Thursday, March 31, 2005

Why do we have to criticise fraud, scams and misinformation

It matters whether an explanation is true or not, because bad information has serious consequences:

People who believe in health fraud scams may die or they may fall into business scams, which means they will lose money.

This is some of the enormous consequence that people are to trusting of the internet. The web is rife with bogus pages and fraud, scams and misinformation, even content from typically reliable, authoritative sources can't always be trusted. Fraud isn’t always easy to recognize and spot.

Here come some of the good reason to distinguish between good science and bad science:

First Quack cures rob us of money, they are in the business (usually in order to make money or for ego gratification and power) of selling false hope to gullible people who may be genuinely suffering. Often providers require payment of large sums of money up front, before treatment is begun.

Secund patients aren't actually always happy. We hear the interesting stories, while stories without any effect aren't interesting enough to be told about. One may ask why? It might be because of pride, once a person has endorsed or defended a cure, or invested time and money in it, they may be reluctant to admit their error to oneself and to others.

Third people seems to be happy if the cure has a placebo-effect.

Medicines or treatments, known to have no effect on a disease, can still affect a person's perception of their illness. People report reduced pain, increased well-being, improvement and even total alleviation of symptoms. For some, the presence of a caring practitioner and the dispensation of medicine are curative in itself. A part of the placebo effect seems to be that a small improvement that is considered as an effect of the cure.

Placebo-effect could be reached much more inexpensive by eating a little bit of sugar. This one and much, much more have been reported as "placebo" effects in the scientific literature. In fact, there is hardly any human characteristic or problem that has not been shown to be affected by placebos in one research or other. We really want to believe that we are choosing wright.

Forth, the alternative or complementary health care provider can't describe why the cure works.

Fifth, they can't describe how many earlier patients with the same disease have been cured this way and what their results were.

Sixth, they can't describe side-effects. A side-effect is any effect other than an intended primary effect. It may or may not be expected, but it may even be harmful to your health.

Seventh, the alternative or complementary therapy might not always be covered by insurance, so it's on your own risk.

Eight, the highest price of health fraud, is that quacks can steal health away or even take lives. Quacks may lure the seriously and often desperately ill, such as people suffering from cancer, into buying a bogus cure. When people try quack remedies instead of getting effective medical help, their illnesses progress, sometimes beyond the treatable stage. A Norwegian investigation shows that the use of alternative medicine seems to predict shorter survival in cancer. This effect appears predominantly in patients with good performance status.

So we have lots of reason to be criticising fraud, scams and misinformation.

And reasons seem to be more and more weightier since misinformation and health fraud on the internet is increasing.

Further reading:

New England Journal of Medicine: Study Finds Placebo Effect Is Fake

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Astrology and horrorscope is still junk science

Astrology claims that our human characteristics are moulded by the influence of the Sun, Moon and planets at the time of our birth. Astrologers have for centuries claimed to be able to extract deep insights into the personality and destiny of people using nothing more than the details of the time and place of birth.

Here it appears to have been debunked once and for all and beyond doubt by the most thorough scientific study ever made into it, read the article from News.telegraph:

For several decades, researchers tracked more than 2,000 people - most of them born within minutes of each other. According to astrology, the subject should have had very similar traits.

The babies were originally recruited as part of a medical study begun in London in 1958 into how the circumstances of birth can affect future health. More than 2,000 babies born in early March that year were registered and their development monitored at regular intervals.

Researchers looked at more than 100 different characteristics, including occupation, anxiety levels, marital status, aggressiveness, sociability, IQ levels and ability in art, sport, mathematics and reading - all of which astrologers claim can be gauged from birth charts.

The scientists failed to find any evidence of similarities between the "time twins", however. They reported in the current issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies: "The test conditions could hardly have been more conducive to success . . . but the results are uniformly negative."

Astrology tells a lot of "fact" about people using birth data. Few minute deviation may result in decisive difference in the horoscope. I think there’s a problem defining birth time in general, is it the first cry, cutting of an umbilical cord, is it when head comes out or something else?

In the article, Dr Dean said the results undermined the claims of astrologers, who typically work with birth data far less precise than that used in the study. They sometimes argue that times of birth just a minute apart can make all the difference by altering what they call the 'house cusps', he said. "But in their work, they are happy to take whatever time they can get from a client."

Astrology must make a choice, choosing science- then result is to weak according to all investigations, and you could also say the method, in one way or another, is not clear about measuring birth data exactly.

So my conclusion is - so far, that the only planet of importance to humanity is the earth, and nothing else. And the inconsistency of astrology has finally been proven. But it’s predictable, that the show will go on, obviously to many people wants to be deceived and to many people are making good money misleading other people.

Further reading:
Is astrology relevant to consciouness and psi?
Horoscopes under the microscope
Astrologers fail to predict proof they are wrong

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Blogger, aarghh...

If I could hit blogger with this one.....

When you hit one it's bleeding. Hit them all, and they will get wild and big.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Wear the Lifewave Patches, and have lots of laughs

Rest Quiet claims that LifeWave Technology makes it possible to passively modulate the human magnetic field for the purpose of transmitting information to the human body.

The product is

in the form of a patch, with this product instructing the body to transport fats to the mitochondria for ATP production. The end result is that users experience immediate improvements in energy, stamina and well being.

The RestQuiet Patch system is the newest product of modern science applied to ancient oriental medicine that induces you into a deep rest by means of a persistent stimulation of the bodies own natural acupuncture meridians.

Lifewave doesn't expect their consumers to be highly educated and intelligent consumers.

They explain their product like this (no.3):

Communicate with your body!
Here is another way to think about it. Cell phones use wireless communication. If you want to call a friend, you dial their number, then talk. What's happening?

The radio signal sent out from your phone is an electro-magnetic vibration. When you dial your friend's number, you get connected to his phone because your cell phone's radio frequency "vibrates" in a manner and in a language that the cell tower can understand. Your specific communications, (your friend's number, then your voice), is carried by the vibrating radio waves.

The Lifewave patches are like wireless communication. They call your body up and talk. The energy patch says "more energy, please."

