Mike the Mad Biologist

More on Fake HuffPo Pseudo-Experts

ScienceBlogling PalMD does a good job of eviscerating the false claims of expertise by woo practioner ‘Dr.’ Patricia Fitzgerald and the rest of the witch doctors over at The Huffington Post, so I thankfully don’t have to (so many fucking morons, so little Mad Biologist…). But PalMD neglected to mention one thing about ‘Dr.’ Patricia Fitzgerald:

She is the “Wellness” editor of The Huffington Post.

That’s right: a full-blown woomeister is the equivalent of The Huffington Post’s medicine and health section. Is she an M.D.? Nope. Is she a Pharm.D.? Uh-uh. Maybe a Ph.D.? Guess what? No. How about a R.N., an N.P., or maybe an MPH? Hell noes! Here’s her bio:

Patricia Fitzgerald is a licensed acupuncturist, certified clinical nutritionist, and a homeopath. She has a Master’s Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine and a Doctorate in Homeopathic Medicine. She is the founder and Medical Director of the Santa Monica Wellness Center and the author of the best-selling, award-winning The Detox Solution: The Missing Link to Radiant Health, Abundant Energy, Ideal Weight, and Peace of Mind. You can learn more at TheDetoxSolution.com.

Her mission is to inspire others to live their passion, while creating and enjoying optimal physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Guess what comes next?

facepalm

She has a doctorate in homeopathic medicine, which probably isn’t as bad as a degree in sociopathic medicine.

So what is homeopathic medicine? Wikipedia actually has a pretty neutral description which attempts to describe it somewhat fairly but can’t because homeopathy is so fucking stupid:

Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine that treats a disease with heavily diluted preparations created from substances that would ordinarily cause effects similar to the disease’s symptoms. As first expounded by German physician, Samuel Hahnemann, in 1796, homeopathic preparations are serially diluted, with shaking (“succussing”) after each step, under the belief that this increases the effect of the treatment. This dilution often continues until no molecules of the original substance remain….

Homeopaths believe that the methodical dilution of a substance, beginning with a 10% or lower solution and working downwards, with shaking after each dilution, produces a therapeutically active “remedy”, in contrast to therapeutically inert water. However, homeopathic remedies are usually diluted to the point where there are no molecules from the original solution left in a dose of the final remedy. Since even the longest-lived noncovalent structures in liquid water at room temperature are only stable for a few picoseconds, critics have concluded that any effect that might have been present from the original substance can no longer exist.

double-facepalm

This is like having a creationist as the science editor. And it explains quite a bit about The Huffington Post’s War on Medicine.

Comments

  1. #1 The Science Pundit
    April 27, 2009

    And to think that this is the same place where Jeffery Sachs, Cenk Uygur, and Harry Shearer blog. Such garbage and excellence on the same page. It boggles the mind.

  2. #2 peter
    April 27, 2009

    as far as I understand it the Huffington Post has a fairly open policy about submissions. (how else would jim carrey end up on page one.)

    would it not be better if the medical ScienceBloggers simply posted there? the readership is much higher and the word might get around faster.

    there is a ‘news tip’ form and email address on their contact page.

    sending them a tip every time they print something idiotically fallacious probably wouldn’t hurt. (though you probably don’t need another full time job…)

  3. #3 Badger3k
    April 27, 2009

    Considering Huffington’s policy of deleting comments critical of the writers (I have had posts about Kirby never see the light of day, and know of others), I’m not sure any serious science writing would be allowed. I think it would offend too many of the woo-meisters who seem to be Huffington’s base. I gave up on even their political coverage when they turned into a partisan shill during the primaries. There’s a difference between biased and sucking up, and Arianna and company seem to not know when to stop (they need to stop while they can still see daylight.

  4. #4 Blake Stacey
    April 27, 2009

    The astronomer Phil Plait, who once wrote a science column for the HuffPo, now says,

    I am embarrassed I ever wrote anything for HuffPo, which is now a cesspool of misleading misinformation.

