Pseudoscience

Category archives for Pseudoscience

The ubiquity of quackery and pseudoscience of the sort epitomized by Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop empire can be depressing if you’re a skeptic. Sometimes it feels as though it’s not worth refuting the nonsense she peddles. But it is. Just maybe not in the way you think.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop website is a wretched hive of scum and quackery peddling dubious “wellness” products like vaginal “Jade Eggs” to affluent women. Yesterday, she corralled a couple of her “medical experts” to strike back at a persistent critic of goop’s pseudoscience and mystical woo. It did not go well—for goop or its enabling “integrative” physicians.

Right now, Europe is in the middle of a massive measles outbreak that has resulted in 35 deaths. Is Europe a harbinger of things to come in the US?

The usual stereotype of an antivaxer is a hippy dippy left wing granola cruncher. The case of Texas shows that increasingly the antivaccine movement is right wing. Worse, it’s becoming more political and harder for Republican legislators to ignore. I fear vaccine science is becoming as politicized as climate science, with results disastrous for public health.

A recent systematic review has been touted as demonstrating that “mind-body” practices like yoga can reprogram our DNA. There are several reasons to doubt these claims, not the least of which is the history of bias in past studies on this topic.

A reader asks me why I hate naturopaths. I don’t hate naturopaths, but I do oppose naturopathy. Earlier this week, Tim Caulfield reminded me of one reason why: You can’t have naturopathy without antivax. Antivax views are baked into naturopathy.

Ten years ago, I liked to make fun of a pudgy, middle-aged guy named Bill Nelson, not because he was pudgy and middle-aged (which is increasingly describing me), but rather because he used to sell some serious quantum energy quackery known as the Quantum Xrroid Consciousness Interface. Little did I know then that Nelson was ahead of his time and all that he really needed was a celebrity endorsement and a company selling his products using beautiful scantily clad models using his products.

The Court of Justice of the European Union just issued a muddled ruling being proclaimed by clickbait headlines as allowing courts to blame any disease on vaccines without evidence. It does nothing of the sort, but it is concerning nonetheless, as it is confusing and does appear to lower the bar of evidence for vaccine injury claims. That’s plenty bad enough.

Alternative practitioners invent and treat fake diseases like adrenal fatigue and chronic Lyme disease. Unfortunately, as a recent CDC report on complications due to treating chronic Lyme disease with long term antibiotics shows, treating fake diseases can cause harm and, in some cases, even kill.

Emergency acupuncture! (2017 edition)

For whatever reason, acupuncturists and acupuncture believers think that acupuncture can be useful in emergency situations. They even do studies purporting to show that. This is yet another of such a clinical trial, albeit larger than usual. Guess what? It doesn’t really show what it’s advertised to show.

Breatharians claim that it is possible to exist only on air and that human beings can reach a state where they do not require food. Stories about Breatharians pop up in the media from time to time, even though they are patently ridiculous. One such story made the rounds as Orac was wending his way home from Europe. Given that it’s been years since he’s discussed Breatharians, he couldn’t resist looking at this story.

When it comes to expansion and infiltrating medicine, “integrative medicine” has frequently seemed like the Terminator: utterly relentless. Recent setbacks at major integrative medicine “Crown Jewels” resulting in their closure cast that narrative in doubt. However, I never forget that after its seeming destruction, the Terminator always comes back.

Nikola Tesla was a physicist known to dabble in strange ideas, and that’s probably why pseudoscientists have appropriated them to justify quackery and fringe ideas. However, I doubt even Tesla can be used to justify the Tesla Purple Energy Shield and various other “Tesla Purple Energy” products.

Cassandra Callender made national news a couple of years ago when at age 17 she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and refused chemotherapy. The court ordered that she undergo appropriate treatment, but unfortunately she relapsed and chose treatment at a quack clinic in Mexico. Continuing to progress, she finally chose real medicine to treat her cancer. Let’s hope that it’s not too late to save her.

Bloggers at the Age of Autism blog, like most antivaccine activists, vehemently deny that they are antivaccine, claiming instead that they are “vaccine safety” advocates. Their denials are belied by their having published many posts about a “Vaccine Holocaust.”

As quackery in the form of “integrative medicine” has increasingly been “integrated” into medicine, medical journals are starting to notice and succumb to the temptation to decrease their skepticism. The BMJ, unfortunately, is the latest to do so. It won’t be the last.

There’s a new clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine showing a beneficial effect due to cannabidiol, a chemical isolated from marijuana, on drug-resistant seizures due to Dravet syndrome. Medical marijuana advocates are crowing, “I told you so!” As is usually the case, the real story is more nuanced.

A story in The Washington Free Beacon claims that Tipper Gore will be appearing at a fundraiser for Kathleen Murphy, a Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates running for reelection to be held by Claire and Albert Dwoskin, two rich antivaxers and donors to the Democratic Party. If the story is true and not fake news that’s bad, but even if it turns out not to be true I just had to discuss the Dwoskins, who have been funding antivaccine “studies” for several years now.

Thanks to social media, fake news, conspiracy theories, and health scams spread faster and farther than ever. The world is in need of critical thinking skills now more than ever. Fortunately, there is hope. Critical thinking can be taught, but teaching these skills works best if you start young.

Chiropractors and acupuncturists have lobbied for a greater role in treating pain. They might well have won it. Last week, the FDA released proposed changes Wednesday to its blueprint on educating health care providers about treating pain, which now recommend that doctors learn about chiropractic care and acupuncture as therapies that might help patients avoid opioids. There’s still time to stop this, but you have to write the FDA.

In the Journal of Integrative Medicine, acupuncturists argue for modernizing acupuncture by uncoupling it from its traditional Chinese medicine background and avoiding the mystical language about qi and meridians. Hilarity ensues, because acupuncture can’t be separated from the prescientific mysticism from which it arose.

Two badly designed, incompetently performed “studies” that claimed to show that unvaccinated children are healthier than unvaccinated children were briefly published by a bottom feeding, predatory “open access” journal, and then they disappeared, having apparently been retracted. Now they’re back, like Freddie Krueger, Jason, or Michael Myers, and antivaxers are rejoicing. I guess the check must have finally cleared.

Antivaxers are planning on publishing the personal information of employees of the Boston Herald because the paper published an editorial saying that promoting antivaccine misinformation among a vulnerable population should be a “hanging offense.” Meanwhile, overblown allusions to the Holocaust are going into overdrive. Same as it ever was.

Last week, the Boston Herald published an editorial about how antivaxers deceived a community of Somali immigrants in Minnesota, referring to the spreading of deadly misinformation as a “hanging offense.” Antivaxers took an ill-advised idiom and turned it into a threat of mass lynchings, ignoring their own violent imagery about vaccines and portraying themselves as “pro-vaccine,” and used it as justification to threaten to publish the home addresses and phone numbers of newspaper employees. Yes, they are disingenuous and hypocritical as hell.

Acupuncturists complain that the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends treatments for knee osteoarthritis for which the evidence is weak. They think that means that NICE should also accept acupuncture. In reality, it means that NICE should stop recommending treatments without support by strong scientific evidence.