, many based on prescientific concepts of how human physiology and disease work, have started trying to co-opt placebo effects as their own. In essence, given that the larger and better designed the study the more it is obvious that most CAM therapies do no better than placebo, CAM/IM advocates have decided to embrace their inner placebo and start touting the claim that their therapies work by “harnessing the power of placebo.” To recap briefly, one problem with such an argument is that placebo effects are heterogeneous, including observation bias, regression to the mean, and differences in how patients perceive their symptoms, to name a few. Another problem with such an argument is that placebo doesn’t do anything to impact the pathophysiology of disease or conditions, and it’s often arguable whether it even impacts subjective symptoms that much in many conditions. Finally, CAM/IM advocates often ascribe near mystical powers to placebo, a sort of “mind over matter” or “mind over body” view that gives the false impression that just by thinking happy, positive thoughts, you can have a major impact on your disease.

I was reminded of that recent post when I came across a post that epitomized just the sort of thinking that is so prevalent in CAM/IM. It’s by someone named Andre Evans and entitled Proof that Your Own Thoughts and Beliefs Can Cause Self-Healing. It’s basically a woo-fest of an article that directly invokes placebo effects as “evidence” that, if you just think about it hard enough, you can “heal yourself” of almost anything:

Numerous studies abound on the nature of the mind-body relationship, and how your mind can affect your biological functions. Much like how a hypochondriac may convince himself that he is sick, and subsequently ‘find’ (or make up) symptoms of his illness, a negative or even apathetic mindset may induce you into a lesser state of health. Conversely, having a generally positive disposition or outlook with regards to your health may actually make you healthier.

In clinical studies where patients are given placebos, they often will respond positively to them due to the expectation that they are receiving some form of beneficial medicine. Although not talking about placebo sugar pills specifically, this kind of self-treatment can be seen in one case where a woman’s own thoughts made her lose nearly 112 pounds.


Evans concludes:

The power of the mind is immense. Its influence can literally bend reality to match its perspective. You can often influence a situation more by thinking about it meticulously, as opposed to simply acting. If you believe something to be true, you will conform the world around you to match this expectation.

If you believe that your illness is getting worse, it will probably get worse. If you believe that your treatment is helping you, you could actually cause massive self-healing to occur. Assuming a disposition will automatically prejudice your mind, and therefore cause your body to react either positively or negatively.

This is pure magical thinking, a mystical, religious belief that, if you only have enough faith, you can have whatever you want and you can heal yourself. Would that it were so! Unfortunately, it’s not. Sure, having a positive attitude can make one feel better about his or her situation, and having a negative attitude can sometimes get in the way of doing what needs to be done to treat a condition, but it’s a huge exaggeration to claim that the mind can “literally bend reality” to match its perspective. If that were the case, why can’t I bend reality to guarantee that I live to 120? Or why can’t I “bend reality” to make myself a billionaire? Why can’t I think my way to being 25 again? This sort of thinking is at the level of a three or four year old, who cant’ always tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Normally, we grow up; CAM/IM thought of this sort strikes me as a severe case of arrested development.

People sometimes think I’m exaggerating when I talk about CAM advocates arguing extreme versions of “mind over matter,” but I’m not. If you don’t believe how far this thinking goes in a lot of CAM, I think it’s instructive to show you an example from–who else?–that quack apologist supreme, Joe Mercola, who wrote a post entitled How your thoughts can cause or cure cancer. It begins with this video:

This video, not surprisingly, is chock full of misinformation. For instance, it claims that no cancer gene has ever been found. ORLY? How about BRCA1 and BRCA2? Or BRAF mutations? Or one of a number of oncogenes and tumor suppressors that have been discovered in the last 40 years? Sure, it turns out that cancer is more complicated than what we originally thought in that individual genes are usually (but not always) the cause and that there is not usually a straight progression of genes that are mutated in order to result in cancer progression. However, that is an entirely different thing than there being no cancer genes. It also uses and abuses the concept of epigenetics (the regulation of gene expression by factors other than the genome, such as methylation of genes,chromatin structure, and other things that can regulate DNA structure and function) to claim that cancer is “optional–not determined by genetics, nor an unavoidable fact” and that “your mind, your beliefs–not defective genes–create a ripple effect that ‘turns on’ cancer cells.”

Yes, it’s not just placebo effects, but your mind is apparently so powerful that it can control the expression of oncogenes and tumor suppressors to result in cancer. According to this view, your “genetic blueprint” is not the problem” but rather “how your cells interpret the directions of your mind.” In fact, this view even goes so far as to claim that spontaneous remissions of cancer are “tied to having a profound change in a perception or belief about life.” I kid you not. What this boils down to is the overarching claim that your mind can create disease and that, through the placebo effect, you can heal yourself. In fact, Joe Mercola makes explicit what is stated in the video:

Your beliefs are energy fields, and they are working to promote either health or disease in your body right now. Which one is up to you.

