Early on in its history, I wasn't particularly thrilled with Wikipedia as a project or reference source. To put it mildly, I viewed the very concept behind the project with a great deal of skepticism, some of which was voiced nine years ago when a medical Wikipedia was proposed. In particular, the fact that anyone could become an editor and edit articles seemed to me to be a recipe for disaster. After all, it's the cranks and pseudoscientists who have a lot more time on their hands to edit than most experts, and they tend to be far more passionate about their favorite pseudoscience or quackery than the experts. I thought there'd be a lot of pseudoscience in a lot of articles.
Fortunately, my fears weren't realized, at least not to the extent that I thought they'd be. Wikipedia has its problems, but there's less pseudoscience in it than I had feared there would be. Wikipedia has standards and a cadre of regular editors who generally do a decent job enforcing standards. After all, if they didn't, quacks wouldn't feel the need to start their own wikis. Also, I must admit that Jimmy Wales, one of the founders of Wikipedia, has the appropriate attitude towards medical quackery and pseudoscience. Indeed, his response to a Change.org petition from a bunch of quacks complaining about Wikipedia's treatment of "energy psychology" was indeed heartening. Indeed, the exaggerated outrage of quacks and cranks in response to Wales' statement was epic. Even so, for topics that are prone to pseudoscience and quackery I always advise people to take Wikipedia entries with a grain of salt and seek to verify any statements of fact there using other sources.
Be that as it may, the anger of quacks due to Jimmy Wales' Orac-like attitude towards medical pseudoscience and quackery, as well as due to their perception of unfair treatment by Wikipedia, continues to this day, a year after Jimmy Wales' rejoinder to that Change.org petition. I learned this because I'm on the mailing list for what is arguably the wretchedest of the wretched hives of scum and quackery that populate the dark corners of the Internet, NaturalNews.com, and this time around it tells me of a hilarious Kickstarter project urging me to "support the book that exposes the bias on Wikipedia and takes a stand for the truth about alternative health."
The gauntlet is thrown down:
Wikipedia is on a misinformation campaign against alternative health and the healing arts. The public needs to know it. Natural health deserves fair representation.
We're going to set the record straight. We need your help and invite you to get involved in the process. Please check the various reward levels to discover how to participate...
Because of its massive search engine authority, Wikipedia entries often rank #1 in Google for specific health related searches. It is often the first information someone reads about a particular topic.
Given that high search engine results are often equated with high credibility, the public is likely to believe the falsities they are exposed to on Wikipedia.
Because Wikipedia promotes itself as an "encyclopedia" (with the goal to replace Encyclopedia Britannica) people often believe that what they are reading must be true.
The examples cited in the campaign made me chuckle. For example, there is this entry on homeopathy:
See what I mean? There's nothing there for even Orac at his most "militant" to disagree with. Homeopathy is pseudoscience. Ditto naturopathy:
Of course, naturopathy is indeed replete with pseudoscience and potentially dangerous treatments. So what's the problem? For these two examples, there is none. Now let's take a look at this one:
This, it would appear, is what hit close to home. I say this because the man responsible for this particular Kickstarter campaign is Mike Bundrant. I had never heard of him before, but it didn't take long for me to learn a bit about him. It turns out that he's the co-founder of the iNLP Center, which is an NLP training center that produces NLP practitioners. NLP, for those of you who might not be familiar with it, is indeed what is described in the Wikipedia entry above. It is a system developed in the 1970’s. It's based upon the idea that success can be achieved by modeling the language, behavior, and thought patterns of successful people. The last 40 years have taught us, however, that NLP is pseudoscience that has failed every test of its core precepts. It is, as Donald Clark put it, no longer plausible.
Depressingly, Bundrant appears to be a regular blogger at PsychCentral, which to me would be the equivalent of letting a creationist blog for Panda's Thumb or letting Andrew Wakefield blog for Science-Based Medicine. He's also a regular blogger at Mike Adams' NaturalNews.com, which should tell you all that you need to know about him. Let's just put it this way. If you think you run a science-based website and you have a blogger who regularly blogs for Mike Adams, you don't.
