Back in the day, quacks and cranks liked Wikipedia. Because anyone can become an editor on Wikipedia, they assumed that they could just sign up to edit Wikipedia pages and change them to reflect their views on alternative medicine or whatever other pseudoscientific topic they believed in. When Wikipedia first emerged on the scene, I had to admit that I didn’t think very much of it for the very simple reason that anyone could edit, and I did from time to time come across entries that were clearly too woo-friendly. Not surprisingly, I was also concerned that there would be an asymmetry of effort, with advocates of pseudoscience having all sorts of time to hang around posting edits to Wikipedia, while science advocates tend not to have as much time or be as intense about correcting every bit of pseudoscience slipped into Wikipedia entries.

Fortunately, my concerns turned out, for the most part, to have been unwarranted or overblown. A culture emerged around Wikipedia that valued verifiable, peer-reviewed sources, with every edit being public, and skeptics became involved in making sure that the quacks and pseudoscience advocates didn’t corrupt Wikipedia entries on relevant topics. So, now, while Wikipedia isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination and I occasionally see things there that I doubt, overall it’s a far better resource than I ever thought it would be. In some ways I sometimes regret not being involved in editing Wikipedia myself on medical topics, but my hobby of blogging is so all-consuming of my free time that I really couldn’t devote sufficient effort to the task. I’m glad other skeptics can.

One indication of how successful Wikipedia has been is the number of times I’ve seen believers in the paranormal, alternative medicine, and other pseudoscience attack it. The first big attack on Wikipedia that I remember noticing came from Deepak Chopra himself, who whined about those nasty skeptics. Then the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP) attacked Wikipedia for not respecting “energy psychology,” which, of course, Wikipedia shouldn’t because energy psychology is pure quackery. Jimmy Wales, one of the founders of Wikipedia, slapped ACEP down brilliantly. After that, quacks have remained upset at Wikipedia, launching broadsides against it, including the odd Change.org petition. Mike Adams, the owner of one of the quackiest sites in existence, really hates Wikipedia, publishing posts characterizing it as a “massive blackmail engine run by criminal editors” that was “cofounded by a porn peddler” and is “dominated by drug company trolls.”

So it’s not surprising that an acupuncturist would be unhappy with Wikipedia, specifically the medical director of the British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS), would be unhappy with Wikipedia. It’s even less surprising that he would write an op-ed attacking Wikipedia as biased against acupuncture and “holistic health.” What is surprising is where this op-ed appeared: On the BMJ Blogs network, where there is hosted the Acupuncture in Medicine Blog. It’s not a very active blog, with only three posts over the last couple of months, but it is hosted on the blog network of a major medical journal, which is utterly appalling. The BMJ ought to be ashamed. Of course, BMJ published Acupuncture in Medicine, a fake medical journal that publishes pseudoscience disguised as legitimate science, hence the Acupuncture in Medicine Blog. There, Dr. Mike Cummings, who’s gone all in for “integrative medicine” and, in particular, acupuncture, asks Is acupuncture pseudoscience? He’s obviously going for a Betteridge’s Law of Headlines thing, with his answer being no. After all, the blog entry features a a picture of Cummings looking pissed off, with the caption “Eyeballing pseudoskeptics.” Perhaps I should post a picture of me with an equally determined look and a caption, “Eyeballing quacks—right back at you!”

Mike Cummings "eyeballs pseudoskeptics." Skeptics eyeball him right back and laugh uproariously.

“You lookin’ at me?” Mike Cummings “eyeballs pseudoskeptics.” Skeptics eyeball him right back and laugh uproariously.

Cummings begins in a rather strange fashion, one I can almost agree with:

Wikipedia has branded acupuncture as pseudoscience and its benefits as placebo. ‘Acupuncture’ is clearly is not pseudoscience; however, the way in which it is used or portrayed by some may on occasion meet that definition. Acupuncture is a technique that predates the development of the scientific method, introduced by Galileo Galilei among others, by well over a millennium, so it is hardly fair to classify this ancient medical technique within that framework. It would be better to use a less pejorative classification within the bracket of history when referring to acupuncture and other ancient East Asian medical techniques. The contemporary use of acupuncture within modern healthcare is another matter entirely, and the fact that it can be associated with pre-scientific medicine does not make it a pseudoscience.

Curious, I examined the Wikipedia page on acupuncture, and it is true that early in the article Wikipedia characterizes acupuncture as pseudoscience—quite correctly, in my view. Basically, what Cummings is doing in the very first paragraph is nothing more than special pleading, in which he argues it’s not fair to characterize a treatment developed long ago, before the development of the scientific method. Of course, this is utter nonsense. Being ancient doesn’t protect a belief system from being a pseudoscience. Besides, it’s rather a stretch to attribute the invention of the scientific method to Galileo. There’s no doubt that Galileo made important contributions to the development of what we now call the scientific method (or methods, to be more precise), but he was by no means its sole author. Inductive experimental methodology that eventually became codified into what we now know as the scientific method dates back hundreds of years before Galileo, with contributions by scientists like Arab physicist Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) in 1020 and even the ancient Greeks. This is not an appropriate venue to get into a deep discussion of what is and isn’t the scientific method, whether or not falsifiability is a requirement, and an argument about Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn. I know about all that, and I’ve even voiced my thoughts on some of it over the years. The point is that the scientific method and its precursors date back far further than Galileo and that just because something is ancient doesn’t mean it gets a pass when it comes to being characterized as pseudoscience.

