White Coat Underground

Wouldn’t it be cool if after we died we didn’t…die? Just like in the fairy tales, we could go to some place where we play harps on clouds and eat marshmallows for breakfast; we could play with our dead dogs, and somehow manage to live in harmony with all of our dead lovers. Unless we go to a place of flames and unending agony. Or maybe we become squid-like creatures in the oceans of Titan–all are equally (un)likely.

Except to those so mired in thanatophobia and fantasy that they can no longer reason properly. It’s not like this is a new problem, but my eyes were bleeding after seeing Deepak Chopra on Larry King the other night (transcript here). Chopra launched into his usual vitalist idiocy.  The reason I even care about this is that Chopra promotes himself as a doctor and often applies his dualist religious beliefs to medicine.  Eww.  

Chopra’s approach is always one of unfounded assertion and ridicule.  He asserts his belief, and then ridicules those who ask him what the hell he’s talking about.  Here, let him show you:

There’s a lot of interesting science that our consciousness, which is the place where we perceive, think, emote, imagine, have insight, intuition, choice-making — that this part of us is not a product of our brain.

You know, scientists have, until recently, believed that, you know, just like your gallbladder secretes bile and your pancreas secretes pancreatic juice, your brain secretes imagination…


Really?  What kind of evidence would that be?  And yes, that’s a bit over-simplified but real doctors and biologists do know that “your brain secretes imagination”—because it’s true.

The mind, that consciousness, the one I’m talking to right now is not a product of the brain, but is localizing itself through the brain, just like people who are seeing us right now on their screens, you know, we’re not in their television boxes. We are coming through these airwaves and they are perceiving us.

Can anyone explain to me what separates this guy from the dude on the street with the tinfoil hat?  Anyone? Bueller?  

But wait, Dinesh D’Souza has Deepak’s back:

The question of whether something comes after death — I don’t — you know, whether you’re a believer or whether you’re a skeptic, you’re going to have to wonder about that. It’s going to make a lot of difference in — in how you live now. 

And I think what makes our time exciting and unique is that now there’s actually some evidence about all this — not only near-death experiences but evidence from physics, evidence from biology, evidence from the science of the brain — all of which seem to suggest that the old idea that simply our mind and our brain are the same and — and — and when we die our brains obviously die. 

So, if that’s the case, then there’s no life after death.

But there are new possibilities created by modern knowledge. And that’s really what — what I think is exciting today.

But there are new possibilities created by modern knowledge. And that’s really what — what I think is exciting today.

And what is all this modern, science-y news that confirms these quasi-religious fantasies about mind-body dualism?  The panelists go off on the idea that dying is a process, not a singular event, and since  that’s the case, you can never say anyone is truly dead—a sort of Zeno’s paradox or Miracle Max version of mortality.  And the rhetorical hand-waving continues, thanks to the dumbest man on Earth:

CHOPRA: Well, birth and death are space-time events in the continuum of life. So the opposite of life is not death. The opposite of death is birth. And the opposite of birth is death. And life is the continuum of birth and death, which goes on and on.

And the opposite of intelligent is “Chopra”. 

The entire discussion is ridiculous.  Religious folks can and will argue forever about “soul”, but for those of us who must operate in the real world, it’s all a pipe dream (in the “opium” sense).  It is irrelevant what Chopra, the Pope, or Chad Orzell’s dog thinks about the unconfirmed and unlikely existence of an aferlife.  The idea violates our operational and theoretical understanding of the universe.  It has no relevance in medicine or science.  No one rises from the dead, no one comes back to tell us how the chocolate is in heaven, and no extra-terrestrial squids fly back to Earth to tell us about their happy reincarnation on Titan.  

If folks like Chopra want to contribute to human health they can stop feeding these fantasies, roll up their sleeves and get in the trenches with the rest of us.  

Comments

  1. #1 Calli Arcale
    December 23, 2009

    I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that everybody who believes in an afterlife does so because of thanatophobia (an irrational fear of death — note to those who point out that death is a rational thing to fear, a fear only becomes a phobia when it crosses the line and becomes debilitating). There are lots of motivations for believing in an afterlife. For me, it’s just part of the package of Christianity, and honestly, not that important to me — I believe strongly that we’re supposed to focus on making life better here on Earth, not on pursuing some mystical afterlife experience where everything will be all better.

