Tag Archives: Bryan Hubbard

The right vibes: music therapy

The right vibes
An article from vol. 24 no. 5 (August 2013) gives a staggeringly credulous overview of the inflated claims made for music therapy by those who allow their imagination to run riot.

The article itself is a game of two halves, Bryan. It starts out by establishing, at tedious length, the entirely uncontroversial fact that music can make people happier and take their mind off pain, and then switches to all manner of speculative hyperbole drawn primarily from the self-published opinions of those who are (over)selling patented music interventions.

When you read that “new research shows that music offers a powerful therapy after stroke, heart disease—and even cancer”, are you likely to understand that the effect in cancer is that playing music makes patients feel a bit less miserable? Because that is about the limit of it. It’s a soft “quality of life” outcome: even the often shockingly poor sources cited don’t make the claim that music has any material effect on the progression of cancer.

The article has many good examples of wishful thinking, some obvious cases of confirmation bias, a hilarious reference to the bonkers “morphic resonance” conjectures of Rupert Sheldrake, and several examples of using valid results to support wildly speculative arguments.

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Earthing, the expert-free therapy

The expert-free therapy
In the editorial for the November 2011 issue of WDDTY, Bryan Hubbard describes the complexities of modern life and proposes a therapy which is, by contrast, extraordinarily simple.

It is also completely bogus.

The expert-free therapy

Bryan Hubbard

We live in an age of complexity. We switch on the lights in our home, but don’t really understand how the electricity works. We turn on the taps in our bathroom, without completely grasping how water can run through the pipes. We’re probably vague about how television images are transmitted to our screens. Or even how our car works.

It has been said that no person on the planet has the skills and knowledge necessary to make a pencil from scratch. But some of us understand how electricity works, have no trouble grasping how water can run through pipes, are sufficiently familiar with the principles of television not to believe it’s a haunted mirror, and have a fair working knowledge of the Otto cycleW.

These are not deep mysteries like string theoryW. Oh, it’s hard to model turbulent flowW, but easy enough to understand what it is and why it’s hard to model (and I do suggest you find out because it makes traffic dynamics on busy roads understandable).

So: do you assume your audience are simpletons? Knowing your core audience, this paragraph comes across as amazingly patronising.

This age of complexity has brought forth a new breed: the expert. The expert makes the complex work, even if he doesn’t make it understandable. He fixes the TV, the electrical and water systems in the home to make them function safely, and our car to run. He stands at the gates to the complex, acting as our intermediary to the unfathomable.

Yes, sometimes when complex things break you want to take them to a really clever person who has fixed dozens of similar problems before. If the broken thing is of value to you – your car, your computer, your child – then it makes even more sense to pick the very best expert you can find. Incredibly, in the UK some of the most highly qualified experts – medical specialists – can be consulted for nothing. Humbling, isn’t it?

But before you place experts in the “someone else” camp, consider: few people are so talentless that they are unable to do anything well. They might be an expert baker, tailor, gardener, or perhaps – if they write for WDDTY – an expert in writing facile twaddle.

Fixing a car is not binary. Can you top up the oil and water? Change a lamp? Pump up the tyres? Work out when there’s a funny noise or the clutch isn’t working right? Maybe you understand how every single piece fits together and have decided that life’s too short to spend a weekend up to your elbows in oil. We have choices, and these choices include how far we cede control to experts and (crucially) how we choose to interact with them.

The WDDTY approach when the Lexus breaks down is to take it to a blacksmith because that’s traditional and we understand his language. Most people would take it to Edward instead.

The complex has made our lives more comfortable, and electricity has replaced the candle, water systems the pump and bucket, the car for the cart. But the complex has also placed life at one remove. We don’t have direct access or control any longer.

I would say we have more control than ever. But then, I remember Sunday evening TV in the 70s.

This is equally as true for the way we treat our ailments. Once, we relied on self-help therapies, herbs and tinctures. Today, in our age of complexity, we have an array of drugs that we don’t understand, and so we rely on the doctor as interpreter and guide.

And this has worked well for us. Life expectancy has more or less doubled in the last century as a result. As with the Lexus, the village wise woman may be easier to understand, but the doctor has a hell of a lot more tools in her bag.

