Posts Tagged “medicine”

Magic wand / kalhh, via PixabayOne of the things many people don’t realize about fundagelical Christians is that they like to wave their Jesus around like a magical talisman. They view him as the ultimate tool … for any vexing task.

Take, for example, this winter’s particularly bad flu season (Archive.Is cached article). Yes, for fundagelicals, even the flu is no match for the magic of Jesus. All you need do — as Gloria Copeland (wife of megapastor Kenneth Copeland) says, according to Right Wing Watch — is drop Jesus’ name a few times, and poof! the flu magically goes away (cached):

You’d think that given past experience, Copeland’s Eagle Mountain International Church might have learned a lesson, but you’d be wrong, as yesterday a video was posted on the ministry’s Facebook page [cached] featuring Copeland’s wife, Gloria, telling people that there is no such thing as flu season and that they don’t need to get a flu shot because “Jesus himself gave us the flu shot.”

“Listen, partners, we don’t have a flu season,” Gloria Copeland said. “And don’t receive it when somebody threatens you with, ‘Everybody is getting the flu.’ We’ve already had our shot, He bore our sicknesses and carried our diseases. That’s what we stand on.”

Praying for those who may already have the flu, Copeland proclaimed, “Flu, I bind you off the people in the name of Jesus. Jesus himself gave us the flu shot, He redeemed us from the curse of flu.” Those who don’t have the flu, she promised, can protect themselves by simply declaring, “I’ll never have the flu.”

What’s ironic about this is that the very fundagelicals who’ll ward off the flu with mantras like, “Flu, I bind you off the people in the name of Jesus,” in the very next breath would condemn the performance of witchcraft or magic, as well as taking the name of the Lord in vain. What’s more, they’ll never admit this rather blatant hypocrisy … even though their own Jesus explicitly and unambiguously ordered them never to be hypocritical, ever, at any time or for any reason. They just don’t get that their own religion contradicts itself.

Not to mention, repeatedly blabbering Jesus’ name will never do anything to prevent or cure the flu. It just won’t.

One last note, for all readers: If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet, go get one. Don’t buy into any of the bullshit you’ve heard to the contrary. Just do it, ferfucksakes. Now!

Photo credit: kalhh, via Pixabay.

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Snake oil or Memory Elixer anyoneThere’s a paper published not far from me, that I read from time to time, the Torrington (CT) Register Citizen. A few years ago I noted — and documented several examples of — that paper printing a lot of “hauntings as news” stories. Of course, they’re not the only ones guilty of that bad journalism trope. Thankfully I haven’t seen them do too much of that lately. So that’s an improvement.

But today I see they ran another specious story, though of a different kind. This article is a puff-piece promoting a Litchfield, CT naturopath/chiropractor and his so-called “practice” (WebCite cached article).

I don’t plan to quote any of what amounts to a press release for this woo practitioner. Instead, I offer a few observations:

First, one must understand that naturopathy is a pseudoscience (aka “phony medicine” or “quackery”) based on something called “vitalism.” Chiropractic is similarly pseudomedical, based on the notion that “subluxations” in the spine cause all disease. There’s zero evidence supporting either vitalism or the subluxation-of-the-spine model of disease … but that doesn’t stop quacks like this. They’ll happily reel off any number of tales in support of their woo and nonsense.

Next, the guy complains about conventional medicine making money, as though the profit motive destroys its credibility or something. The problem is, quacks like him themselves make money, themselves, peddling their phony cures. He lampshades this by saying he’s not wealthy, but does admit he makes something, which basically invalidates his whole “making-money-on-medicine-means-it-can’t-be-any-good” argument.

In truth, no remedies — whether real or phony — are given away for free! Everyone who offers any kind of cure, does so with his/her hand out. It’s unavoidable. And all by itself, it doesn’t tell us anything about the effectiveness of the cure.

This guy is also an anti-vaxxer … and the less said about that, the better, because that movement was established by a con artist. Yes, a fraud.

This “practitioner” wants people to think for themselves and question what they’re told by conventional medicine. Questioning things is a principle I support wholeheartedly. The problem is … before one can productively question something, one must first know something about it … the more, the better. Most people are not educated in medicine, though, which means that any questioning they may do of conventional medicine, could easily go off the rails. (The popularity of the antivax movement is a sterling example of this.)

A year and a half ago, Connecticut “modernized” naturopathy practices and expanded what naturopaths can do (cached). This guy, no doubt, is profiting from that. Yes, I said “profiting.” As in, “making money.” Something the article suggests is bad for healers to do.

