This is why we need women in skepticism!

There is a lot of post-Elevatorgate buzz about women in skepticism, including the announcement of a conference to specifically deal with women in secularism, more specifically the lack thereof. A lot of people who think that this is a non-issue have said that women (and other minorities in skepticism) will join the movement when they want to, that women simply aren’t interested in hearing about it. (And if you don’t think people actually believe this, please read the comments on the “Women in Secularism” announcement.) Since secularism is about self-improvement and education, I’m going to call Bullshit! on that. Yes, part of the problem is an environment in secularism that is intimidating to women, a lack of prominence for female skeptics, and so on. But the inverse of that is the amount of woo that is promoted to women.

Manitoba women use the health care system more than men, averaging 5.4 physician visits annually (4.4 for men), and 85% of women see a physician at least annually (79% for men.) Even healthy women of reproductive age receive birth control from their physician, have annual Pap tests, get mammograms, have prenatal consultations, and use health care services before, during and after childbirth. Women who are sick visit their physicians more frequently than men with similar illnesses. Women are more likely to be injured due to domestic violence (1 in 5 Manitoban women have been victimized by their partner in the last five years). Women are more likely to be proactive with their health, seeking screening and taking preventative measures more often than men. Now here’s the scary bit: almost 1 in 5 women in Manitoba consulted a CAM practitioner in 2003 (the most recent data). Only 1 in 10 men did the same! These statistics are in reality even worse, as the analysis excluded chiropractic, which partially covered by the province and therefore “not alternative.” Women are more preoccupied with their health, more concerned with prevention, and therefore more likely to be taken in by quacks.

Here’s a figure from the report I’m getting my data from:

The higher the household income, the more likely the women would seek CAM (here denoted CAHC for "health care"). Men did not seek more care as it became financially feasible.

In other words, as women were able to afford it, likely due to both increased income and increased private insurance coverage with the better paying jobs, more women were using CAM. I certainly would be interested to see if the discrepancy is access in lower income brackets, or a lack of awareness.

Well, maybe, you helpfully offer, chronically ill women are more likely to use CAM, and the wealth changes represent their ability to try unproven treatments for their disease! Nay nay….

The majority of women using CAM are healthy!

So what now? We have a bunch of healthy, wealthy women who are out there spending money on homeopathy and reiki and healing meditation and detox regimens and spiritual communicators. Why is it our problem if women want to waste their money on unproven crap? Well, because it’s not right, and it’s not fair. We don’t teach girls to ask questions, we tell them to trust authority, we tell them that their problems aren’t important, we tell them that they’re not an important part of the skeptical community, and then we proceed to laugh at them for finding a sympathetic ear and falling prey to placebo effects!

Worst of all, thanks to “integrative” “medicine,” woo is pervading our hospitals. While walking through the Women’s Health Centre, I saw a poster for upcoming health workshops being hosted at the Centre that made me do a double take. Yes, sponsored by Alberta Health Services, you can take a $40, 2-hour workshop in Reiki (“massage for your soul!”), a $190, 12-hour class in Feng Shui, or a $48, 3-hour workshop entitled, I kid you not, “Talking to Your Angels and Learning How to Listen,” run by Sandy Day, who claims to be a Reiki Master, Shaman, and Intuitive Healer. This is not some backwoods hand-waving Natural Healing Centre Of Happiness and Puppy Dog Kisses, this is at the biggest teaching hospital in the city, the centre for the high-risk pregnancies, for breast cancer: the medical hub! Or, on Wednesday, September 17th from 7-9 pm, the classroom for “Energy Medicine – The Internal World.” Oh but don’t worry, in tiny text:

Women’s Health Resources does not support, endorse or recommend any method, treatment, product, remedial center, program or person. We do, however, endeavour to inform because we believe in the right to have access to available information in order to make informed individual choices.

Now, call me skeptical, but I’m pretty sure if I wander over to the Urology clinic, I somehow doubt that I will see the same advertisements promising healing touch lessons for prostate problems.