If you have someone on your staff who writes something like this, you don't:
Is Wikipedia really open collaboration of non-biased researchers who operate on an egalitarian, volunteer basis?
Not so much. The truth is far more interesting than that. Surely there are well-intended and neutral volunteers who write for Wikipedia. And there also exists a darker web of editorial trolls.
Authoritative editors get paid to post slanted information in favor of corporate interests.
Editors with an agenda seek revenge by posting outrageous, slanderous lies about people and disciplines they don’t like.
Hackers go wild on Wikipedia for SEO purposes and the pure joy of vandalism.
Ah, yes. The pharma shill gambit and claims that editors are posting lies about people they don't like, just as quacks like to post lies about people who refute their pseudoscience. (Yes, we're talking projection here, people.)
In any case, Bundrant is asking for $67,100 to complete and publish his book. As of last night, there were only less than $2,000 donated. What Bundrant claims that his book will do is this:
- Expose false information, distortions and omissions of relevant information regarding specific alternative health modalities (listed below).
- Prove Wikipedia's multiple pseudoscience claims wrong.
- Expose the hypocritical conflicts of interest and blatant bias of Wikipedia editors.
- Show how attempts to correct false information on Wikipedia are systematically stonewalled by higher ranking editors with an agenda of their own.
- Show how Wikipedia's treatment of the healing arts is a clear violation of its own editorial policy.
Some of the alternative health modalities that Bundrant plans on defending against the alleged depradations of Wikipedia editors include:
- Anti-GMO Movement
- Alternative Medicine
- Autism and Vaccines
- Holistic Health
- Dietary Supplements
- Ayurvedic Medicine
- Energy Medicine
- Applied Kinesiology
- Craniosacral Therapy
- Therapeutic Touch
- Orthomolecular Medicine
- Therapeutic NLP
- Energy Psychology
- Therapeutic Hypnosis
Wow. That's just about every quackery and medical pseudoscience I can think of, with perhaps the exception of traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and shamanism. Whatever. I'm half tempted to donate to the Kickstarter fund because I think this book should be awesomely bad in a hilarious way that almost makes me think it should be written and published. I mean, come on! He's asking for $23,000 for a "PhD level research team" to be employed for six months. Things must be worse than I thought for PhDs if you can engage a team of them for six months for a mere $23,000. That's chickenfeed.
But don't worry, Bundrant knows what he's about:
With this project, the biggest challenge is scope creep. Wikipedia has been a thorn in the side of so many in the alternative health and healing communities. Everyone will want to be represented in this book. We’ll do our best to represent the fields that we can, and will need to monitor the project so that it doesn’t become too large to deliver well and on time.
Actually, it looks as though Bundrant has already fallen victim to scope creep. That's a big list of quackery he intends to "set Wikipedia straight" on. It'll be interesting to see whether or not Bundrant makes his target by the deadline. He needs to raise $67,100 by May 6. His start hasn't been that ostentatious thus far.
Wikipedia is generally a very good resource, maintained by a cadre of dedicated editors. It's not perfect, and for controversial issues or topics where a large crank or quack contingent is active can be problematic, with edit wars and constant attempts to insert pseudoscience. That someone like Bundran can be so outraged as to try to write a book trashing Wikipedia for maintaining standards with respect to alternative medicine tells me that Wikipedia, for all its faults, must be doing something right.
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That's deeply ironic.
If the top search result was Natural News, as it was still recently for a number of specific alt-med-related topics, I guess this caveat doesn't apply...
Things must be worse than I thought for PhDs if you can engage a team of them for six months for a mere $23,000.
You're assuming that he would hire people who have a Ph.D. in a relevant subject, in which case $23k might be enough (depending on location) to pay one ink-barely-dried-on-diploma post-doc (not a team) for six months. But if he's planning to hire people with Ph.D. degrees either in humanities subjects (for which the job market really is that bad) or from Diploma Mills University, and hoping that nobody will notice, then it might work--for definitions of "team" that don't involve more than two or three people.
I know a residential construction contractor who has a Ph.D. in history, relevant to his colonial history hobby. He did construction work to pay the bills while he was earning the degree. He continues to do construction work because it pays better than any job he might get with his Ph.D.