Next, Cummings recounts a rather odd anecdote:

The Wikipedia acupuncture page is extensive and currently runs to 302 references. But how do we judge the quality or reliability of a text or its references? When I was a medical student (well before the dawn of Wikipedia) I trusted in my textbooks, and I unconsciously judged the reliability by the weight and the cover. I am embarrassed to recount an episode at a big publishing event when I took a one such very large and heavy textbook to its senior editor and started pointing out what I thought were major errors. He laughed at me with a kindly wisdom and said “I’m sure there are lots of mistakes in there.” So now, some years later, as an author I have a different perspective on things, and a good deal more empathy with other authors and editors. I have submitted work for peer review and acted as a reviewer and editor, and with all its faults the peer review process may still be the best we have for assuring some degree of quality and veracity. So I would generally look down on blogs, such as this, because they lack the same hurdles prior to publication. Open peer review was introduced relatively recently associated with immediate publication. But all this involves researchers and senior academics publishing and reviewing within their own fields of expertise.

The obvious implication here is that, if science textbooks edited by experts have “lots of mistakes” (which, undoubtedly many, if not most, of them do), then Wikipedia must really be riddled with error, given that it doesn’t restrict its editors to only expertis in their fields. There’s also a further, somewhat subtle, implication here. Notice how he says that peer-reviewed scientific literature involves researchers and academics publishing “within their own field of expertise.” Well, if you were an acupuncturist like Cummings, whom would you view as a relevant “expert” to write about acupuncture. Why, other acupuncturists! Of course, those acupuncturists also believe against all rigorous evidence that acupuncture works; so they would automatically be uncritical of acupuncture and would not be the least bit skeptical.

Cummings uses the anecdote above to discuss the second pillar of Wikipedia, specifically about how Wikipedia is to be written from a neutral point of view, strive for verifiable accuracy, and cite reliable, authoritative sources. He objects:

Experts within a field may be seen to have a certain POV (point of view), and are discouraged from editing pages directly because they cannot have the desired NPOV (neutral POV). This is a rather unique publication model in my experience, although the editing and comments are all visible and traceable, so there is no hiding… apart from the fact that editors are allowed to be entirely anonymous. Have a look at the talk page behind the main acupuncture page on Wikipedia. You may be shocked by the tone of much of the commentary. It certainly does not seem to comply with the fourth of the five pillars, which urges respect and civility, and in my opinion results primarily from the security of anonymity. I object to the latter, but there is always a balance to be found between freedom of expression (enhanced for some by the safety of anonymity) and cyber bullying (almost certainly fuelled in part by anonymity). That balance requires good moderation, and whilst there was some evidence of moderation on the talk page, it was inadequate to my mind… I might move to drop anonymity from Wikipedia if moderation is wanting.

First, I call BS on the claim that experts are discouraged from editing pages. I know there are readers out there who are wikipedia editors, and I encourage you to clarify. There is, of course, nothing to stop Cummings from becoming a Wikipedia editor and trying to edit the acupuncture page. However, I know from communicating with actual Wikipedia editors that advocates of various forms of alternative medicine quackery (like acupuncture) tend not to make very good Wikipedia editors because they can’t resist letting their freak flag fly. They tend to abandon the NPOV and use anecdotes and references that aren’t verifiable. As a result, they find their edits being reverted, and, because they are cranks, they immediately assume Wikipedia is a big conspiracy against them and others who believe in their pseudoscience.

I checked out the Talk Page on acupuncture on Wikipedia, and my reaction was somewhat less—shall we say?—shocked than Cummings’ was. I encourage you to check it out yourself. What I see there now is a reasonable conversation about NICE guidelines. So I perused some of the archives, and I had a really hard time finding anything like what Cummings describes. Every page I landed on featured nothing that I would deem particularly uncivil. I actually was shocked by the tone there in that it was so much more civil than I’m used to. In any case, the discussion that shows up first is closed, but it does note that there is a Change.org petition to Clean up the Wikipedia Acupuncture page to reflect medical and scientific consensus that is quite amusing to read, particularly the part that refers to not viewing acupuncture as being science- or evidence-based as “denialism,” in yet another example of cranks co-opting that term. As is typical of pseudoscience believers like antivaccine ideologues (which acupuncture quacks resemble in several ways), the petition also accuses Wikipedia editors of “bullying” any pro-acupuncture editor who tries to edit the acupuncture entry. My interpretation of this complaint is that pro-acupuncture editors just can’t hold their own on the discussion page using evidence and reasoning, and they interpret thsi failure as due to having been “bullied.”

After Cummings’ rant, you bet you know what’s coming for his conclusion. The picture at the top of the post signaled it:

Anyway my impression, for what it’s worth, is that the acupuncture page on Wikipedia is not written from an NPOV, but rather it appears to be controlled by semi professional anti-CAM pseudosceptics, some of whom like to refer to acupuncture as “woo woo”. I have come across these characters regularly since I was introduced to the value of needling in military general practice some 25 years ago. I have a stereotypical mental image: plain or scary looking bespectacled geeks and science nuts, the worst are often particle physicists ;-). By the way, my first choice of career was astrophysics, so I may not be so different at my core :-/. Interacting with them is at first intense, but rapidly becomes tedious as they know little of the subject detail, fall back on the same rather simplistic arguments and ultimately appear to be motivated by eristic discourse rather than the truth.