    The one thing I’m confident about with respect to the afterlife (if there is one) is that all depictions of it are probably wrong. ;-)

    Many who believe in an afterlife do so not because they are afraid of dying but because it fits into a larger mythological picture. The Mayans venerated the dead and had a rather morbid preoccupation with the subject in their artwork — but I don’t think they were generally afraid of death. Really, quite the contrary, if you look at their warlike culture. The same was true of the Vikings. Rather than fearing death, they embraced it. The Mayans embraced it as just a natural phase in life (part of their cyclical philosophy), and the Vikings . . . well, the embraced it in a manner more reminiscent of a jihadist. Dying in battle was a glorious thing, and you’d be rewarded by going to Valhalla, where you’d get to fight and die repeatedly until the Ragnarok, when you’d fight the army of the dead from Niflheim while the Aesir and the Vanir fought and the world ended and you died for good. (I guess that’s one of the interesting things about the Viking afterlife myths; they didn’t believe in eternal life. They believed in a very long afterlife, but one with a definite and rather gory end all the same. And you’d participate in that gory death even if you didn’t die in battle and go to Valhalla, because those who died in other ways went to Niflheim, to dwell until Hela called them all to board Naglfar, a ship made from their own fingernails.)

    Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that Chopra is completely bonkers on the subject — and most subjects, really. (I acknowledge the possibility that there may be a subject on which he is reasonable.) In Chopra’s case, he’s clearly fitting it into another larger philosophical picture — the idea that there is some sort of a life force which energizes the body, repairs it, envigorates it, etc. Sort of a cross between the Force and the Quickening. :-P I don’t think his belief in the afterlife is due to any fear of death either; it’s more part and parcel of his belief that we exist independently of our bodies.

  2. #2 Tian
    December 23, 2009

    So do all of you think we came from some great ape? Come on, enough with your opinions on religion. Stick with what you guys do best, and that is Practice Medicine.

    How do you know their is no life after death? I would like to see the double blind on that one.

    So tell me, do all MD’s really think we came from some great ape? It would interesting to know. All I see is attack and attack on this site. I guess this is a better place to release your emotions than when at work. As many of the comments here, would more than likely land you in the Admin office.

    To set the record straight this is how the average person thinks.

    If my back hurts I am going to go and see a Chiropractor
    If I am interested in vitamins and herbs I am going to see a Naturopathic Physician, as it would be safer than taking over the counter on my own.
    If I have been to the two above and it has not worked, and I want to try a new approach then I am going to see a licensed acupuncturist
    When I am sick, need medical advise, or have an emergency then I am going to see a medical doctor.

    One thing I never understood, is why don’t medical doctors put all of these practitioners under the same roof? Now wouldn’t be the best approach, at least everyone would have an opportunity to learn from each other, and it would give the others a chance to learn from a medical doctor.

    Now go and heal someone and make the world a better place

  3. #3 delphi4c
    December 23, 2009

    well, also ridiculous is medicine’s constant pursuit of keeping humans alive as long as they can, simply because they are technologically able to do so (while children elsewhere starve to death no less). And then worse yet, disposing of most of those humans in ritual casket burials, obscenely wasteful of space and resources.

  4. #4 Sigmund
    December 23, 2009

    I was most disappointed with Sanjay Gupta in this interview (for those who havent seen it I posted it on youtube and linked from my blog
    http://sneerreview.blogspot.com/2009/12/is-there-life-after-woo.html)
    D’Souza did what he usually does, try to sound scientific with his standard Roman Catholic apologetics, and Chopra did what we expect of him – try to obscure the question with platitudes about consciousness.
    Gupta, on the other hand, should have called the others when they started down the line of supposed new scientific evidence backing their dualistic notions.

  5. #5 El Picador
    December 23, 2009

    To set the record straight this is how the average person thinks.

    It is not very nice to call the average person a bloody idiot.

  6. #6 Calli Arcale
    December 23, 2009

    delphi4c: you say that as if modern medicine is monolithic. In fact, there is a large body of work in modern medicine towards improving decision-making at the end of life — knowing when to switch to palliative care. I think most of the hopeless life-prolonging efforts likewise stem less from fear of death than from denial; families don’t want to accept the severity of the situation. And that’s understandable; the tricky part is learning how to help them through that, and there aren’t easy answers. My grandma refused to put together an advance care directive when the social worker was urging her to do so. It is now too late, as her dementia has advanced to the point where she is unlikely to understand the point of it. And my grandfather isn’t likely to sign it on her behalf, because of things which are too personal to relate here. Which means that if she crashes, they’ll definitely do a full code on her. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

    Sigmund — Sanjay Gupta has been disappointing in many regards lately. He’s rather accommodationist when it comes to woo.