Given Google's change in the way their rank medical information, I think he's screwed coming and going....
I have to admit, I had never heard of Rolfing. I had to look it up.
Of course, if you take the extra 7.5% or so extra payroll tax out (paying for both parts as an independent contractor), the salary would barely match the recommended first year salary for a postdoc, assuming no benefits.
Rolfing is an awesomely silly treatment from a strictly intellectual standpoint. It's not so silly, however, when it's claimed that rolfing can treat cancer.
Given that high search engine results are often equated with high credibility
By naive Web users, yes. Many users only look at the top two or three results of a search, and only the most dedicated searchers go on to even the second screen. But as you say, one must consider the source. Google's page rankings can be, and have been, gamed--there is an entire industry called search engine optimization which is intended to do exactly that.
As the great philosopher Paul Simon said, "Still a man hears what he wants to hear/And disregards the rest." So Mr. Bundrant would be quite happy to see NN, or certain other alt-med sites, be the top-ranked page for certain search terms. But he knows enough that Wikipedia is likely to be on the first page of results, even when it isn't the top result, so he realizes that his plan is doomed unless he can hijack Wikipedia.
Things must be worse than I thought for PhDs if you can engage a team of them for six months for a mere $23,000.
Jeffrey Beall @ Scholarly Open Access has thoughtfully provided links to paper mills and essay mills with names like "OneDayEssay".
I am sure their rates are competitive! And they offer money-back guarantees in the event of a non-passing mark!
Can't help but imagine the Monthy Python and the Holy Grail scene with the peasants. "HELP, HELP I'M BEING OPRESSED!".
Do do the bulk of the writing or to just hire on a few people for a couple of hours a week as advisors/consultants?
Given how hard grants are to get sometimes you might find a few woo friendlies willing to put in a 2% effort for a few months to cover the last bit of their salary the other grants won't if the institution won't cover the remainder.
Orac mentions medical wikis.
I have written quite a lot of the content of a UK medical wiki: http://www.ganfyd.org/index.php
hdb@8: Mr. Bundrant would be a candidate mark for that kind of website, except that he appears to be a native speaker of English, so he would probably be tipped off by a scholar named "Biblical Greek". (That's not his field, that's alleged to be his name, and he is claimed to be affiliated with "Standford [sic] University.") I think Kay Marie @10 may be closer to the mark: that Mr. Bundrant is looking for consultants, and may be able to find a few if he gets the funds.
Considering the vast swathes of absolute garbage clogging the remaindered bookstores (not to mention Amazon.com), it must say something when even the trashiest of quack publishers wouldn't throw him a rope; and all at such an UNBELIEVABLY LOW LOW PRICE too!
And to think our gracious host gives all his writings away for free...
Y'all missed it. The "team" is almost certainly Bundrant and his wife.
Perhaps they already have Ph.D.s, in something like Aura Energy Balancing, with a thesis about cleansing the water molecules in homeopathic remedies of their water-memory of having been sewage in their past lives. Or perhaps they'll acquire (buy) Ph.D.s in particle physics and synthetic biology. If they have a teenager, s/he will be promoted to Editor with a B.A. in mathematics from "a prestigious university" that runs on a website in the Bahamas.
But I have to differ about this:
Our strategic goal is to keep Wikipedia a quack-free zone, not to get into hissy-fights with quacks. It's all about quality vs. quantity. We're smarter than they are, but there are a lot more of them out there with the time to spend glucking-up the interwebs with pseudoscientific snot (and fetid dingoes' kidneys).
Wales made the big mistake of tossing them a virtual shopping cart full of red meat. That guaranteed they'd be back, and here they are.
What works is to mire them in treacle. Like so:
"Wikipedia requires that medical claims be backed by canonical status in science-based medicine or by peer-reviewed articles in journals that have contributed to the present canon." Period, end of sentence, no more need be said, and especially no emotional red-meat to attract a swarm of flies.
