You knew it had to happen: A quack likens "Western medicine" to the subprime mortgage mess

After having posted about Jenny McCarthy, my brain hurt so much from the neuron-apoptosing idiocy that she always delivers that I decided I needed to move on to something that wouldn't assault my reason and quite so much. So I headed on over to that uber-repository of quackery and paranoid conspiracy theories, Mike Adam's Natural News.

It's true. Jenny is so dumb that Mike Adams looks intelligent by comparison, and that's saying a lot. Well, not really. In actuality, they're both black holes of negative intelligence, sucking all knowledge and science out of whatever environment self they land in. When you're looking at the relative potency of one black hole over another in creating an event horizon of stupid, past which no intelligence unfortunate enough to wander near can escape, differences don't really matter that much. What I'm talking about is an amazing bit of twisted analogy creation by that wizard of woo-ful lies, Mike Adams, entitled Why the Institutions of Western Finance and Western Medicine are Both Doomed to Fail.

Did you know that "Western medicine" is like the U.S. financial system right now? Mike Adams tells us so, listing seven reasons, of which I'll discuss a few:

1. #1 They're both based on fraud and deception

Both Western Finance and Western Medicine are fundamentally based on fraud. The fraud of Western Finance is that you can create money from nothing and everybody can get rich by selling each other fictitious financial instruments that have no connection to reality. The fraud of Western Medicine is that everybody can get healthy by taking fictitious patented chemicals (pharmaceuticals) rather than addressing fundamental issues of nutrition, exercise and exposure to consumer chemicals.

Don't you just love this straw man? "Western medicine" does not claim that everybody can "get healthy" by taking pharmaceuticals. One can argue that it may not always value lifestyle changes and healthy living as much as it perhaps should, but claiming that it totally ignores such issues, as nutrition and exercise is such a misrepresentation that it makes me at once laugh and almost cry to contemplate it, especially the part where he likens the mortgage-backed financial instruments that have nearly destroyed our economy to FDA-approved drugs:

Western Finance's fraud is committed by high-brow academics who contrive complicated derivative financial instruments that are then presented to the investment community as things of real value (which they are not). Western Medicine's fraud is committed by high-ego medical researchers who selectively massage clinical trial data to create fictitious "scientific" results that are then presented to the FDA as fact. The FDA then "approves" such drugs which are sold to the public as medicines that treat "disease" (which are also fictitious, by the way; being voted into existence by a panel of experts who benefit from such disease definitions).

I love it how Adams keeps claiming that diseases are fictitious. I suppose that cancer doesn't exist and kill millions, or that infectious diseases don't still claim the lives of millions as well. If you really want high-ego fraud, look no further than quacks who say with a straight face things like that diseases are "fictitious."

Number two is the same old whine in which he claims that "Western" medicine treats only the symptoms, just like the proposed $700 billion financial bailout, naturally:

The $700 billion financial bailout created in Washington is a classic example of Western Medicine's "treat the symptoms" mentality. Rather than address the root cause of the problem (the Fed's control over the money supply and the very structure of fractional-reserve banking), politicians seem satisfied to rig up a series of financial bandages that allow them to pretend the problem has been solved.

In Western Medicine, this "treat the symptoms" approach is the de facto treatment philosophy taught in medical school: Ignore the real cause, don't bother educating patients about diet or exercise, and simply prescribe pharmaceuticals to mask the problem for as long as possible.

Actually, I don't entirely disagree that the bailout is a "treat the symptoms" sort of Band Aid. I do disagree with the same old alt-med refrain that scientific medicine only "treats the symptoms." In actuality, it's "alternative" medicine that "treats the symptoms," usually with the placebo effect and "Western" medicine that goes after the causes. It does this by trying to understand, through science, how the body works, how its functions go awry, and how to intervene to fix what's wrong. It is scientific medicine that goes after the "real" cause of disease, not Mike Adams' woo. Indeed, his brand of woo postulates causes for disease that either don't actually exist or don't cause the disease attributed to them, such as heavy metal toxicity, imbalances in qi, or excess acidity.