  7. #7 Karl Withakay
    December 23, 2009

    “I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that everybody who believes in an afterlife does so because of thanatophobia ”

    There are other reasons as well. One of them is personal incredulity and a lack of any referential understanding. People just can’t conceptualize non-existence or an end to their existence. I can’t fully conceptualize it either, but when I try to explain it to people, I say the following:

    “You ask me what I think happens to us or what it will be like after we die. I ask you, what happened to you or what was it like before you were conceived?”

    I got into a discussion with a commenter over on SBM once about the after life, and he tried to end it with the statement, “Well, when we’re dead, we’ll know for sure.”, which showed that he completely missed the point that my position was that when we’re dead, we won’t exist to be able to know anything.

  8. #8 dean
    December 23, 2009

    well, the first two posts were certainly packed with stupid. it appears, sadly, that chopra and others of his crap-spewing sort aren’t in danger of running out of sheep to fleece.

  9. #9 Bob
    December 23, 2009

    Tian provides such a plethora of bad thinking; let’s see how much can be teased apart…

    I doubt anyone believes humans come from great apes though there’s overwhelming evidence that humans and apes shared a common ancestor. Heck, humans share genes with yeast so there’s a common ancestor there too, just much further back. Details are arguable but the notion of common descent is settled science.

    Science doesn’t claim there’s no such thing as life after death. Rather, religious folk claim there is but have yet to provide any evidence of that claim. Life after death is inconsistent with observed reality. If you still believe it is so, the burden is on the believer to provide evidence of life after death, not science to disprove it.

    I can’t speak to what the average person thinks and I suspect neither can Tian. However, I can tell you why the modern medical standard of care doesn’t include chiropractic, naturopathy, or acupuncture – it’s because none of them show any efficacy beyond that of a placebo, i.e. they don’t work. Chiropractic may help with lower back issues, no different from what you might get from a physical therapist. Beyond that, chiropractic is a dog’s breakfast of crazy theory that adjustments to the spine can cure everything from asthma to flatulence to cancer (look up ‘subluxation’ and see if you can get a concise, sensible definition.) Naturopathy deals with herbs of unknown composition and potency, occasionally spiked with real drugs. Three hundred years ago naturopathy may have made sense, but today there’s nothing that naturopathy can do that a pharmacy can’t and what you get from the pharmacy will be cheaper, safer, and more effective. And acupuncture doesn’t really do anything. And this isn’t a matter of opinion – there’s simply no evidence to show that any of these alternative therapies work better than placebo.

    Actually, modern medicine does put these all these practitioners under the same roof – the one with the big blinking sign reading QUACK. Further, I don’t believe the alternative practitioners even want to be under the same roof as conventional doctors – people with actual medical expertise might see how ineffective and expensive alternative treatments are.

    I’m not a hater, really I’m not. If any of these treatments actually worked, I’d be all for them – we could save a lot of people tons of pain, suffering, and money. But the fact is there is no evidence that any of them work better than a sugar pill or a hug and no amount of wishful thinking will change that. And since we know that these techniques don’t work, it would be irresponsible, cruel, and unethical to pretend they do and to delude people with false hope and false treatment.

  10. #10 Carol
    December 23, 2009

    I agree. Chopra does a lot of rhetorical hand waving, and even though I don’t want to target him personally, it is disappointing hearing such sophomoric language from a doctor of medicine, and frustrating for the rest of us eager to explore the nature of consciousness scientifically. You might think I would be sympathetic to Chopra, I have practiced TM for over ten years, but as a student focusing in neuroscience who is not religious, and does not ascribe to any religious or spiritual organization, he reflects poorly on people like me. If one wants to claim a non-physicalist view of consciousness, they damn well at least attempt to use their logical capacity for argumentation to make their point, or else say, they don’t know yet. Making sweeping generalizations and baseless claims is injurious to Chopra’s cause. If you don’t want to do the math, don’t pretend your you’re doing math.

  11. #11 Marnie
    December 23, 2009

    I find the whole bastardization of science to try to support some wishy-washy-woo idea of an afterlife so infuriating it’s sometimes hard to keep my cool when it comes up AGAIN.

    Frankly, I don’t think these people think it through. At what point, from single celled organism to Homo Sapien does this magical special “self” that can survive after death start applying? Is it an evolutionary trait? Which plants and animals get it? If it’s not a genetic trait, what makes a living thing eligible for this ability? Or does everything, even things without brains, like corn and viruses, have this magic power? And where did it come from?