Go visit World Wide Scam, an uncommon web page, for further information.

Scroll down the main page and view a Lifewave Affiliate Demonstration (the place, where you see two guys testing the patch) and be amused *LOL*. It's quite funny because these two guys are laughing themselves, and they seems to forget when they are wearing the patch, and when they are not.

I guess these patches can do more miracles, like increasing hair growth by "turning off" DNA molecules responsible for male pattern baldness, or improving cancer by "turning off" fast growing tumor cells.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

It has been a little quiet around here since the last skeptics circle

(and my contribution to the Medical Grand Rounds).

To fill up the gap I'll present some saturday links (I got the idea from the two percent compagni).

I recommend you to study these items of interest:

Respectfull insolence response to the "Herbinator"

The herbal "healer" named J. Mark Taylor who somehow found Orac's blog left a sarcastic comment, and Orac made an excellent message.

Mr. Taylor seems to be an typical altie, defined here.

Saint Nate's suggestion of an altie is amongst others "If you say your healer "is too busy people making people healthy" to conduct evidence-based trials but have never met a single person helped by them, you might be an altie", this one might fit in here.

The "Herbinator" hasn't made any comments so far.

He was sarcastic on my blog too, accusing me of being a holocost denial (I really don’t see the connextion??) and other nasty comments, that is not to be mentioned.

Skeptico explains "what can your psi do"

Psi (pronounced sigh) is a term commonly used by parapsychologists to refer to both ESP and psychokinesis taken together, definition is here.

Skeptico's conclusion: In fact, no use that I can think of has ever been made of “psychic” data. The obvious conclusion is that psi is not a weak signal, it is no signal. If you’re a real scientist, anyway. Not if you’re a parapsychologist.

(I'll do more study on this one).

Psi is also a character on the popular game and television series, Pokémon (if you have kids, you might know)

When it comes to biology Pharyngula is writing about "Tyrannosaur morsels"

Pharyngula throw new light on well-preserved soft tissues, that have been found deep within the bones of a T. rex, and also within some hadrosaur fossils. It has been reported in Science this week. Great pictures.

I wonder why are we so thrilled about those gorgeous animals?

Chris Clarke from Creek Running North recommends Niches blog here.

I agree, it is indeed a beeeyoutiful blog with great pictures.

Though I dislike snakes and I would be scared to hold such beast.

Then I have added some new links to my sidebar, only to mention few of them:

Bandolier (evidence based thinking about healthcare) is a web site whom intend to gather the best evidence available about complementary and alternative therapies (CAT) for sufferers and professionals.

Another one is Dr. Bratman, a nationally regarded expert in the field of alternative medicine. His perspective is objective, unbiased, and grounded in encyclopedic knowledge of the field. He once took alternative medicine on faith, but then he learned about double-blind studies and became a skeptic.

Soon I'll have to organize my sidebars,

Friday, March 25, 2005

Chewing gum increases size of breasts (in Japan)

Medical News Today in Japan are providing information about new chewing gum, which contains extract that may increase size of breasts. The article claims that not just size of a women's breast, but also the shapes could be changed. The gum also fights ageing, reduces stress and keeps your muscles in good order.

It's disirable to believe in such story, but unfortunately not possible in real life.

Do I have to tell, that this Bust-Up gum has become extremely popular in Japan.

Dr. William Hammesfahr is a quack, it is beyound doubt

Dubious doctor touted as Nobel Prize nominee by Hannity, Scarborough

Fox News host Sean Hannity and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough both promoted Dr. William Hammesfahr’s false claim that he is a Nobel Prize nominee.

Hammesfahr, a Florida neurologist disciplined in 2003 by the Florida Board of Medicine who claims he can help Terri Schiavo, testified during an October 2002 court hearing on the Schiavo case that his claim to be a Nobel nominee is based on a letter written by Rep. Mike Bilirakis (R-FL) recommending him for the prize. But Bilirakis is not qualified to make a valid nomination under the Nobel rules.

According to the process posted on the Nobel Prize website, the Nobel Assembly sends out invitations to approximately 3,000 people who are allowed to propose candidates. The 3,000 are "mainly members of the Nobel Assembly, previous prize winners, and a selection of professors at universities around the world."

Read more about the "Nobel Prize nominee" Dr. Hammesfahr here.

More about the Schiavo "Nobel Prize Nominated" Doctor

NewsMax reports that Dr. William Hammesfahr "believes that Terri Schiavo can recover with proper treatment." NewsMax – along with FOX, MSNBC, the National Review and Dr. Hammesfahr’s website – indicates that he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1999.

… if he had been truly nominated – he would be violating fundamental Nobel Foundation principles to say that. The 50 year vow of silence is up in 2049. But wait. There’s more.

The Tampa Tribune reported in 2003 that the Nobel Prize nomination was a letter written by Hammesfahr's Congressman to the Nobel committee. The Nobel Prize website articulates the nomination procedure: a letter from a Congressman isn’t on the list. Does the Nobel Committee consider these "informal" nominations? In a word: no. (and a nod to News Hounds) The Florida court found Hammesfahr’s 2002 testimony in the Schiavo case to be anecdotal. A quick review of the handful of published research on his web site makes that judgment abundantly clear. It reminds me of the "doctor-by-mail-order" materials that land by the truckload in my parents’ mailbox each month.

Read more here.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Florida neurologist that claims that he can help Terri Schiavo might be a quack

To put this short:

This is a sad case of parents wanting their child to remain alive, and a husband arguing that it's more humane to let her die, since there’s no living will. This case has all the issues included: State power over medical decisions, death, religion, family disagreements on death, public protests, quackery and more.

And everyone is trying to take advantage of the vulnerable and easily-influenced, example here:

Media Matters for America (MMFA) has printed this article about Dr. William Hammesfahr. It appears that he’s "a Nobel Prize nominee for his work in helping people with severe brain injuries".

There are hundreds of web sites claiming that William Hammesfahr was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 1999.

Some may claim that the "nomination" of Hammesfahr for the Nobel Prize is well-documented in this web site.