Then deal with each and every quackery-promoter who pops up, in a most bland and bureaucratic way: "Your material is intriguing but since it is outside the canon of science-based medicine, you will need to provide references from peer-reviewed journals that (etc.)." The quackers will think they can get in if they just try harder, but in the end, "Sorry, the reference you cited from the _Journal of Integrative Proctology_ does not meet our qualifications. Feel free to resubmit when you have more credible publications to cite."
One by one, mire them and bog them down and then turn them away. They'll have nothing juicy to use to stir up their flying monkey squadrons, no fabulously provocative quotes to rile up Thinking Moms across the land, and no "oppressors" to push against in fundraising scams for books. They'll look like they're trying to wage war against marshmallows. And that will make them look just plain silly until they slink back under the rocks (OK, under the vibrational energy-healing crystals) whence they came.
As a student Wikipedia has been a great help to me in the past and will continue to do so.It may not be perfect but its adequate and gives me the information I am looking for,most times.Instead of him trying to tear down what Wikipedia has been trying to build for so many years,why doesn't he come up with a better site that is counter-Wikipedia to prove what he claims to be an injustice.Wikipedia isn't perfect but it gets the job done,you got to take both the good and the bad.
Indeed. I have seen adjunct jobs advertised on my discipline's major listserve offering a couple thou per class per semester.
I don't think any of the humanities PhDs and soon-to-be-PhDs would ever stoop so lo as to work for a quack like this, though. We have (jokingly?) discussed actual prostitution as a possible career path in our darker moments, but never anything like this.
Well, Bundrant** isn't the only one.
Null keeps promising to do an expose of Wikip----- through his own team of research scholars- all PhDs and MDs -btw- and his team of lawyers,
because it's biased and paid for by Big Pharma.
HOWEVER the idiot-in-chief might be a bit biased himself because he lost his own $100 million defamation lawsuit against Wiki in 2009, having agreed to pay ( small) costs when it was dismissed. He was unhappy with the article's scoffing at his own doctorate and the fact that it linked to Quackwatch.
( see article on him and credential watch there).
** speaking of loons...
Unfortunately, this is not true of the Spanish version of Wikipedia. Quacks did have the opportunity to become senior editors (or however Wikipedia calls them) and their pages are full of s..t.
The French edition does seem OK, though. I
The cleverly composed single comment left on the Kickstarter page is from Wikipedian Lane Rasberry.
Wikipedia remains the world's most consulted source of information on alternative health. Anyone is invited to contribute to Wikipedia. I hope that the contributors to this book visit WikiProject Medicine, the forum on Wikipedia where health topics are discussed, to find a way to collaborate with the Wikipedia community in producing this book. Thanks for starting this project! I hope that the best possible information on alternative medicine can always be available to everyone."
Rolfing was one of the earliest woos I ever heard of--very popular around the time of great interest in “parapsychology” and “Chariots of the Gods”, Bermuda Traingle ideas, and all that sort of thing. It came out of the whold Esalan thing. There were (are?) all kinds of “bodywork” woos out there.
The movie 'Semi-Tough' with Burt Reynolds made fun of a lot of woo. IIRC, one of them was Rolfing. Or not. Fun movie.
"You're gonna get Pelfed."
"Not this Billy Clyde Pucket!"
I thought Age of Autism was the "wretchedest of the wretched hives of scum and quackery"?
MikeMa and JGC beat me to it -- Rolfing was satirized in the film North Dallas Forty, where it was called Pelfing. If I recall correctly, Rolfing involved a fairly strenuous and sometimes painful kind of massage. It sounds like the opposite of Reiki and the like.
Wikipedia is actually quite useful if you want to look up some protein. That's because a group of scientists seeded the pages of Wikipedia with thousands of proteins, and left them to be filled in by the experts. You can get information as to structure and function, along with molecular weights and often the crystallographic structures. The molecular weight part is a decent shortcut to checking on your Western Blot results.
Rolfing has been associated with the idea that painful memories are stored in various locales outside of the head and that they can be pummelled out. Wilhelm Reich and Fritz Perls advocated its use in psychotherapeutic interventions and it was popular at Esalen Institute.
As you can see, pseudoscience is not limited to SBM but permeates psychology as well.
I enjoyed the pricing of his legal review of his opus at $5,000.