    And this self that survives to be reborn, how is it maintained from death to rebirth? Is rebirth instant? Can it sit around indefinitely? Can it jump species? Can it convert into something else like all other energy and matter we know of? Is it a measurable substance? If you have a brain injury does the post brain injured self survive or the pre injured self?

    It’s possible people’s self survives death and it’s also possible that it can be reborn, but right now, one has to make some seriously huge leaps of faith to try to explain it scientifically, based on the laws that apply in the universe we live in. If it’s not testable and doesn’t adhere to anything we understand or know about our universe, it’s fiction, or philosophy, at best. It is not, however, science.

  12. #12 Mickah Wallace
    December 23, 2009

    I would like to meet Chopra face-to-face and slap the silly out of him.

  13. #13 Tian
    December 23, 2009

    Ok Bob, can I call you Bob, that is your name right Bob?

    So you seem to take on the idea that only Bob knows what works and does not work? Hmmm

    As far as acupuncture goes, you clearly are an uneducated person. But I think I understand your point of view. It does not make you money. So you are going to bash it. It threatens you market share so you are going to bash it.

    You use the word Quack like your a duck? So let us look deeper into the this word and were it originated from:

    “The original “quacks” were dentists who advocated the use of mercury amalgam, and most dentists are still advocating its use today. Quack is short for “quacksalber,” the old German word for mercury.”

    Many physicians outraged by mainstream tactics to surpress have concluded this with regards to the term Quack:

    “Nowadays the word “quack” is applied to the competition of allopathy and the drug medical establishment. “Quack” is the allopathic codeword for competition.” Very interesting indeed

    Or how about this mind set:
    “Anyone who tries to hang the label “quack” without personal investigation to the point of proof beyond reasonable doubt must be regarded as a scoundrel until proven otherwise.”

    Well Bob you really seem to know it all don’t you. One thing is for certain Acupuncture is going to be around long after we are gone. Also you take on the results of study are a little short of any merit. Remember were not talking about hearsay evidence, RIGHT?

    Now with regards to hx of our health care system maybe Bob, could explain why physicians use to advocate cigarette smoking for tx of conditions? I would really like to see the Double Blind on that one?

    Now with Chiropractors, I understand your positions, in fact I see it clearly. When a competitor enters the same market, one would clearly do one of three things,
    A. Advertise they are better than the new guy
    B. Create a plan to shut them down or put them out of business (Art of War) great book
    C. Realize that they are not going to succeed in eliminating them, so seek to establish Strategic Alliances with them

    It seems like Bob is still on the B side.

    Now with Naturopathic physicians. They pretty much have the same scope as a family physician. So they are more than likely to represent the greatest threat. So Bob, seeing this realizes the impact on market profits and percentage factors of such. Decides to denounce the competition as inferior to his services.

    That Bob is what we call a For Profit Free Market Society.

    So what does this type of market bring us today? Well physicians no longer hold the keys for patient care, instead someone like Bob who is angry with the world, sitting at a desk drinking coffees decides that no the patient does not need the care that their PCP is asking for. So we get a big DENIED. Hmmmm
    Meanwhile for this person great work, his boss will get a great bonus at the end of the month and might share a little with the guy of gave it to him. While the physician is left without the tools needed to provide the care he knows the patient needs. In the end the patient drives home and either does not improve or improves but not as quickly, as if the physician was allowed to practice medicine the way he knows how.

    Then this same physician gets a visit from a pharma rep, so he takes a few minutes to listen to him. The pharma rep goes on to tell the physician that this great new drug Bioxx (I will not mention names but I think you know the one I am speaking of) is the best new tx option on the market and is backed by strong double blind evidence. So the physician starts prescribing it. Then his/her patients get better from pain, but develop cardiac conditions. We all know what happens in the end?

    So Bob as you see, their is a lot of kooky stuff out their and it exists in allopathy also.

    But Bob seems to be the kind of guy that thinks well this guy is bad so the whole race of the person must be bad or the whole profession must be bad.

    Well Bob in the real world your argument hold no merit and must be classified as hearsay, so to speak.

    Hey Bob show me all the evidence you have, I would really enjoy TEASING it apart.

    Hey leave Chopra alone, this guy is AWESOME

  14. #14 MonkeyPox
    December 23, 2009

    Stupidity matched only by verbosity. You just can’t make this shit up.