Ah, yes, the “pseudoskeptic” gambit. Hilariously, Cummings refers to the Wikipedia entry on pseudoskepticism, which defines pseudoskepticism as a”philosophical or scientific position which appears to be that of skepticism or scientific skepticism but which in reality fails to be so.” Pot, kettle, black, Dr. Cummings. Pot, kettle, black.

Cummings also can’t resist insults that also double as an ad hominem attack. Basically, he portrays skeptics as “plain or scary looking bespectacled geeks and science nuts,” in order to imply that they are somehow weird and therefore untrustworthy and wrong. Basically he portrays acupuncture as prescientific (as though that means it can’t be pseudoscience), rants that Wikipedia is hopelessly biased without actually showing that it is, and then insults Wikipedia editors as hopeless but threatening geeks. His self-deprecating remark is so obviously an excuse to convince readers that he’s not engaging in insults and ad hominem (look at me—I’m a geek, too, just like the skeptics whom you shouldn’t listen to because they’re scary looking geeks, which means I can’t be engaging in an ad hominem) that I laughed out loud when I read it. Then, to complete the picture, he describes skeptics as ignorant and more interested in arguing than finding the truth. His picture is thus complete: Bespectacled, scary-looking geeks to like to argue and bully. They must be wrong. Pay no attention to them.

Of course, there is one thing that is noticeable by its absence anywhere in his ranty little blog post, ad that’s evidence. Ditto science. As Edzard Ernst noted, the title of Cummings’ blog post seems to promise that he would address and possibly answer the question, “Is acupuncture pseudoscience?” We get nothing of the sort. We don’t even get a credible discussion backed by evidence of why Wikipedia’s acupuncture entry is biased and/or incorrect. All we get are special pleading, an unconvincing rant about how biased Wikipedia is, and ad hominems.

BMJ should be ashamed for allowing tripe like this to be published on its blog network and to publish a quackademic “journal” like Acupuncture in Medicine.

Comments

  1. #1 Guy Chapman
    United Kingdom
    January 4, 2017

    I appear to be one of those called out for especial opprobrium by the trypanophiles. I have some sympathy for the idea that acupuncture should not be stated to be pseudoscience: in my view, while the *study* of acupuncture is almost entirely pseudoscience, the practice itself is quasi-religious and most practitioners don’t even pretend it’s acuence. However, the sources call it pseudoscience, and my opinion can’t beat sources any more than theirs can.

    As I keep pointing out to them, the current state of science shows that it doesn’t matter where you put the needles, it doesn’t matter if you actually insert them or not, there’s no evidence for the existence of I, meridians or specific acupoints, there’s no uniformity between traditions and no sign of convergence on a single set of facts through experiment (e.g. discarding supposed acupoints which are shown to be wrong or are different between Chinese and Japanese practice), there’s no acceptance of reality-based critique such as lack of sterile technique, effect sizes are always small, outcomes are always subjective, and not one single study is provably inconsistent with the null hypothesis, so just fix those things and Wikipedia will reflect the new real world situation.

  2. #2 Christopher Barts
    January 4, 2017

    Experts are by no means discouraged from editing articles, but they’re not given any special leeway, especially in contentious articles. They’re held to the same sourcing rules and NPOV (Neutral Point Of View, which in this case means giving more weight to reliable sources, much to the quacks’ dismay) and rules against synthesis, or coming to independent conclusions within articles.

    Of course, this is partly just practical, because it’s too easy to fake having credentials in person, let alone online, but part of it is philosophical: We don’t care who you are, we care what you have to add, and a large part of that is what your sources are. If you have problems, take it to the talk pages, and make your case, but Wikipedia inherently runs on sources, not authority.

    So, I suppose if you’re the kind of expert who’s used to waving your credentials around to get special treatment, Wikipedia would be unfriendly to you, as it should be. Most experts, in my experience, don’t act like that, and would be perfectly at home in Wikipedia once they learned the sourcing rules and so on.

  3. #3 Guy Chapman
    United Kingdom
    January 4, 2017

    @Christopher: My experience has been that most experts who come to Wikipedia have a hard time adjusting. They are used to academic publishing, where primary sources and original research are prized, and they are frequently baffled when Wikipedia rejects these.

    If you look at the history of Wikipedia you’ll see that credentialism was an early bone of contention. Larry Sanger left and founded Citizendium, with a view to allowing credentialled experts to have greater authority over content. The result was not pretty.

    Now, you could argue that if Wikipedia went with a credential-preferred model, then the issues at Citizendium might not have occurred. That may well be the case. But what we do know is that the “experts” whose expertise led them to conclusions dramatically at odds with the mainstream, were the ones who were motivated to go to Citizendium. And I think Wikipedia would be the same. Most practising scientists aren’t that interested in writing for anything other than peer-reviewed publications or (in physics and maths) arXiv.

    Wkipedia banned Dullman, he went to Citizendium, and Citizendium in the end had to pull the content he wrote. But not before banning Adam Cuerden for the heinous offence of pointign out that Dana Ullman is a quack (http://en.citizendium.org/wiki?title=Talk:Homeopathy/Draft&diff=next&oldid=100531687#Request_to_revoke_approval). An article on cold fusion was written by cold fusionist Jed Rothwell (also banned from Wikipedia). A chiropractor and acupuncturist was elected Constable and policed articles on alternative medicine, removing comments critical of homeopathy.