When it comes to the ability of your mind to heal you, there are NO limitations. The sky is the limit.

Got that? There are NO limitations! One wonders why if that’s true, amputees can’t think their way to growing a new limb. Yes, I know, it’s the same rationale behind the sarcastic question directed at faith healers, namely Why won’t God heal amputees? However, the question applies here just as well. If there are truly “no limits” to the power of the mind and if the mind can control epigenetics so profoundly, then it should be possible, through the mind directing the epigenetics of the cells at the end of the amputated stump, to reprogram the cells to become embryonic stem cells again and then to grow and differentiate into the cells necessary to regenerate a new limb, just like a salamander. The genetic blueprint is there; the genetic program to turn a cell back into a stem cell is just dormant and presumably can be reactivated. Indeed, how to do that is an active area of research. So, if all it takes is changing the gene expression of a cell, then why can’t we think our way to new limbs? Unfortunately, we never see a person thinking himself a new limb. There are other examples. For instance, if there are “no limits” to what the mind can do, why can’t patients in end stage organ failure do a little epigenetic programming and regenerate and thereby repair the failing organ?

Yes, yes, I know. It’s difficult. So difficult that no case of limb regeneration due to thought alone has been reported, nor has a case of someone thinking their way to a new organ.

Maybe it’s the fault of those nasty skeptics:

However, there is something you should know. Other people can influence your perception of things and ultimately your ability to express your true beliefs.

So, perhaps you feel thrilled to have learned this information, but when you share it with your spouse or coworkers, they will not feel the same way. Their negativity could then easily transfer to you and cause you to doubt your mind’s healing abilities (thus making your mind unable to manifest healing).

You heard it right. All those negative vibes of skeptics are what’s standing between you and the ability to think your way to perfect health!

Unfortunately, this sort of thinking completely pervades a lot of “alternative medicine,” just as it pervades The Secret. Such thinking is profoundly infantile in that it presumes that wishing makes it so, just as a child thinks that his thoughts make reality what he wants it to be. When you come right down to it, it’s a lot like religion. But what happens when the wish doesn’t work? What happens when wishing doesn’t make it so? What happens when mind doesn’t control matter? Blaming “negative energy” delivered by skeptics keeping you down only goes so far. There comes a time when you have no choice but to face reality.

You can find this sort of thinking in reiki, which is basically faith healing substituting Eastern mysticism for Christianity; the so-called “German New Medicine,” which postulates that cancer and serious illness are due to “unresolved childhood trauma” and that you have to recognize and resolve such traumas in order to heal yourself; and Biologie Totale, which is the bastard offspring of the German New Medicine. All of these alt-med modalities postulate that disease is either a reaction to emotional trauma and that you can heal it with your mind. What is the whole area of “energy healing” but the idea that, if you just have enough faith, you can heal either yourself or others? Sure, alt-med enthusiasts gussy it up in language that co-opts (and corrupts) the concepts of epigenetics and placebo effects to make it seem as though anything is possible, but when you come right now to it, what we’re looking at is far more religious in nature than scientific. Maybe I was closer than I thought when I referred to CAM as the “new paternalism.”

After all, what is more paternalistic than religion?

Comments

  1. #1 LW
    January 17, 2012

    Orac has pointed out before the “blame the victim” aspect of this stuff, but I think of the people that I’ve known who died of cancer — or didn’t die, but suffered through years, or in one case decades, of recurrences — people who suffered from or died from heart disease, people who suffered devastating strokes… and then these jerks say that if they’d only had the proper mindset, none of that would have happened.

    I wonder if they explain to parents who have just lost an infant that if their beloved childt had just thought the right thoughts, he would be happy and healthy, so it’s just the child’s fault and serves him right.

  2. #2 Jojo
    January 17, 2012

    Dude, like I’m totally going to think my eyes blue. ‘Cause, you know, there are no limitations. I just have to be positive enough.

    On a more serious note, how horrible is it to blame cancer patients for their cancers?

  3. #3 T-reg
    January 17, 2012

    Hmmm… Do these ladies and gentlemen also see green numbers in rows and columns, morphing before their eyes, when they look at the world?

    Or perhaps a choice between the blue or the red pill may allow them to escape and see a decadent world of darkness, controlled by machines of BigPharma, farming pharming humans.

    Of all the eastern mysticism that they invoke, I’m yet to see the extreme view of Jain mysticism being invoked.
    Then again, the concept that the cummulative effect of all your actions over all your births has consequences which you have to face, no matter what you wish and no matter who you beseech – is rather inconvenient to peddle any woo (not that such an extreme view is rational).