If I recall right, the legal review of my first BMJ story about Wakefield cost $500,000
The legal review of my TV investigation cost nearer a million
Thereby increasing the amount of orgone energy circulating in the body or something, I presume.
A good friend of mine in Chicago is still in possession of an "orgone blanket" which another friend made for satirical purposes when we were in college. It never did much for me.
Maybe the legal adviser gets only $5000 because Bundrant throws in free NLP. NLP for lawyers: consider the possibilities.
Like Adams Bundrant criticises the use of any medications for psychological symptoms and instead advocates various mumbo jumbo including NLP.
Brian Deer, I've got to wonder who's paying for Wakefield's exorbitant legal bills for his unsuccessful Texas court case and appeal which claimed that you, Fiona Godlee and the BMJ defamed him.
That was it! Pelfing. Had to be making fun of Rolfing though.
"Michael Finfer, MD
I have to admit, I had never heard of Rolfing. I had to look it up."
When I was in optometry school, one of our professors told a story about rolfing. One of the precepts of rolfing is that massaging the extraocular muscles, which is not only implausible as an actual treatment for anything but also nearly physically impossible to peform. Alas, some pioneering Rolfer invented an EOM massager. It looked like a miniature hockey stick. They have you lay down and then jam the massager into the space between your eye and orbital wall at locations corresponding to EOM insertion points and start 'massaging'.
My professor (who is an OD) knew a guy who practiced rolfing. This was back in the 1970's before said prof had learned to better tune his bullsh!t detector. Thus he consented to having his EOM's 'massaged' mainly out of curiousity.
He described it as one of the singular most painful moments of his life. Not only were they twanging away on his EOM's, they were also using the orbital rim as a fulcrum which also feels absolutely horrible. The Rolfer told him that that was a positive sign as he was letting emotions out.
My prof tells the story much better than I can. He had the entire class laughing pretty good throughout the story...
Excuse me EBMOD, I think I need to go throw up now.
They put a stick around behind your eye and ... *hurk*
Dear God what is wrong with people?! At least Newton was trying to figure out how light worked.
I...I need to go lie down...
I suspect that all you need to be "PhD level" is to think that you read, write, and operate at the same level as someone with a PhD.
That's horrible. I hope the prof had no permanent damage.
I auditted lectures by a prof/ psychotherapist- who had a Buddhist orientation- but admitted that in his younger days ( in the 1970s I presume) he experimented with sensory awareness, primal screaming, encounter groups and rolfing. I suppose it was to liberate libido or such like but he didn't mention what parts of him got rolfed. I didn't really want to know anyway.
Which degrees are best preparation for prostitution? What's involved in defending the dissertation?
Now that you've quoted me, I realized that I left out a few words - "none of the humanities PhDs and soon-to-be-PhDs would ever stoop so low," should be. That's what I get for commenting before coffee.
I am in the Slavic Dept., and there are not a lot of jobs in our field, partially because Slavists apparently never retire and live to be about 100 years old.
I was getting drunk this time last year with a good friend who was about to defend his dissertation and had not secured any sort of position and didn't know what he was going to do. I suggested that he could revisit his 13-year-old self's plan of being a rent boy - at that age he thought that's just what happened if you were gay - but then I noticed and remarked upon the fact that he is beginning to go gray.
Back when us grad students were almost all women, we also used to joke about starting a brothel.
As I carefully step around your questions to avoid the obvious jokes, Mephistopheles, I must say that I do know of quite a few PhDs who DO stoop to all manner of woo-
just read anti-vax material, AutismOne schedules and visit PRN sometimes.
Right now a few names spring to mind...
I came here to make ONE JOKE on this article and you made it right out of the gate, Orac.
I remember when I was a student back in grad school, in a famous University town known for its large "alternative" community, there were flyers going up on telephone poles advertising "trans-Reichian bodywork", which I believe was a variety of Rolfing.
I used to enjoy taking a sharpie out of my pocket, inserting a carat, and altering the phrase to read "Trans-Reichian body AND FENDER work".
There was also a local math crank who put up posters everywhere proclaiming that pi is equal to the square root of 10, but that's another story.