For more than one reason, really. (zpeckler@flikr)

If we don’t teach our girls to question, and if we don’t ask our women to think, stuff like this is only going to get worse. No amount of half-assed disclaimery is going to change the fact that misinforming anyone is the opposite of giving them an informed individual choice. Talking about the dangerous of being teleported to Neptune by devious extraterrestrial cows does not come into discussions of which car you’d like to buy. Yes, you should be aware of the pros and cons of every car, and yes you should be free to make that choice, but having some random loon come in off the street to convince people that our Bovine Neptunian Overlords only abduct people who drive Chevies is pretty much the opposite of informed consent, particularly if the random loon also happens to sell Toyotas. Why is the Women’s Health Centre not bringing in drug companies to give presentations on why everyone should be taking Lipitor? Perhaps because there is a major conflict of interest when you are essentially charging people to sit through a sales pitch? And this is actually a bad example, because at least Lipitor actually has demonstrable, independently reproducible benefits!

So yes, we do need more women in skepticism. We need women standing up for themselves, saying that they are tired of all this bullshit being thrown at them. Without female allies telling Oprah to go stuff herself and Dr. Oz to take his reiki elsewhere, the skepticism movement will never succeed at exposing fraud in CAM. Women’s voices don’t just deserve to be heard in skepticism, they need to be heard, for the sake of everyone’s health.

Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be Fundamentalist Christians

For all those interested, the following story is worth reading.

When I was young I went to a bible camp. I can say it was nothing like what Kathryn Joyce wrote about, per say. I think the worst I had to endure, other than the constant Christian subliminal brainwashing, was the milk served at meals. Every meal came with a glass of powdered milk. Every drop had to be consumed or you where not allowed to leave the table. I wonder what was in that “milk”.

Archie and the Gang are up to no good. Tune in next time when Jughead eats all the wafers.

I nearly died in that camp as well. The camp was located next to a lake and there were daily swimming sessions which were monitored by an adult. When walking along the bottom of the section designated for swimming I lost my footing and went under water. Luckily I was pulled out, resuscitated and proceeded to cough out water.

Still, nothing I can relate to compares to the horror that these young women go through. Young girls may rebel, may fight and swear, but no one deserves this torture. I you know someone who is currently rebelling, help them. Just talking about issues may actually accomplish something. Refer them to secular counselling that will look at what is actually going on, rather than attempting to exorcise demons.

If you know of a parent who is thinking of sending their child to a place like this, forward them this article. Hopefully they cringe and decide to see professional help as opposed to spiritual help.


Integrative and allopathic medicine: a skeptical medical student’s rant

It’s no mystery that I am not a fan of CAM (complementary and alternative medicine), and not because I’m a Big Pharma Shill or been brainwashed by exhaustive campaigns by evil corporations. It’s not that I hate herbs, hate Chinese people, and hate things that are different that I don’t understand. The majority of the time I spent in a research laboratory (5 years, including time as a summer student), I spent it doing research into nutrition and functional foods. I worked with people studying the biochemical effects of exercise on health. I understand the role of preventative medicine and lifestyle interventions more than most people and I strongly advocate them. As part of, you know, medicine.

The term “allopathic medicine” was coined by Samuel Hahnemann, who contrasted it with, unsurprisingly for those of you who recognize the name, homeopathic medicine. It’s a derivative term from the Greek word allos meaning other, implying that the treatment opposes the disease, in contrast to homeos (“like”) cures. That homeopathy continues to persist 168 years after Samuel Hahnemann is a farce – that it is presented to medical students without any iota of explanation or critical thought is a tragedy. Observe:

From the AFMC (Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada) Primer on Population Health, required reading for my class, with the offending phrases bolded by me:

Contemporary Western medicine is increasingly being challenged to consider how to respond to perspectives and treatments other than those of conventional allopathic medicine. One response has been to propose ‘integrative medicine’ as a collaboration between biomedical approaches and other healing traditions, including herbal remedies, manual interventions such as massage therapy or chiropractic, and mind-body practices such as hypnosis. Similarly, the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine trains naturopathic doctors who employ natural therapies as well as using the more standard medical diagnostics of allopathic medicine.