  4. #4 Denice Walter
    January 17, 2012

    Are they saying that every time I write as a sceptic, a baby bird dies? Oh, I hope not.

    Energy-healing, twisted epigenetics, and thought-magic are currently the major themes at that festering swamp of gas-emitting miasma ( a/k/a Progressive Radio Network; epithetical format stolen from Orac): you see, you *can* live to 120, reverse aging, and totally prevent cancer if you have the right vibes and become a vegan, supplement scarfer. Obviously this type of thinking is like that of young children and people with thought disorders.

    Thinking about thinking ( formal operational thought**) gets these woo-topians into trouble because they get struck on the metaphorical, abstract nature of their portrayals. As an artist*** seeks to suggest evanescent qualities of light and haze while creating the impression of great, deepening space on a limited 2-dimensional surface, philosophers and psychologists ( amongst other writers) attempt to write about the mind, memory,and thought, often using naturalistic images about mind “space”, “enlightenment”, and the “stream of thought” (last, Wm James). It is a problem if you mix up the map and the actual terrain you would depict.

    Amongst the selling-points and techniques of alt med, wish fulfillment is certainly a dominant element: it’s the land of “if only” where the fast-rushing torrents of desire and want are not channelled by realistic considerations making it attractive to folks who have problems in that area. When we watch a sci-fi movie, we voluntarily suspend dis-belief, we act as if there really are deathstars and manageable time-space warps- but leave that style of thinking to the story-line of the film.

    “Thinking makes it so” if you add *actions* in the real world to your thought- including linguistic ones: woo-meisters always seem to leave that step out. Along with logic, reality testing, and common sense. The entire edifice of the anti-vaccine movement is built upon wish-ful thinking that an external factor “caused” autism in children. Thinking it won’t make it so.

    ** starts around adolescence.
    *** I worship at the altar of one JMW Turner.

  5. #5 Mary
    January 17, 2012

    Gene Deniers strike again. This is a new strain of woo developing as a backlash to the human genome project. I’m seeing it more and more, in concert with a whole bunch of hilarious CTs.

    Usually they come with requests to fund their environmental activism, but in some cases to buy their woo productions for battling teh toxins.

  6. #6 ConspicuousCarl
    January 17, 2012

    I don’t know how people like Orac can deal with this insane garbage without completely cracking. It drives me nuts, and it isn’t even assaulting my job.

    I can’t imagine what I would do if there were people out there telling website users that “no, you don’t REALLY need to fix the errors in your file, just wish the errors away! And if that doesn’t work, transfer the file onto a flash drive and shake it 10 times in each direction!” Then Oprah has some dumb bastard on TV telling us that there’s no such thing as a bad file and anyone who says otherwise is paid by the keyboard industry so we will keep typing and break our keyboards and have to buy new ones.

  7. #7 David
    January 17, 2012

    “I wonder if they explain to parents who have just lost an infant that… it’s just the child’s fault and serves him right.”

    I don’t know about all the woo-meisters, but when my infant niece died of cancer, all three of the holistic healers (homeopath, energy-field-crystals, and raw foods) told her parents exactly that.

  8. #8 NJ
    January 17, 2012

    CC@6:

    I can’t imagine what I would do if there were people out there telling website users that “no, you don’t REALLY need to fix the errors in your file, just wish the errors away! And if that doesn’t work, transfer the file onto a flash drive and shake it 10 times in each direction!” Then Oprah has some dumb bastard on TV telling us that there’s no such thing as a bad file and anyone who says otherwise is paid by the keyboard industry so we will keep typing and break our keyboards and have to buy new ones.

    +1 Internet for you, sir!

  9. #9 Denice Walter
    January 17, 2012

    I should clarify one thing: I don’t think that most people who fall for woo are mentally ill or have thought disorders: rather they are ( unfortunately) under-educated in critical thinking and science or possibly, just lazy. Some could lack ability. We shouldn’t also neglect the hard-selling and mis-representations brought about by those who woo them.

    And David, I’m sorry to hear of your family’s loss. When true believers blame the victim ( for not having enough pure thoughts or faith- not appropriate in your case) they absolve themselves of any responsibility- they cast out blame ( which seems to be going around woo-ville) : feeling awfully about your own part in a tragic situation – even if it is just by causing a waste of time, money, effort, and hope- might lead a more self-critical person to question their own support for woo in the future. Most likely scenario: no such luck.

  10. #10 Anj
    January 17, 2012

    The one thing I read that made me want to spit with rage was an Advice Column in a alt med publication. (There was a conference being held locally.)