  15. #15 Marnie
    December 23, 2009

    Wow, Tian about the only “fact” you provided, the root of “quack” is both irrelevant to the conversation and based in partial truth which is pretty much the topic at hand; that is, taking some small piece of science and warping it to suit your conclusion. According to Miriam-Webster, Dictionary.com and Wikipedia, Quack doesn’t have anything to do with dental work and in fact the root referred to someone who yelled to sell salves. Go ahead, we’ll wait while you look. :)

    The rest of what you state is odd ad hominem attacks at Bob and vague unsubstantiated proclamations. The fact that a wrong assumption endures (acupuncture will cure a multitude of ailments) does not give it merit and the fact that science changes its stance as it is better able to test a theory (cigarettes are healthful) is not a condemnation of all modern medicine.

    The question you should ask yourself is not, “why do I believe this treatment works?” but instead “What would prove to me that this treatment is ineffective?” For any treatment I concede to, I keep that in mind. And if evidence comes along latter that offers a better and/or safer outcome, I have no vested interest in staying with the old method I gladly choose the improved option. If nothing can convince you that a treatment is ineffective and if you dismiss evidence that other treatments are better, than you cannot call it science and you cannot expect others accept faulty reasoning to believe it either.

  16. #16 Denice Walter
    December 23, 2009

    Seriously,it was one of the worst woo-for-alls I’ve seen yet on Larry King’s(and that’s saying a lot: he’s had McCarthy & Co., Somers, etc.). Sceptic Michael(?) Shermer was surrounded. Is wish fulfillment the new guise of popularizing “science”

  17. #17 Dave
    December 24, 2009

    Tian,

    Family practitioners are either MDs or DOs who have completed an additional three years of residency training, passed the United States Medical Licensing Exam — Steps 1, 2a, 2b, and 3 — and passed the family practive board exam. Included in the scope of practice is pediatrics, adult medicine, obstetrics — inlcuding c-sections –, and some have limited training in general surgery. Naturopaths have a much more… flexible route of training. My down stairs neighbor, when I was in med school, was enrolled in a 4 year naturopathic medical school that was very similar in its organization to the allopathic school I was enrolled in. That was in Oregon. Here in Michigan, the naturopaths I have met seem to have gone to a correspondent / night school for training. The end result is a quality of training that is highly variable and questionable. To say a naturopath has the same scope of practice as an FP is laughably ignorant.

    Oh by the way, some primatologists would classify our species as ONE of the great apes if it were not for chauvinism favoring H. sapiens as unique.

  18. #18 T. Bruce McNeely
    December 24, 2009

    Tian:

    Now with regards to hx of our health care system maybe Bob, could explain why physicians use to advocate cigarette smoking for tx of conditions?

    What the fuck are you talking about???

  19. #19 Pareidolius
    December 24, 2009

    Oh, c’mon McNeely, you know the hx and the tx (you show him something shiny while I get the net).

  20. #20 WMDKitty
    December 24, 2009

    *waves shiny things*

    What I don’t understand is, why do people fear death? It is simply a part of life, we all consume food, we all become food for something else, it’s how nature works. What’s to be scared of? I rather enjoy the thought that, in death, I will nourish new life.

  21. #21 Joe
    December 24, 2009

    @17 Posted by: Dave | December 24, 2009 12:10 AM “Naturopaths have a much more… flexible route of training. My down stairs neighbor, when I was in med school, was enrolled in a 4 year naturopathic medical school that was very similar in its organization to the allopathic school I was enrolled in.”

    Wow, sorry- but you really drank the kool aid. go to http://www.naturowatch.org and read just how absurd naturopathy (at their faux universities) is. And don’t miss the article by Arnold Relman (MD) on their “textbook.”

    Think about it, how can they truly study basic sciences and then believe in homeopathy, acupuncture, iridology, Chinese “medicine” etc. The answer is, they cannot. Dr. Atwood’s primary monograph (at naturowatch) cites a prominent ND who advocates treating asthma with a bath to which hydrogen peroxide is added. Apparently the ND doesn’t know that peroxide and O2 are different and, anyway, the term for people trying to absorb oxygen from water is “drowning.”

    Although NDs endorse every form of quackery, many of them focus their attention on undefined “toxins” and their clearance from the colon by enemas, laxatives, fasts etc. That nonsense was abandoned by medicine 80 years ago.

    Naturopathy does not compare favorably to medicine in any way. Also note that “allopathy” was a derogative term invented by a quack to describe medicine.

  22. #22 Katharine
    December 24, 2009

    Dude, we don’t just come from great apes (all members of Hominidae are great apes), we ARE great apes.