Reason #3 is the one that almost resembles reality in that it says that both financial institutions and the medical industry exist to enrich themselves. One can argue that big pharma is too influential, but it's definitely falling into the deep end of the paranoia pool to say something like this:

Raids against vitamin companies, supplement companies and natural product retailers are organized and conducted by both the FTC and FDA, two regulatory bodies that engage in outright extortion, threatening natural health companies with bankruptcy and criminal charges if they don't pay outrageous fines based on fabricated accusations of things like "linking to a scientific journal from your website" (which is now a crime in the U.S. if you sell nutritional products).

No, the FTC and FDA go after quacks who claim they can cure diseases with their supplements or other and cannot produce the scientific evidence to support their claims, hiding instead behind the Quack Miranda or vague claims like "boosting the immune system."

Reason #4 is the most amazingly silly one of them all:

#4 They're both based on arrogance and the worship of money

Arrogance runs high in Western Medicine, where clever men at the top of the pharmaceutical companies think they've outsmarted mother nature by brainwashing consumers into thinking the human body is born with deficiencies of patented synthetic chemicals. This same arrogance is woven directly into the fabric of Wall Street, where greed-based financial players convince themselves they're so brilliant that the mere idea of how to make money is now recorded as a bankable asset on the balance sheets (that's the Enron style of accounting, which has now infected all of Wall Street).

The arrogance in both these industries is astounding. Neither Western Finance nor Western Medicine believes there is such a thing as a reality that shall ever hold them accountable. They don't believe in gold, or real food, or cause and effect. Things are things because they say they are, and nothing is subject to economic reality, scientific scrutiny or real-world common sense.

The stupid, it burns.

Arrogance? I'll show you arrogance. Arrogance is thinking that you know the cure to so many diseases without knowing anything about them that has anything to do with science. Arrogance is clinging to prescientific ideas of disease that have not stood the test of time and science, all the while insisting that you have The Answer and science does not. Arrogance is accusing those who have actually studied disease and physiology of "arrogance" for simply applying what they know while spouting off ignorant, conspiracy-laden gibberish about "natural cures."

Now that's arrogance. As is this:

#7 Both are doomed to collapse

The final parallel between Western Finance and Western Medicine? They're both doomed to collapse.

That very idea was considered absolutely loony just 30 days ago. But I've stuck to this prediction for five years: Western medicine is doomed to collapse. And now, all of a sudden, more people are waking up and seeing their fictional world crumbling around them. The near-collapse of the global financial system, it seems, has rudely awakened a few people who were sleepwalking through life, intoxicated by visions of free riches, free pharmaceuticals and life in the land of zero accountability.

Reality, though, is a stubborn thing. You can daydream all you want, but the laws of economics cannot be violated any more so than the laws of human physiology. When there's a poison in the system (biologically or financially speaking), something must be done to eliminate the poison and bolster the health of the patient. Sadly, Washington remains in the business of denying the problem, which makes it all the more difficult to try to solve it.

I agree that reality is a stubborn thing. You can daydream all you want about "toxins" and the need for "detoxification"; substances becoming stronger in healing potential with dilution and shaking; the ability of magicians--yes, magicians, what else are they to be called, except that they can't do real magic or even real illusions?--to wave their hands and manipulate a person's life force in order, in essence, to perform faith healing; or the claim that liver flukes cause cancer and all disease, but reality has a funny way of intruding. You can claim that cancer can be cured by natural diets, exercise, and supplements, but damn if that cancer will almost certainly have other plans. But that same cancer very well might "listen" to a combination of surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy. You can say that AIDS can be cured by "natural" remedies, but HIV will behave according to the laws of science regardless, and protease inhibitors will stop it.

Indeed, I would make an analogy myself. The subprime crisis was the result of arrogance and a fundamental misunderstanding and underestimation of the effect of packaging so many bad loans into risky financial instruments. The vast majority of CAM therapies (other than some herbal remedies; after all, medicinal herbs that work are, in fact, drugs) are based every bit as much on magical thinking, while a profound misunderstanding of the "laws" of human physiology lays on the side of CAM advocates, not scientific medicine. CAM advocates think they know how the human body works, but they are almost always profoundly wrong in their beliefs. The ironic thing about it is, they are so vociferous in accusing "Western" medicine of the very ignorance and arrogance they possess in such abundance.


