Tag Archives: Conspiracy

Family launching enquiry into mysterious death of anti-vaccine doctor

WDDTY is part of the counter-factual counter-culture that is the anti-vaccination movement. An antivax doctor kills himself as the feds move in on his fraudulent empire? It must have been black helicopters.

Mystery surrounds the sudden death of Dr Jeff Bradstreet, a high-profile anti-vaccine campaigner who treated autistic children. His body was found in a river in North Carolina, with gunshot wounds to his chest, a week after his clinic had been raided by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agents.

Mystery? Not really. While there is ample documentation of conspiracist rumours following his death, there’s no real mystery. He used real therapies with real possibilities of harm – including unlicensed stem cells, chelation and hyperbaric oxygen – on the basis of muddle-headed beliefs entirely divorced from the scientific evidence. His office was raided by the FDA and Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency, he had already been caught out promoting pseudoscience in the autism omnibus trial and there was apparently an outstanding complaint against him by the parents of a child he had treated. Continue reading Family launching enquiry into mysterious death of anti-vaccine doctor

Wheelbarrow of Stupid

Or How Wandering Teacake Wasted His Time Trying To Understand WDDTY’s Sales Figures

Reblogged with permission from Wandering Teacacke, please follow the comments there.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about What Doctors Don’t Tell You, the journal of record for those looking for an alternative to real medical advice. But here I am, pretty much back where I started my blogging career all those 12 long months ago.

Here’s why. Over the past 18 months or so, various individuals, myself included, have contacted various supermarkets and newsagents that stock WDDTY, expressing our concern at the content of this – how can I put it? – festering purulent pile of discarded, discredited and dangerous treatments. Over the years, some stockists have dropped the title, some have dropped it and then reportedly started again, some have just ignored us. But through it all, the editors of WDDTY have screamed about free speech and how the nasty Big Pharma shills want this magazine banned. Continue reading Wheelbarrow of Stupid

Alan Hunter resorts to CAPITAL LETTERS! Will The Ed falter?

This time he waited nearly 23 hours to post a fresh rant, and only one copy of it as well. We make progress, perhaps.

Dear WWDDTYDTY

Re your abusive and criminal threat to me that you would have “my arse” (my, how dignified you must be!),

Then again, perhaps not.

simply because my article threatened mainstream medicine….

You give yourself airs. Your article does not threaten modern medicine. It is only a threat to the gullible who read it and swallow it hook, line and sinker. You claim that serious medical conditions – including cardiovascular problems, depression, schizophrenia and epilepsy – are caused by food allergies. Encouraging people with the symptoms and illnesses you list on your website to forsake their medication in favour of your patent diet could lead to their deaths.

I want to reply. It doesnt matter a f**k my credentials. Not ONE f**k!

Exactly. Because your credentials are not worth – and please note that we are not so hypocritical as to use asterisks – a single monkey’s fuck.

I have brought together 30 YEARS of research in the manner of a jigsaw puzzle

Ah, the Lone Maverick ploy. Nope, being the only (totally unqualified and inexperienced) person in the whole world to have reached a conclusion over 30 years is more likely to be a sign you’re barking up the wrong tree than that you’re a genius.

which resulted in comments such as “Highly original”, “Truly original”, “Completely original”

Sounds like a new brand of sherry. Of course, anecdotes do not represent objective data – anonymous, unsourced anecdotes even less so – but even the team here will concede that, upon reading your claims, our first reaction was: “That’s, er, very original.”

because it was the FIRST-EVER world discovery of the link between body temperature, parasites, and food allergy.

What parasites are these then? Fleas? Ticks? Tapeworms? Political lobbyists? Or just general nameless parasitey things? Frankly the blurb on your website reads like something out of HP Lovecraft:

  1. How parasites can exist in YOUR body, causing your food allergy or chronic health disorder by interfering with blood flow at the site of your symptom.
  2. How low body temperature (even a mere one degree below the normal of 98.6) is responsible for attracting these TEMPERATURE-SENSITIVE organisms to you in the first place causing not only food intolerance but a host of common everyday disorders such as arthritis, depression, etc.
  3. How you can RAISE your body temperature naturally by following the diet recommended in the book, thereby overwhelming the parasites that are responsible for your condition.
  4. How Nature already shows us that heat is the means of defeating parasites (such as bacteria) – she raises the body temperature at such times by producing a FEVER!
  5. How the body heals itself; How drugs do not restore health – and much, much more.

Amazing discoveries and claims, yet not a single study published in a genuine scientific journal? How very, very odd. Anyone might think you hadn’t a shred of evidence.

Your attempt to attack my awards is pathetic. I won Best Research from Action Against Allergy (who are more knowledgeable about food allergies than any of your crowd!). They KNOW about food allergies – unlike you! 

We can find no mention of the charity giving any awards, so links or it didn’t happen. Incidentally, “our crowd” includes doctors and health researchers, so we suggest you keep the willy-waving to two shakes at the urinal.

I won Best Resarch award – TOP RESEARCH AWARD – from the Prince’s Trust for Integrative Medicine,

An institute for quackery doesn’t impress. Where’s the publication in the BMJ, Lancet, Nature etc?

beating at least twenty MEDICALLY QUALIFIED doctors from all over the UK who submitted their own research WORKS.

We forget how many qualified medical doctors there are in the UK, but 20 is not exactly a huge sample. There are idiots everywhere, of course. There’s a huge idiot in line for the UK throne in a few years and worthless quackery remains worthless quackery even when royally approved.

My research on that fine day, was declared “Truly original”, “Highly original” and “Completely original” as my 30 year research on food allergies came to fruition.

Are you sure they weren’t referring to the sherry? You don’t give the year, but since HRH has also been recorded as giving similar awards for aromatherapy we continue unimpressed. Even a link to that notoriously unselective repository, PubMed, would be better than this.

So your libellous statement that I had received my awards from a diploma mill is being studied carefully – I can assure you!