  5. #5 Michael Sky
    April 30, 2009

    You must be a doctor of Name-calling. Real professional.

    Speaking of professional, her first listed qualification is Licensed Acupuncturist. Acupuncture has been, along with herbs and physical education, the medical system in China for several thousand years. Seems to be working for them. I guess you think its woo-woo quackery.

  6. #6 littlejohn
    April 30, 2009

    Who the hell grants a doctorate in homeopathy? I’m serious. Does anyone know where she got her “degree?”

  7. #7 Frac
    April 30, 2009

    Argh. The Facepalm. She has failed!

  8. #8 spudbeach
    April 30, 2009

    To quote #6:

    Acupuncture has been, along with herbs and physical education, the medical system in China for several thousand years. Seems to be working for them.

    Wow. I didn’t know it had been “working for them” for over 2000 years. You mean that in 500 CE they could cure a bacterial infection? That they had beaten tuberculosis in 750 CE? Oh, wait, that they had eliminated smallpox before 1300 CE? Oh, wait, my bad, you must have meant they had figured out how to do coronary artery bypass graphs and neurosurgery by 1800 CE?

    Oh, none of the above? I guess that traditional chinese medicine isn’t working for them. I prefer my medicine to have actual results, thank you.

  9. #9 Geogge Burdell
    April 30, 2009

    Please search “Acupuncture Ineffective”.. there are a great many studies of a great number of conditions that have proven all acupuncture is ineffective. Recent information shows that acupuncture is as succesful as a placebo..

  10. #10 kay
    April 30, 2009

    Hello,

    Do you know where to find different chinese medecine as Snake wine ? I already own this one:
    http://www.asiansnakewine.com

    But looking for different types of natural medecine.
    Thanks for help.

    (by the way I found your website on Google when looking for Snake wine bottles)

  11. #11 Brian Boonstra
    April 30, 2009

    Acupuncture has been, along with herbs and physical education, the medical system in China for several thousand years. Seems to be working for them.

    No, no. The acupuncture is completely ineffective! It’s the seal testicles, bear gallbladders and snake tongues that have given China the tallest, healthiest population in the world.

  12. #12 Michael Sky
    April 30, 2009

    It is a meticulously mapped system, takes years of study to master, and approaches the body differently than we do in modern america. This will come as a shock to some of you, but there are other valid approaches to life (India also has a thousands year-old system: ayurvedic). The measure of it’s success is not whether they could do heart surgery or use penicillin, but what were the outcomes. When factoring for social conditions — poverty, available nutrition, and degree of social strife — they’ve done very well with their medical system, for thousands of years.

    The arrogance of american medical boosters given the sorry state of health in this country is mind-boggling.

    Most of those you ridicule are folks like myself who were doing poorly with the mainstream approach, were not being helped by our doctors — were in many cases being hurt — so we sought out alternatives. The basic message of just about every alternative (and I’m not defending the whole field) is that the individual take charge of his own health rather than trust it to a bunch of arrogant experts.

    Works for me (40+ years since my last visit to a doctor or hospital).

  13. #13 spudbeach
    April 30, 2009

    Dear Michael Sky;

    Saying “actual medicine doesn’t cure everything” is not the same as saying “alternative medicine cures anything”. I would agree on the former, but disagree on the latter.

    Before we go any further, if you could provide me one, just one, condition that is authentically, emphatically, totally cured by traditional chinese medicine, I would agree with you. But until you show me a condition that can be prevented (like vaccinations prevent polio / smallpox) or cured (like antibiotics cure skin infections) to the same extent that modern actual medicine does, I’m just not going to believe you.

    Science can be described in many ways, and among them is “science is the way we work to avoid fooling ourselves”. I agree that taking charge of your medicine and health feels good, but “feels good” is not the same as “works”.

  14. #14 mwb
    April 30, 2009

    Life persisted on Earth for more than three billion years without medicine, so I guess that makes ignorance more efficacious than science, as long as you ‘look at the outcomes’ without employing any actual looking.