    A mother had given birth to a baby with a “hole in its heart” and is asking for help in understanding how this happens. The Columnist draws a connection between the heart and emotions and comes to the conclusion that the mother didn’t love the child enough while it was in the womb.

    I was furious. Here is a woman with a child who needs corrective cardiac surgery, who is looking for guidance and she is told “It’s all your fault, you didn’t LOVE your child enough.”.

  11. #11 Spiderelfwoodbot
    January 17, 2012

    http://investorshub.advfn.com/boards/read_msg.aspx?message_id=70960024

    “you are bashing possible cancer cure

    how low in your life can you fall ”

    Now I read Orac article. May comforts be in your lodges.

  12. #12 Stephen James
    January 17, 2012

    Hey it works – I think this stuff is stupid and it is.

  13. #13 Andreas Johansson
    January 17, 2012

    @11: Y’know, that’s probably the most convincing argument for magical thinking I’ve ever seen.

  14. #14 Autistic Lurker
    January 17, 2012

    Orac, you mean that according to Mercola, I’ve bought these mail-order viagra for nothing and I should think my way to a larger…. oh never mind :)

    A.L.

  15. #15 Mike
    January 17, 2012

    @6

    And if that doesn’t work, transfer the file onto a flash drive and shake it 10 times in each direction!

    CC, you missed the crucial part about it has to be banged against a 700 page UNIX manual to assure proper potency.

    But, yeah, I hear ya. I’ve been reading Orac’s blog here for years and sometimes wonder how he manages to stay sane in the face of so much absurdity!

  16. #16 LW
    January 17, 2012

    David, that is sickening. I am very sorry for your family’s loss, and I’m impressed that you didn’t punch any of those monsters for increasing the suffering.

  17. #17 Dangerous Bacon
    January 17, 2012

    If thinking positive thoughts cures many ills (and the victim is at fault if lacking sufficient positivity), how about the people who believe in intercessory prayer for healing? If the patient dies do they castigate themselves for insufficient positivity?

    And why don’t we hear more about the positive thinking of relatives used in cases that don’t involve cancer? What if your whole family beams nonstop positive thoughts at you aimed at weight loss, or clearing up your eczema? “Dammit, I’d have a whole new body if you people were more positive!”

  18. #18 Denice Walter
    January 17, 2012

    @ Carl:
    @ Mike:

    I venture that O’s ability to “stay sane in the face of so much absurdity” is maintained by being firmly planted in reality- perhaps being a surgeon has something to do with that.

    In my own case, I think I inherited immunity to exasperation when confronted by stupid manoeuverings- my ancestors have often been successful in business where this quality must have helped them.

  19. #19 Renate
    January 17, 2012

    “I wonder if they explain to parents who have just lost an infant that… it’s just the child’s fault and serves him right.”

    I once read in some alternative magazine that children who are abused by their parents haven choosen for those parents.

  20. #20 Phila
    January 17, 2012

    On a more serious note, how horrible is it to blame cancer patients for their cancers?

    It may be horrible, but it’s also pretty typical of pre-critical human thinking. The same thought process underlies conservative/libertarian rhetoric about “personal responsibility.” To say nothing of Western fundamentalist rhetoric about divine punishment, Eastern rhetoric about karma and new-age fantasies like “The Secret.”

    The basic idea is I won’t get sick or injured because I’m not bad like those people. Thus, if you or someone you love does get sick, it must be somebody else’s fault. From there to conspiracy theories is a very short leap: You did everything right…it’s just that “they” put something toxic in the food / medicine / vaccine.

    Personally, I find this outlook even more terrifying than cold hard reality. But for a lot of people, it’s weirdly comforting. Escapist, even.

    It’s particularly terrifying in regard to autism, because the window for effective early intervention is small and some parents who wander down this rabbit hole will miss it altogether.

  21. #21 AnthonyK
    January 17, 2012

    Orac,
    OT but very funny – Vaccine Rejectionism Spectrum Disorders (VRSD)
    Incidentally, this is via Ed Yong’s “Not exactly Rocket Science”, a science blog of great beauty.
    His weekly post of amazing links is alone worth the price of admission.

  22. #22 Beamup
    January 17, 2012

    But, yeah, I hear ya. I’ve been reading Orac’s blog here for years and sometimes wonder how he manages to stay sane in the face of so much absurdity!

    Are we sure he DOES so manage? How would we tell? What are the symptoms of insanity in a plexiglass box of blinking lights? ;)

  23. #23 Bronze Dog
    January 17, 2012

    I’m getting frothy from the ‘blame the victim’ mentality, especially the case Anj described. Hard to maintain the humor I had going into the thread. But if you don’t laugh, you’ll end up crying, so I’ll go ahead and post the joke I had:

    If there are no limits to thought control over epigenetics, why hasn’t a certain subculture managed to think themselves furry?