It’s not libellous until a court of law says it is. Moreover, we did not claim that you had received your worthless PhD from a diploma mill, simply that we thought it likely.

My doctorate, from the Indian Board of Alternative Medicine (and they have absolute authority to award such awards according to Indian Laws) was awarded for my fabulous food allergy research.

Fabulous? You do not hide your light under a bushel, do you? Yes, we see the organisation you mention does indeed list you as an alumnus and offers the title you claim. Again, it’s a quack organisation. It does not matter that the Indian Government has chosen to dignify it with the title of medicine; reality holds sway even in India and pseudoscience remains pseudoscience.

Besides, we were under the impression that your credentials don’t matter a single, heartbroken fuck?

Yes, there are other websites which recently have arisen that they are “fake”. But as someone who went to their alternative medicine university, I can tell you now, they are a valid and active college, fully accredited by Indian law.

Yes, but it’s still pure quackery, dispensing quackademical diplomas.

They also awarded me the high honour of the Seva Ratna award for my research.

The Fuck Donation count is steady at zero. Where is the evidence? Where is the peer-review? Where, in short, are the signs that this is anything other than an ageing, embittered ex-champ trying to make money out of a form of charlatanry he’s cobbled together from various other quack cults?

And they have Indian government authority to deliver these awards.

“By Jove, but fucks are in short supply this year, Justin.” – “They certainly are, Ludovic.”
(Translation: it’s not the diplomas that validate the science, but the science done by graduates that validates the diploma)

My award was not from a diploma mill as you libellously suggested. BUT THAT MATTERS NOT A SINGLE JOT!

It seems to bother you, in spite of your denials. Some of us are beginning to recognise the symptoms, and they include this tendency to repeat oneself word-for-word and SCREAM IN IMPOTENT RAGE.

I AM AN AWARD WINNING AUTHOR WITH 30 YEARS RESEARCH BEHIND ME AND A FABULOUS CONCLUSION ON FOOD ALLERGIES!

Fabulous, as in: mythical or of fables, e.g. “the unicorn is a fabulous creature”? Yes, we reckon you’ve got exactly the right term there.

I have never said I was a medical doctor, so I suggest you swallow that foul accusation – just as your claim I got my awards from some queer website.

No, sunshine, the onus is legally on you to make it clear, when you use the honorific “Dr” in a medical context, that you are not medically qualifed. And this, as we have seen, you fail to do on your website.

No, sir, you are WRONG. My books, exposing the sham of mainstream medicine and how they are complicit in PREVENTING the man in the street from getting well, tellS it all, my good man!

Conspiracy theorist as well? Predictable, of course: hucksters often use this scare tactic to push their wares. Tough, we ain’t buying your idiotic book and will certainly dissuade anybody else from buying it, except perhaps if they’re doing a very specialised type of research in psychology.

I have no itention of using Dr if that worries you!

Since you already do use that title, that can best be categorised as “a barefaced lie”.

I don’t NEED to. Give me your email address

Not bleedin’ likely. It’s bad enough getting all these foaming rants via the website Contact form.

and I will show you why YOU – yes YOU – are in the wrong.

A far better way to settle it would be to get your research accepted for peer review and  publication  by a reputable scientific or medical journal. Come back when you’ve got that, and maybe you’ll get a handsome apology and withdrawal of all criticism. However, this is just too funny for words:

Or are you STILL hiding? Mmm? And if you have intentions of taking me out – as your threat suggests – be aware, I am WAITING, my good man. Oh yes!

Your kind friend Alan Hunter

Put the horse whip away, Alan, that attitude and manner of speech went out with the Edwardians. Nobody except you has offered violence of any kind. You’re just an ageing jock turned drama queen.

Exactly 45 minutes later, we got yet another message. Definitely got a bee in his bonnet, this guy.

Dear Sir
Further to my email to you recently – referring to how your threat to “have my arse” simply because I made a wonderful piece of research on food allergies – which you don’t know the first thing about…. I want to now state that I will be having my solicitor looking at your libellous statements that I won my awards from a “diploma mill”, and – not only that – put in on the web so that the entire world could see it! And that your threat to “have my arse” was also displayed on line so that the entire world could see that THREAT to my body. Because that is, my dear man, exactly what it was! About time, don’t you think, you were brought to task instead of firing out insults left right and centre, always on the assumption you would get away with it? Mmmm?
Alan Hunter

We would not like to be the solicitor who has to explain, slowly and carefully, that he hasn’t got a hope in hell because we did not write the things he’s accusing us of. Pity, really. A frivolous suit like that could have been a great advert for scepticism and would certainly annoy the bullshit-apologists at WDDTY for several months.

The campaign against WDDTY continues, apparently

(The post originally appeared on Stuff that occurs to me. Please go there to comment)

Lynne McTaggart has published a post suggesting that skeptics (we’re in ‘quotes’ for some reason) have managed to convince Tesco that customers have been complaining about the magazine ​What Doctors Don’t Tell You​ . I don’t think this is quite right – any complaints I’ve sent to Tesco either by email or Twitter haven’t focused on my customer status, only why I think the medical information in the magazine isn’t up to scratch.

Ms McTaggart also suggests that we’ve “harassed dozens of [WDDTY’s] advertisers by reporting them to the ASA” – well I’d say the advertisers have made misleading advertising claims and the expected response to that would be to report it to the ASA. From what I can tell the ASA agreed that the ads were misleading and adjudicated against quite a few of them for breaching the advertising guidelines that all marketer are meant to follow.

Then things get a bit odder – she says that various skeptic organisations “sent their foot soldiers to hide our magazines on the shelves of stores and attempted to destroy our Google ranking.” True enough several people hid magazines, but framing this as ‘foot soldiers’ is a bit daft. A couple of people tweeted about doing it on the #wddty hashtag, it amused some others and they did it too. Not really a command from on high.

