I’m trying out a new series, looking at some popular myths (mostly in medicine, but maybe we’ll wander outside of it when something interesting shows up) and determining if there’s any support or not in science. I’m going to link mostly to science articles and high-quality blogs, just so you have all the back-up evidence that you need. One way or another.
Ginkgo bilobais actually an interesting plant because it has been relatively unchanged for nearly 270 million years. It is considered a living fossil, an informal term used for species like G. biloba that appear to be the same as a species otherwise only known from fossils and which has no close living relatives. The genus Ginkgo was fairly widely distributed until about 100 million years ago. It slowly disappeared from the fossil record until it was found only in one small part of China about 5 million years ago, where it is found today.
I usually don’t dwell too much on chiropractic, because so many other bloggers deal with it so well. Basically, it is the belief in the “vertebral subluxation processes” that is used to treat and cure a purported vast range of diseases that no scientifically verified connection to vertebrate anatomy. Modern chiropractic has tried to divorce itself from the vertebral subluxation, and evolved to the the main chiropractic treatment technique that involves manual therapy, including manipulation of the spine, other joints, and soft tissues. Chiropractic treatment also includes exercises and health and lifestyle counseling.
So, what does real science say about chiropractic? Not much.
One of the areas that has always had some clinical evidence, and lots of anecdotal evidence of success with chiropractic has been lower back pain. However, a recent publication in the Cochrane Reviews even eliminates that last bastion. According to the article, Spinal manipulative therapy for acute low-back pain, which reviewed 20 randomized clinical trials (with a total of 2674 participants), spinal manipulative therapy is no more effective in participants with acute low-back pain than inert interventions. In other words, chiropractic is no more effective than any other recommended therapy for lower back pain, like taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
Basically, chiropractic evidence is barely more than placebo. Which means that it has barely any clinical significance.
As I’ve discussed previously about homeopathy, there is absolutely no evidence that it does anything but quench thirst, since the basic principles of homeopathy is that. And even then, there are much cheaper methods to quench thirst, like getting water from your tap.
Not that it should surprise anyone, but it’s been reported that a consortium of homeopathy companies in Germany have been paying a “journalist” over $50,000 to set up and run a set of websites to criticize a UK academic, Professor Edzard Ernst, one of the world’s leading scientific skeptics of the lack of scientific viability of alternative medicine, specifically homeopathy. The original article, Schmutzige Methoden der sanften Medizin (or the Dirty Tricks of Alternative Medicine) was published in a German newspaper, described how the these companies, who manufacture homeopathic sugar pills, funded a journalist named Claus Fritzsche to denigrate any critics of homeopathy. He focused on Professor Ernst, by attacking him for being partisan, biased and incompetent, on several of these websites. He then linked them together in order to raise their Google ranking, so that any search for Professor Ernst and homeopathy would put these websites high on any list of Google hits. Continue reading “Homeopathy companies pay journalist to attack anti-homeopathy academic”
…was the term coined by (Samuel) Hahnemann (founder of homeopathy) to dramatize the contrast between homeopathy and its competition. According to Hahnemann, “allopathic” medicine sought to give only medicines that suppressed symptoms.
You’ll find allopathy being used by just about any woo-meister in alternative medicine universe. Joe Mercola, anti-vaccine quack and promoter (and when I say promoter, I mean seller of all things alternative medicine) uses the term “allopathic” in 53 articles on his website to attack sound, evidence-based medicine. That’s basically proof that the word is a pejorative like “Western medicine” or “traditional medicine.” It tries to make it sound like evidence-based medicine is closed minded, stuck on tradition, when, in fact, it’s open-minded to new theories and techniques.
In Wikipedia’s article on allopathy, “the meaning (as) implied by the label has never been accepted by conventional medicine, and is still considered pejorative by some.” However, in Wikipedia, the resource for all things woo, allopathy is often used by anti-science pushers to make their articles fit their pseudoscientific view of the world, and it is almost always used in a pejorative fashion to make alternative medicine appear to be somewhat more “open minded”. For example, here’s a discussion amongst the well-known pseudoscience pushers on Wikipedia claiming that allopathic medicine is not science based. Or Dana Ullman, the biggest promoter of homeopathy in the world, spending huge amounts of bandwidth trying to get Wikipedia to use allopathy to describe science based medicine. Of course, Dana was permanently banned from editing anything to do with homeopathy on Wikipedia based on his horrible behavior issues. If you see “allopathy” in a Wikipedia article, be prepared for pseudoscience.