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DryvaxAmong the ridiculous bullshit spewed during last night’s Republican primary debate on CNN … in addition to the bullshit Rick Santorum spewed that I already blogged about … another dealt with vaccines. As the Daily Beast reports, Donald “it’s my own orange hair” Trump once again repeated his asinine, pseudoscientific antivax position (WebCite cached article):

At the CNN debate Wednesday night, the GOP frontrunner broadcasted [sic] anti-science vaccine conspiracy nonsense—unchallenged by moderators or fellow contenders—to an audience of millions.

“We’ve had so many instances…a child went to have the vaccine, got very, very sick, and now is autistic,” he blathered. “Autism has become an epidemic. It has gotten totally out of control.”

Trump has long peddled goofy, debunked theories about a causal link between vaccination and autism. As far back as 2012, he suggested the practice of giving numerous vaccines to healthy babies is “monstrous.”

One of the physicians onstage, Ben Carson, was asked about Trump’s claims. Unfortunately, he punted:

“We have extremely well documented proof that there’s no autism associated with vaccinations,” Carson said. “But it is true that we’re giving way too many in too short a period of time. And a lot of pediatricians now recognize that, and they’re cutting down on the number and the proximity.”

It’s nice, I suppose, that Carson did acknowledge there being no link between vaccines and autism. But his little bit about there being too many and too frequent vaccinations is a lie, as a report the Daily Beast linked to makes clear (cached). The other physician onstage, Rand Paul, idiotically echoed Carson:

“I’m all for vaccines, but I’m also for freedom,” the curly-haired ophthalmologist said. “I’m also more concerned about how they’re bunched up. My kids had all their vaccines, and even if the science doesn’t say bunching ’em up is a problem, I might have the right to spread my vaccines out at the very least.”

His whole thing about “freedom” is a fucking joke. No parent in his/her right mind should use “freedom” to justify risking his/her kids coming down with preventable childhood diseases — which can, in some cases, be deadly (even if a lot of antivaxxers irrationally dismiss that danger). So I find Paul’s “freedom” objection to be, essentially, a non sequitur.

Look, I get why all these guys hate vaccines. It’s because they’re largely government-mandated (in most places kids can’t get into school without them), ‘n’ y’all knows how horrbull dat dere gummint is! Dem vaccine thangs jus’ cain’t be good fer da chilluns! Dat secret Muslim Barack HUSSEIN Obama is prolly usin’ ’em fer mind control!

Of course, hating vaccines for political reasons isn’t appreciably worse than hating them because of a fraudulent study by a con-artist doctor who’d imagined a scheme to sell bogus autism treatments.

The reality is — as Ben Carson conceded during the debate — that medicine has determined there is no connection between vaccines and autism. None. Period. End of discussion.

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Dr. Oz at ServiceNation 2008I’ve blogged a couple times about the woo and nonsense spewed by the famous “Friend of Oprah” Dr Mehmet Oz. The insipid nonsense he reels off has been questioned both by journalists and by US Senators. But he’s been able to keep his TV show and his jobs at Columbia University … feathers in his cap which grant him more apparent credibility than he deserves (WebCite cached article). The Associated Press reports a number of physicians have petitioned Columbia to remove him due to his pseudomedical advice (cached):

Columbia University has not removed TV celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz from his faculty position as a group of top doctors has demanded, citing his “egregious lack of integrity” for promoting what they call “quack treatments.”

“Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine,” said a letter the 10 physicians sent to a Columbia dean earlier this week. They say he’s pushing “miracle” weight-loss supplements with no scientific proof that they work.…

The doctors wrote that Oz, for years a world-class Columbia cardiothoracic surgeon, “has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.” They said he has “misled and endangered” the public.

But Columbia clearly has no problem with one of its faculty peddling pseudoscience and gibberish, and refuse to heed this petition:

The New York Ivy League school responded Thursday, issuing a statement to The Associated Press saying only that the school “is committed to the principle of academic freedom and to upholding faculty members’ freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussion.”

Yes, Columbia University thinks “academic freedom” is a license to dole out lies and misinformation. I don’t see those in any definition of the phrase that I’ve been able to find, but they’re the ones who run an ivory tower, so I have to assume they know more about it than I — or the doctors who signed the petition — do.

Let’s face it, the man makes a shitload of money and has a daily nationally-syndicated TV show; he probably attracts a lot of attention for the college. That must be a lot more important than valid science.