    So I guess Wikipedia fits Winston Churchill’s definition of democracy: the very worst system of governance, excepting all those others which have from time to time been tried.

  4. #4 sadmar
    January 4, 2017

    @ Guy:
    I actually think the distinction between a practice (being neither science nor pseudoscience) and an explanation/justification thereof (which definitely can be pseudoscience) is kinda important. But I wouldn’t pick at Wikipedia for saying “acupuncture is a pseudoscience” because it’s clear enough in context what they mean, and the clumsy use of language is par for the course there (and other crowd-sourced reference sites, too). And while Cummings may be correct about that, dude whining about critics of acupuncture having no interest in the truth would peg my irony meter if it wasn’t already stuck there. Pretty obvious sophistry, but what else could he do, given the evidence you so adeptly summarize.
    ___________

    I had to look up ‘eristic’. The best definition seems to be “a contentious type of argument in which defeating an opponent is considered more important than examining an issue”, put more crudely as “an argument aiming at winning rather than at reaching the truth’. The definition on Wikpedia seems to be missing a key aspect of the historical meaning, and, well, not make any damn sense, “argument that aims to successfully dispute another’s argument, rather than searching for truth.” That’s what I read first, and I was like, ‘What? How is demolishing a bad argument not part of getting to the truth?” Maybe Cummings edited that entry…

    I couldn’t pull a meaning for ‘trypanophiles’ out of the context, so I Googled it. There were only seven hits, five of them being your comments on different sites. Of the remaining two, one was a FB list of ‘philias’ with 517 entries, the last being “Trypanophile- Aroused by injections”.* The other was a satirical blog post by “Sudhir Bhushan ~ Doctor of Humour”:
    http://www.humourmedicine.com/a-jab-of-a-job/
    ______
    * #220: “Hellenologophile. Aroused by Greek terms or complex scientific terminology.”

  5. #5 sadmar
    January 4, 2017

    I just want to thank Mark Thorson for posting (in the 2016 weaponized thread) the link to an awesome, funny takedown of homeopathy, a transcript of a screenwriting podcast, of all thinks. Great read. Not to be missed. You should check out the whole thing,
    http://tinyurl.com/zb4an9s
    But here are some of the best parts:

    Craig Mazin: The greatest dilution that is reasonably likely to contain even one molecule of an original substance is 12C. And 12C, John, what is that equivalent to?
    John August: That is a pinch of salt in both the North and South Atlantic oceans.
    Craig: One pinch. One pinch of salt in an entire ocean. That’s 12C. Hahnemann wants 30C. So, if you want to make 30C, you need to take one molecule and put it in a container that is more than 30 billion times the size of Earth. And then he’s saying that one molecule in the container that is 30 billion times the size of Earth will cure your disease. That’s what he believed.

    Craig: A French physician… in 1919… thought he had discovered a shimmering microbe that he called Oscillococcinum. You get it? It’s like oscillating. He saw it in all of the samples that he took from his patients who all had different diseases. Now, as it turns out, that’s probably because his microscope was faulty and he was just seeing light. And he thought things were shimmering. Microbes don’t shimmer, as it turns out. Because this isn’t fricking Star Wars.
    Another spoiler alert: no one, except for this dude, has ever found this “shimmering” Oscillococcinum microbe because it doesn’t exist…
    So, let’s just take some duck liver, which will definitely have Oscillococcinum in it, but we’re homeopaths, so let’s reduce it down so many times in water that – and I love this statistic – If they started with a duck the size of the sun, there still would not be a single molecule of it left in an Oscillococcinum pill based on how many times they reduce it.

    John: There are charismatic people who are challenging the system. They’re saying the normal system isn’t working. I have secret knowledge to share. And don’t listen to those other people when they tell you that what we’re doing is crazy.
    Craig: They’re picking at this thing that we have… a normal human state of mild paranoia. We begin to wonder if maybe everything is not true. Perhaps this is all an illusion. And even if that’s subconscious, you are suddenly susceptible to people who come along and say you’ve been fed a bunch of lies, and you probably always suspected that you were fed a bunch of lies. What if I could show you the truth? This makes for wonderful movies but terrible medicine.
    John: Absolutely. So, the characters we’re describing in Hahnemann and L. Ron Hubbard, they wouldn’t be classically the hero of a story. More likely they are the wise old man who shows up to tell the hero, “No, no, no, there’s a better way.” They are Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars. They’re the person who says the world you see is not the world that has to be. The force permeates all things. There’s more to this world than they will let you know. That’s the function that these characters tend to play in these stories. And you can see why they’re seductive because we don’t want the world to be the way it is. We want the world to be the way we want the world to be. And if someone offers you that solution, you’re going to say, well yes, show me how to do that.
    My concern is that so many of our compelling [movie] stories are about [some] sort of belief in [an] invisible magical force that surrounds us in the universe. And so we see these stories and we’re just like, oh yeah, that’s right. I’m like Luke Skywalker. I believe in the Force. No, you believe in an imaginary speck of duck liver that’s not actually there.

  6. #6 AlisonM
    United States
    January 4, 2017

    TheBMJ seems to be a popular reference among proponents of woo. I asked Twitter if the online journal was even still legitimate, considering how many ridiculous entries there were on aluminum in vaccines alone.