Integrative medicine is about changing the focus in medicine to one of healing rather than disease. This involves an understanding of the influences of mind, spirit, and community as well as of the body…
…Whereas allopathy implies opposing the symptoms of disease, homoepathy implies working with the disease by stimulating the body to produce its natural defensive (e.g., immune) responses.For a time during the mid-nineteenth century, homeopathy (treating like with like) was a serious rival to the allopathic approach, but the development of the germ theory gave allopathy a scientific foundation for many of its remedies. However, by the mid twentieth century disillusionment began when, despite advances in ‘the conquest of infectious disease’ hospitals remained full and waiting lists stayed long. This may have reflected a rising demand for care induced by the perception of its success, but the very success of allopathic medicine (along with improved social conditions) enabled people to live long enough to suffer degenerative diseases for which the allopathic approach is less effective. Moreover, the allopathic approach has some undesired consequences including the rapid increases in costs and the large numbers of people with iatrogenic disorders.2 While allopathic remedies are often highly effective, practitioners are also aware that the best cure may be for the patient to simply restore balance in their life and get adequate sleep, exercise, and good nutrition.

Did you spot all the devious false equivalences and straw men drawn there? Did you notice the bait and switch set up with massage therapy being touted as alternative? Integrative medicine is not a collaboration between biomedical approaches and “other healing traditions” – it’s the infusion of pseudoscience into science. There is no need to worry about traditions when designing a treatment program. You figure out what works best, and you use it. We don’t continue to give people radium for high blood pressure simply because some people in the past thought it was a nifty neat-o idea! Notice also the mention of naturopaths as if they were an equivalent but separate kind of doctor, as if drinking powdered deer horn tea had the same level of efficacy as prescribing a statin.

The idea that “allopathic” medicine is focused on disease rather than healing is a ridiculous notion that I am ashamed to see presented by the people who are overseeing the curricula of this country’s medical schools. In my first week here, the concepts of the spectrum from health to disease, the need for population-based intervention, and the need to treat patients as individuals and not diseases has already come up. We’ve also already talked about treatment – but what is the point of talking about treatment if you don’t understand the disease? I mean, it’s all well and good that Mrs. Johnson comes in vomiting blood all over, but I’m pretty sure that thinking hard about being healthy and taking a nap isn’t going to prevent her form going into hemorrhagic shock! Only once you understand the disease can  you design a treatment. If you think her vomiting blood is from possession by an evil forest spirit, you’re going to proceed quite a bit differently than if you realize that Mrs. Johnson has a ruptured blood vessel in her stomach. The whole purpose of medicine is to achieve wellness! No amount of pre-scientific thinking or feel-good nonsense is going to save Mrs. Johnson’s life!

And of course, the criticisms that because “allopathic” medicine works so well, now people are living long enough to deal with issues that it can’t treat. So, when Mr. Wong comes into your clinic, presenting with symptoms of Alzheimer’s, clearly the only answer is to abandon the system that works really well at everything else, and try some random stuff that has no evidence to support it. This is the same sort of tactic that creationists use in the “God of the gaps” arguments. We don’t know, so God did it. We don’t know, so let’s use reiki. The absence of evidence for something does not mean you get to fill in the blanks with your chosen brand of unsupported beliefs. If there is a gap in our knowledge about what to do with an Alzheimer’s patient, we should research into causes (and subsequently treatments) of Alzheimer’s disease. Plausible, mechanism-based treatments. They don’t need to be drugs; there’s been psychological-behavioural research being done into mental training exercises (most of which has come up short in translating to increased everyday functionality.) Maybe we need to do more to prevent head trauma injures like concussions during sports activities. Maybe we should look at how alcohol and drug abuse can lead to dementia later in life. All of these are well within the realm of medicine, and require no magical thinking. They are testable hypotheses and should be pursued. Until we have an answer, you don’t get to fill the gaps with the nonsense du jour.

Did you also notice that homeopathy is given a one-off vaguely plausible sounding mechanism without any sort of definition as to what it might be? They make it sound like homeopathy is like vaccination, dealing with it not only credulously but dishonestly. How many students are going to read that claim, assume it correct, and go on to think that is is a perfectly legitimate form of medicine?