  15. #15 Marla Brunker, NYC
    April 30, 2009

    Michael Sky – NCCAM has spent millions testing acupuncture, working on the same assumptions as you have, since its inception in the early 90s–trial after trial, year in, year out, practitioner after practitioner, crossover double-blind after crossover double-blind.

    They still haven’t given up. Like you, they want it to work.

    But they’ve come up with bupkis.

    It’s not because they weren’t trying. If you knew anything about science, you’d know that if they’d found some real evidence it worked better than placebo, they’d be breaking out the champagne.

    Acupuncture is a dry hole.

    As Lao-Tse once said, a foolish belief, held by thousands of people, is still a foolish belief.

  16. #16 Michael Sky
    April 30, 2009

    The proof is in their long history. If they did not have a solution to skin infections and the various common diseases they would have perished long ago. Or they would be a sickly, bent and crippled culture. Which they most emphatically are not.

    What they do is not as absolute take-this-pill-to-cure-that-illness as what american medicine does. But if the illness never shows up, or if it is easily handled with a combination of smart diet and herbs, then it works. You can call it whatever you want.

  17. #17 Aaron
    April 30, 2009

    I daresay that there are an awful lot of species that have survived an awfully long time without medicine of any kind. Including humans. If a culture were to die off entirely because it couldn’t survive common diseases, then it probably wouldn’t live long even if they did have medicine.

  18. #18 PalMD
    April 30, 2009

    It is a meticulously mapped system, takes years of study to master, and approaches the body differently than we do in modern america.

    To quote Dr. Harriet Hall (real doctor):

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

  19. #19 Tom Linklater
    April 30, 2009

    The proof is in their long history. If they did not have a solution to skin infections and the various common diseases they would have perished long ago. Or they would be a sickly, bent and crippled culture. Which they most emphatically are not.

    This is such a tangled mess of failed reasoning and ignorance of pathology I’m not even going to go near it. What I will say is that you’re like a lot westerners who have a very narrow view of non-western cultures. I’m guessing that you probably have a well-worn copy of Siddhartha on your bookshelf, too.

  20. #20 parse
    April 30, 2009

    Please search “Acupuncture Ineffective”.. there are a great many studies of a great number of conditions that have proven all acupuncture is ineffective. Recent information shows that acupuncture is as succesful as a placebo..

    But aren’t placebos often effective?

  21. #21 John Davis
    April 30, 2009

    You have to admit the guy brings up some cool stuff!

    RT
    http://www.anonymity.ru.tc

  22. #22 Michael
    April 30, 2009

    All of these claims about the long history of chinese medicine and it’s effectiveness would be equally accurate if you took every instance of the word chinese and replaced it with “pigeons”. Pigeons have a long and distinguished presence on planet earth. They are perfectly healthy and have no need for antibiotics or coronary bypasses, or any medicine at all. All you need to do to be as healthy as a pigeon is crap on statues and eat pastry crumbs off the ground at outdoor cafes.

    Luckily for us humans, we used our larger brains and invented the scientific method. Using this amazing invention, we can actually TEST what works in an UNBIASED fashion. Accupuncture and homeopathy are two of the things that we’ve found DO NOT WORK when tested rigorously. They are simply a holdover from the time when there were no effective medicines, and all drugs were placebos. Placebos do work better than nothing, it’s just that they suck compared to actual drugs that have been found to work better. The human body is capable of healing itself, if given time. Many conditions get better on their own, eventually. Accupuncture is just another version of the rainmaker scam. Man promises rain, if it does happen to rain, he takes the credit. If it doesn’t, well, it doesn’t always work the first time, but for an additional fee, I’m happy to try again…

  23. #23 beinghuman
    April 30, 2009

    Parse, it is as effective as placebo thus it is the placebo effect, not the medication. So, the medication is ineffective.