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"Arrogance runs high in Western Medicine, where clever men at the top of the pharmaceutical companies think they've outsmarted mother nature by brainwashing consumers into thinking the human body is born with deficiencies of patented synthetic chemicals."

This claim always strikes me as particularly bizarre, because so much alt med is about supplements. Hard core alties are forever popping pills, and their cabinets are jam-packed with supplements and vitamins. Oh, that's right, they're natural.

As for the rest of the tripe, ignorance (of medicine, financial systems, anything) is certainly no barrier for Mike Adams.

I particularly like this part: "...the Fed's control over the money supply..."

Does he honestly think that things would be better if the government DIDN'T control the money supply? Has he even read history? Does he realize what a MESS the US/colonies were in before the Fed was established--when every state (and even some cities) had their own currency, and you couldn't spend NY money in PA?


Its not about popping pills. It about popping pills from the right "manufactures".

Every time I read something like this, I wonder how the author would react when I mention that I tried for years to treat my anxiety without medication, and the SSRIs were prescribed only when we decided the counseling, diet and exercise* could only help so much in bringing down stress enough that I could function. And my insomnia was treated by 'maybe you shouldn't drink so much tea, sleep in on weekends, and do stressful things right before you try to sleep -- maybe the stimulants, messed up Circadian Rhythm and stress are messing with your sleep?' before saying 'well, if that doesn't work, there are OTC sleep aids'.

* All right, the diet advice consisted of 'hey, you remember the food pyramid from Health class? Good idea.' and the exercise advice consisted of 'get some, preferably in the sunlight, since you spend 8 hours in a windowless box and live in a basement apartment'.

Funny how my 'Western medicine' doctors seem to be quite willing to try to figure out what causes something, and offering things that I don't have to pay out to 'Big Pharma' for before resorting to the drugs. And, I'm even using mental illness, which is one of those complicated things for which treatment still being refined. If I came in with something like strep throat, saying 'well, your sore throat is caused by bacteria making a mess of things -- here is something that will kill the bacteria' would be a lot better than giving me diet and exercise advice.

By Becca Stareyes (not verified) on 02 Oct 2008 #permalink

Purely out of curiosity, since this moron thinks that disease is fictitious, does he also deny the existence of disease-causing microorganisms?

By Ktesibios (not verified) on 02 Oct 2008 #permalink

Yeah. Lovely. 'Treat the symptoms', my ass.

It's pretty obvious to say, but you know what, why not? I've met a few doctors, in my time. My experience is they absolutely try to figure out what the hell the root cause of whatever ails you is, subject, of course, to the ugly reality that sometimes that might take a few visits. Treat the symptoms is the last ditch effort, when there's nothing else you can do, or when hell, it's not gonna hurt to do that, *in addition* to trying like a bastard to get at the underlying causes, anyway.

And as for the drug thing, I think they know damned well the first thing any doctor is going to say if you come in overweight is: eat better, exercise more. If you're sick, get some rest. And if it's viral, no antibiotics for you. And if you smoke, stop. If you drink too much, stop that, too. And if you're living on fast food, don't. (And, to use the standard vaudeville line: if it hurts when you do that, stop doing that.) The drugs have their place, surgery has its place, and it's incredible, now, what they can do versus what was possible even a few decades ago, but talking you out of having the coronary or the stroke or the tumour in the first place is generally gonna be the first move on the part of any doctor I've ever met. I think I've probably been asked by doctors a coupla dozen times if I smoke (I do not). If there are crazed pill-pushers out there telling people to bathe in PCBs, nicotine, and greasy mystery meat hamburgers daily, and here, take this pill to make it all better, I sure haven't met them.

I guess I hallucinated all those segments in class where they taught us about "non-pharmacologic treatments" for common illnesses. You know, sodium restriction and weight loss for hypertension, increased soluble fiber intake for hypercholesterolemia, cold compresses for sinus pressure or acute injuries...'d think that if pharma "made all its money" indoctrinating people they'd start with pharmacists.