I did some research on this topic:

The Secretary of the Nobel Prize Committee has provided this information:

Thanks for your letter and point about our confidentiality regarding nominees. Specific answers to your questions:

1) All nominations, nominees and nominators are kept in strict confidentiality here for 50 years.

2) There is no way for any person to get confirmation/message from here whether they were nominated or not for any year during the last 50 years.

3) Therefore, if anyone claims being nominated it is never with support from here and should not be regarded as a valid claim.

4) The Nobel Foundation acts on all misuses of the Nobel name, but do not always act on nomination claims since there are so many who claim nominations that the Nobel system simply leaves them without specific action and only inform to all asking that nomination claims are by definition non-valid.

Hans Jörnvall, Professor
The Nobel Committee
Karolinska Institutet
Box 270
SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: +46-8-33 39 31
Fax: +46-8-32 03 65

Furthermore, the only ones who are allowed to make official nominations, are the following:

The Nominators - Physiology or Medicine

Right to submit proposals for the award of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, based on the principle of competence and universality, shall by statute be enjoyed by:

1. Members of the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm;

2. Swedish and foreign members of the medical class of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences;

3. Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine;

4. Members of the Nobel Committee not qualified under paragraph 1 above;

5. Holders of established posts as professors at the faculties of medicine in Sweden and holders of similar posts at the faculties of medicine or similar institutions in Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway;

6. Holders of similar posts at no fewer than six other faculties of medicine selected by the Assembly, with a view to ensuring the appropriate distribution of the task among various countries and their seats of learning; and

7. Practitioners of natural sciences whom the Assembly may otherwise see fit to approach.

Decisions concerning the selection of the persons appointed under paragraphs 6 and 7 above are taken before the end of May each year on the recommendation of the Nobel Committee.

Prize-Awarder: The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm

I therefore conclude that Bilirakis is not qualified to nominate Nobel Prize winners. This is the letter signed by Congressman Michael Bilirakis, and it's not legitimate as a nomination, much less as support for a claim to have been nominated.

Furthermore Dr. Hammesfahr has never published any article that I could find using Pubmed. Well, I found Hammesfahr, but not the William Hammesfahr. Nobel Prize nominess would be expected to have hundreds. I think that’s a bit unusual for someone claiming, that they were nominated.

Searching the web archive I didn’t find anything indicating that he was nominated for anything, either.

Trying to find something about Hammesfahr to establish his "expert" credentials one way or the other, he showed up on Quackwatch over a quackery related issue.

To me this guy has very little credibility. It seems that he is more interested in self-promotion than helping.

It's a sad story, but more sad is that quacky doctors are trying to take advantage of Schiavo's prognosis (obviously not good). He should be held accountable, so people don't ever seek out his advice again.

Some few useful and informative links:
Another side of the coin
Key events in the case of Theresa Marie Schiavo
Medical info from
University of Miami Ethics Programs

Testing the Reliability of Information on the Internet

Checking sources on the internet or elsewhere, Dr. Elio Spinello has made this worksheet to record observations, very usefull and nicely done.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

One million dollar Paranormal challenge, what are chances of winning?

JREF offers a one-million-dollar prize:

Randi's challenge consists of checking to see whether a psychic can really do what he claims to be able to do. The psychic sets the requirements of the test in cooperation with the JREF. Randi makes all conditions as favorable as possible to the psychic.

Now it's up to the psychic to say exactly what he can do. If he can consistently predict accurately in a number of trials with the same results in carefully controlled experiments, all he has to do is agree with the JREF to how many trials they both agree are enough to establish significance.

If he says he will divert a specific number of trials with the same result, he may not come back and say he was successful because only one trial went wright. If he claims he can do this "thing" a predetermined numbers of time, he can't later claim he succeeded because he only did it once or twice.

If he can really do what he claims, the probability of his success is near 100%.

But what if the psychic isn't "psychic", then what are chance of winning?

On any given attempt, the psychic can either predict accurately or cannot predict accurately. The probability may be 1/2 on each trial, it can be either wright or wrong, and for 10 trials, the probability of getting each one right is one in 1024 (210). You have a one in 512 (29) chance of guessing right on 9 out of 10 trials. So it depend on how many trials the psychic and JREF agree on. And it has to be done at least twice, both in a preliminary trial and if he pass through, then in the official trial.

The person who has paranormal, supernatural or occult power abilities have a 100% chance of winning. If not, he has 100% chance of losing (nearly). If one really has paranormal abilities, then the probability is essentially 100% that he would claim the prize, barring having an "off" day.

If the person does not have paranormal abilities, then the probability is essentially zero that he would do well enough to claim the prize, barring a statistically unlikely series of lucky guesses.

To my knowledge, no one in the history of humanity has ever proven that he has paranormal abilities.

Usefull links:
Application for Status of Claimant
The JREF Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge "FAQ"
JREF Forums: Million Dollar Challenge
Search james Randi "million to one
Are the Randi Tests Fair?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Unfounded health scares, facts against fears

ACSH publish unfounded health scares, based on questionable, hypothetical, or even nonexistent scientific evidence.

This report summarizes some of the most noteworthy scares according to ACSH:

01) Pediatric Vaccines and Autism
02) PCBs in Salmon and Cancer
03) Cell Phones Cause Brain Tumors
04) Nightlights and Leukemia
05) Chemicals in Cosmetics
06) Mercury in Seafood Causes Neurological Problems in Humans
07) Cheeseburgers and Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)
08) Antibiotics Cause Breast Cancer
09) Teflon Causes Health Problems in Humans
10) Soda Causes Esophageal Cancer
11) Dishonorable Mention
12) Deodorants, Antiperspirants Cause Breast Cancer
13) Plastics Cause Cancer

The purpose of this roundup of unfounded health scares is to encourage consumers to be skeptical the next time a report publish the discovery of new chemical threat or miracle cure.

Common sense is still popular.

Monday, March 21, 2005

About theories, myth, proper action and Quacky Quacks

Scientific theories tell us what is possible; myths tell us what is desirable. Both are needed to guide proper action.

are the words said by professor John Maynard Smith.