  24. #24 giorgio
    May 1, 2009

    The debate about “alternative (eastern)” and “conventional (western)” medicine is misunderstood but it basically rests on their aims.

    Eastern medicine strives to improve the quality of one’s life whilst western medicine strives to improve the quantity.

    A western doctor will go to great lentgh not to let a patient die, often inflicting great pain and suffering. An Eastern doctor will accept that death is a component of life and will try to ease the passage.

    I would suggest that in this context, acupunture beats chemotherapy hands down.

  25. #25 dguy
    May 1, 2009

    Kay,
    No snakewine, but if you swing by Huffington Post, I’m sure they have snake oil to offer.

  26. #26 Pete Dooley
    May 1, 2009

    Foot swollen, pain bad, can’t walk, Gout bad. Local doctor no help. Go to local accuputurist. Needles inserted, swelling goes down, pain subsides. You can’t get more basic than that my “Science” bloggers. It happened to me. Three days later swelling back.

    NOW.. part two, local doctor suggests another doctor to help with gout. Doctor two discovers high blood pressure subscribes drugs.. pressure down.. no gout attacks.

    AND part three.. I mention to doctor that lowered blood pressure seems to keep gout in check… He looks at me and goes Huh?

    We all have a long way to go.

  27. #27 Nomen Nescio
    May 1, 2009

    It is a meticulously mapped system

    so were Lowell’s Martian canals.

    it is terribly easy for us fallible humans to draw meticulous maps of things that aren’t there. part of what the scientific method does is try to compensate for this tendency. that part is necessary.

  28. #28 beebeeo
    May 1, 2009

    @giorgio
    “Eastern medicine strives to improve the quality of one’s life whilst western medicine strives to improve the quantity.”
    That is simply not true and you are creating a false dichotomy.
    Chemotherapy is an interesting case and as simple as you might think.
    It is the ratio between risks & side effects associated with the treatment and the total benefit you get from a treatment that are important.
    You also have to take into account whether the intent of giving the therapy is to cure or to reduce pain and increase quality of life. Individual patients have the right to make these risk benefit evaluations for themselves and should do so given that they get good information from their doctors.
    Some patients might choose not to take chemotherapy.
    However, a lot of patients will opt for chemotherapy even if it would only provide a relatively small increase in the likelihood that the patient is cured.
    You see, a lot of people will prefer to have an even slightly greater likelihood to live for another 20 years or more even that means that they will go through a procedure that has a lot of side effects.
    Isn’t it also quite cynical to say: “An Eastern doctor will accept that death is a component of life and will try to ease the passage.”?
    Say, how exacly does acupuncture increase the quality of life better than gemcitibine for terminally ill patients with pancreatic cancer ?

  29. #29 Who Cares
    May 1, 2009

    @Peter Dooley:
    What you tell is an anecdote. This has no value for science. From what you tell it is equally possible to conclude that:

    You went to your doctor,
    Did not get better immediately,
    Went to the acupuncturist while at the same time stopping the doctors medication just at the time it started working
    Several days later your original medication stops working.

    This is the reason to test things like acupuncture they want a lot of people with the same type of pain/illness and see what happens when one group is put on a verified cure and one on the acupuncture.

  30. #30 ScepticsBane
    May 2, 2009

    Well well well, here we have MIKE, who does not like all those FAKE HuffPO PSEUDO EXPERTS.

    Perhaps then, he will also aim his displesre at Dr. Edzard Ernst, MD, who has absolutely no advanced degrees nor training in Homeopathy, Acupuncture, nor, as far as one can tell from his CV, ANY alternative system of medicine. Oh yes, he did take the introductory course in Homeopathy as part of his medical education – how nice, but other than his position as the world’s first “Professor” of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (how, one wonders, did this book writing, publicity seeking, self promoting guy ever get THAT position), Ernst has about as much expertise in Homeopathy as Olie Wendell Holmes, in my opinion.

    Want MORE PSEUDO EXPERTS in Alternative Medicine – Try PalMD or AbelPharmboy.