  24. #24 Tony Mach
    January 17, 2012

    “Finally, CAM/IM advocates often ascribe near mystical powers to placebo, a sort of “mind over matter” or “mind over body” view that gives the false impression that just by thinking happy, positive thoughts, you can have a major impact on your disease.”

    Isn’t that what “psychosomatic medicine” is all about? As of time of writing, this is what wikipedia has to say about this field:

    “The influence that the mind has over physical processes — including the manifestations of physical disabilities that are based on intellectual infirmities, rather than actual injuries or physical limitations — is manifested in treatment by phrases such as the power of suggestion, the use of “positive thinking” and concepts like “mind over matter”.”

    I know, wikipedia is not always the best source, but I don’t see how this is misrepresentation of “psychosomatic medicine”. According to wikipedia, they do argue still about helicobacter pylori and IBS.

  25. #26 Tony Mach
    January 17, 2012

    And what I fail to see, is how such a mechanism as “mind over matter” could have arisen evolutionary. Basically it boils down to that everything works fine until you start having bad thoughts, because then you get “punished” for them? Where’s the evolutionary advantage in that, that the mind can derail bodily functions? Beside: the mind being the latest evolutionary addition, there wasn’t really any time for such a mechanism to arise as far as I can see.

  26. #27 Lycanthrope
    January 17, 2012

    @13, Autistic Lurker:

    Mind-over-matter via girl-on-girl, if you will?

  27. #28 Conspicuous Carl
    January 17, 2012

    Tony Mach:

    I think the wikipedia definition is using “infirmities” to indicate that, though there are physical disabilities, the real problem is in the head (ie, the legs are in perfect health, but the brain refuses to tell them to move). The CAM point of view is not that the mental problem is resulting in physical symptoms, but that the mental problem can cause a real disease within the legs, which then has its own symptoms.

  28. #29 Tony Mach
    January 17, 2012

    @Conspicuous Carl,26

    Well, I think the problem with the psychosomatic model is twofold:

    First of all it makes a dichotomy between organic illness and psychiatric illness as you describe, with the criteria being “not explained by organic disease”. There is no “currently not explained by organic disease” category – because that would question the entire psychosomatic model. Over time, more and more is explainable by organic disease, as our understanding grows. So basically the psychosomatic model exists in the cracks that evidence based medicine leaves, IMHO. Kathleen and Alan Light are for example doing gene expression studies measuring pain and fatigue at the level of the metabolite-detecting receptors. In their study “Differences in Metabolite-Detecting, Adrenergic, and Immune Gene Expression After Moderate Exercise in Patients With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Patients With Multiple Sclerosis, and Healthy Controls” they found that CFS patients had higher measurable pain and fatigue levels than MS patients – with CFS being though of by a few to be psychosomatic (CFS being after all defined by patient reported symptoms without objective illness signs), that the pain and fatigue is “all in the head”. They did similar studies including Fibromyalgia patients finding similar results – and they made sure that they had sedentary controls.

    I don’t know, what is the null-hypothesis here: Unexplained illnesses are unexplained, until consistently explained? Or unexplained illness are automatically explained as psychosomatic? As a return to the CFS example, a big study trying to treat CFS patients with psychiatric therapies (CBT and GET) to address “false illness believes” was hyped as showing how CFS can be “cured” with these therapies, yet the actually results are far from being that clear.

    And Secondly it creeps into organic diseases, like cancer, as well. In the study “Personality Traits and Cancer Risk and Survival Based on Finnish and Swedish Registry Data” you can nearly feel how the authors fight against expressing their snark.

    I think the reason why some doctors tend to go for the psychosomatic model in some cases is again twofold. First of all, they want to do something. If no other treatment is available, then counselling will do no harm they think. And secondly a doctor can blame the patient if the treatment fails – a very comfortable position to a doctors ego. I think these two combined can actually do harm.

  29. #30 Ren
    January 17, 2012

    Some guy who’s big into “The Secret”, one “Joe Vitale”, said on Larry King that Jessica Lunsford, the little girl killed in Florida, attracted her murder because “We are attracting everything to ourselves and there is no exception.”

    That’s pretty much when I decided that people who preach “The Secret” or “Word of Faith” have a special place in hell reserved for them.

  30. #31 S. Williams
    January 17, 2012

    @9

    I should clarify one thing: I don’t think that most people who fall for woo are mentally ill or have thought disorders: rather they are ( unfortunately) under-educated in critical thinking and science or possibly, just lazy.