  7. #7 Eric Lund
    January 4, 2017

    When I was a medical student (well before the dawn of Wikipedia) I trusted in my textbooks, and I unconsciously judged the reliability by the weight and the cover.

    Cummings admits, in so many words, to judging books by their covers. And he was surprised to discover that this isn’t a good idea?

    Textbooks inevitably lag the state of the art, and this is especially true in medicine, where the state of the art evolves more rapidly than most other fields (due mainly to the volume of research being done–generally speaking, in any university with a medical school, the medical school dominates the university’s external research funding). Things that were controversial when the first edition was published umpteen years ago have settled around a consensus view, and things that were thought not controversial then have become controversial since, but these changes are not always reflected in the brand new edition released within the last year.

    That happens even in my field–there are things in some textbooks today that weren’t in the textbooks I had as a grad student, because they weren’t known at the time.

  8. #8 JDK
    January 4, 2017

    On a related note, Joe Mercola is having a meltdown about Facebook taking action to curtail fake news. Verification of truth in claims made is now McCarthyism in his opinion. Mercola quotes Snowden “We have to exercise and spread the idea that critical thinking matters now more than ever, given the fact that lies seem to be getting very popular.” No apparent awareness of the irony, he is so cute that way. Mercola should be just as frightened of critical thinking as of suppression of misinformation. Critical thinking – I don’t think it means what he thinks it means.

  9. #9 Narad
    January 4, 2017

    Open peer review was introduced relatively recently associated with immediate publication.

    That’s an odd thing to say. The “association,” to the extent one even exists, is purely temporal.

  10. #10 Wzrd1
    January 4, 2017

    I am among those editors who remove POV, uncited and OR (original research) content from Wikipedia. If the content appears potentially valid, just unsourced and recent new findings, I’ll transplant it to the talk page and request review by other editors who can find a citation for it.
    Occasionally, especially in areas I’m knowledgeable in, I’ll find a good citation and add it, the rest of the time I tag it “Citation needed” and move on.
    I also frequently get notified that there’s an RfC and wade into some of the (occasionally heated) discussions, keeping with Wikipedia policy and citation policy.

    Notable on the linked talk page, a discussion over the removal of a POV entry, where an alleged expert disputed a peer reviewed study, offering his opinion and an editor added that content. That content was removed and a note added to the talk page, along with the reasoning of NPOV that caused the removal of that content.

    On my days off, I’ve been known to spend a fine rainy afternoon reading different Wikipedia articles, quite enjoying the experience and correcting the occasional error in punctuation, spelling and formatting, if adding no other content (or removing uncited, POV or OR content).
    I also am instantly notified when any of several thousand articles are edited and as quickly as possible, I review those edits to ensure the quality of the encyclopedia is maintained.

    Yeah, after 35 years of marriage, I have no personal life. 😉

  11. #11 Susan Gerbic
    United States
    January 4, 2017

    Thank you Orac for the Shout Out!

    We are always looking for more people to train how to be GSoW Wikipedia editors. We are careful to follow the rules and keep them enforced. Anyone interested please contact me. We even have a Super Secret Facebook Group where all the discussion happens, called the Secret Cabal.

    We train, We mentor, Join us!

  12. #12 Dutchie
    January 4, 2017

    How can a scientifically trained Medical Doctor be a proponent acupuncture? If the MD truly advocates acupuncture as a treatment for his/her patients then his medical licence should immediately be revoked. He or she clearly has not understood a thing what was taught at University.

  13. #13 Guy Chapman
    United Kingdom
    January 4, 2017

    @Sadmar: I found “trypanophobia” defined as “fear of needles”. Thus, trypanophilia is the opposite 🙂

  14. #14 JustaTech
    January 4, 2017

    Perhaps Dr Cummings would be so good as to consent to be treated with the ancient “needles”. The ones that are bigger around than an 16 gauge needle? Hmm, and where would those needles go? Hopefully the “ancient” acupuncture points aren’t over any major arteries! (He would never consent, I’m sure, it would be too painful.)

    I get the impression from a lot of woo-types that when they say “ancient” what they really mean is “magic”. Or possibly “alien”, like the Ancients on Stargate.

  15. #15 Chris Preston
    Australia
    January 4, 2017

    I did find it strange that comments are switched off on the blog. I can understand why, but if you are really wanting to change people’s minds, rather than just talking at them, you need to be involved in dialogue.

    As to Cummings’ question posed, I would state that acupuncture is for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from pseudoscience. All of the excuses given as to how and why acupuncture might work have no scientific background and indeed would require the overturning of fundamental understandings in physiology and physics.

    The whole argument Cummings makes that because acupuncture use pre-dated the scientific method, then you cannot apply the scientific method to it is stupid beyond reason. The Earth pre-dates the scientific method, so obviously all of geology is bunk.

    The man is just making up excuses to protect his belief system.

  16. #16 JustaTech
    January 4, 2017

    Chris @15: Exactly! It would be like saying that Hippocrates was before the scientific method, so we should treat dog bites with hair from the dog that bit you, rather than cleaning, proper wound care, stitches, tetanus shot and antibiotics and rabies shots as indicated.
    Uh, no, duh.
    Or maybe it’s even like saying that because the pyramids were built before rebar, it is physically impossible to build any pyramid with rebar, in which case there’s a casino in Vegas you’d need to see.

    It’s a lot of special pleading.