Read the conversation with John Maynard Smith.

These words can nowadays be translated like:

It's been a hard days work, and my body tells me that I'm tired, it's not just a "theory", it's the truth. I ought to write something, but today will be light blogging, here we go:

Still receiving more and more comments from true believers and quacks, and since they're really all around you (newspaper, TV, books, internet, anyware), that made me consider of making a blog carniwals to the "Quacky Quacks". Then I would ask them:

Why do "health freedom advocates" attack only with lack of evidence, if any?
(I guess it might be because they don't have any for the most part or is it only a matter of faith like a religion?)

Why are they afraid of revealing themselves and only leaving comments anonymously?
(they are afraid of being stalked, if you ask themself)

Why do they make threat on their web pages like "I warn you seriously"?
(Does that mean they will blog your IP-adress or will they simply pray for you.)

Why do they not allow anyone to express skepticism about "cures" discussed in newsgroups (they're censored)?
(The person is simply barred by the moderators.)

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Does any of these ongoing trends worry you, because they really should

Countless millions alive today owe their lives and health to science-based therapies.

It’s taken centuries and a lot of work from doctors and researchers to get here.

Nowadays alternative medicine industries amongst others are assaulting the science-based medicine and mental healthcare. They want to tear this work down by challenging the need for standards for medical and mental health care research and healthcare products, practices and education.

Many people all over the world use one or more health promotion, illness prevention or healing practices that are considered as complementary and alternative medicine.

They should really worry about some of the ongoing trends, few of them is to be mentioned here:

Worthless and unsafe nostrums are being promoted as natural medicines

Many of these products don't have the ingredients as described in their labelling. And much worse, some are laced with dangerous prescription drugs or are adulterated with lead, mercury, or other toxic substances.

It is important to recognise that complementary medicines, like orthodox ones, are not without risk. There is the possibility that use of complementary treatments might lead to withdrawal from appropriate medical therapy or to delays in diagnosis or treatment of underlying conditions.

Alternative Medicine in Cancer Treatment

In addition, physical treatments can cause adverse effects, and herbal therapies can be either intrinsically toxic or contaminated with toxic substances.

Clinical effectiveness of most complementary treatments have been few

Complementary therapies in general, and traditional Chinese practices in particular, are in principle not susceptible to assessment using randomised-trial designs. That means few trials to provide evidence of the effectiveness, if any.

States are licensing quacks to practice medicine

Complementary and alternative medicine is increasingly being promoted by government and the healthcare industry – despite the absence of scientific evidence of its efficacy. An example is the NCCAM, that have permitted wide access to dietary supplements without confirmation of their composition, safety or efficacy, and a concomitant loosening of legal restraints on alternative practices such as chiropractic medicine and acupuncture. Another example is VIFAB, (maybe not familiar to my readers), the danish center of science dealing with complementary and alternative medicine.

Here's an example of naturapathic doctor being licensed in California:
California Issues First Licenses for Naturopathic Doctors

Vulnerable citizens are not protected from exploitation by practitioners holding uncertain qualifications

The training and right to practise of complementary therapists are largely unrestricted, they aren't a subject to a formal system of regulation. They can practice without reasonable evidence of effectiveness. There's no guarantee of safety. And people are exceptionally vulnerable to false claims where health is at stake.

There's several other trends to mention, what about new age workshops, seminars, and books blending techniques from psychotherapy with practices from mystical traditions into programs designed to heal the patient.

Successful therapy should not require one to believe in reincarnation, inner children or any other religious or pseudoscientific notion.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Can something that tastes so fine actually be good for you?

I'm speaking of chocolate, one of my favorites.

Research suggests chocolate may have health benefits, could this be true?

Several chocolate ingredients seem to act by affecting the brain's own neurotransmitter network. Chocolate contains a natural love drug - tryptophan - it's a chemical that the brain uses to make a neurotransmitter called serotonin. High levels of serotonin can produce feelings of elation, even ecstasy. While tryptophan could be considered chocolate's ecstasy, another chemical called phenylethylamine has earned the nickname chocolate amphetamine. High levels of this neurotransmitter help promote feelings of attraction, excitement, giddiness and apprehension. Phenylethylamine works by stimulating the brain's pleasure centres and reaches peak levels during orgasm.

But many scientists are sceptical that chocolate could produce mood-altering effects in this way. Chemicals like tryptophan and phenylethylamine, which are also found in many other foodstuffs, are present in chocolate only in very small quantities. To make a substantial impact on the brain's own natural levels of chemicals, experts estimate you would need to eat several kilos of chocolate.

Global cooling in the 1970's is a myth

and it's used to prove that "we shouldn't believe global warming predictions now, because in the 1970's they were predicting an ice age and/or cooling" surfaces. But its not an argument used by respectable and knowledgeable skeptics, because it crumbles under analysis.

William M. Connolley at RealClimate writes about how this myth arised:

Where does the myth come from? Naturally enough, there is a kernel of truth behind it all. Firstly, there was a trend of cooling from the 40's to the 70's (although that needs to be qualified, as hemispheric or global temperature datasets were only just beginning to be assembled then). But people were well aware that extrapolating such a short trend was a mistake (Mason, 1976). Secondly, it was becoming clear that ice ages followed a regular pattern and that interglacials (such as we are now in) were much shorter that the full glacial periods in between. Somehow this seems to have morphed (perhaps more in the popular mind than elsewhere) into the idea that the next ice age was predicatable and imminent. Thirdly, there were concerns about the relative magnitudes of aerosol forcing (cooling) and CO2 forcing (warming), although this latter strand seems to have been short lived.

Further reading: The global cooling myth.

I think the article about global cooling myth was informative, I came accros there because of my earlier writing about Crighton.

I've been trying to find scientific articles on the subject:
BBC Nature & Science.

An analysis of various papers that mention the subject is at "Was an imminent Ice Age predicted in the '70's?".