  23. #23 Katharine
    December 24, 2009

    FWIW, a HUGE part of the reason why my contempt for religion and its followers grows every day is the fact that they don’t listen to science. I don’t care about what emotional succor it brings some people, it’s succor borne from falsehood and people need to grow the fuck up.

    This goes not only for actual religions, bizarreness that they are, but the quasi-religion that the alternative medicine movement appears to have formed around its own figurehead, the Nebulous Toxin.

  24. #24 Barbara Morgan
    December 24, 2009

    There is so much about our world, our universe and ourselves that we don’t know despite the vast knowledge and massive scientific discoveries that have taken place.
    I can’t say 100% whether the soul survives or not, but to dismiss the theory completely is ignorance within itself.

    Again, there is so much we don’t know.

  25. #25 MonkeyPox
    December 24, 2009

    Barbara, that’s the same reason I’m still waiting to find my unicorns. Everyone tells me they don’t exist, but really, no one has proved it to me yet.

  26. #26 daijiyobu
    December 24, 2009

    @Pareidolius said “you know the hx and the tx.”

    Reminds me of the line in the Terminator Sarah Connor pilot episode: “you know, the robots…from the future…”

    @Tian said “that Bob is what we call a For Profit Free Market Society.”

    There are higher ethical standards than those of commerce / free-market, whereby ‘the buyer must beware’. The label “profession” that naturopathy uses is quite a ruse. A profession has to fulfill the social contract ‘the client’s interests are primary’.

    Naturopathy does not live up to that promise, and it can’t because its central premise that ‘what is science is the same as that which is nonscience’ is absurd.

    @Dave said “to say a naturopath has the same scope of practice as an FP is laughably ignorant.”

    Hear, hear.

    It’s all about the robots. You know, from the future.

    -r.c.

  27. #27 Marnie
    December 24, 2009

    @Barbara You said:

    I can’t say 100% whether the soul survives or not, but to dismiss the theory completely is ignorance within itself.

    Actually, a theory that cannot be tested in any way should be dismissed. Any scientifically based hypothesis must be testable and refutable, as well as repeatable by anyone. A soul may survive the body but at this point, no theory has been floated that can be tested. Scientists have no choice but to dismiss it. To do otherwise is “ignorance within itself.”

  28. #28 Donna B.
    December 25, 2009

    #27 — there’s no reason for science to “dismiss” any theory that has not or as yet cannot be proven. Theories, hypotheses really, that have been proven incorrect can be dismissed. Those that we lack the means to prove or disprove do not fall in the same category.

    However, there’s little sense in trying to prove or disprove something we do not have the means to test, so shoving them to the far far back burner is definitely appropriate.

  29. #29 Marnie
    December 25, 2009

    @Donna B.
    Actually, while I appreciate what you are saying about the limits of human abilities and creativity of human thought to postulate beyond our limits to test, I humbly disagree with your premise that certain theories aren’t worth ditching.

    If a theory is not testable and offers us no way to advance any existing field of science beyond philosophical pondering then it is useless to science. There are an infinite number of untestable theories on various unobservable phenomenon and they are all equally valid until we can find a way to test one against the next. If an idea only offers people a sense of warm fuzzies and purpose in life, it’s spirituality.

  30. #30 Donna B.
    December 25, 2009

    Marnie, I suspect we’re saying the same thing with different words. I certainly don’t advocate science taking up the currently impossible. You are absolutely correct.

  31. #31 Marnie
    December 25, 2009

    @Donna B,
    Well, then, dammit, I agree right back :D

  32. #32 Joe
    December 26, 2009

    @ Donna and Marnie,

    While I hate semantics, I think part of the problem is the use of “theory” where you are discussing a “hypothesis” (as one of you observed) or “idea.” Karl Popper promulgated the notion that untestable hypotheses are not scientific; but he was a philosopher, not a scientist.

    There are two kinds of untestable hypotheses at any given time. One, for example, is the idea that “everyone has an undetectable soul.” Since it is by definition untestable, it lies outside the realm of science. The second is one whose testability lies outside the range of our current technology. That constitutes a challenge for the experimenter.

  33. #33 PalMD
    December 26, 2009

    I respectfully disagree. Untestable does not equal “outside the realm of science”. The concept of an immaterial soul, while not exactly unfalsifiable, can still be evaluated scientifically. Its existence would require us to toss out a lot of our current knowledge; it is inconsistent with what we know about our universe. It can be put in the category of “very very unlikely to be so”.