Indeed, I would make an analogy myself. The subprime crisis was the result of arrogance and a fundamental misunderstanding and underestimation of the effect of packaging so many bad loans into risky financial instruments.

I would argue that it is the lack of regulation and transparency that allowed a situation where base human greed and stupidity could run riot. We see exactly the same thing in the practice of CAM. In countries, such as the UK, where there are strict laws prohibiting adverts claiming to cure cancer without robust evidence, CAM practitioners do not advertise or practice on the basis of such claims (they would be in court if they did), in countries where there is no restriction they do. The ideology or motivation hasn't changed, only the degree of freedom to advertise. I'd argue that to reduce the harm caused from some of the less appealing aspects of human nature we need stricter laws to prevent health claims (or financial claims). If an advertising claim is not supported by robust scientific evidence then it should be illegal and those behind the claim should be fined, heavily. CAM should only be practised by those with proven expertise in science based healthcare and under strict regulation, ie doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, to prevent ignorance leading to disease or death.

Such a situation would instantly remove most of the potential for harm that is inherent in CAM.

"Western Finance's fraud is committed by high-brow academics...."


Yes. Because all the academics I know are sitting on their yachts, drinking G&T's, and patting bottoms after making a killing in the mortgage loan market. /sarcasm

I've worked my share of time in hospitals, alongside doctors, and even in aspects of training interns and residents, and I've yet to meet the MD that doesn't complain about the inverse.... patients hoping for pharmacological interventions that will eliminate the necessity of the behavioral changes their doctor would love them to make. I've yet to meet a doctor happy to add a medication because the patient they have worked with, possibly for years, requires it due to a continued failure to move a little more, eat a little better, and drop a few pounds. For many, this is a very sad thing - I don't know where he gets his ideas about Western Medicine not caring about those issues.

I love it how Adams keeps claiming that diseases are fictitious.

It stands to reason that for Adams and his ilk, the increase in mean life expectancy and the decrease in infant mortality - to name but a couple of the most salubrious achievements of "Western" medicine - are fictions as well.

A pox on them and all their houses - and I invite them to treat said pox with their placebo of choice.

>>>The subprime crisis was the result of arrogance and a fundamental misunderstanding and underestimation of the effect of packaging so many bad loans into risky financial instruments

One can go even further back and say it's a result of greed and Wall Street/ stock market pressure pressure to grow revenue. If a company did X million in business in 2006, and predicted that for 2007, they were going to do exactly the same, they'd have probably gotten hammered on the market for failing to grow their revenue. Banks, looking for a way to grow revenue and make more money, found ways to loan money to people who couldn't afford conventional loans, or to loan more money to people than they otherwise could afford, assuming that they couldn't loose because real estate's "safe as houses" and the underlying assets would never depreciate or fail to out pace the economy as a whole.

"Western" medicine isn't too bad off, thank-you very much.

By Karl Withakay (not verified) on 02 Oct 2008 #permalink

I don't know where he gets his ideas about Western Medicine not caring about those issues.

If he didn't believe that, he'd be stuck with cognitive dissonances on all sorts of things that he's too invested in to question. The path of least resistance is rationalization -- he assumes that those who don't agree with him are either:

1) Ignorant: they don't know The Truth because they've never been told. Solution: preach.
2) Incompetent: They've heard The Truth but are too stupid/crazy to understand it. Solution: make fun of them.
3) Evil: they've heard The Truth and obviously understand it (e.g. Andrew Offit repeating their dogmas back at them) so they must be opposing it for nefarious reasons.

It's really the same exact "thinking" that all Holy Warriors go by. It's really no different regardless of whether the "preacher" is Adams, some wild-eyed mullah, or PZ Myers.

I've been using this model of "Holy Warrior Thinking" in the WooOSphere for at least a decade; I'm pretty sure Orac has seen it once or twice.

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 02 Oct 2008 #permalink

Funny he's against "Western Finance" when he's making money off supplement sales. What exactly is "Eastern or holistic finance" anyway? Should we barter with shiny rocks?

Hey Perky Skeptic, I bet Mike Adams has just the thing for your vitriol and rabies.