It’s unsurprising that they also bring up iatrogenic diseases, which can be literally translated to mean “healer-caused” diseases. These diseases range from anemia due to excessive blood draws in the hospital, to hospital-aquired (nosocomial) infections, to potentially lethal drug side effects. They are a major issue in medicine, especially when they are preventable, as in nosocomial infections (which can be prevented by proper cleanliness techniques) or worse, when someone screws up. There are failsafes in place for mistakes, and are why hospitals have adopted a team approach, but they inevitably will happen. However, this is not an argument for throwing the whole system, which we’ve already established works quite well. This is an argument for making the system better, for preventing the mistakes, for increasing communication within a team, for finding more failsafe systems, for being pro-active. The system isn’t broken, it’s just not perfect. You shouldn’t replace something that works but has side effects with something that doesn’t work but has none, especially since the lack of side effects are due to the fact that it doesn’t work. 

This is, of course, also assuming that “traditional” medicine has no side effects, which the anti-vaccine crowd has shown us that it can have. Eschewing modern medicine kills people. If people forsake their family physician for a naturopath, they will cannot be given prescriptions if they need them. If Mr. Sullivan is an overweight, 58-year old pencil pusher with genetic high cholesterol and an impending heart attack, then advocating a healthy diet and more exercise is important. But given his genetic preponderance and his previously sedentary lifestyle, no amount of oatmeal will help. In addition to lifestyle counselling, he desperately needs pharmaceutical intervention, possibly stenting to keep his heart’s blood vessels open, and an intensive monitoring of his blood lipids. If he dies of that heart attack, and the naturopath did not refer him to a physician when first line defences fail, that naturopath is responsible for his death. Just as letting someone get hit by a bus because you don’t want to rumple their suit jacket makes your failure to act lethal, so does dependence on pre-scientific thinking while avoiding science-based medicine cause people to die. Naturopathy, at its core, is based on true principles (that we get drugs from the natural world, there’s a science based on it called pharmacognosy), but in practice is little more than hand-waving, placebo-effecting ridiculousness. On the Canadian Association for Naturopathic Doctors, the website linked to by the AFMC’s primer, they recommend for colds & flus:

To aid the elimination of toxins through the skin induce perspiration by taking long hot baths, using an infra-red sauna or steam room. Increasing perspiration through the skin is one of the safest and most effective ways of eliminating toxins.

You know, unless you get dehydrated and die.  I hear that making people who have a fever sweat even more is really sound medical advice. To get rid of toxins. Right.

So no, Association for the Faculties of Medicine of Canada, I don’t think that we should consider integrative medicine and the “treatment of mind, body and spirit” in our practice. A doctor is not a shaman, nor should they attempt to be. I think physicians should be compassionate, caring, understanding, attentive, and open with their patients. They should be concerned for their patient’s autonomy, their mental health, and their feelings. They should strive to give them the best care, based on the best evidence available.

TL;DNR: I don’t think that there is any room, when people’s lives are at stake, for bullshit.


Update: Somebody famous read this article and liked it enough to link it on their Twitterfeed! Scott Gavura (@PharmacistScott), blogger of Science-Based Pharmacy and occasional writer for Science-Based Medicine.

Spare the (dowsing) rod

Apparently it was a slow news day and everyone was tired of NHL speculation, so the Free Press decided to run a fluff piece about a guy who divines dead people. Little did I know that there was something more patently ridiculous than water dousing. This guy goes to graveyards in the R.M. of Springfield, helping to cataloguing graves for the Manitoba Genealogical Society. The article throws out a lot of big numbers

An MGS initiative has so far catalogued 1,362 cemeteries in the province…There are still about 150 cemeteries to do. Most of the work has been with cemeteries outside the city… But it has also done the St. John’s Cathedral Cemetery in Winnipeg, with its roughly 12,000 graves, and Elmwood Cemetery that’s home to 51,000 graves… Mavins has catalogued the four main cemeteries in Springfield.