  34. #34 Joe
    December 26, 2009

    I said something defined as untestable (in my example I said “undetectable”) is outside the realm of science. That is how to decide between faith and science. But I really dislike philosophy and I cannot say you are wrong that an immaterial soul cannot still be evaluated scientifically.

  35. #35 Stephanie Z
    December 26, 2009

    Of course, anything defined as untestable is something that has no effect on our universe. Which is fine. People can believe in those unicorns if they want to.

    The problem is anything so defined becomes irrelevant and not worth spending any time, energy or money on, and nobody seems to be content with that. They keep wanting to insist on relevance of some sort, which changes the definition back to testable. You don’t both get to claim that something is testable and that it makes even the tiniest change in the world.

  36. #36 Bob
    December 27, 2009

    [Apologies for length. This was aimed at me and while I appreciate the support from others, I feel a duty to respond directly.]

    Ok Bob, can I call you Bob, that is your name right Bob?

    Yes, in fact it is.

    So you seem to take on the idea that only Bob knows what works and does not work? Hmmm

    No. Truth should not depend on the observer. If you looked closely at the scientific process, you’d know that it’s designed to overcome personal bias, since all observers have some bias. If independent observers can come to the same conclusion using the same method, it’s likely the conclusion is correct and free from bias.

    As far as acupuncture goes, you clearly are an uneducated person. But I think I understand your point of view. It does not make you money. So you are going to bash it. It threatens you market share so you are going to bash it.

    No medical theory or practice makes me any money aside from whatever my retirement account invests in. Since it’s the fund managers’ decisions, not mine, no, I don’t have any financial interest in the outcome. However I do have an ethical interest in the outcome – the greatest happiness, longevity, and wealth comes when we spend our medical dollars wisely on treatments that work.

    That said, acupuncture has not been shown to work better than placebo. I would appreciate a list of papers that show otherwise.

    – irrelevant bits on the phrase ‘quack’ omitted –

    Well Bob you really seem to know it all don’t you.

    No; that’s why I subscribe to the scientific method. If I know others have used the same filter to evaluate evidence, I can generally trust their results. I don’t need to take results on faith or rely only on my limited anecdotal experience. Further, I don’t expect anyone to take my position on faith; there is evidence to support my position. Can you say the same?

    One thing is for certain Acupuncture is going to be around long after we are gone.

    It took a long time for people to accept the heliocentric solar system, Newton’s laws of motion, the germ theory of disease, continental drift, the reality of the city of Troy, and the bacteriological origin of ulcers. Most people with a modicum of education about biology realize that there’s no evidence and no theoretical basis for acupuncture, chiropractic, reiki, homeopathy or the bulk of ‘alternative’ medicine. It takes time and effort for these truths to filter into the general population.

    Now with regards to hx of our health care system maybe Bob, could explain why physicians use to advocate cigarette smoking for tx of conditions? I would really like to see the Double Blind on that one?

    Can you explain this more fully? I don’t believe I’ve seen any reputable physicians or organizations advocate cigarette smoking.


    Now with Chiropractors, I understand your positions, in fact I see it clearly. When a competitor enters the same market, one would clearly do one of three things,
    A. Advertise they are better than the new guy
    B. Create a plan to shut them down or put them out of business (Art of War) great book
    C. Realize that they are not going to succeed in eliminating them, so seek to establish Strategic Alliances with them

    It seems like Bob is still on the B side.

    A competitor would provide the same or equivalent service to an established enterprise. Chiropractors do neither. They either provide the same service as a physical therapist (which is not in fact chiropractic) or they provide their bogus subluxation theory manipulations (“I can wiggle your vertebrae to cure your kidney stones”) which have no effect on the underlying condition whatsoever, at least not beyond placebo. The ethical issue is that they accept money to claim to cure a condition they do not in fact cure. That is, in a word, fraud.

    Now with Naturopathic physicians. They pretty much have the same scope as a family physician. So they are more than likely to represent the greatest threat. So Bob, seeing this realizes the impact on market profits and percentage factors of such. Decides to denounce the competition as inferior to his services.

    How is a naturopath in any way comparable to a general practitioner? Spending four years studying herbalism is in no way the equivalent of a four year degree plus medical degree plus residency plus board certification. It’s not a matter of profit, it’s a matter of experience and education. Again, the services of a naturopath are not a substitute for those of a GP.

    That Bob is what we call a For Profit Free Market Society.

    We do not have a free market in health care. If anything, we (the US) have a mixed economy, part planned economy and part oligarchy. Tell me the last time you had a real choice in health plans (say) provided by an employer. Likely the economic reality you faced was a choice between their system or nothing.