    Neither of them appears to have a clue as to what any of it is all about, and still blindly keep applying their knowledge of Apples to Oranges. Similar things and yet…..DIFFERENT. Oh darn it. Perhaps a double blinded placebo controlled randomized test for those two on how Homeopathy cannot possibly work by known pharmacological mechanisms, and that therefore most if not all of their criticisms can fly right out the sceptic’s window, into the trash bin like previous sceptic nonsense regarding how pyloric ulcers could not possibly be caused by bacteria, might be in order.

    What is needed in evaluating Alternative medicine are REAL SCEPTICS – people who have actually cracked open a Homoepathic repertory, read and understood the experiments of M. Ennis and can read and hypothesize the conceptions published in articles by Dr. Rustum Roy, who is, by the way, a REAL scientist and, unlike Dr. Ernst, wrote a REAL science book, an internationally respected textbook on crystalline chemistry, rather than some popularization co-authored with a science “writer” whose last major work was a book about cryptography and secret codes.

    The Huffington Post? I like it and will keep reading it. It does a good job of offering alternative viewpoints, and most especially, of putting the ONE VIEWPONT IS ALL I NEED HORSE BLINDER MENTALITY espoused by PalMD and Abullfarmboy in its proper place as the one sided biased view that it is.
    Huffington Post’s experts seem as least as good as any I’ve seen here and I say that in all “Ernstness”.

  31. #31 TXMarko
    May 2, 2009

    Another item to consider –

    Question: Do you know what they call the guy (or gal) who graduates at the very bottom of his or her class in Med School?

    Answer: Doctor.

  32. #32 Abel Pharmboy
    May 2, 2009

    Thank you, ScepticsBane, for the clarity with which you present what appears to be an argument of some sort. You do realise that TYPING IN CAPS is the web equivalent of yelling, right?

    Well, you may be surprised to learn that the much-maligned NCCAM finds my alternative medicine expertise worthy of inviting me to serve as a grant reviewer. I have also devoted over 20 years of my life to studying plant-based natural medicines.

    Edzard Ernst is a remarkable, critical, and clear-thinking scholar with over 500 papers in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. I don’t think I know what you consider a REAL science book is but Ernst has also published with Simon Singh the acclaimed book, “Trick or Treatment: Alternative Medicine on Trial.” It is quite good. You should read it. Ernst is perhaps that most even-handed and knowledgable commentator in this area anywhere in the world.

    I must say that I am honored to be lumped together with my amazingly talented and compassionate physician colleague, PalMD. I also thought that “Abullfarmboy” was a clever play.

  33. #33 mike
    May 15, 2009

    ScepticsBane. Are you really that thick? The RCT can test any intervention, medical or otherwise. There’s no reason why it couldn’t test a business theory or compare types of education, for instance. It is absolutely perfect for rubbish like most alternative medicines.

    Basically your 21st century human brain has failed you, and you have revealed yourself as a pre-Enlightenment medieval credulous cretin. What a shame.

  34. #34 sözlerimiz
    May 15, 2009

    Erich, just before A(H1N1) made the headlines my son (at University) had a week-long bout of severe GI trouble of the which-end-gets-the-toilet-first variety, combined with similarly severe muscle aches etc — but no fever. School NP didn’t even screen him. A few days later his roommate had high fever and other flu-like symptoms and was isolated on policy.

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  43. #43 Eugene,Sarah&Family
    January 3, 2010