Regarding the Google ranking – this seems to relate to a persistent misunderstanding of how ‘Do Not Link’ works. When a website links to another website, it is effectively implying to Google’s webcrawlers that it values that website. By using tools like Do Not Link we’re telling Google to ignore this implication – but we’re not worsening the Google ranking; we’re just not increasing it.

The sentence “One of our websites was even mysteriously hacked into” seems to suggest that “skeptics did it” but websites are hacked all the time and I suspect it’s more likely a coincidence. Of course it is possible that there are rogue skeptics doing this but I doubt it.

“Simon Singh is busy these days tweeting his supporters to write Tesco to thank them for not stocking us.” – yep, I followed this suggestion as it seemed a good one. I was quick enough to write to them when they were selling it, no bad idea to thank them for (eventually) listening to my concerns.

How homeopathy might work

How might homeopathy workThe article has referenciness. Several of these references are familiar. As usual TatMaggot doesn’t give the full reference (wouldn’t want to follow journal practice, after all, or make it too easy to debunk her credulous nonsense)`, and references include that peerless source of cutting edge medical discovery, the Daily Mail.

TL;DR summary

In the end, I’m disappointed. After the debunking of the previous WDDTY advertorial on homeopathy and the Banerjis, this amounts to little more than repeating precisely the same refuted claims because TatMaggot believes she’s right so refutation of Benveniste etc. can be ignored. I was hoping for something new to get my skeptical teeth into, this provides nothing new. Not even a new spin on the tired old conspiracy theories. Medicine sometimes fails, therefore unicorns.

The only genuinely new study since the last go-round is ” The potentized homeopathic drug, Lycopodium clavatum (5C and 15C) has anti-cancer effect on hela cells in vitro” (J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2013 Aug;6(4):180-7).

 

Bang!

 

This has yet to be replicated (as is the case for most homeopathy basic research) and contains, as usual, no evidence of generalisability, no evidence of potential therapeutic effect, no credible rationale for selection of the “remedy” and no evidence that this will be linked to the “similimum” or any other symptomatic presentation.

It’s all the same old long-debunked rubbish. It’s almost as if there is no credible evidence for homeopathy, just a lot of wishful thinking by believers.

Oh, wait…

Seriously? It is just possible that a homeopath might stumble upon a substance that at clinical doses produces a useful effect. Given the sheer number of substances they use, anything else would be statistically improbable. But there’s no compelling evidence of any persistent effect at homeopathic dilutions, no credible evidence that the diluted and potentised “remedies” have any specific clinical effect, and ridiculous quote mining expeditions like this do nothing other than perpetuate the smokescreen of confabulation used by homeopaths to hide the fact that everything about their beliefs is simply wrong.

The first batch of references seem to be drawn from those cited in the Homeopathy journal’s special issue on the memory of water. We can assume that these are the best of the bunch from that issue.

  • Complement Ther Med. 2007 Jun;15(2):128-38 is “The in vitro evidence for an effect of high homeopathic potencies–a systematic review of the literature” by Witt et. al. Witt is paid by a homeopathy promotion body, the Carstens Foundation. This paper reviews primary research into mechanisms for homeopathy, finding 67 experiments of which 1/3 were replicated (i.e. 2/3 were not replicated, in line with the norm for homeopathy). It notes that the designs were inhomogeneous. Witt claims that “[e]ven experiments with a high methodological standard could demonstrate an effect of high potencies” but notes that “[n]o positive result was stable enough to be reproduced by all investigators. So the take-home from this is that believers can produce a positive result, but can’t replicate it.
  • J Therm Anal Calorim, 2004; 75: 815-36 is “New Physico-Chemical Properties of Extremely Diluted Aqueous Solutions” by V. Elia and M. Nicoli. This was discussed in a Bad Science Journal Club. The significance of this is that Elia claims, according to another paper in homeopathy, to have documented an effect which increases over time – i.e. which apparently violates the second law of thermodynamics. In the nine years since, this has not become anything like mainstream.
  • Homeopathy, 2007; 96: 175–182 is “The defining role of structure (including epitaxy) in the plausibility of homeopathy” by ML Rao, Rustum RoyW, Iris Bell and Claudia Witt (again). BadSciencers fisked this one too, noting that “different” spectra turned out to be the same graph and so on. A letter to the journal, reproduced in a JREF discussion, notes fatal flaws with the data as presented.
  • Physica A, 2003; 323: 67-64 is “Thermoluminescence of ultra-high dilutions of lithium chloride and sodium chloride” by Louise Rey. The Bad Sciencers didn’t have a lot to say about this other than that it’s speculative: it seeks to project condensed matter effects onto liquids. Definitive or conclusive it ain’t.
  • Biochim Biophys Acta, 2003, 1621: 253-60 is “Effects of ultrahigh dilutions of 3,5-dichlorophenol on the luminescence of the bacterium Vibrio fischeri“, by Brack et. al. I can’t find any significant discussion of this other than drive-by citations in laundry lists of references on homeopathy apologist websites.

So TatMaggot sets out her stall with a series of papers that include weak, irreproducible or uninterpretable results, and which advance in some cases contradictory hypothetical explanations for how homeopathy might work in some classes of substance.

None of these shows any link between “remedy” and symptom or disease, none of them shows any evidence of a clinically useful effect, none of them shows any evidence of a general or universal effect that is unambiguous and specific. This is, in other words, a re-warming of the Homeopathy “memory of water” issue.

Molehill Montagnieering

No paean to the refuted “memory of water” thesis would be complete without reference to Jacques Benveniste and Luc Montagnier.

TatMaggot of course believes Benveniste, it goes without saying, all avid homeopathy believers do. The special pleading is all reproduced: the pejorative characterisation of Randi, the claims that they “changed” the protocol and so on. It really doesn’t mater how sincerely you want to believe in it, the Benveniste experiment is a busted flush. Attempted replications have failed.

Montagnier has a self-published series of experiments that purport to back Benveniste, but these have not been independently validated either and when interviewed by CBC’s Marketplace he acknowledged that his work “cannot be extrapolated to the products used in homeopathy” – and indeed the same is true of Benveniste’s work, had it not been refuted.