    And regardless, the form our medical economy takes bears little on the effectiveness of chiropractic, acupuncture, naturopathy, etc.

    So what does this type of market bring us today? Well physicians no longer hold the keys for patient care, instead someone like Bob who is angry with the world, sitting at a desk drinking coffees decides that no the patient does not need the care that their PCP is asking for. So we get a big DENIED. Hmmmm

    What makes you think I’m angry with the world? And what makes you think I have so little compassion for others? Why do you feel I should be demonized as such a straw man? Have I not treated you and your position with some modicum of respect, avoided calling you an idiot or worse? Have I not simply responded to your position with facts and a skeptical outlook? We might disagree, but we don’t need to ascribe to our opponent any malice or tar them with ridicule or insult. Believe me, I can dish it out with the best of them but in this case there’s no need. If I don’t convince you, at least others can read this exchange, research the facts, follow the argument, and decide for themselves.

    – deletia –

    So Bob as you see, their is a lot of kooky stuff out their and it exists in allopathy also.

    But Bob seems to be the kind of guy that thinks well this guy is bad so the whole race of the person must be bad or the whole profession must be bad.

    Well Bob in the real world your argument hold no merit and must be classified as hearsay, so to speak.

    Hey Bob show me all the evidence you have, I would really enjoy TEASING it apart.

    You are the one making the claim that chiropractic, acupuncture, etc. work. The burden is on you to show these work better than placebo. Papers listed on PubMed haven’t shown any evidence that they work better than placebo so starting with the null hypothesis, they are not effective. Nothing you’ve said has moved the ball out of your court. Put up or shut up.

    Also, I’d suggest that you reevaluate the accuracy of your psychic powers. You have no idea what I think or believe aside from what I write.

    Hey leave Chopra alone, this guy is AWESOME

    For some definition of AWESOME.

  37. #37 PalMD
    December 27, 2009

    Chopra is awesomely dangerous, awesomely idiotic. When he simply advocates silly superstitions, he’s amusing at best, when he advocates changing our view of medicine by applying his superstitions, he’s dangerous.

  38. #38 BostonShrink
    December 27, 2009

    Remarkably, the passion of the arguments above stimulated by the critique of Chopra echo the tension between Descartes’ and Spinoza’s philosophy from the mid 1600′s. For a thorough and thoughtful discussion that can illuminate the philosophical underpinings behind the threads up until #37, look at Dimasio’s Descartes’ Error and Looking for Spinoza. Spinoza essentially wrote that everything that exists has an explanation…and that we did not have to resort to superstition to find an explanation. Chopra seems to not be familiar with Spinoza.

  39. #39 Vicki
    December 28, 2009

    We are great apes, or great apes are hominids, depending on your angle. Homo is the senior taxon, not Gorilla or Pan. (The tendency to splitting rather than lumping in classifying hominids probably puts as at the family rather than genus level, though: if Lucy and Ardipithecus are in different genera, so are the living great apes.)

    It’s amazing how many people can start with a reasonable idea, that whether there is life after death should affect how they live here and now, and then jump to such a weird conclusion.

    We know this life exists. As far as anyone can prove, this is all there is. That’s an argument for doing it right this time, for living well, treating other people right, and trying to make a better world. If you waste the years you have here, nobody is going to stamp your card, or regenerate your hit points, or otherwise send you back to try again.

  40. #40 Calli Arcale
    December 30, 2009

    I got into a discussion with a commenter over on SBM once about the after life, and he tried to end it with the statement, “Well, when we’re dead, we’ll know for sure.”, which showed that he completely missed the point that my position was that when we’re dead, we won’t exist to be able to know anything.

    I always like to say that when we die, we’ll either find out what happens or we won’t. ;-) The pointless absurdity of the statement amuses me.

  41. #41 Tian
    December 30, 2009

    Bob sorry for the outburst. When you originally stated that “I am going to have fun Teasing this apart”, well I took it the wrong way. Thanks for you professional response back.

    My brother is a MD so we tend to argue a lot. I will not get into details with it, but lets just say it can really heat up.

    I respect your opinion and thank you for respecting mine.

    With that said, I like natural medicine. I like having another option when my brother who thinks he knows it all, cannot fix the problem I am having.

    I hope one day that all will be under the same roof. I think it would really be an awesome thing to offer.

    I hope more studies are done in the future with regards to acupuncture. My uncle has done some really amazing things for people with it. Including a few MD’s that did not think it would help.

    Happy holidays and soon to be new year