    Given the current economic health care reform status it seems that most medical opinion over homeopathy has subsided here, bloggers quiet considering the last post was of September 26th 2009 and here it is now January 3rd 2010. Now… let’s consider the one who started this heated topic… the topic that seems to divide the masses much like the abortion debate, where sides are picked based on emotions and speculations rather than facts, experience and logic. Mike, your views on career advancement are as follows:
    “As the reader correctly notes, a Ph.D. will be at least five years of more work and stress for less pay than a qualified lab tech. Actually, it will be more closer to ten years, and you might need to relocate a couple of times. It doesn’t sound like that’s what the reader wants to do.
    To get a Ph.D. (in biology anyway), I think it requires four things:
    1) A passion for biology. It has to go beyond ‘somewhat interesting.’
    2) A willingness to spend a lot of time wanting to solve a particular problem.
    3) A desire to live the ‘life of the mind’–you have to be really intellectually curious, and that curiosity has to be your lodestar.
    4) This is the most important: you have to be willing to prioritize #1-3 above many other things, such as where you live, job stability, setting aside retirement income, and so on**. Worse, to capitalize on the Ph.D., at least in academia, you will have to keep prioritizing those things until you get tenure (business and non-profits can be a different matter).
    I would also add that I’ve seen too many Ph.D.s who, upon graduating, are little more than glorified lab technicians. They haven’t been rigorously trained in any intellectual sense (they are supposed to be doctors of philosophy). Since the reader is already doing that (and enjoying it), why suffer through the Ph.D.? It definitely should not be the new B.Sc. or M.S.”
    Why suffer through the Ph.D? Thousands of years of Chinese history are in question through your eyes and yet you are not even committed to 10 years of scientific based research education. I think that it should be noted that you MIKE listed 4 reasons why one would want to obtain your Ph.D. The first was a passion for biology, which you clearly have. Second was the “willingness to spend a lot of time wanting to solve a particular problem”. Again, your dedication to lab research shows that willingness. Your third reason was a “desire to live the ‘life of the mind’–you have to be really intellectually curious, and that curiosity has to be your lodestar”. This blog in and of itself shows that curiosity to be your lodestar. As far as reason number 4, any student pursuing a Ph.D must prioritize and sacrifice. Each of those students faces the obstacle of becoming another “glorified technician”. Every physician has faced these obstacles. The difference in those doctors and “glorified technicians” is that forth step and that forth step boils down to one thing… laziness. The physician does not suffer through 5+ years of education and sacrifice to blog… that physician suffers through 100+ years of education and takes the next necessary steps to make their education work towards the betterment of mankind in one way or another. This faster, quicker, easier method that western doctors seem to have figured out has been thrown into the mainstream without any consideration of side effects and/or associated debilitating conditions. As far as disproving homeopathic medicine, I ask you… have you ever experienced homeopathic medicine? It’s easy to sit back and say that it’s witchcraft, that it’s not a “provable” way of treating this or that. Ask the people that it’s actually worked for, not the ones who have taken the medicine that doctors have prescribed before researching their homeopathic alternatives. Ask the ones whose sons have been cured of asthma, whose daughters have been cured of gastrointestinal disorders that traditional “Western” doctors could not cure… whose infants have been smoothly transitioned through the traumas of teething, chest colds and infant anxieties. Your opinions seem unfounded Mike, they seem the falsities of someone who has never experienced the wonders of homeopathy. Now, as a practicing family of homeopathy, we have reaped the rewards of such methods. We are not, however, discouraging the methodology of Western medicine. We are simply saying that there are a vast array of conditions/ailments for which homeopathic medicine works wonders. It seems that from your point of view, you are of a Western medicine mind discouraging the use of ANY alternative methods based on no real truth at all. You should really open your mind to the possibility that there is more to medicine than medicine itself. There are alternatives out there that work IN ADDITION TO Western medicine… not IN PLACE OF Western medicine. It’s just a thought…
    Much peace, love and happiness…
    The McPatterson Clan.

  44. #44 jump higher
    September 16, 2010

    There’s a difference between biased and sucking up, and Arianna and company seem to not know when to stop (they need to stop while they can still see daylight.

  45. #45 tütüne son
    February 18, 2011

    Who the hell grants a doctorate in homeopathy? I’m serious. Does anyone know where she got her “degree?”

  46. #46 camsex
    August 11, 2011

    Who the hell grants a doctorate in homeopathy? I’m serious. Does anyone know where she got her “degree?”

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