Here is a link to probably the most comprehensive list of global dimming research papers on the least the best list I could find; for anyone that would be interested further in global dimming.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Discussing problems with energy medicines

Energy medicine is a concept developed by the alternative world. It's based on the blind faith that the health of body, mind, and spirit are anchored in the body's energy systems. The word energy in the alternative world appears as a magic word used for various things, ranging from the patient's good mood to heat from the healer's hand. Nobody usually waste their time searching for any definition and the word energy isn't used as a defined physical quantity.

One of the problems I have with "energy medicine" is similar to the one I have with "psychic predictions". The concepts is contradictory to some pretty elemental laws of physics, that have not been "broken" since the beginning of the universe.

In the case of "energy medicine", the problem is one of thermodynamics. We can rather easily calculate the minimum amount of energy needed to perform a task, that the "energy medicine" proponents claim to do. What we cannot find is any place or thing that is giving up this energy or any evidence that the energy has been received by the "patient" - nor can we detect any transfer of energy.

In this physical world we might accept the fact that nothing is 100% efficient. As a result, anyone "channeling" this energy, from wherever it may come, will have to deal with the inefficiency of energy transfer. In this universe, inefficient transfer of energy usually ends up as heat. It means that the hands, feet or heads of the "energy practitioner" should become warmer while they are practicing their "craft". In fact, this heat has not been detected.

For "psychic predictions" another problem arises. The ability to "see the future" would imply that the future has already been determined. That, in turn, would require a major revision of quantum mechanics, which states that the future is indeterminate.

So, if "psychics" could really "see into the future", then there would be no reason to punish people for breaking the law, or save for retirement, or do anything at all other than what we want to do at the moment, since the future has already been laid down and is immutable.

If I can't do anything to change my future, then I'm not responsible, and any effort is futile. Then, if the future is not already fixed, what's the point of a "psychic prediction"? How can I base plans on the possibility that something might happen, but is more likely not to happen?

In my view, all evidence for energy based medicines such as homeopathy, crystal therapy and reflexology should be taken as evidence for the power of suggestion or blind faith and nothing more.

I’ve been fighting with blogger last couple off days

Last night I couldn’t save anything to my blog and it really annoyed me. Usually I write in word, then copy and paste it into blogger and saving and publishing from there.

The fight between me and blogger turned out that blogger is more up than down, but not much. I really sometimes consider to host my own place instead of blogger.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I’m honoured to be a part of Grand Rounds

Check out this week’s Grand Rounds hosted by Respectful Insolence (a.k.a. "Orac Knows"). There are some really good submissions this week and thanks to Orac, he made Grand Rounds XXV a great one.

The alternative medicine and antivaccination quacks were presented on TV Thursday at 10-10.30 PM. There were great participants there, like

Paul about chiropractic medicine
Skeptico about ayurvedic medicine
Quackblog about Organon critics
Peter Bowditch and Dr. Henochowicz demolishing the myth of antivaccination movement and antivaccination nurse.
Anne about signs of health fraud.

If you weren't in time for the show, it'll be repeated here in full edition.

The fourth Skeptics' Circle will be here soon

It will be posted this coming Thursday over at The Two Percent Company. They need your skeptical writing before wednesday deadline, march 16.

Monday, March 14, 2005

There is a battle going on between Science and Quackery

Hulda Clark, the number one quack in Canadian Quack Watch,

believes that many major medical conditions are caused by parasites, or flukes. She says that she can diagnose them and then cure them by using cheap electrical devices that she calls "zappers" or "syncrometers". Then add in a few herbs, remove your amalgams, and there you have it, A cure for all diseases. Her naturopathic degree is mailorder, her Tijuana clinic was closed down by Mexican authorities for cancer and alternative medical treatment. When she was arrested in 1999 for practicing medicine without a license in Indiana, she hired Tim Bolen.

Bolen has followed the activities of the "quackbuster" for about five years:

The "quackbuster" operation is a conspiracy. It is a propaganda enterprise, one part crackpot, two parts evil. It's sole purpose is to discredit, and suppress, in an "anything goes" attack mode, what is wrongfully named "Alternative Medicine." It has declared war on reality. The conspirators are acting in the interests of, and are being paid, directly and indirectly, by the "conventional" medical-industrial complex.

He speaks of the last days of the quackbusters, evilness, the quackbusters stronghold, and claims about what "health fraud" really is.

He runs the North American Consumers Against health fraud.

And he (Bolen) fights science with quackery:

Tim Bolen attacking Polevoy

Then Polevoy hits back

Bolen's interview on Christine McPhee's radio program.

Schrolling down here you might find other info sources, amongst others containing a list of "health freedom advocates".

On further consideration those webpages should be tested like this: do they claim to cure a wide range of unrelated diseases? do they have personal case histories that have been passed on from person to person? do they promise to treat diseases quickly?do they suggest that product are safer than conventionel treatment? do they claim it's a miracle cure? do they garantee satisfaction or money paid back? do they use paranoid accusations?

Answering yes to more than one of theese question indicates it could be recognized as health fraud.

Humor on the internet

The Top 12 Signs You've Been Misled by a Health Myth

The Top 13 Reasons to Go to Work Naked

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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Why be burdened by highly publicized fears that decades later did not turn out to be true?

Michael Crighton writes about scaring ourselves:

It may be mostly forgotten now, but back then many climate scientists shared his concern: Temperatures around the world had fallen steadily for 30 years, dropping half a degree in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968. Pack ice was increasing. Glaciers were advancing. Growing seasons had shortened by two weeks in only a few years.

At this time we wasn’t concerned about global warming, we worried about global cooling and the coming ice age. Within a decade, scientists would be decrying a global warming trend that threatened to raise temperatures as much as 30 degrees in the 21st century. Such predictions implied palm trees in Montana, and they have since been revised downward. By 1995, the UN midrange estimates were about 4 degrees over the next 100 years. Although concern about warming remains, the prospect of catastrophic change seems increasingly unlikely.

He mention more scary stories like machines are taking over (it never happened, instead we are regarded as overworked, overstressed and sleepless), people fearing cancer from power lines (they shown to be false?) and now people velcome magnets as healthful (superstition?), nowadays people are afraid of saccharin, cyclamates, deodorants, cell phones and the list goes on an on. And the magnificent Y2K, experts predicted collapse in computers.