    I find that otherwise intelligent people easily fall prey to woo simply by being desperate. A homeopath claims to be able to cure or treat Bipolar Disorder (See for example Fountainhead Clinic) and you are a sufferer. The conventional drugs have side effects worse than the symptoms, and so you are left pretty much marginally functional. You are not lazy, or stupid, but you quickly learn to become a master of confirmation bias in order to convince yourself that there is some path that doesn’t involve accepting your plight and pushing through it.

    The bottom line: desperation and confirmation bias are key. (A credulous personality is pretty important too, I think.)

  31. #32 Hinterlander
    January 17, 2012

    We should spare a thought for the (probably large) subset of anti-vaxers and followers of The Secret. The cognitive dissonance must be hard to ignore. Or perhaps it’s the vaccines which inject negative thoughts directly into the bloodstream.

  32. #33 S. Williams
    January 17, 2012

    Re @30:

    Aargh! HTML is not my skill. The fun and exciting URL for Fountainhead Clinic’s Bipolar Treatment claims is http://www.fountainheadclinic.com/bipolar.htm

  33. #34 Neil Bates
    January 17, 2012

    There’s a bit of straw man in this, because some effectuality of positive thinking etc. isn’t invalidated by it not being ubiquitous, omnipotent, etc. – even if some proponent actually says “no limits” etc. The actual bounds are more important than just indulging in alt-med hippie punching. Since the PE is real, then related approaches should be effectual too, like saying “I am going to use personal energy to heal you” etc. And if you say, “doesn’t that make it hard to test personal energy” etc, well yeah – and it makes it hard to test drugs, too! BTW anyone know if, uh, antidepressants “really work”? Just askin’ …

    Fine minds make fine distinctions.

  34. #35 Vicki
    January 17, 2012

    Ren–

    I continue to be surprised at how seldom those vile victim-blamers are punched in the face by people who then say something like “think about why you chose to attract my fist.”

  35. #36 Chris
    January 17, 2012

    AnthonyK, here is the original Vaccine Rejectionism Spectrum Disorder page.

  36. #37 LW
    January 17, 2012

    Some guy who’s big into “The Secret”, one “Joe Vitale”, said on Larry King that Jessica Lunsford, the little girl killed in Florida, attracted her murder because “We are attracting everything to ourselves and there is no exception.”

    It’s amazing how many Native Americans found death by measles, smallpox, mumps, and the like so very appealing in the aftermath of the Europeans’ arrival on these shores. Or the number of Europeans who attracted the Black Death to themselves. Or the number of people who have attracted earthquakes to themselves.

    I wonder — if my neighbors want to attract an earthquake to themselves, but I would prefer not to, does the earthquake hit them and spare me?

  37. #38 Scott Cunningham
    January 17, 2012

    I have anecdata! It always seems that immediately after I get absolutely terribly lonely is when I finally get a date, and this one time when I was studying first year philosophy, in an effort to disprove the terrible What the Bleep Do We Know Anyway? movie, I tried to wish the city bus into not coming, but rather than arriving uneventfully and skewering the wishful thinking nonsense, the bus broke down immediately after I got on!

    Of course, being an adult, I can admit that 1: that’s because I usually wait until I’m completely miserable before actually asking someone out and 2: the city buys its busses second-hand from other cities and they have mechanical problems all the time.

  38. #39 lilady
    January 17, 2012

    @ AnthonyK and Chris: I laughed my a** off with this description/definition of the disorder:

    Vaccine Rejectionism Spectrum Disorder (VRSD)

    Definition

    Vaccine Rejectionism Spectrum Disorder is an umbrella term applied to individuals who mislead others, through spoken and/or written communications, about the risk of vaccines and vaccination.

    The five VRSDs are Pervasive Anti-Science Disorders. They are classified as Crank Disorder, Handley Disorder, Reason Disintegrative Disorder, Jay’s Disorder, and Pervasive Anti-Science Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PAD-NOS).

    PRSDs are characterized by severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of reasoning skills; communication skills; or the presence of stereotyped talking points, interests and activities.

    The qualitative impairments that describe these conditions vary significantly compared to the individual’s investment in vaccine rejectionism.

  39. #40 Denice Walter
    January 17, 2012

    Synchronicity? Today @ NaturalNews, SD Wells fills us in on “Health Basics: How to live to 110″

    “Don’t be fooled by pharmaceutical and medical myths” but rely upon natural foods like raw vegetables, garlic, honey, dark chocolate, nuts, cinnamon, ginger and olive oil: phyto-nutrients, super-foods and juicing will do the trick. Remember, (s)he ends with a flourish: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

    There you go, easy as pie. Only don’t eat the pie -it’s bad for you.