Wow, that’s a lot of graves! But oh wait, if you read carefully, those are graves being catalogued the usual way, that is “transcribing to paper all the information on headstones before weathering makes inscriptions illegible.” A skimmer could easily read that to mean that Mavins’ incredible divining ability has helped catalogue thousands and thousands of graves in Manitoba, or at the very least the ones in Springfield. But that’s not what is really meant here. It means that he’s spent a bunch of time in graveyards, writing down what headstones say, and then a bunch more time wandering the grass in graveyards with two metal rods. Although I assumed from the article that he had found bodies and they’d been exhumed from identification, I don’t think they’ve even gone that far. From the sounds of things, he just walks around places where bodies are likely to be, and when the ideomotor response kicks in, “identifies” the “body.”

"I dowse dead people" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Even if they have started to dig at some of the locations that he has identified, remember that he’s in a 150 year old graveyard that’s known to have unmarked graves. If you pick any area that seems reasonable, it’s likely that you will dig and find somebody. The fact that he identifies the body’s gender is also patently ridiculous – has anyone verified this, or are they going on his solemn word? Does he know how to distinguish an adolescent male from an adult female skeleton? Has he worked with any archeologists?

"I know there's got to be some corpses in this graveyard somewhere... if only there were an easier way of identifying them, like say if there were some sort of stone which we place over their head..."

In another case, Mavins said, a family knew it had a cemetery plot with five burials but didn’t know which family members were buried there. “I witched it and could tell them the number of adults, adolescents and babies,” he said. From that, the family determined the identities.

This leap in logic is precisely the problem. These bodies were identified with the assumption that his claims are true, and thus cannot be proof that he is legitimate. That’s circular reasoning, and that is not evidence, let alone good evidence.

Another thing – I wonder if this works while he’s walking over top of marked graves, too, or only when he’s thinking about it? What about over the recently deceased? Can he correctly guess the gender of a freshly buried individual or do they have to decompose first? And if it is something innate in the rods, could he correctly identify me as female, or would he need me to die first?

If this guy really had these magical abilities, perhaps he should call up the archeologists at the University of Manitoba – I’m sure they’d love the help in finding the lost tombs of the Pharaohs.

The power you’re supplyin’, it’s electrifyin’!

Every once in a while I stumble across one of the dark recesses of the internet in which commercial websites shill “free” health information in order to promote their insane pseudoscientific therapies for diseases that may or may not even exist. Let’s play a little game of Sales Pitch Vs. Reality.

Sales pitch:

Rev. Tom Lawler BBA, MBCP


Well, the title isn’t too scary. Electricity is absolutely vital to the normal physiology of everything from the smallest cell to the largest mammal. Electricity is just the movement of ions, and the movement of ions powers everything from import of nutrients into our cells to the spread of information in nerve cells to muscle contraction to heart rhythm pacing.

Why do I get the sinking feeling that this will not have anything to do with this article?

Oh, I know, because the author proudly displays his utterly irrelevant degree titles – he’s a Reverend of the Universal Brotherhood (an online “spiritual” diploma mill), has a Bachelor of Business Administration (so?) and an MBCP, which as far as I can tell is a Master Business Continuity Professional certification, which means he worked in the industry of creating plans of action in worst case scenarios for businesses for at least five years. Oooooh. I am so impressed at your credentials as a health professional!

Sales pitch:

The first reported use of electricity in medicine was in 2750 BC. Several descriptions of therapeutic benefits, including pain control from exposure to the electric eel, were described by the Greeks in the first century.1 Around 1600, William Gilbert, an English physician, coined the word “electric” and established the difference between electricity and magnetism. In 1752, Johann Schaeffer published the book “Electrical Medicine.”
Electrodermal (sublingual) testing and treatment techniques offer tremendous benefits and safety as compared to traditional invasive testing. Effective results often occur within minutes from the time support is started instead of taking months, years or never with more traditional approaches.
Electrodermal testing utilizes micro amounts of electromagnetic energy to trigger a biofeedback response detectable with very sensitive computerized equipment. It is now possible to electronically “view” the inner workings of your glands and organs non invasively – even from the comfort of your own home.


Not only is this painfully self-contradicting (advocating that there’s “nothing new” and then criticizing “traditional” medicine) but it seems that he’s trying to say that because we have a tradition of using this particular concept, we should continue to do so. It works because it’s always worked, i.e. argumentum ad antiquitatem, the appeal to tradition. Please ignore the fact that the ancient Greeks lived to an average age of 28. Please neglect the fact that the Egyptians referenced in 2750 BC electrocuted people with catfish as a treatment for gout, which is sort of just adding insult to injury.