Or as Liz Ditz puts it:
The chiroquacktors use the word allopathy a lot to disparage medicine (as opposed to their fantasy world).
Listen to the radio for a few minutes. Or watch late night television for a bit. Through the commercials hawking insurance with talking geckos, promoting treatments for erectile dysfunction, and, exhibiting the coolest, fastest, most fuel efficient car, you will run across the reason for all that ails you: your improperly cleaned colon. The treatment is called colon cleansing, and sometimes, detoxifying. It’s one of those silly alternative medicine ideas that hangs around without one single bit of evidence supporting it. Continue reading “Colon detoxification is full of…it”
Let’s be blunt. Naturopathy is pure, unmitigated, undiluted junk medicine (or what many call “woo”). What is naturopathy? It is a form of alternative medicine based on a belief in vitalism, which posits that life has a quality independent of physical and chemical laws. In other words, it is no different than homeopathy (one of the core competencies of naturopathy), both of which rely upon denying the basic laws of physics and chemistry. Life may have some quality independent of physical or chemical laws and theories, but treating anything from a viral infection to a fractured femur to any of the 200 or so types of cancer requires medicines and techniques that depend upon real science, whether physics, chemistry or biology. Continue reading “Naturopathy and diabetes–pure pseudoscience”
There have been a couple of significant changes to this website to provide more information to the reader in the ongoing discourse of skepticism vs. irrationality. And by irrationality, of course, we mean anything pseudoscientific.
First, the Logical Fallacies FAQ has been thoroughly updated to make some sections more easy to read, add some better examples of the fallacy, and new external links. Also, in the sidebar, you can download the whole FAQ into a pdf file for use later. There are more detailed descriptions of logical fallacies out in the internet, but most of them are intense and detailed descriptions of the logic behind the illogic. Most of us, as readers of blogs, tend to have a limited amount of time, so having a quick reference on various fallacies should help get through various articles quickly. Continue reading “Housekeeping notes: Logical Fallacies and RationalWiki”
I was scanning through the Drugs section, and I saw an entry for “Alternative Medicine.” What? Dr. Crislip went to the dark side? Did he actually think homeopathy worked? Was he a mole for alternative medicine crowd? But, that section had a nicely worded (note: It’s an R-rated section, maybe PG-13) commentary on complementary and alternative medicine (aka CAM). I’m not sure the letter was actually sent to the Annals of Medicine, but from reading his blog, I wouldn’t bet against it. Continue reading “Alternative medicine according to Mark Crislip, MD”
I follow some Australian skeptics’ blogs, mainly because of Meryl Dorey, the lunatic who runs the Anti-Vaccination movement in Australia. One of the better ones is Dan’s Journal of Skepticism, run by Dan Buzzard. He writes on a lot of issues with regards to pseudoscience, mostly in medicine. Earlier this year, he wrote about how a homeopath, Francine Scrayen, treated her “patient”, Penelope Dingle, who was suffering from rectal cancer, with homeopathic potions and lotions.
In my view the deceased’s rectal cancer was present and causing bleeding and other symptoms from at least 31 October 2001. During the period 31 October 2001 until at least the end of November 2002, the deceased regularly described the symptoms of her rectal cancer to a homeopath, Francine Scrayen. It was not until November 2002 that Mrs Scrayen and the deceased discussed the possibility of reporting her rectal bleeding to a medical practitioner and it was not until 5 December 2002 that she first reported those problems to a doctor.
I accept that Mrs Scrayen believed that the deceased had suffered from haemorrhoids years earlier and the bleeding and pain was “an old symptom coming back”, but a competent health professional would have been alarmed by the developing symptoms and would have strongly advised that appropriate medical investigations be conducted without delay.
Mrs Scrayen was not a competent health professional. I accept that Mrs Scrayen had minimal understanding of relevant health issues, unfortunately that did not prevent her from treating the deceased as a patient.
This case has highlighted the importance of patients suffering from cancer making informed, sound decisions in relation to their treatment. In this case the deceased paid a terrible price for poor decision making.
Unfortunately the deceased was surrounded by misinformation and poor science. Although her treating surgeon and mainstream general practitioner provided clear and reliable information, she received mixed messages from a number of different sources which caused her to initially delay necessary surgery and ultimately decide not to have surgery until it was too late.