I'm pretty sure that Cleo Odzer has some bearing on this exercise, but I'm too tired to sort it out.
Which degrees are best preparation for prostitution? What’s involved in defending the dissertation?
Anthropologists like this woman
And speaking of irrational, isn't NLP just a more-pretentious version of The Secret? Notify Oprah's people...
In tangential news regarding attack-prone somethings or other, Wakefraud has but three weeks left to unleash his mighty defamation failure machine upon Emily Willingham.
I suppose failing to understand how the ORI works may have distracted him, given the wording of the original threat. Then again, his documented flag-fondling proclivity may have to do with not much being penalized over here for dawdling when such grievous matters as one's Good Name are at stake.
OT, but up your baliwick, this press release just polluted my inbox.
Contact: Den Trumbull, MD, FCP
Website contact: www.best4children.org
Know Your ABCs: The Abortion Breast Cancer Link
Gainesville, Florida – April 7, 2015 - The American College of Pediatricians urges women to "Know your ABCs" since abortion appears to be linked to breast cancer. Although the medical community has been reluctant to acknowledge the link, induced abortion prior to a full term delivery, and prior to 32 weeks of gestation, increases the likelihood that a woman will develop breast cancer. This risk is especially increased for adolescents.
In February 2013, Dr. Johnson and her colleagues made national news when they reported an increased incidence of metastatic breast cancer in young women in the U.S. aged 25 – 39 years. Other epidemiological studies from China, India, and Romania demonstrate an increasing incidence of breast cancer as abortions increased – with a “dose effect” showing an increasing risk of breast cancer with each subsequent abortion. President Den Trumbull states, "When one considers the normal anatomy and physiology of the breast it becomes clear that this link is causal not merely correlational."
The College looks to the day when the lives and health of all children from conception to natural death will be respected and protected. In the mean time, the College urges all health care providers to educate women on the risks associated with induced abortion, including the increased risk of breast cancer.
See the College position statement, “Abortion and the Risk of Breast Cancer: Information for the Adolescent Woman and Her Parents.”
(the link goes to http://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/health-iss…)
The American College of Pediatricians is a national medical association of licensed physicians and healthcare professionals who specialize in the care of infants, children, and adolescents. The mission of the College is to enable all children to reach their optimal physical and emotional health and well-being. For more information about the College, please visit our website www.Best4Children.org.
The American Cancer Society has a detailed answer to the question about a possible abortion / breast cancer link. It's been extensively researched. In summary,
Apparently just a scare tactic by an anti-abortion group.
Wow - I just checked out that page....looks like wingnuts (right wing nuts) to me....
I'll just leave this here.
Oooh, myyyy. . .
On post-docs - well I know several who might be willing to take up prostitution in order to pay off the enormous amounts of loan debt as well as because it would pay much better. It is sad now how little they are paid. I know a couple who dropped out of school just simply because they realized that with the amount of debt they were taking on they wouldn't break even until retirement. If then.
On the abortion/breast cancer link - yeah that is just like the zombie anti-vaccine myths, it rises from the grave to walk the earth under the light of the full moon.
I am lucky in that I get paid to go to school, at least enough to live on. I sure wouldn't be getting a PhD in the humanities if I had to pay for it (in money.) Actually, I'm doubly lucky in that I don't have any college loans, either. (Grants, scholarships, jobs.) So my options, post-grad-school, are actually a little broader than some people's.
Yes, I know.. It was the mention of "new studies" and the faux authority of a questionable medical association which makes me hope that our kind host will turn his positronic brain towards this issue and dose out a heaping helping of his trademarked insolence.
What new studies? The email you quoted doesn't mention new studies.
No candling? He's not quacky enough.
Ah, there I go reading more into something that is there. I assumed that "other studies" being listed after the 2013 "position statement" presumably meant those studies were done after the statement was issued.
The point is, this group is doing a new news push on their old statement, so expect your favorite anti-choice relative to produce a glut of articles "confirming the link" in the coming days.
I can see from the article that it's a worthy book, but why on earth does he think it will cost to many kilobucks to publish it?
Kickstarter campaign halted at $8,588.
"Funding for this project was canceled by the project creator 1 day ago."