Geez, you're looking pretty inflamed. Here, hug this.

Also, the distinction between electricity as treatment and electricity as diagnostics seems utterly lost here. This false equivalence is hilarious – treatment is doing something while diagnostics tells you something. Imagine if someone started using a deck of playing cards to tell the time because it’d traditionally been fantastic at passing the time. People would think they were insane!

Of course, the blinding with science fallacy comes into play. It’s not applying an electric current to your skin, it’s “electrodermal testing.” It’s not low voltage electricity, it’s “micro amounts of electromagnetic energy.” It doesn’t monitor your skin’s electrical current, it “triggers a biofeedback response.” He finishes off by claiming that electrical energy in the skin allows you to measure the inner workings of both your organs and your glands, since apparently the glands have been demoted and no longer count as organs.While appropriately placed electrodes can indeed measure the electrical impulses of the body, such as those which are active in the brain, heart and muscles, there is little electrical activity that correlates with, for example, insulin resistance. He’s taken a well-known technique like the electrocardiogram, and generalized it to everything. He clearly hopes that people will assume “If it works for your heart, why shouldn’t it work for your pancreas or your liver or your kidneys?” Mechanism be damned!

Sales pitch:

Incredible advancements in the emerging field of Bionetics has now made it possible to send a sample of your own DNA (via blood, urine, saliva, finger nail or even hair) to a state of the art testing laboratory for a BioScan. This computerized process can now accurately identify the underlying stressors in one’s body that can precipitate disease. This process is so sensitive, as many as 10,000 stressors (toxins, bacteria, viruses, mold [sic], etc.) can be identified years before they even appear as symptoms. Thus it is possible to both address active issues and prevent future issues before they may manifest as a symptom or disease.


Bionetics sounds eerily similar to dianetics, Scientology’s junk science, so right off the bat I’m wary. Then, they talk about taking a sample of DNA and using it to identify diseases. This, by itself, is the basis of many genetic tests, which are extremely useful for the identification of people with Huntington’s, or Down’s Syndrome, among many, many other diseases. They can also be used to screen for cancer risk. However, the crazy quickly creeps in here. The author marvels at the ability to get your DNA from your hair or saliva, when these are methods usually used to obtain samples, as they’re minimally invasive and rich in cells, and thus DNA. Urine is a silly way to get DNA, because you’re relying on cells that line the bladder, ureter, etc. shearing off and finding themselves in the urine. Not a very high concentration. Blood is even sillier, because the majority of the cells are red blood cells, which are most notable for their complete lack of a nucleus, and thus their lack of genetic material. It is possible, of course, as there are white blood cells circulating as well, but considering it is painful for the patient, if you’re only looking at DNA, why should you look at the blood? And finally, the finger nails? Well, not only are they ridiculously hard to get appropriate samples from, they’re usually only used to get other people’s DNA, from blood, skin cells, or other potential sources that end up trapped underneath the nail. Fingernails, as it turns out, are just made of keratin, not living cells imbued with our DNA. It’s possible to get our own DNA from them, but in order to get at it, you have to break that hard keratin apart. Why go to all this ridiculous trouble when a simple cheek swab will do? (By the way, the cheek cells are what we’re after with the swab, not your saliva.

Of course, all of this is completely ignoring the fact that this information works on the base assumption that 10,000 stressors can be found in your DNA, and not just floating around in these various samples that you’re giving them. Why, exactly, would mould be in your DNA? Some viruses can be found in your DNA, but if you find them there, you have much bigger problems than the kind you’ll fix with electricity..

Problems like AIDS. Yeah, I don't think you want to be treating that with anything but a hell of a lot of drugs.