  17. #17 Diamond9
    January 5, 2017

    When you see an open heart surgery done with Acupuncture Anesthesia, and the person is awake while her you can see her heart beating through her open ribcage… or then what the fuck more can you say? I invite all of you “skeptics” to look harder into all the evidence that the Science of Acupuncture offers, and stop having shit all over your eyes. But if you want to doubt something, I invite you to doubt the reality of your own brain, because no one has seen it, right?
    Acupuncture is the most tested medical method in human history (perhaps equal to herbal medicine, from whose knowledge of pharmacobotanics all chemical drugs have been produced). No other method has been proven effective over time on a greater number of patients. It also stood the test of time, which says a lot. It`s also highly scientific, but nowadays primitive “scientists” prefer to limit their exploration to the physical body, even though in all technology everything is done “wirelessly”, or “remotely”. Medical Science will progress when it will allow itself to see beyond the physical matter of the human body, since even modern physics states that matter is but condensed Energy.
    REAL Science is different than skepticism – skepticism doubts everything, while Science explores everything. So fuck off to all skeptics. Since no other affirmation will be pleasing to your blind minds.
    (No one would want a skeptic friend… since they would doubt everything you say unless you can prove it. I invite a skeptic to prove they have pain somewhere, or they`re sad, or that they`re hungry… and I wish to all of them that no one will ever believe them unless they prove everything with hard evidence and double-blind or triple-blind studies).

    • #18 Guy Chapman
      United Kingdom
      January 5, 2017

      When you see an open heart surgery done with Acupuncture Anesthesia, and the person is awake while her you can see her heart beating through her open ribcage… or then what the fuck more can you say?

      Yeah, CGI is amazing these days, isn’t it?

      Meanwhile, back in the real world, acupuncture does not produce anaesthesia, that was a Chinese propaganda trick. http://www.gpposner.com/rosenfeld_sram.html

  18. #19 Adam C.
    Scotland
    January 5, 2017

    @15, 16: I can have a little sympathy for the idea that we shouldn’t label historical ideas pseudoscience simply because they’re wrong. The homunculus theory – which (simplified a bit) said that sperm had tiny people in it – was an attempt to explain how such microscopic things could go on to produce babies. It’d be ridiculous pseudoscience now, but it fit with known facts of the time. Similarly, the idea the sun went around the earth is not pseudoscientific historically, but became so when better evidence emerged.

    So, you could argue – if you accepted the claims of ancientness, which you definitely shouldn’t – that historical acupuncture was not pseudoscientific. But Cummings wants to use this to protect the modern practice from such claims, which requires presuming that things can’t ever change status.

  19. #20 Orac
    January 5, 2017

    Oh, I frequently point out how some ideas considered pseudoscientific now were not pseudoscientific at the time because they fit in with existing knowledge and the tools of observation that were available at the time. The key thing is, when knowledge progressed to reject such ideas, continuing to hold on to them can be pseudoscience.

  20. #21 Narad
    January 5, 2017

    When you see an open heart surgery done with Acupuncture Anesthesia, and the person is awake while her you can see her heart beating through her open ribcage… or then what the f[]ck more can you say?

    Do go on about your experience in the surgical suite.

  21. #22 Wesley Dodson
    January 5, 2017

    It sounds like Mike Adams needs to be…medicated.

  22. #23 Dangerous Bacon
    January 5, 2017

    “(Acupuncture is) also highly scientific, but nowadays primitive “scientists” prefer to limit their exploration to the physical body”

    Darn those “scientists” who are limited to studying and treating the human body! (though it should be pointed out that extracorporeal procedures (i.e. dialysis, lithotripsy and circulatory modalities) are not unusual in modern medicine.

    Diamond9 seems to have anger management issues which could well be helped by acupuncture (see the link below, which offers cautious hope, but also indicates that a misshapen skull could be the problem, and that cranial osteopathy may be useful to “smooth the energies”).

    http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/public-content/public-ask-an-expert/ask-an-expert-neuro-and-psycho-logical/ask-an-expert-neuro-and-psycho-logical-anxiety/3320-can-acupuncture-help-anger-management.html

  23. #24 herr doktor bimler
    January 5, 2017

    When you see an open heart surgery done with Acupuncture Anesthesia, and the person is awake while her you can see her heart beating through her open ribcage

    Diamond9 does not claim to have observed this miracle in person so it seems to be a hypothetical.

  24. #25 herr doktor bimler
    January 5, 2017

    a misshapen skull could be the problem

    When the only surgical tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a misshapen skull.

  25. #26 Eduardo
    January 5, 2017

    Let’s start Pseudo-Wikipedia and the problem will be solved.