So, it is refreshing that this month’s special report explores a new therapy that couldn’t be simpler to implement, and which already has garnered a wide array of successful case studies. Its creator, Clint Ober, calls it ‘Earthing’—and it merely requires you to take off your shoes and socks, and put your bare feet on the grass, earth or sand, ideally for 30 or 40 minutes every day.

Ah yes. Earthing. An idea so transparently batshit crazy that most skeptics don’t even bother with it. Luckily for us, Brian Dunning took one for the team. You know, Bryan, we really need to talk about this problem you have with credulously accepting the claims of every crank you overhear mumbling into his Special Brew as he wanders by.

The theory behind this simple therapy seems to make sense. Our bodies are electrical systems, and are subject to the same interference’ as electrical products in our homes.

No, they really aren’t. There’s no credible evidence of any significant or lasting effect from non-ionising electromagnetic signals in the environment, and we’re not computers. A computer can be destroyed by the energy we generate taking off a jumper, if it’s applied in the wrong place; it has no self-healing mechanisms. It’s electronic, we’re biological. Bioelectrical signals are not at all the same thing as electronic signals, and much of our body runs on chemical signals, not electrical.

That’s why all electrical items are grounded—in other words, they are in constant and immediate contact to the ‘zero ground’, rich in electrons and negative ions. Without this grounding, electrical equipment would suffer interference.

I feel the need to use a precise technical term here: bollocks.

The reason appliances are earthed is for electrical safety,  and sometimes to prevent electrostatic buildup potentially  causing damage on discharge. Look at your DVD player or television. There’s an even chance it’s not earthed, it’s double insulated. You can tell: if it has a flat cable or a figure of eight plug on the mains lead, it’s not earthed.

Your tablet device, your smartphone, your personal music player? They’re not earthed at all. There is a ground potential pin in the plug when you charge it, to prevent electrostatic damage, but it has nothing to do with interference. Now find a radio which is earthed (that means a 3-pin socket in the back of the unit, not a figure of eight). Scratch that: you probably can’t. Maybe an amplifier? Some have IEC C13 cables. They are still subject to interference.

Do you think your taps might be subject to interference? Follow the pipe down: you will find they are earthed (it’s called equipotential bonding).

And, claims Ober, the same happens to us—but because of our modern lifestyle, we are insulated from our ground, and so are more likely to suffer from interference, which manifests as disease, such as inflammation and heart problems.

He can claim what he likes, it’s still twaddle. Touch a tap, you’re earthed. Take a shower, you’re earthed. The human body is a reasonably good conductor, to become fully earthed takes less time than it does to say “technobabble”. And most of the time we’re at negligible potential difference from earth anyway.

Tell you what: if you run a nice hot bath, the water will be at earth potential. That will do you all kinds of good. None of it from the water being at earth potential.

A simple therapy that all of us can do—and we don’t need the expert, whether he is the doctor or, indeed, the electrician.

Or, as H. L. Mencken put it: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

What Doctors Don't Tell You
Why don’t doctors tell you that your body suffers from electrical interference and needs periodic grounding?

Because it’s nonsense.

The Big Cancer Cover-Up

The big cancer cover-up: WDDTY vol 23 no. 11 (March 2013)
The big cancer cover-up is an op-ed by Bryan Hubbard following the Neon Roberts case. Positioned as highlighting “the shortcomings of conventional cancer treatments and the bias against fair testing of the alternatives”, it is instead a credulous Gish gallop across the landscape of cancer quackery.

The only therapies which get a rough ride, are those supported by reliable evidence. And here Hubbard turns the conspiracy dial up to eleven.

For example, Hubbard states: “Chemotherapy’s true success rate hovers around the 2 per cent mark—the cancer patient has a 2 per cent chance of living a further five years or longer if he has chemotherapy”. This is complete nonsense. Not only is it grotesquely inaccurate in the case of, say, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, where five-year survival with chemo as primary therapy is in excess of 80% and some patients are 40 years and more post chemo, it’s also grotesquely untrue in the aggregate.

Continue reading The Big Cancer Cover-Up