Human beings never get tired of discussing the latest report that tells us the end is near, it's only convincing me that we might regard each new claim with skepticism, search information and make our own mind up.

As I didn't knew Michael Crighton, I made a search on google.

He denies the global warming, he argues that scientific evidence for global warming is weak. Crichton rejects many of the conclusions reached by the National Academy of Sciences and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—for example, he does not believe that global temperature increases in recent decades are most likely the result of human activities.

Right now earth is clearly getting warmer, but I believe that the jury is still out. I am somewhat skeptical of global warming.

Some few links about global warming and Michael Crighton:

Michael Crichton’s State of Confusion
Real Climate
Bad Science, Bad Fiction:
In Michael Crichton's work, the two are intimately connected.

Michael Crichton Takes on Global Warming in Latest Work

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Can water "remember"?

Avogadro's number is an accident of nature. It is the number of particles that delivers a mole of a substance. Avogadro's number = 6,022 x 1023. Put it simply, one mole of any substance contains Avogadro's number of molecules, atoms, or "elementary entities" of that substance: an example is one mole of oxygen contains 6,022 x 1023 atoms of oxygen or one mole of water contains 6,022 x 1023 molecules of water.

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Then please follow me in this hypothesis:

Imagine that Socrates on his 20-years birthday slurped a glass of water. Most of the water molecule, he swallowed would in short time be separated again, and after several years they would have ended in the oceans. This happened 2.430 years ago, we can fair enough assume that the water molecule swallowed by Socrates in the meantime is gradually spread on earth (an exception is the great mass of ice on the poles, but it will not change the result much).

Assuming there is 180 g water in a glass, then we can count that in the earth mass of water is something like 6,022 x 1021 glasses of water, and that Socrates swallowed a number of water molecules, corresponding to 10 x Avogadro´s number, this is something like 6 x 1024 water molecules. In other words there can be found 1.000 of water molecules, that Socrates swallowed, in each glass of water coming from the faucet (huge arithmetical problem).

Why is this interesting?

Avogadro's number often yields practical reasonings in real life:

The medical concept of homeopathy it's best expressed by the "Law of Similars", which states that the symptoms created by a medicine in molecular and/or repeated dose given to healthy individuals may be cured by the same medicine prepared by the method specified in the homeopathic pharmacopeia.

The homeopathy theory assumes that water is "doped" by the chemical properties of molecules that it once came in contact with. In this practice one dilutes the original solution to the point where one removes all molecules, yet it is claimed that the water retains some chemical properties of the molecule. If this were so, then where did the pure water used in this process come from? The water that homeopaths themselves use once was in contact with other chemicals, including the water Socrates drank, chemical wastes, radioactive metals, dinosaur urine, and various poisons. According to the homeopathic theory, all water in the world should remember its contact with millions of chemical substances.

This thought is alarming, one might fear that the water, passed througt the body of Sokrates will remember this experience. And as the homøopathic effect depends on conformity, then intelligence must be struggled with intelligence. Or does the water knows when it has been diluted by a real homøopath?

Yet in practice we find that the homeopathic water remembers absolutely nothing at all, except for the properties of the chemicals that the homeopath claims will be useful. Claiming that water can remember is absolutely foolishness.

Further information: absoluteastronomy.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Waterrelated pseudoscience, fantasy and quackery, be amused

If you need evidence that the world will believe anything, then take a look click on the Scalarwave Structured Water and be amused! It's a miracle if anyone could take this seriously...

Home of scalarwave technology claim that children with various learning disabilities need their right brain functions to be stimulated, -with energy medicine in other words structured water.

Here is what the water can do (*LOL*):

My first experience of drinking the children’s formula was that somehow in an inexplicable way my childlike joy---a human birthright---was returned to me. It is a tremendous gift. I did not realize that I had lost this joy. I was standing in line at Starbucks when I saw a child dancing and twirling in ecstasy. I realized that this was precisely the inner experience that I was having. I also realized that the other adults did not even notice the child’s precious expression of joy until I directed their attention towards noticing. It was as though they were disconnected from the child’s effervescent expression of joy. I also found myself making up a song and singing out loud much to the amusement of the people who were fixing my latte. We all became amused as this creative expression and outburst was completely spontaneous. I had taken an event and a problem and turned it into a song. Fortunately they knew me quite well and shared my laughter and joy.

They have made a "bio-impedance test", they have testimonials, brain pictures and long descriptions about the structure of water and cells, -it's sounds really scientific.

This links has nearly anything about water cluster pseudoscience.

The topic reminds me of the classic fairy tale "the emperor's new clothes" written by H.C.Andersen.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Discovering new blogs and websites

Over the last few months, I've discovered both good and bad things of the blogosphere.

Here is someone that I like and; Universalacid about biology, science, politics, society, and the intersections between those areas, respectfulofotters about politics, HIV, health care, psychology, baseball, feminism and so on, blacktriangle about vaccines, medical error, quackery, herbals amongst others and then law evolution science and junk science, a weblog exploring intelligent design, other pseudo sciences, junk science and the abuse of science in law, generally. And not to forget, the blogs I have added in my sidebar.

Blogs that I like offer something new, they write for a reason and about things that matter, they are quality material not just killing time. There might be many details and rather telling a story than offering a simple list of facts.

I also like blogs to be written often, but not necessarily long.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Debunking some of the most common myths about disease

Myths are unjustified beliefs that influence how we understand and react in many situations. They arise out of uncertainty to provide stability and shared meanings. The appeal of myths is that they offer plausible and often comforting explanations.

There are a lot of myths and misleading ideas about the causes of cancer.

Some of the most common myths that are recognizable to me are:

First one is that coffee causes cancer, but recent headlines claims that drinking coffee may have some health benefits.

Next one is that positive attitude is all you need to beat cancer. I think a positive attitude helps you become more informed and active during your treatment, but there's no scientific proof that a positive attitude improves your chance of being cured. Or what about "good people don't get cancer". How would you explain the newborn that gets cancer? These little ones haven't been bad. There's absolutely no evidence that you get cancer because you deserve it.