  26. #27 James Smith
    Canada
    January 5, 2017

    You have a typo right near the end; “ad that’s evidence”. Your blog is obviously completely wrong and misleading because of this mistake. ;P

  27. #28 Diamond9
    January 5, 2017

    Diamond9 has seen more patients cured with Acupuncture where surgery would have been a clear indication… or in so many other cases where allopathic (western) medicine has failed or has stopped giving hope to people… than any of you skeptics has. But the kind of language that you use here “in the name of science” is simply mental masturbation, and shows none of you has ANY kind of experience with Acupuncture.
    This is not Science. Science is open and curious to explore, and Science does not dismiss truths simply because they want to, or because they wanna align themselves to some atheist dogmatic limited points of view. As Hamlet would say “there are more truths in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy”…
    “Modern” science says matter is condensed Energy (quantum physics).
    “Modern” science has not managed to find out the source of Life in the human body, nor the location of the “soul”… nor has it managed to CREATE Life.
    Science has proven with Kirlian photography that all living things have an electromagnetic emission, an “aura” (google Kirlian if you haven`t heard of this). Science has even proven the existence of energy meridians, by injection with radioactive isotopes, and the existence of acupuncture points by measuring the electric resistance at skin level.
    And what if i told you that all great sciences like Mathematics, Physics, Medicine and Astronomy have their origin in the ancient science of Yoga? I`m sure none of you know about this…
    But to return to “evidence” (although none of you has proven yet that they have a brain) – check out the first minutes (and the rest) of this documentary, where you see what i was talking about:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeDv_PKEgPk

    I wouldn`t wanna disturb your skeptic mental peace too much by showing you how Qi Gong masters can light un a piece of paper simply by using the Qi that they developed and mastered in years of practice, or how Shaolin monks can make their skin impenetrable by sharp swords or spears even in areas with no muscles… (but you could find those proofs online, or even attend a Shaolin live demonstration, if you ever manage to).

  28. #29 Diamond9
    January 5, 2017

    And again – the documentary THE SCIENCE OF ACUPUNCTURE. Made by a skeptic professor, a lady physicist from England. It shows only an small amount of info, but some very crucial data and proof – including open heart surgery with acupuncture anesthesia

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeDv_PKEgPk

    I’m amazed how any of you had the courage to speak like this and defile this Medical Science without seeing this movie… Shame on you!

  29. #30 Diamond9
    January 5, 2017

    So a Duracell bunny rabbit has energy, and a human being doesn’t? :))
    And all the biochemical reactions that have that “E” (Energy) as one of the result products… mean nothing?…
    One really has to be blind in order to make such statements… or ill-intended.

    • #31 Guy Chapman
      January 5, 2017

      That word energy. You keep using it, but I don’t think it means what you think it means.

      Energy is the capacity to do measurable work. Batteries store chemical energy and it can be converted to electrical energy. Humans consume energy in the form of food, convert it, and turn it into work. But that energy does not flow as some sort of magical construct, it is transported through biological processes.

      No proponent of so-called energy medicine, including acupuncture, has ever succeeded in objectively demonstrating the supposed energy they claim to be manipulating, no instrument has ever measured it, and no mechanism has ever been demonstrated by which it could do the work that is claimed of it.

      You may think it’s a form of energy unknown to and untested by science. That would be one explanation. Magic would be another, equally plausible. A third, and vastly more plausible explanation would be: you’re wrong.

  30. #32 Gilbert
    January 5, 2017

    Science has proven with Kirlian photography that all living things have an electromagnetic emission, an “aura”

    Way back when, I had seen someone creating Kirlian images for his science project; the apparatus was energized by an automotive ignition coil. The prints of a torn leaf showing the same pattern in the ‘missing’ section was most interesting. However:

    Kirlian’s claims were embraced by energy treatments practitioners.

    … if a section of a leaf was torn away after the first photograph, a faint image of the missing section sometimes remains when a second photograph was taken. However, if the imaging surface is cleaned of contaminants and residual moisture before the second image is taken, then no image of the missing section will appear.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirlian_photography#Torn_leaf_experiment

    It does show the streaming nature of corona discharge quite well — A neat visualization of it can be had by driving a clear G40 globe/bulb with one of the old-style TV flybacks before they had the rectifiers built in. Touching the globe gave good images of even the ridges of the fingerprints; These images remained for a little time after the fingers were removed (oils and moisture, I presume; Any boundary with a changed index of refraction pretty much enhanced the coronas.

  31. #33 Iulian
    January 5, 2017

    Ok, although I totaly agree wth the author about what accupuncture represent, let’s not forget that is showed results in some people(probably that’s why the chinese people kept it?). May it be placebo or not, if it helps people, so let’s not discredit it for what it is. Of course you can discredit it for what it isn’t but use it as a last resort in case you don’t have any other options left.

    • #34 Guy Chapman
      United Kingdom
      January 5, 2017

      let’s not forget that is showed results in some people(probably that’s why the chinese people kept it?

      Western doctors kept bloodletting, purging and so on for over two thousand years, diligently teaching them to each new generation.

      They were utterly bogus, and actively dangerous. But they were sustained by belief for millennia.

  32. #35 Lawrence
    January 5, 2017

    “Modern” acupuncture was an invention of Chairman Mao because he killed most of the real doctors during the the 1960s purges……

    It isn’t anything for “last resort” measures.

  33. #36 John Neilson
    Canuckistan
    January 5, 2017

    Troll was almost entertaining until the Shaolin Qi masters bit.

  34. #37 herr doktor bimler
    January 5, 2017

    “Modern” science says matter is condensed Energy (quantum physics).

    Someone who can’t tell the difference between general relativity and quantum theory really should step away from the keyboard and enjoy a nice full mug of STFU.

  35. #38 Narad
    January 5, 2017

    That’s special relativity to you, buster.

  36. #39 Narad
    January 5, 2017

    Diamond9 has seen more patients cured with Acupuncture where surgery would have been a clear indication…

    So you admit to just making up the whole open heart surgery thing? Your stock is not exactly rising.

  37. #40 JustaTech
    January 5, 2017

    Narad @38: Perhaps Diamond9 is thinking of that famous documentary, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”?