Lastly, there is the knotty problem of shelf life. The effects Montagnier claims to have observed, last a few tens of femtoseconds – a fraction of a picosecond. This is entirely incompatible with the claims of an effect that increases over time, or is stable.

Jumping on the Banerji wagon

As with the previous issue of WDDTY claiming homeopathy is “much more than placebo”, the intellectual heart of this thread lies in the Banerji foundation and their extraordinary claim to reverse cancer using homeopathy alone.

Papers cited include the uninterpretable rubbish that is “Cytotoxic effects of ultra-diluted remedies on breast cancer cells” (Int J Oncol. 2010 Feb;36(2):395-403) and the followup “Ruta 6 selectively induces cell death in brain cancer cells but proliferation in normal peripheral blood lymphocytes: A novel treatment for human brain cancer” (Int J Oncol. 2003 Oct;23(4):975-82). The balance of the sources are: a WashPo editorial, the Banerjis’ publication in the best cases series (which explicitly does not establish the validity of the treatment), a Yahoo group, the Banerji website, the “journal of acupuncture and meridian studies“, the only genuinely new source since the last go-round as far as I can tell, (spoiler alert: meridians don’t exist and acupuncture is an elaborate placebo), and the BBC News website. Oh, and the Daily Mail, often cited in the top-tier medical journals for its groundbreaking basic research on the influence of immigration on the British pint or some such.

SouthwarkBelle: More powerful than Google

donotlinkFaster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than an express train, leaps tall buildings in a single bound – is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s…. @SouthwarkBelle!

I Am More Powerful Than Google (apparently)

Reblogged from SouthwarkBelle with permission

So, it’s been a bizarre evening so far.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a short article on the magazine “What Doctors Don’t Tell You” (WDDTY). I was concerned that they hadn’t accurately represented a piece of research about possible links between antidepressant use in pregnancy and autism in children. It got a few comments, which was nice. For some reason my comments system is a bit screwy, one of the comments didn’t actually show up on the blog, but I got an automatic email telling me about it so I copy – pasted it in and that was that (see! this is the level of Google-destroying technical genius you have here dear reader).

Then, earlier today, WDDTY posted a screenshot of that comment on their Facebook group. You can see it here: You can also see the claim that the link it included was intended to manipulate Google and mess up web traffic to WDDTY.

Firstly, that’s not how the internet works.

The link in the comment will take people to WDDTY in a way that won’t INCREASE their Google rankings. Now if I were some über powerful web presence and the majority of WDDTY’s readers were accessing their site through me, say for example, if I were MORE POWERFUL THAN GOOGLE then that might be an issue,  but sadly, I’m not. If I could get that kind of traffic to my blog I would have advertising the length and breadth of it and I wouldn’t have spent 40 minutes this evening on a commuter train with my head in someone’s armpit*. But I don’t. I get a few thousand hits a month. Most of those are repeat visitors so in terms of unique visitors I’m looking at maybe the low hundreds. I am small, small fry.

It wasn’t even me who put the link there, it was a comment made by someone else. Ordinarily I always include links to anything I write about. I want readers to go to the source and make up their own minds. So I thought long and hard about it with this post. In the end my personal feelings were that the depression/autism story badly misrepresented the science, and that in so doing it posed a real risk of distressing already vulnerable women. I assumed that WDDTY have advertising on their website and that the more people visit the site, the more money they will make from those adverts (I don’t know if that’s true, I was guessing). I knew that the number of people reading my blog wouldn’t make much difference to that  but I decided, as a matter of principle, not to link to it. I told readers they could find the magazine in shops and I assumed they could Google it if they wanted to. The link that WDDTY is now complaining about was in a comment made by Guy Chapman, I was glad to have it so my readers could see what I was talking about without helping WDDTY out in the process. I don’t think I had even heard of Guy Chapman before he commented.

All that, unfortunately doesn’t matter to the supporters of WDDTY. One of them is now calling for my blog to be blacklisted by organisations that rate the trustworthiness of websites. Apparently, because I allow comments on my blog I should be shut down.

Wow. just Wow.

Interestingly, none of these supporters have commented on the blog post I wrote. Neither has anyone from WDDTY, although they have clearly visited the site.

The comments box is right there if I have the science wrong.

I’m really not a big deal, I have absolutely no influence over Google. I’m a mum who works part-time in a lab for a charity. When I get time I write blog posts about my kids, about good causes and about the way the media misrepresents scientific stories concerning mothers and pregnant women. I have no idea if Guy Chapman and Josephine Jones are the same person, I’ve never met him/her/them and I’m not on a personal mission to shut down WDDTY. I’ve written this blog for 5 years and I’ve criticised various organisations, the Telegraph, the NCT etc. none of the others ever tried to set their supporters on me, or have me shut down.

Anyway, I have to go clear up the kitchen now, then sort out the kids clothes for tomorrow and hope I can get a bit of sleep before my baby wakes up screaming at 5am, such is the life of the internet’s evil overlord….

SB
*This is artistic licence. I am freakishly tall, he had his head in my armpit (which is at least a little less horrible).

The paranoid delusions of Lynne McTaggart

Reblogged from Guy Chapman’s Blahg.

Andrew Neil sums up conspiracy theories as expounded by Alex Jones
Andrew Neil sums up conspiracy theories as expounded by Alex Jones

It’s not news that SCAM believers are also into conspiracy theories. Global epicentre of bullshit The Whale is only the most notorious example of the crank magnetism that draws believers in the unverifiable and implausible together.

Naturally this provides a fertile source of mirth. For example, Lynne McTaggart stated as fact that I am @_JosephineJones, an idea so self-evidently ludicrous that I had no reservations over replying: “Yes, Lynne, you’ve got me: like electrons, there is only one skeptic in the universe, I get about a lot”.