Or what about cell phones cause cancer, according to a study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and to ACS.

Artificial sweeteners cause cancer, seems to be a myth too, results from research studies do not provide clear evidence of an association between artificial sweeteners and human cancer.

Similar to this one is that bioengineered foods cause cancer, but there is no evidence that bioengineered foods increase or decrease cancer risk because of the added genes.

Another one is, that exposing a tumour to air during surgery causes cancer to spread. It might be possible that during surgery, it's discovered that disease is more widespread than previously thought, but an operation can't cause cancer to spread nor can it cause cancer to start.

Only women with a family history or small breasted women do not get breast cancer, as far as I know every women is at risk regardless of family or breast size, race or socioeconomic status. But of course if you do have a family history, your chances are increased.

Food additives cause cancer, well they help preserve, colour and flavour our food, but it is very unlikely that food additives cause cancer.

More myths at cancerbacup and here advocatehealth dispels common cancer misconceptions.

The mentioned myths have something in common; they all indicate that disease is self-inflicted and could have been avoided. If you don't drink coffee, if your are positive, if you don't use cell phone, if you don't eat artificial sweeteners, bioengineered or food additives, if you are good and so on, then you might be healthy.

(believers in "alternative ineffective" medicine claim that disease is self-inflicted, and they use the myths promoting themselves).

Myth seems to be a mixture between eastern religion, science and superstition, stories and legends. How do myths arise? from ignorance? or?

Monday, March 07, 2005

The unreal world

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Humandescent is a collection of all kind of odd photos.

I recommend you not to visit humandescent unless you have plentiful of time.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

This is bad science

Here at Curezone, is one of the top50 popular topic dealing with parasites cleanse support:

Divagirl has suffered with parasites and constipation for years, and she has tried Dr. Clark's herbs-just the Walnut, Wormwood, Clove stuff, Beck protocol-zap, colliodal silver, ozone water, Liver cleanses, Colonics, it did'nt really helped her. Now she need some major megadoses of something to kill these things once and for all.

Boldyloxx recommend a diet, herbal or green tea, garlic and oregano oil to kill the worms. He explains that many parasites can infect a person more easily because of the chemical reactions on our body.

And then Asadar in a similar situation: "The more I try, the worse I get. Last year I was given, and advised to take 21 days prescription; instead, I took the Clarke's remedy several times- with short lived relief. Yesterday, I finished 6 days goats milk, and papaya only. I am worse now than a week ago. Onion is quicker to relief the exhustion, but that is not the answer. The next step is three days pineapple and raw pumkin seeds; if that didn't help, prescription".

Theese people might be desperate to be cured, it's understandable. I wonder how they got here, and why they are staying and still hoping. It's obvious that Dr. Clark can't cure them, and that it's quackery. I discovered Curezone casually, it's held by Dr. Clark (alias Hulda Clark) and Dr. Schultze. Here Hulda Clark is represented by Mr. Kastberg, and their quackery was exposed in television.

Just some few links:

Hulda Clarks flukey cult
The bizarre claims of Hulda Clark
Hulda Clark the real cure

Saturday, March 05, 2005

A friend has told me that drinking a lot of coffee causes cancer. Is this true?

Coffee causes cancer, it's a common myth that drinking coffee might cauce breast, pancreatic or other cancers.

A study from several years ago implied that drinking coffee increased the risk of pancreatic cancer. Dr. Brian MacMahon, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard published a study called Coffee and Cancer of the Pancreas in the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. MacMahon opined that drinking even three cups of coffee a day increased the risk of pancreatic cancer threefold, and that coffee may have caused nearly half the pancreatic cancers in the United States.

In 1995 the Italian Pancreatic Cancer Study Group concluded the association between coffee use and pancreatic cancer still held after controlling for potential confounding factors such as cigarette smoking or alcohol use, and when the analysis was restricted to nonsmoking coffee drinkers.

Recent headlines claims that drinking coffee can reduce our risk of liver cancer.

A team of Japanes researchers made new study of over 90.000 middle-aged men and woman, over a 10-year period. They found that people who drank coffee daily or nearly every day had half the liver cancer risk of those who never drank coffee. The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The study found that those who drank one or two cups of coffee every day halved their risk of this type of cancer. This risk decreased slightly more if they drank three or four cups every day, while those who drank five or more cups a day, saw the risk fall by 76%.

Why did earlier study result in inaccurate and misleading results? I think the example demonstrates that one study can't be conclusive, and science is a process of exploration. If there exists a large, consistent body of evidence, there can be established credible association between as an example coffee and disease, else not.

If you ask the coffee industry, they maintain that other studies shows that coffee is beneficial to your health, lowering the risk of colon cancer, gallstones and cirrhosis of the liver. They also claims that coffee contains more anti-oxidants than green tea, and is an excellent antidepressant.

I wonder what coffee industry think of cappuccino?

Anyway, I can drink my coffee without having a bad conscience.

Friday, March 04, 2005

HaloScan Commenting and Trackback have been added to this blog.

Haloscan makes earlier comments disappear or no longer visible. Therefore I have done the copy and paste with earlier comments on my blog, let me know if anything went wrong.

Parents need have no more fears about the triple vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella

Vaccines can protect whole populations from potentially dangerous diseases. Because vaccines are usually given to healthy people, especially children, any concern about the safety of vaccines has to be taken very seriously.

There have been widely publicized claims of connection between MMR vaccine and autism. An article in newscientist is dealing with the claim that MMR vaccine is responsible for the apparent rise in autism in recent years.

A study of more than 30.000 children i Japan shows that the number of children with autism continued to rise after the MMR vaccine was replaced with single vaccines.

Another study from Århus University (Denmark)/SSI dealing with 537.303 children, 82% got the vaccine and 700 children became autistic.

The conclusion is no connexion between MMR vaccine and autism.

Many parents have panicked after it was claimed that MMR might trigger autism.
The proportion of children receiving both doses of the MMR vaccine has dropped to the lowest in several years.