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Medicine Man Yellow Plume, Roland W. Reed, 1912 Img172Most families will do everything possible to save the lives of their members. That is, after all, the rational thing to do. That said, not all families are that rational. Some place their metaphysics above everything … including life itself. Occasionally these lunatic nutcases even get help from others in their effort to kill their own members over metaphysics. The Hamilton (ON) Spectator reports a provincial judge just gave this sort of “help” to First Nations families in Canada (WebCite cached article):

Aboriginal children now have the right to refuse life-saving medical treatment in favour of traditional healing.

A “precedent-setting” ruling made that clear Friday in the case of a First Nations girl refusing chemotherapy.

But it has nothing to do with whether aboriginal medicine works.

Instead, it’s about Canada’s constitution protecting aboriginal rights.

Ontario Court Justice Gethin Edward has now expanded those rights to include traditional healing, saying: “There is no question it forms an integral part.”

It’s great to see judges so obsessed with adhering strictly to the letter of the law — as they see it — that they’re willing to make certain that people die, all over Canada, for no valid reason. Why let nasty little things like rationality get in the way of that? </sarcasm>

What makes this even worse than the fact that two little girls are likely to die soon, is the giddiness with which this decision has been embraced:

“This is monumental for our people all across the country,” Six Nations Chief Ava Hill said after the ruling in Brantford.

“This is precedent-setting for us.”

First Nations spectators in the standing-room-only courtroom burst into applause and tears as Edward dismissed an application by McMaster Children’s Hospital to have the girl apprehended by Brant Family and Children’s Services and forced into treatment.

“I feel I’ve transcended something bigger than all of us,” said the girl’s aunt when she phoned the mother to deliver the news.

These people have doomed not just one, but two girls — as well as unknown numbers of future children — to certain death. And they’ve got the audacity to applaud themselves over it. How fucking disgraceful!

Justice Edward errs by viewing the effectiveness of conventional medicine as the “western medical paradigm,” or a mere cultural viewpoint. The truth is, it’s no such thing, and for the Justice to say so is a lie. Science-based medicine is not a paradigm or “viewpoint,” any more than — say — the laws of gravitation are just a “viewpoint”: One doesn’t merely opine or fantasize that an object will fall to the floor if one drops it, one knows it will, because the mechanism of gravity has been worked out and it’s predictable. Similarly, science-based medicine works toward rational conclusions based upon objective evidence. There’s nothing “viewpoint-y” about it. Treatments are evaluated and their effectiveness measured.

Metaphysical medicine, on the other hand, has no objective basis whatsoever. People just conjure shit up and do it, then tell themselves it worked, without understanding physiological mechanisms, and without even caring about effectiveness. They rely on appeals to tradition as well as other fallacies, confuse the placebo effect with actual recovery from a condition, and bellyache and whine about how “Big Pharma” profits from conventional medicine, therefore it must all be a lie (conveniently failing to mention that a lot of alternative-medicine practitioners make a lot of money peddling their bullshit, nonsense, and lies).

Put bluntly, wishing (as I do) that First Nations children all have an opportunity to survive into adulthood, is not an imposition of western cultural values on Canada’s aboriginal peoples. It’s a desire that they live, so long as it’s possible … and nothing more.

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Mehmet Oz - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012I’ve blogged a time or two about Dr Mehmet Oz, aka “Dr Oz.” His friendship with Oprah Winfrey has given him his own TV show and small media empire. Some of his medical advice is fine, however, he occasionally waxes rhapsodic over spurious remedies which — as a physician who heads a program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and who’s on the faculty of Columbia University — he has to know have no meaningful scientific support.

What Dr Oz doesn’t seem to have been aware of previously, and which was the subject of a Senate hearing yesterday, is that his words are grist for the mills of scammers, liars, cheats and con artists. As NBC News reports, Sen. Claire McCaskill in particular confronted him about this problem (WebCite cached article):

Dr. Mehmet Oz, a celebrity doctor who frequently extols weight-loss products on his syndicated television show, got a harsh scolding from several senators on Tuesday at a hearing about bogus diet product ads.

Oz was held up as the power driving many of the fraudulent ads, even as he argued he was himself the victim of the scammers. The hearing is a follow-up to the Federal Trade Commission’s crackdown last January against fake diet products.

“I don’t get why you need to say this stuff because you know it’s not true,” Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat who chairs a Senate subcommittee on consumer protection, said at the hearing. “So why, when you have this amazing megaphone…why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?”

Dr Oz’s defense is that he’s giving people “hope”:

Oz, a frequent guest on NBC’s TODAY show, admitted he uses “flowery” language on his shows, and said he realizes that the moment he recommends a product, the scammers use his words to sell spurious products. “I concede to my colleagues at the FTC that I am making their job more difficult,” he said.