McTaggart believed it! And when @JoBrodie pointed out it was a blindingly obvious piss-take, Tat Maggot deleted Jo’s comment because free speech is so important.

Today, another one:

loon mctagnutYes, according to Loon McTagnut not only am I Josephine Jones, I am also @southwarkbelle. And a Dark Lord of Google (I love this, I am so shit at SEO that I will substitute her reality for mine on this, any time!).

Better still: apparently there are “canaries in [my] midst”, which raises the rather amusing possibility that Lynne is not just making this shit up out of thin air, but being actively and very expertly trolled. Whoever it is, keep it up!

Obviously there’s a serious side. McTaggart seriously believes that there is a sinister conspiracy to discredit her, using such underhand techniques as demonstrating her history of AIDS denialism. The bastards.

Actually of course we suck badly at conspiracy. Rule no. 1 for a successful conspiracy: don’t do it using open social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

And collaboration is not conspiracy. Of course we collaborate and share and talk and joke, we have a lot of interests in common, especially debunking quackery and bigging up SCIENCE, because it rocks.

Get a group of skeptics together you’d almost certainly find we’re all fans of Ben Goldacre and the Infinite Monkey Cage. You’ll also find that we’re very different. The youngest are teenagers, the oldest are retired. There are gay men, young mums, single people, secular Muslims, atheists, even Christians. Most of us have a scientific education, that’s the root of the common ground.

batshitAnd it’s why the cranks will eventually lose. Nothing about SCAM is new, really: the cognitive errors are old, the appeals to fallacious reasons are old, the conspiracy theories are old. Nothing about modern SCAM is in any way qualitatively different from the 19th century snake oil salesman or the bible-belt creationist.

And if you look at the lesson of history, increasing societal education tends to correlate with decreasing belief in gods. The New Age will wane as the religions of old waned. And the public will again move away from belief in nonsense. At least I hope so.

I just hope it doesn’t take a modern-day equivalent of the 1950s polio epidemics to cause people to wake up and smell the bat guano as sold by every woo-monger in Britain.

When science is a dirty word

An anti-science commentary by Lynne McTaggart makes some bold and controversial claims about science. Do they stand up to scrutiny?

One of the most misused terms being hurled at us as a rebuttal to What Doctors Don’t Tell You is the term ‘science’.

One of the terms most misused by WDDTY is science.

The main contribution of science to medicine has been objectivity: the ability to minimise the well-known cognitive biases that affect all human observations, to turn the practice of medicine from an essentially religious field to an essentially scientific one.

WDDTY prefer to view mainstream science as a sinister activity pursued by a technocrat minority, an elite that is simultaneously brilliantly manipulative and ideologically hide-bound, lacking in vision, intelligence and the ability to grasp the unfamiliar.

Like proponents of every religion whose precepts are at odds with objective science, they seek ways to portray science as lacking objectivity.

In reality most people now have at least the rudiments of a scientific education and scientific methods of inquiry are a part of everyday life. The room is dark: how do you work out if it is the fuse, the switch or the lamp? The tests are essentially scientific. You do not use intuition, you isolate the components one by one, look for common points of failure (one lamp on,another not, probably the lamp) and thus arrive at the correct answer.

WDDTY’s approach to the darkened room is to basically to advocate a return to candles. And oil lamps. And remote viewingW. Anything other than electricity, because what do scientists know about visual perception?

We have been accused of being unscientific, of pedaling (sic) unproven and harmful alternatives, as opposed to the real thing, true ‘scientific’ medicine.

The evidence supports the accusation that you peddle unproven and harmful alternatives, also that you distort and misrepresent the science you do quote.

That is not to say that evidence-based medicine is perfect, only that the solution to its imperfection is not to jettison all attempts at objectivity in favour of a credulous acceptance of any claim based primarily on its ideological appeal.

Science is pursued by humans, humans are fallible. The scientific method is, fallible humans or not, the most reliable means ever devised to tell truth from fiction. Without it, you would be printing WDDTY with wooden blocks on coarse paper and distributing it at street corners. The process that delivered the knowledge that makes computers and the internet work is fundamentally indistinguishable from the process of medical science delivering knowledge to be used (or abused) by medicine.

There are three points to be made here, adding up to one indisputable truth: there is nothing remotely scientific about conventional medicine.

That statement is neither true nor indisputable.

1.Most of the science behind standard treatments is fiction. As leading members of the medical establishment have made clear in recent books, the so-called ‘proof’ of most so-called ‘proven remedies’ is data that has been invented or manipulated by drug company marketing teams.

Some of it is, some of it isn’t. Cochrane reviews are usually pretty objective, and they are the highest tier of evidence. There’s good reason to suspect systematic manipulation of scientific results by any party with a vested interest in the outcome of the trial – this is a big problem for medicine and a huge problem for alternative medicine, where virtually nobody other than True Believers does any research at all.

But the issue of manipulation of studies is not the us-and-them situation that Lynne presents here. In the case of homeopathy, for example, proponents routinely bring up known issues with individual treatments but miss the point that the entire field of homeopathy is based on refuted doctrines, lacks a coherent framework, is inconsistent with robustly established scientific principles and so on. All clinical trials are prone to bias, therefore they are necessarily less compelling when the treatment is completely implausible.

There is no informed dissent from the view that measurable quantities of pharmacologically active compounds can have an objective effect on the body; there is no credible evidence that giving unmeasurable amounts of substances whose connection to disease is arbitrary and based on a refuted doctrine, can cause any effect other than placebo.

The therapeutic systems of Hoxsey, Gerson and their ilk are not “whole medical systems” existing in a parallel bubble universe apart from science, like homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic and the like, but they are still entire classes of unproven therapy, rather than unproven members of a proven class.

This is an important distinction, because the issues with individual medicines are often exposed by diligent scientific comparison of effect between treatments.

2.Most treatments haven’t been proven to work. The British Medical Journal has concluded that only about 12 per cent of all medical treatments have adequate evidence demonstrating that they work.