Illnesses are usually a manifestation of some sort of impairment of the functional aspect of our bodies – the proteins. Although finding the DNA of pathogens in our system is certainly a definitive diagnosis of infection, it isn’t necessarily a diagnosis of illness. Carriers can have a pathogen and never feel ill. Their immune systems deal with it, no intervention required. What is a definitive diagnosis of illness is when we see stuff going wrong at the functional level, and perhaps a DNA test could tell us what the underlying cause is. However, we are not looking at our DNA. Furthermore, what the hell is a toxin? Could someone please define this term for me? You know, aside from “random pseudoscientific word used to mean anything that is bad for you or even potentially bad for you and usually something that isn’t there to begin with.”

Sales pitch:

Despite the wonderful progress in this technology, it hasn’t been easy to get to where we are today. Around 1910, the Carnegie Foundation established a commission headed by Abraham Flexner, who relegated the well supported science of electrodiagnosis and electrotherapy devices to “quackery” in favor of the more lucrative drugs invested in by Carnegie. Anyone using these devices were cast as charlatans and thus the dominance today of drugs, surgery and radiation.

It has been estimated that only 10 to 20 percent of all procedures currently used in medical practice have been shown to be efficacious by controlled trials.


I was unaware that profit and efficacy opposed each other? People make profit off of both efficacious and non-efficacious medicine – see homeopathy, for example. In any case, they make themselves out to be falsely vilified, and yet don’t explain how their devices are well-supported by science. It’s easy to make a claim like that – where’s the proof to back it up? In any case, here’s a fun game. Google “10 to 20 percent of all procedures currently used in medical practice have been shown to be efficacious by controlled trials.” You’ll find websites advocating pretty much every alternative medicine out there, but not the original paper this is supposedly cited from. Interestingly, I could not find this phrase at all in an otherwise decent but anecdotal review of the current (circa 1983) uses of electricity in medicine. The cited data comes from this 1978 paper advocating science-based medicine. The paper throws the statement in as a one-off, with no empirical data to support it. No data, no fact. This is not to say that all procedures in medical practice are efficacious, of course. Overprescription of antibiotics is a major issue. However, to assert something as patently silly as 10% of all procedures in medicine are actually doing anything, we need to demand more than a haphazard statement. Which controlled trials? How long ago? How many people were in them? What was the definition of efficacious? None of these answers are, of course, to be found here.

Sales Pitch:

“We are accustomed to having men jeer at what they do not understand.”
Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, 1700’s


Poor, poor salesman. It’s so much easier to accuse someone who disagrees with you with persecution than to actually deal with their arguments. It must be hard, being asked for proof and mechanism all the time. Life is hard. It’s this sort of persecution complex which lends people to really want to believe stuff like this is true. We want to root for the little guy who’s being censored by the big bad evil government/corporation/entity. Unfortunately, that sort of sympathy prevents us for criticizing the little guy, and little guys can be douchebags too.

Stick it to Big Pharma!... Buy from me.

Sales Pitch:

In spite of the virtual disappearance of all electrical therapy, investigation has continued particularly by Dr. Reinhold Voll, a German medical doctor in the early 1950’s. He developed an electronic testing device (EAV) for finding acupuncture points electrically, known to Chinese acupuncturists for millennia. Voll then began a lifelong search to identify correlation’s between disease states and changes in the electrical resistance of the various acupuncture points. He found, for example, that patients with lung cancer had abnormal readings on the acupuncture points referred to as lung points.


Remember that article that he just cited? Yeah, um, I think that sort of proves that electrical therapy has disappeared. Reinhold Voll’s method is essentially dianetics, only instead of holding the electrode, it’s placed on acupuncture points. The needle moves, you make some conclusion from it. The claim that he could detect abnormalities in lung cancer patients – it cites a book, which as far as I can tell only exists for the purpose of this article, from 1980, not the original data. In actuality, studies have been done on EAV devices, especially for detecting allergies. Guess what? Readings are utterly random. Since people are prone to make patterns of random statistical noise (the very concept of “luck” is based on this), maybe a single individual could find meaning in the needle jumping around from reading to reading, but ultimately, there is nothing there.

Now we get to the fun bit.