Now parents need to fear more if they are not giving their children the triple vaccine against MMR, than if they do.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Burden of Skepticism

Carl Sagan wrote about how open minded skeptics should be:

If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You never learn anything new. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) But every now and then, maybe once in a hundred cases, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and either way you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress.

On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful as from the worthless ones. If all ideas have equal validity then you are lost, because then, it seems to me, no ideas have any validity at all.

Some people believe that skepticism is rejection of new ideas, or they think that skeptics are unwilling to accept any claim that challenges the status quo. This couldn't be more wrong. Skepticism is a approach to claims, in other words, skepticism is a method, not a position.

Ideally, skeptics do not go into an investigation closed to the possibility that a claim might be true or a phenomenon might be real. But when we say we are skeptical, we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe.

A skeptics answer to a fantastic claim, "that's nice, prove it" or "show me the evidence, and if it's good I'll change my mind, but right now, the phenomenon of which you speak has failed every test to which it has been subjected."

Modern skepticism is embodied in the scientific method, that involves gathering data to formulate and test naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena. A claim becomes factual when it is confirmed to such an extent it would be reasonable to offer temporary agreement. All facts in science are subject to challenge, and therefore skepticism is a method leading to conclusions.

The key to skepticism is to continuously apply the methods of science to navigate between know nothing skepticism and anything goes credulity.

What about "psychic" phenomena: claims of psychic abilities and does the phenomena ESP excist?

ESP is most commonly called the "sixth sense." It is sensory information that an individual receives which comes beyond the ordinary five senses sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. It can provide the individual with information of the present, past, and future; as it seems to originate in a second, or alternate reality.

Some claims, such as ESP and creationism, have been tested (and failed the tests) often enough that we can provisionally conclude that they are not valid. Other claims, such as hypnosis and black holes, have been tested but results are inconclusive so we must continue formulating and testing hypotheses and theories until we can reach a conclusion.

I am ready to reject things such as a flat Earth because there is evidence we live on a sphere. And the Loch Ness Monster: Lack of evidence, and the few potential pieces of evidence has been frauds. We can safely say there is no monster. We can also safely say there is no ESP. Every single scientific testing of ESP has to my knowledge failed to produce evidence of ESP. But I don't have enough evidence to reject the possibility of some kind of perception we have not yet discovered.

What is meant by: "All known data points towards the conclusion that it doesn't exist."

Is there unknown data? Yes, there always is, and always will be. Does this unknown data evidence for these claim? We must make our conclusions based on data that is known, not data that is unknown. As long as there is unknown data, all conclusions can change.

Being a skeptic just means that you must be ready to change your conclusions based on new evidence.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

I am born naturally skeptical against pseudoscience

Many people put all their trust in the alternative community, because regular medicine can't help them. They put all their faith in these medicines and treatments and the subject is so charged that normal discussion is impossible. People do not want truth, they want hope, and they will go wherever hope takes them, no matter how questionable the road is which they are taking.

Many people are ready to reject reality and science because of wishful thinking. As a consequence they turn to alternative medicine and treatment, which is full of quacks, frauds, and many dangers.

It's a mistake to believe that alternative medicine deals in hope, alternative medicine only deals in delusion, much like all alternative views of reality, example is new age, that has nothing to do with reality. Science is the only thing that does offer hope.

Here is a typical situation between believing pseudoscience and to be skeptical:

Friend: Hey, I tried Quantum-Touch and I have seen a spontaneous remission of my primary liver cancer, I was told 3 months left to live. That was 2 years ago.

Me (after searching the web): Well, I'm glad it worked for you, but there doesn't appear to be any good evidence showing it will work for anyone else. There need to be tests and evidence to determine that.

Friend: Well, science doesn't know everything, so how can you be so sure it doesn't work?

Me: When did I say science knows everything?

Friend: Aren't we here to talk about cancer? Quantum-Touch worked for me. I'm proof that it works. You're paid by the drug companies, aren't you? You're paid to sit here and say that natural healing doesn't work, so that those doctors can keep their yachts.

Me: What the hell brought that on?

Friend: I just can't believe your arrogance, telling me that what worked for me couldn't have worked for me, and denying this wonderful hope to everyone else.

Me: I can't stop anyone from believing in Quantum-Touch

More Quantum-quackery I
More Quantum-quackery II

I found this advertising at Quantum-Touch homepage, scroll down and see, what quantum-quackery can do to your health:

Letter of the Month
"My partner and I have seen a spontaneous remission of primary liver cancer in a patient who was told she had 3 months left to live. That was 2 years ago. We have seen a spontaneous remission of breast cancer. I have used it in asthmatic flair-ups. We have seen reversal in the deformities of rheumatoid arthritis. We have used it in the treatment of panic attacks with success. We have used it on a client with incapacitating history of migraine headaches. We have a client who cancelled her scheduled back surgery after being treated with Quantum-Touch. Soooooooo, yes, I can name people who have been 'cured' of serious illness. Utilizing it in the operating room as a nurse anesthetist, with physiologic monitoring in place, I can give you oodles of documentation of the effectiveness of Quantum-Touch.
This is one of the latest of my adventures. I was giving a fellow anesthetist a break recently, and the surgeon was 2 hours into trying to fix a tibial fracture that would not reduce. The OR nurses know first hand of my abilities, and smiled when I went into my 'voodoo' mode. Doing a vector anaysis, I noted that the femur was also affected by the tibial fracture. By utilizing Quantum-Touch, the tibia realigned itself under fluoroscopic visualization to the amazement of the surgeon and the radiology technician. The returning anesthetist just smiled and nicknamed me 'Dr. Bombay' after the character in Bewitched."
-- Joanne R Boyer, RN, BSN, CRNA, MEd
-- Timothy Hurst, BA, BPhil, DMS
Certified Quantum-Touch Instructors

Like other sciences, medical knowledge advances. But we need evidence and we need to teach folks how to recognize good science and bad science. If something works, and can be proven to work, then it becomes part of accepted medicine and acknowledged treatment, all else is quackery until proven otherwise

See who links to your web site.