This is a zombie statistic. The BMJ article did not say that at all, and indeed specifically counsels against interpreting the figures as Lynne interprets them.

What the source says is that of the treatments currently on the books, 11% are well established to be beneficial, 24% are likely to be beneficial, 7% have a trade-off between benefit and harm, 5% are unlikely to be beneficial, 3% are likely to be ineffective or harmful, and 50% have unknown effectiveness, established from RCTs. These will include older treatments, those for which an RCT would be unethical.

This is not a reflection of the evidence base for individual prescribing decisions. Further:

‘Unknown effectiveness’ is perhaps a hard categorisation to explain. Included within it are many treatments that come under the description of complementary medicine (e.g., acupuncture for low back pain and echinacea for the common cold), but also many psychological, surgical, and medical interventions, such as CBT for depression in children, thermal balloon ablation for fibroids, and corticosteroids for wheezing in infants.

‘Unknown effectiveness’ may also simply reflect difficulties in conducting RCTs of an intervention, or be applied to treatments for which the evidence base is still evolving. As such, these data reflect how treatments stand up in the light of evidence-based medicine, and are not an audit of the extent to which treatments are used in practice.

We make use of what is ‘unknown’ in Clinical Evidence by feeding back to the UK NHS Health Technology Assessment Programme (HTA) with a view to helping inform the commissioning of primary research. Every 6 months we assess CE interventions categorised as Unknown effectiveness and submit those fitting the appropriate criteria to the HTA via their website: http://www.nets.nihr.ac.uk/programmes/hta.

So it turns out that the large number of “unproven” interventions include most SCAM interventions (the balance are unlikely to be beneficial or are known to be harmful; this is Minchin’s Law in action).

How would you conduct an RCT for emergency surgery for ruptured aortic aneurysm?

3.Most treatments cause harm. Modern medicine is the third leading cause of death in the western world. Fact. Prescribed drugs and medical error kills 204,000 people every year in America alone, with only cancer and heart disease claiming more

This claim has already been debunked. It is based on taking an invented figure, taking a second invented figure which would be part of the same figure, adding the two together and arising at a figure that is wronger than wrongW.

In fact, medical misadventure does not figure anywhere close to the top ten causes of death in the USA, and the real figure is nearly two orders of magnitude smaller according tot he very source McTaggart claims to have used for this figure.

Your greatest risks

According to data assembled by the Alliance for Natural Health, which examined the statistics of all the most and least likely things that could kill you, the greatest risk of death any of us face is going to the hospital. If you add the risk of reactions to correctly prescribed drugs, any interaction with modern medicine has to be the greatest risk to your life and limb.

Amazing. A SCAM trade body comes up with a figure that shows you should use SCAM instead of going to the hospital. Who predicted that? Presumably they remembered to exclude people rushed to hospital with acute surgical emergencies, as Gary Null… didn’t?

Feel free to come back with a reliable source.

Let’s look at so-called ‘unscientific’ natural health care, which supposedly causes so much harm. The risk of dying from taking any herbal remedy or food supplement is around 0.01 per one million people. In other words, 100 million people would have to take a supplement or herb before there is a risk of one person dying because of it.

Presumably according to the same source? Not that they have a dog in the fight or anything?

A repeatable feature of WDDTY is accepting the most optimistic claims of the SCAM industry and the SCAM industries worst (and often entirely false) claims about medicine, entirely uncritically.

Why would a manufacturer of supplements be any less likely to misrepresent the science than a manufacturer of a drug?

Why would a university biochemist working on disease biochemistry be any more likely to misrepresent a claim than a SCAM believer looking for proof of his pet theory?

This is never explained.

Compare that to the risk of pharmaceutical drugs, which kill 1000 people for every million people taking them.

According to?….

Leaving aside the tautology, yes, drugs can have adverse effects. So can supplements. There’s a list of recalls. Ayurvedic herbs with heavy metal contaminants, aristolchic acid, OxyElite Pro. And what about the harms due to untreated or incorrectly diagnosed disease?

The biggest difference between medicine and SCAM in this regard is that medicine acknowledges the potential for harm and has proactive and reactive monitoring in place. The reaction of SCAM to problems is best characterised as denial.

So that risk is: 0.01/1 million for natural substances vs 1000/1 million for drugs. In other words, the risk of lethal harm from modern medicine is 100,000 higher than that of herbal or nutritional medicine.

Source? Risk v benefit figures? The risk in a homeopathic remedy is close to zero (it will almost certainly be inert). The benefit is also zero. There is an attendant risk due to failure to treat disease. A homeopath weighs this equation, adds belief in the unverifiable on the positive side of the scale, and asserts that homeopathy is superior to medicine. That is not a rational, consistent or appropriate view.

This beggars the basic question: which form of medicine is the least scientific?

Lynne appears not to understand the language of formal logic, understandable since the entirety of SCAM is founded on logical fallacies. It does not even beg the question. It invites it, but the answer will not be found by listening to a biased argument based on several provably incorrect numbers.

Biochemical individuals

There’s a good reason why medicine is not a science. Drugs constitute a one-size-fits-all model, whereas every human being is unique. Drugs that work on me may not work on you and vice versa; most drugs can’t be made smart enough to, say, slot only tab A into slot B without affecting slot C, D and E, because humans are holistic.

This is complete nonsense. Most diseases have more than one treatment, different treatments are used depending on patient history and other factors. Some drugs are incredibly individual: they are based on genetic profiling.

The idea that SCAM is “holistic” because the practitioner listens to you for an hour before giving you the ideologically driven “prescription” for magic sugar pills, acupuncture, alkaline diet, dairy and wheat exclusion or whatever, is simply fatuous.

Medicine is holistic. It embraces everything from physiotherapy and diet to the latest cutting edge microsurgery or genetic therapies. You don’t become more holistic by abandoning the majority of medicine and substituting evidentially questionable practices.