  40. #41 palindrom
    January 17, 2012

    lilady et al — slightly off-topic, but the absolutely funniest satire of the medicalization of the normal is this masterful Onion article:

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/more-us-children-being-diagnosed-with-youthful-ten,248/

  41. #42 lilady
    January 17, 2012

    @ palindrom: Hmmm, I wonder if “YTD” will be in the DSM V?

    I have a friend who is bringing up her grandchild (parents are divorced), with her daughter. What’s worse than one “helicopter mommy”? Two of them.

    I remember my daughter’s imaginary playmates and her imaginary dog “Laura”.

    What I didn’t realize is that when she entered kindergarten, she would speak about “Laura” and her “puppies” during “Show and Tell”. I went to the teacher’s conference a few weeks after the start of school and her teacher started to ask me how “Laura” and the puppies were doing. I didn’t know “Laura” had puppies. Her teacher was amazed that she didn’t realize that the dog and her pups were “imaginary”. And, so on to bigger and better “stories”…when my daughter reached early adolescence.

  42. #43 Chris
    January 17, 2012

    lilady:

    remember my daughter’s imaginary playmates and her imaginary dog “Laura”.

    ;-)

    There was a time when my then preschool daughter had me keep the car door open for all of the 101 dalmatians to enter or leave. This was the time when she watched each version we had of the movies and had a stuffed dalmatian dog. I also planted a Perdita Rose.

    Unfortunately the rose bush did not like living north of California, and it needed to be shovel pruned. Fortunately it was when my daughter had grown out of that phase. Though now, fifteen years later, she is keen on Tintin. She has seen the movie twice, downloaded Tintin radio plays from BBC and found some issues that she is reading in Belgium French.

    The big difference is that instead of manifesting her budding imagination, it is a way to practice a language she is learning.

  43. #44 Vince Whirlwind
    January 18, 2012

    On the other hand, I’ve gone through life with a completely negative outlook on life, and that hasn’t killed me! So Andre Evans is double-wrong, the stupid @&#$.

  44. #45 lilady
    January 18, 2012

    @ Chris: The Perdita Rose is lovely. How I envy you with your ability to garden. Alas…I turn everything brown.

    You linked to Wikipedia USA…which went “down” for 24 hours at 12 AM EST, in protest about two pending laws in Congress that would limit free access to the content and references on their articles. I’m going to check out what Wikipedia wants us to do to contact our legislators.

    I did “Google” Tintin and it looks like a great site and terrific to learn/add to, foreign language skills.

  45. #46 Arcanyn
    January 18, 2012

    If it really does work, then given that folks have believed stuff like that for a very long time, then where are all the 1,000 year old people who have willed themselves indefinite perfect health?

  46. #47 lilady
    January 18, 2012

    I’ve looked into the legislation pending in Congress (SOPA) and the companion Senate (PIPA) bills and they seem quite complicated. The debate surrounds security on the internet, copyrighted materials and piracy of merchandise and technical information. What a complicated world we live in.

    I also “Googled” SOPA and PIPA and some of the posts say that both bills have been “shelved” for now, pending additional debate.

  47. #48 Chris
    January 18, 2012

    lilady, sadly the Perdita Rose did not do well in our garden. Sheer Bliss has done much better as a white rose, along with those French interlopers known as Polka and Colette. But nothing beats the very old Rose de Rescht.

    (Three of my most successful climbing roses were bought during a vary rainy day when the nursery was having a big sale: Colette, Cecile Brunner, and Cornelia. Do you notice something interesting about the names… they all start with “c.” The Perdita died, along with Fragrant Cloud, Just Joey and the Souvenir de Malmaison! Ignore the failures, focus on the successes!)

  48. #49 lilady
    January 18, 2012

    @ Chris: The subject of this blog…”Does thinking make it so…” If so, I would have that “touch” to garden. The only green or flowering plant I haven’t killed is the poinsettia, given to me by a friend, December, 2010. It hasn’t lost any of its red bracts only because I haven’t gone near it. My husband cares for it.

    Out you way…have you ever gone to Butchart Gardens, Victoria, B.C., where they have a magnificent large rose garden? I was there ~ 20 years ago on a business trip with hubby. We took a hydrofoil boat from Seattle, toured the Gardens, had high tea at the Empress Hotel…then a sea plane back for a meeting. I’d love to get back there and do an extended road trip through B.C.

    BTW, are you planning to attend the 2012 TAM conference, or any of the RI “regulars” planning to go? I could “possibly” talk my husband into going, if I could come up with a nice extended “road” trip following the conference.

  49. #50 herr doktor bimler
    January 18, 2012

    I’ve gone through life with a completely negative outlook on life

    ‘B Negative’ — not just a blood group, but a whole way of life!