But he said he has to be “passionate” to engage his audience. “When we write a script, we need to generate enthusiasm and engage the viewer,” Oz said.…

Oz said the products give people hope to keep trying to lose weight — something almost all experts agree is a very difficult thing to do. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.

Ah. So that makes it all better, I guess. Somehow. The Senator hit back on this point:

McCaskill asked why Oz didn’t use his show to promote what actually has been proven to help people lose weight — careful eating and exercise. “I want to see all that floweriness, all that passion, about the beauty of a walk at sunset,” she said.

“The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of a few products that you have called miracles,” she added. “I just don’t understand why you need to go there … You are being made an example of today because of the power you have in this space.”

Of course, it’s not just green coffee bean extract which Dr Oz has touted. He’s pumped other things, too, such as magical pajamas. Yes, you read that right: Pajamas. Note, this recommendation wasn’t a general or generic one, like, “avoid salt” or “eat oranges.” It was a specific recommendation for a single, proprietary product known as “Goodnighties” (cached). Dr Oz also cooked up a weird, pseudo-scientific justification for believing in the claimed magical powers of Theresa Caputo, the so-called Long Island Medium. Pardon me while I laugh at the famed towering intellect of this academic-physician. I’m neither an academic nor a physician, yet I know there are no magical health-granting pajamas, and I also know that no one can talk with the dead.

Having said all of this, Dr Oz wasn’t the only one criticized at this Senate hearing, according to NBC News:

McCaskill also rebuked media companies that run the ads. “I find it troubling that broadcast and satellite radio witnesses who were asked to be here today were unwilling to appear. To me, this indicates that either there is something to hide or they don’t have a good story to tell,” she said.

The Senator has a good point. Media companies happily carry ads and promote shows that they, also, must know promote useless products. But they didn’t have the courage to appear before Congress and defend that practice. Hmm.

Although I’m gratified that the Senate held a hearing to expose this problem, I’d much rather they took meaningful action that would truly make things better. Perhaps the most important of those would be to repeal the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (aka the DSHEA). This act removed “dietary supplements” … which would include things like green coffee bean extract … from FDA oversight, thus creating a vast market for bogus products that are peddled behind cowardly little legalistic caveats like “not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” If any of these things actually did what their makers imply they do, it ought to be possible — if not trivial — to demonstrate it using the same sorts of studies which the FDA requires for pharmaceuticals. Sure, it’d cost money … but so what? We’re talking about people’s health here! Why is it so onerous or unreasonable to expect the makers of “herbal remedies” provide medical evidence for their claims, when we have no qualms about demanding the same in the case of pharmaceuticals? I don’t see how or why there should be any difference.

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Screen shot of preventable-disease map, by CFREven though the current anti-vax movement has been constructed upon a single demonstrably-fraudulent study (WebCite cached article) by Dr Andrew Wakefield — which he’d intended as the basis for a franchise selling “remedies” for something he called “austistic enterocolitis” (cached), it’s taken on a life of its own. It morphed originally from Wakefield’s (false) contention that the MMR vaccine causes autism, to the assumption that all vaccines, of any type, are toxic.

The mass media have done more than their share to perpetuate the lie that vaccines are dangerous, including this past December when Katie Couric spent an entire show parading sanctimonious mommies on her stage (cached) telling everyone that the HPV vaccine is lethal. Ms Couric later sort-of conceded she might have gone too far with that one (cached).

The truth of the anti-vax movement is much worse than just that it’s a big fat fucking lie with a fraudulent genesis; it’s actually hurting people in very real — and measurable — ways. The Council on Foreign Relations released a map showing the incidence of vaccine-preventable outbreaks around the world (cached). And the picture isn’t pretty:Screen shot of preventable-disease map, by CFROne expects to see such illnesses in developing countries, but as is evident in the map, even in highly industrialized nations, preventable childhood illnesses are also occurring in large numbers. Europe is plastered with measles, for instance, and the U.S. is spawning whooping cough from sea to sea.

I know I’ll be accused of having been paid by “Big Pharma” to point this out and condemn the anti-vax movement … but no matter how fervently the anti-vax crowd may believe otherwise, I haven’t. “Big Pharma” doesn’t even know who I am. I also don’t know anyone who works for, or who’s ever been paid any amount, by a “Big Pharma” firm. I’m just a guy who objects to irrationality and lies, and doesn’t think it’s a good idea for people to he harmed or killed by irrationality and lies. Call me crazy if you want — and many have! — but that’s just how I roll. <shrug>

Photo credit: CFR map screen-shot.

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