Biochemical individuality creates mayhem with drug trials, which are designed to look for common results in everyone—one reason their results are so often manipulated, massaged or even made up. As the new medical explorers are discovering, the systems of the body interact as a complex, dynamic and highly individualistic whole.

The decline effect is well-known, it is an inevitable result of moving from idealised trial populations to non-idealised real populations. However, the differences between individuals are as nothing compared with the similarities.

Any two randomly selected humans will share between 99.6% and 99.9% of their genome. We share the majority of biochemical pathways (absent genetic defects), a doctor trained in surgery on Africans will have no difficulty with Europeans and vice versa.

There are differences, but not in the way that “holistic” practitioners pretend when listening to the worried well for an extended period before selling them the same witches’ brew of supplements or herbs that they sold the last person.

No humans are known to have yin and yang. The flow of qi is not evidentially established as different between individuals.. Tests for these things give the same result for everyone – namely that they don’t exist.

Basing your diagnosis and prescribing practice on provably false premises such as homeopathic similimum, subluxation complex, damp kidney or whatever, merely makes it unlikely that you will be right, other than by accident.

It’s important here to make a distinction between science—the open-minded pursuit of truth without fear or favour—and scientism, a solidified set of beliefs around which academics, industries and professions are framed.

It is indeed. Science is the process that has skepticism at its heart, scientism is a term primarily used by believers in creationism and other empirically unverifiable ideas, to attack those who accept the scientific consensus, and try to pretend that ideology is equivalent to following the evidence wherever it leads.

Science is the process that found helicobacter pylori to be the cause of ulcers, rather than stress as had been previously supposed.

Scientism would be the insistence that only the empirically proven causes of disease should be accepted, and that no credence should be given to the possibility that they are caused by miasms, qi, subluxations or whatever. This is perfectly reasonable in the absence of credible evidence that these concepts exist.

Pseudoscience, pathological science and cargo cult science are various flavours of activities giving the outward appearance of science but pursued in a way that excludes any conclusion that conflicts with the ideology of the inquirer. Homeopathic experiments are a perfect example. This is in contrast with the open-minded testing of alternative ideas by medical science, even though those tests rarely produce anything other than an equivocal or negative result. The US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and its predecessor have spent well over a billion dollars testing alternative therapies. They have yet to validate a single one, but it’s not for want of trying.

The resistance we’ve experienced has more to do with the latter. This seems clear from the way the scientism of medicine greets any discovery, breakthrough or possibility that questions or threatens the current medical paradigm—by dismissing such ideas out of hand as ‘quackery’, even when they are the work of eminent scientists at prestigious institutions such as Oxford, Harvard and Cambridge.

It is certainly more appealing to believe that opposition is due to an ideological bias against you, rather than the fact that you are wrong, but the facts are against you.

The advice WDDTY gives is either wrong, misleading or (conversely) perfectly normal advice that your doctor would give you. The problem is that you seem unable to distinguish the three.

True science is heresy

We tend to regard science as presenting some sort of static truth, but science is an ever evolving story, told in instalments. New chapters refine—and usually supplant—chapters that have come before.

Someone has been reading Kuhn, the crank’s favourite author.

This view is superficially true but actually wrong. For example, relativity technically supersedes Newtonian mechanics, but Newtonian mechanics is till used for the vast majority of calculations because it the results of the two systems approximate extremely closely other than under extreme conditions.

Schroedinger wave equations technically supplant the classical Bohr electron model, but the Bohr model is still close enough for many calculations and the difference only becomes significant at extremely small scales.

Every last advancement in science and healthcare begins as heresy, each important new discovery negating the prevailing views of the day.

This is simplistic to the point of being wrong. Improvements in medical treatments may be incremental or revolutionary.

What s being asserted is essentially the Galileo gambit. In truth, Galileo was following the scientific method and his opponents were the dogmatists, and the thing that SCAM proponents always forget about Galileo is that he was also right. Now, SCAM proponents always think that they are right, but there are so many “lone geniuses”, “brave maverick doctors” and so on, with so many often mutually exclusive ideas, that it is inconceivable that more than a tiny handful are right – whereas SCAM proponents tend to believe most of them, the process known as”crank magnetism”.

This idea that SCAM has the best, the brightest, the visionaries, and medical science the ideologically blinded plodders, requires that not only the process of medical science, but also the entire system of education is wrong, since the process that supposedly delivers those with the highest academic achievement is, according to this view, instead delivering venal dullards.

A Sagan quote reveals the more likely explanation:

But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

The most telling thing is that science is full of examples of self-correction, wrong ideas being discarded. We have yet tot race a single example of a SCAM treatment that has been discarded after being found to be false by scientific inquiry.

What if stones fall from the sky? What if there is no end of the earth to sail off? True science always begins by asking outrageous questions or pursuing unpopular notions, even if the answer threatens to overturn every last one of our cherished beliefs.

The idea that stones fall has never been controversial. Empirical scientist Robert Hooke suggested that it worked by an inverse square law. Newton quantified it. This may appear revolutionary, but it was evolutionary, with moments of very rapid progress.

The idea that earth is flat was based on the existence of the horizon. It doesn’t take much sailing before you work out it’s wrong.

I struggle to think of any scientific discovery in the last couple of centuries that renders the entirety of the previous theory and practice redundant. As soon as people started measuring and recording, results converged on what was true and theories had to fit observed facts (the Baconian school). The Cartesian school allowed for theory to run ahead of evidence, but the theory had to be discarded if the predictions it made did not hold up.

Even geocentric cosmology, which persisted for longer than it should, did so primarily due to religious belief.

True science seeks to drive a stake into science, particularly scientism.

No it doesn’t. True science seeks to explain the observed facts as accurately and completely as possible, The best example is probably evolutionary theory, a complex set of interlocking ideas founded on the fossil record, observations, DNA analysis and even planetary geology.

Consilience is the term used for multiple lines of inquiry leading to the same conclusions. Most medical science is consilient. Physiology, biochemistry, anatomy, chemistry – all offer different views of the same facts.