Sales Pitch:

BioScan (remote DNA resonant testing) – This procedure utilizes extremely sensitive EAV computerized equipment to accurately measure stressors in the body. It bombards the clients sample DNA (usually hair) with up to 10,000 frequencies to locate bacteria, viruses, pesticides, heavy metals, industrial pollutants, chemicals, parasites, foods, allergies, dental materials, trees, weeds, pollens, inhalants, molds, yeast, fungus and many other substances that poison the environment today. These stressors and related deficiencies are identified in print form for the client along with the organs and glands affected by the stressors. Supplements are suggested that resonate with the test subject and homeopathics are customized to support the body to remove the stressors and return to homeostasis.


Remote DNA resonant testing? What in the what-ing what-now is that? Remote means from a distant. DNA is genetic material. Resonant means vibration. How the hell do you combine those? Are they saying that they, from a distance, can measure the vibrations of your DNA for diagnostic purposes?? How do you utilize electroacupuncture (EAV) to analyze DNA? Certainly you can use electricity to move DNA (since it has a charge). But where does the acupuncture bit come in? How can electricity tell you about the foods and weeds poisoning your environment? Did you notice how they embedded the craziest things in the middle of that list? Dental materials are poisoning you? Trees? Is M. Night Shamaylan a prophet?

If so, Marky Mark will save us all, and that is not a world that I'm ready to be a part of.

Then they suggest supplements which match your “resonance.” What? Yes, everything vibrates but… What? Oy, so much craziness here, I don’t even know what do with it.

And of course, the old stand-by, homeostasis. Do you know what homeostasis is? That’s your base measures that your body maintains to keep you functioning. Things like 37 degrees Celsius, or fluid retention, or oxygen levels, or blood sugar. Do you know what happens when those go out of whack? You die. Homeostasis is a really, really important part of being alive, and any major fluctuation is lethal. It’s only with modern medicine that things like diabetes aren’t an immediate death sentence. Returning to homeostasis is something our bodies do remarkably well – and if they don’t, you need a little more than an iron supplement help you with it.

Thanks, body, for letting me eat candy without dying!

Sales Pitch:

It is the belief of this writer that the use of electrodiagnostic testing fulfills all the requirements to be considered adequately proven including:

  1. A number of double-blind studies from various centers validating its efficacy.
  2. Experts in the field who deal with this technology acknowledging its usefulness and accuracy.
  3. Electrodiagnostic testing having been in use around the world for many years by thousands of medical doctors.

Because it has virtually no dangers and is very inexpensive, anyone who singles out this procedure for investigation above the myriad of medical procedures which are much less proven, more dangerous and more expensive, does so arbitrarily and capriciously and for reasons other than a concern for the patient’s health and well being.


1. Positive clinical trials don’t exist.
2. Appeals to authority aren’t data.
3. Tradition is not evidence.

Because it has no supporting evidence and is a complete waste of time and money, anyone who uses this procedure for investigation above the myriad of medical procedures which are much more proven, more accurate, and more effective, does so arbitrarily and capriciously and for reasons which are based in concern for their own bank accounts and not the patients’s health and well being.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

The Power of Prayer

WICHITA, Kan. – Police in Kansas say a 57-year-old man lived with the body of his dead fiancee for several days, praying she would be brought back to life.

KAKE-TV reports the man told officers he was praying for divine intervention to bring his fiancee back to life. He was taken to a hospital for a mental evaluation.


The story says that they don’t suspect foul play, but I find this story equally disturbing as if there might have been. If you have someone who believes so strongly in the power of prayer that they continued to pray days after her death (to the point that people were complaining about the smell!), how willing would that person be to seek out medical care for someone who was critically ill?

This story demonstrates the harm in magical thinking – it prevents you from seeking out real answers, instead turning to mysticism and superstition. I’ve had a terrible series of tension headaches and migraines over the last few days, and after mentioning it on Facebook, was told by a particularly religious person that they would pray for me to be well. Although I appreciated the sentiment, the statement struck me as patently ridiculous. We live in an age of modern medicine, and perhaps a better response would be to suggest some extra strength ibuprofen, or my prescription migraine drugs? There is no convincing evidence that prayer works, even via a psychological effect.

I must admit that there are no clinical studies which have examined the capacity of prayer to resurrect the dead. Perhaps the Templeton Foundation would be willing to fund me attending the morgue daily to pray?