  50. #51 lilady
    January 18, 2012

    And, they claim that they are not a cult, ha, ha!

    I view their cult as being similar to the TV evangelists whose spiel is “God wants you to be rich” and the more money you give away as “seed money”, the more God will bestow riches upon you. Then, the preacher man always has a “project” such as a Christian theme park and “shares” to sell so that you and the tens of thousands will always have access to the lovely hotel suites in the theme park complex for great Christian-themed vacations. (Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker)

    The problem is that the theme park and the complex were never built and the tens of thousands of subscribers saw their “seed money” disappear. Yet, there were hordes of good Christian folks who continued to defend these two, even after the scandals of the misused money (Jim’s paying hush money to his paramour and Tammy just running through the “seed money”…still waiting, I suppose, for the manna money from God).

    After all good thinking will “make it so”…eventually…it’s all in God’s plan for your success.

  51. #52 Sastra
    January 18, 2012

    “The power of the mind is immense. Its influence can literally bend reality to match its perspective. You can often influence a situation more by thinking about it meticulously, as opposed to simply acting. If you believe something to be true, you will conform the world around you to match this expectation.”

    One of the hallmarks of religion, alternative medicine, and magical thinking in general is pattern-recognition and connection run amok. Superficial resemblances are assumed to indicate underlying similarities and distinctions are blurred together. Daniel Dennett talks about “deepities” — concepts or phrases with two different meanings, one of them trivial but true and one of them extraordinary but false. The similarity is then taken seriously. Disagreeing with one entails rejecting the other; accepting one makes the other one reasonable, if not plausible.

    Fuzzy thinkers apparently go back and forth in deepities, often I think without realizing it. Or, perhaps, they think it’s a feature rather than a bug: holistic thinking. They’re being “spiritual” and recognizing the mind-like forces and powers below the surface of the material world turning it into a mind-like Whole.

    If you look at the above quote there’s a sense in which it’s trivially true: you can change your evaluation of something if you change your attitude. That “horrible” event or job becomes bearable or even enjoyable once you make up your mind to stop thinking negatively and look for, and experience, the positive. The world seems different because you no longer measure it against the preferences you once did.

    Now imagine you take this literally, with personal evaluations conflated with objective observations. You found a similarity. You connected it. You are deep within a deepity.

    I’m surprised at how many times people defend religion, spirituality, woo, or alt med by using an analogy. This is reasonable, and it looks or sounds sort of like this. Therefore, that second one should be just as reasonable. Connect the invisible dots.

  52. #53 Chris
    January 18, 2012

    lilady:

    BTW, are you planning to attend the 2012 TAM conference, or any of the RI “regulars” planning to go?

    I want to go. We’ll see how it goes.

  53. #54 OracIsAQuack
    January 19, 2012

    “Does thinking make it so?”

    Does your thinking that you are a skeptic and scientist make it so?

  54. #55 Chris
    January 19, 2012

    OracIsAQuack:

    Does your thinking that you are a skeptic and scientist make it so?

    Do you have any thing to offer other than random insults? Perhaps some actual data and evidence that actually shows Orac is in error.

  55. #56 Fleegman
    January 24, 2012

    Oh wow, what a blast from the past! That Skeptico post Orac links to has to be one of the most entertaining comment threads I can ever remember reading. Fond memories indeed…

    You’ve got big hitters like Skeptico, Tom Foss, Bronze Dog, Jimmy Blue, and Rockstar Ryan relentlessly tearing into the woo permeating the comments. Absolutely fantastic reading. For one thing, it was hardcore woo-meisters they were up against, as opposed to drive-by commenters. If there’s anyone unfamiliar with that particular comment thread, I recommend setting aside a few hours and digging in; it will be well worth your time.

    Ahhhh, good times, good times…

    /off-topic

  56. #57 Chris Winter
    February 2, 2012

    What an odd and irrelevant set of background video clips!

    And did you notice the claim that Jesus couldn’t do miracles in his own home town because of the unbelievers present there? So much for him being the son of an omnipotent deity…

  57. #58 Chris Winter
    February 2, 2012

    Scott Cunningham wrote (#38): “I have anecdata! It always seems that immediately after I get absolutely terribly lonely is when I finally get a date, and this one time when I was studying first year philosophy, in an effort to disprove the terrible What the Bleep Do We Know Anyway? movie, I tried to wish the city bus into not coming, but rather than arriving uneventfully and skewering the wishful thinking nonsense, the bus broke down immediately after I got on!”

    Scott,

    You just need to see Gramps Schneider. He’ll tell you how to rearrange those negative feelings that disrupt the energy flows and stop things working. Just reach into the other world with your mind and find the energy you need.

    (I refer of course to the character in Heinlein’s “Waldo.”)