By Rogue Epidemiologist (not verified) on 02 Oct 2008 #permalink

That just blew my irony meter.

If you replace "Western Medicicine" with CAM I'd agree wholeheartedly with Mike Adams:

fraud, deception, worship of money, doesn't actually do anything, exists only to self reinforce CAM idealogy...

"Purely out of curiosity, since this moron thinks that disease is fictitious, does he also deny the existence of disease-causing microorganisms?"

I don't know about Adams personally, but I've heard CAM and germ-theory deniers claim that bacteria and other pathogens are a effect and not a cause. Basically, the body gets sick, then the germs show up and hang out.

I know, but it's what they believe.

By D Johnston (not verified) on 02 Oct 2008 #permalink

I lost a friend recently who was trying hard to convince me that some South American wonderjuice was what I should be taking to fight my prostate cancer instead of the drugs my oncologist is giving me. When I asked about her miracle product, she couldn't even pronounce the name of the berry or root or leaf from which it was derived.

When I asked, strictly out of curiosity, what this uber-tonic might cost, I learned I would have to finance a second on my house to acquire the first liter.

What a freaking joke! I told her adios!

Thanks for your good message!

Comedy Writer Jerry Perisho
Author: "I Barf, Therefore I Am"

In the minds of conspiracy theorists everything is connected.

I've read HIV denialists weave the supposed 9/11 fraud into their bizarre alternative view of reality.

By Chris Noble (not verified) on 02 Oct 2008 #permalink

Calling Mike Adams a quack is insulting to quacks. The recent ghoulish rants about celebrities with cancer outstrip any quack around.

"You can daydream all you want about "toxins" and the need for "detoxification"; substances becoming stronger in healing potential with dilution and shaking; the ability of magicians"

You forgot "adaptogens". If alties tout a particular herb or supplement and have no plausible mechanism for how it might work (and of course no real evidence that it works, period), it is labeled an "adaptogen" that "normalizes" body functions.

I'm not sure what "adaptogen" would be effective in preventing dangerous Mike Adams-induced brain imbalances. The rabies vaccine may be our only hope.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 03 Oct 2008 #permalink

Reason #3 ignores the fact that Evil Big Pharma is a Big Investor in vitamin companies, supplement companies and "natural product" companies.

OMFG... my eyes crossed so hard reading the stupid, I was afraid they'd get stuck that way. Hurts...

By liveparadox (not verified) on 03 Oct 2008 #permalink

Neither Western Finance nor Western Medicine believes there is such a thing as a reality that shall ever hold them accountable. They don't believe in gold, or real food, or cause and effect.

Italics mine.
Oh-ho, Mr. Adams is evidently also a proponent of the gold standard (possibly even the gold coin standard), which is entirely consistent with the rest of his skewed perception of what constitutes "reality." It may seem more realistic to have the value of your currency based on a precious metal, but only if you refuse to consider that gold has very little intrinsic value, and is only worth something as long as people agree its worth something. In this regard, it's no different from fiat currency. When there's a food shortage, gold-backed currency loses its value against food items just as rapidly as fiat currency, because you can't eat gold. Also, a rapid increase in the supply of gold will also result in massive inflation if the supply of goods and services remains relatively stable, which is what happened in Spain during the 16th and 17th centuries, leading to (literally) centuries of economic malaise. And that's just one example of nasty things that can occur when the size of your money supply isn't related to the size of your economy, one of which is particularly relevant to recent developments.

If you have economic growth, but your supply of gold--and thus your supply of currency--doesn't keep up, you're going to get deflation, as the amount of goods and services increases but the amount of money with which to purchase them lags behind. That means that if you have debts--e.g. a mortgage, a home equity line of credit, a car payment or two--those debts are going to in effect get heavier as the value of every dollar you owe increases. In other words, the kind of people who are getting screwed by the current credit crunch would not be better off under a gold standard system of currency. Except if there were a recession, of course, but that would hurt in a different way, so no improvement there either.

The gold standard closely resembles sCAM in that arguments purportedly in favor of it really only consist of criticisms of the predominant system (be it fiat currency or science-based medicine); when you actually look at the "alternative" itself, you find it's actually completely worthless.