  38. #41 Marc Draco
    January 5, 2017

    I have to agree that Wikipedia is pretty good at rooting out woo – however, it’s less than good (piss poor in fact) at rooting out the “I reckon” fallacy.

    Thankfully, things like Hollocaust denial are confined to a small number of fucking idiots with terrible agendas but if you happen to forward a fringe idea that hurts people’s feelings – particularly if those people happen to live in America – then you have snowball’s chance in hell of getting it out there.

    One of my articles was savaged by “editors” with no background in the technology to the point that it became meaningless. I can claim expertise on this particular technology because I invented it – or at least, an extension of it. (This is the sort of blind stupidity that leaves considerable numbers of people with the belief (still) that vaccines cause autism and that detoxes are good for you.)

    Patents are also held up as evidence of a fact on Wikipedia. This is another piece of lunacy because patents prove absolutely nothing about anything. Not only can you patent something you never built, but it may even be impossible with any technology known to man or defy the laws of nature!

    If a patent was granted on something in America that means (to an unfortunately large section of editors) that it was an American invention. This is clearly bogus (it might be true and it might not) but try telling them that. Even the name of the inventor on a patent is no proof that the named person had anything to do with it! I know of several examples including one of my own co-designs: the team put our bosses name forward as inventor. This happens a lot more than people believe and it’s time the whole system was overhauled.

    • #42 Guy Chapman
      United Kingdom
      January 6, 2017

      One of my articles was savaged by “editors” with no background in the technology to the point that it became meaningless. I can claim expertise on this particular technology because I invented it – or at least, an extension of it..

      What article was that? Obviously it’s not *your* article (WP:OWN) and I am sure you declared your connection (WP:COI).

  39. #43 herr doktor bimler
    January 5, 2017

    And what if i told you that all great sciences like Mathematics, Physics, Medicine and Astronomy have their origin in the ancient science of Yoga?

    Then I’d call you a lying bullsh1tter who knows SFA about “the ancient science of Yoga”. Can you even read Sanskrit?

  40. #44 herr doktor bimler
    January 5, 2017

    So you admit to just making up the whole open heart surgery thing? Your stock is not exactly rising.

    Diamond9 refers us to that notorious BBC infotainment piece from 2006 that featured footage of surgery on a patient who was under real anaesthetic and heroic doses of sedatives, as well as acupuncture for purposes of show. The BBC later accepted that the sequence was dishonestly presented… I’m not sure whether Dr Sykes was the source of the dishonesty, or whether her Chinese hosts lied to her and she just served as the pukefunnel.
    It may well be that Diamond9 is stupid enough to believe the sequence, because after all it’s on Youtube, the arbiter of authenticity. Also possible, just trolling.

  41. #45 Chris
    January 5, 2017

    Diamond9: “And what if i told you that all great sciences like Mathematics, Physics, Medicine and Astronomy have their origin in the ancient science of Yoga? I`m sure none of you know about this…”

    Actually I am pretty sure you don’t know the difference between kinetic energy and potential energy, and how the two are related. Also, while the number zero was first used in India, I doubt you will understand how it was so important in all those things you listed.

  42. #46 doug
    January 5, 2017

    Marc,
    I know someone* who has been extensively involved with patents. He tells me the language of the US courts is not “valid patents” but rather “patents that have not been found to be invalid” – which is rather damning.
    Things have changed somewhat in the US with regard to persons named on a patent, but naming someone not involved in the invention certainly was a major no-no that could make the patent indefensible. I can’t recall for sure, but I think I was told that the US Patent Office would outright reject a patent application if they became aware of such a situation. I know the rules about adding or removing names prior to grant of the patent have changed relatively recently, but I don’t recall exactly how.
    It is extremely common for inventions to be patented in multiple countries. It isn’t terribly uncommon for something invented elsewhere to be deliberately patented only in the US if that is where the market (or competition) is.

    *Not a patent attorney, but he holds several patents, manages IP, including patent matters, for his current company and was previously involved with a large tech company from a large state in the south of the US during their successful defense of some patents against a large tech company from the South part of a smallish east Asian country. The amount awarded had more zeros than some homeopathic dilutions.

  43. #47 Denice Walter
    January 6, 2017

    Not sure where to put this exactly BUT Orac hasn’t a recent anti-vax post ( That’s a surprise!)

    I think that the minions might enjoy the Professor’s ( TMR) new post today about
    – oh crap what WAS it about?-
    facing your fears, challenging your beliefs and changing your perspective.

    She thinks that more fact checking is necessary and that readers should look at material that DIAMETRICALLY opposes their views .Distinguish facts from opinion.

    Oh good, she invited them to read Orac and company
    ( actually, she didn’t but that’s what her statement might mean in the real world)

    She hilariously – and in an over detailed way- recounts her adventures in rock climbing first though ..
    Be forewarned.

  44. #48 Denice Walter
    January 6, 2017

    In other (non) news..

    Anne Dachel ( AoA) discusses ‘fake news’

    ( perhaps, more accurately, I should say that Anne Dachel is AoA’s chief purveyor of fake news about fake science but then that’s a double negative ..
    oh you know what I mean!)

  45. #49 Denice Walter
    January 6, 2017

    Mike Adams ( Natural News) writes about “journo-terrorists” and illustrates exactly where he stands.

    He makes money off of his writing.