And then the Brave Maverick Doctor asserts some other set of facts that is inconsistent, and lacks a complete or consistent framework. Occasionally the brave maverick is right: Marshall and Warren took several attempts to persuade, but they admit this was because they had left important questions unanswered (notably: how bacteria could live in the acid environment of the stomach).

SCAM proponents brush these inconvenient details under the carpet and accuse those who ask about them of “scientism”.

Nevertheless, mainstream science, particularly mainstream medicine, has grown ever more fundamentalist, dominated by a few highly vocal people who believe that our scientific story has largely been written and that the job of science is simply to confirm it.

That is one opinion, just not supported by facts. Feel free to cite prominent authorities in medical science who think our understanding is anywhere near complete.

Thankfully, an enormous body of resistance carries on in defiance of this restricted—highly unscientific—view. May they and all the true scientists like them continue to light our way.

Whatever helps you manage the cognitive dissonanceW, I suppose. Doesn’t make it any more correct, though. I close with three quotes that illustrate how real science actually works:

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka” but “That’s funny…” – Isaac Asimov

In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. – Carl Sagan

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts – Bertrand Russell

As to which party in this dispute shows the attributes of religion, of fools and charlatans, of the “Eureka!” moment versus the patient inquiry of “that’s funny….”, we leave that  as an exercise for the reader.

Fancy that: the government and cancer charities are EXACTLY THE SAME

On the WDDTY Facebook page:
A few pointers for our media

A FEW POINTERS FOR OUR MEDIA

On Thursday, the BBC’s Radio 4 Today show featured an interview with Glenn Greenwald, a former Guardian journalist, and they were talking about the revelations of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Greenwald’s position is that British and American intelligence agencies have been allowed to create a system of mass spying with no accountability and that reforms are necessary.

The BBC interviewer was arguing against the Snowden leaks, saying that they’d been incredibly useful to Al-Qaeda and were now on up on their website and consequently a terrible threat to western security.

Hang on a moment, said Greenwald (we’re paraphrasing here). ‘What website is this? Have you ever seen it?’

‘Uh, uh. . .’ the BBC reporter said, and kept stuttering until Greenwald cut in, ‘You’re just accepting what the government tells you. You’re not being a proper journalist. I’m telling you, there is no such website.’

So Today put the Government’s assertion to Greenwald, and he torpedoed it. Anybody who expects the government to be straight about anything to do with intelligence or foreign affairs is living in a dream world.

So here’s a tip for our current media about cancer statistics and all things medical. We know it’s going to come as a shock, but we offer it as a pointer for free :

DON’T GET YOUR FACTS FROM THE GOVERNMENT. OR INDEED FROM CANCER CHARITIES LARGELY FUNDED BY THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY

Whoa, bait and switch, much? What WDDTY are basically saying is that cancer charities and the government are EXACTLY THE SAME in their motivations and biases.

This is transparent nonsense.

However, it introduces a nice ironic twist: if The Guardian is to be taken as a reliable source, as WDDTY’s statement implies, then they have a bit of a problem.

So: The Guardian, which is cited as a peerless source of great journalism, has repeatedly shown WDDTY to be talking nonsense.

Ah, but wait: I think what Lynne means here is that whenever any source of any reliability contradicts WDDTY, we should always believe WDDTY.

Because the alternative would be to dispute her infallibility.

Secure your copy of WDDTY

We’ve received a copy of the latest circular email from WDDTY. It contains a very interesting claim, and one which we think WDDTY might have a little difficulty backing up:

What Doctors Don't Tell You

Secure your copy of WDDTY

Hi (email subscriber),

Many of you are having problems finding What Doctors Don’t Tell You in the shops.

Especially Waitrose and Sainsbury’s.

This could be for a number of reasons:  we’re not in every store, and some stores display the magazine for a limited period.  Drug company supporters also hide the magazine or even remove copies from the shelves, and it’s hard for the store employees to always police this.

Wait, drug company supporters? They can’t mean skeptics – WDDTY says there are only a few of them, probably just Simon Singh and he moves around a lot. Every single skeptic we can trace who has commented on WDDTY is also a supporter of All Trials, possibly the most effective grass-roots campaign against “Big Pharma” that has ever existed, so that rules them out anyway.

So who is this large, well-organised shadowy cabal of drug industry supporters? Inquiring minds want to know!

One reader told us:

Interesting to note in your latest newsletter that drug company interests might be “hiding” copies of WDDTY on the shelves of Tesco etc.  I believe it totally. I went to buy one on 1st November at a Tesco and couldn’t see it. I looked all over. Not there. Then I bent down to look at the bottom shelf. Not there either. UNTIL… I noted at the very back of the bottom shelf – totally out of sight – were a few copies! I instantly thought what you did – that someone was deliberately hiding them. A shocker!

That’s where the magazine was at my local Tesco on the day it came out. So the shadowy drug-industry supporting cabal has taken over Tesco’s shelf-stackingThat’s serious!

Unless of course Tesco put it there because it’s a low-sales item. Something’s got to occupy the coveted back of the bottom shelf slot, after all, and it’s unlikely to be Loaded, even with its modesty bag that is entirely a matter for the publishers.

So we see the conspiracist mindset in action. The obvious explanation is discounted because it causes too much cognitive dissonanceW. Exactly as we see with medical and scientific evidence, in fact: disconfirming results are a conspiracy, confirming results are visionary and all issues, including poor design, conflicts of interest and so on, are ignored.

It’s a great way of not just being wrong, but staying wrong.

If you want to make sure you see WDDTY every month, we always recommend that you take out a subscription.  You save money if you pay by direct debit and it’s delivered to your home every month.

We recommend this too. If you absolutely insist on giving your money to an anti-vaccinationist homeopathy-believing author of pseudoscentific claptrap, in return for a monthly helping of incorrect, misleading and sometimes downright dangerous nonsense, then don’t make otherwise respectable retailers a partner in crime.

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