Thursday, July 20, 2006

39th Skeptic's Circle

I should rename this category "quackery, debunking, and skepticism".  One day.  It's been a while since I did a debunking post worthy of submission to Skeptic's Circle.  That's a blogging objective.

At any rate, the current Skeptic's Circle is up at Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Preventable Diseases

I have relatives who have refused to vaccinate their children  (except for tetanus).  Why?  Irrational beliefs.  I worry about my young relatives' health, but we've agreed to stop talking about it.  I'm not going to change their minds, and they sure as hell aren't going to change mine.   

Fat Doctor was exposed to mumps yesterday, and if she hasn't a proper mumps titer from a blood test, she will be house-bound for 10 days.

Dr. Horwitz addresses and dispells anti-vaccination myths.

Continue reading "Preventable Diseases" »

Friday, July 07, 2006

Orac's Brain Hurts: Too Much Quantum Woo (and no, that is not an adult beverage)

Orac is one of my favorite science bloggers.  What he wrote below made me laugh, so go read, eh?

[I]t turns out that Dr. Milgrom is a prolific little bastard when it comes to fusing quantum mechanic jargon with homeopathy to produce a highly toxic mixture of woo whose effect on my brain was such that I'm still recovering from trying to read the whole thing. Indeed, another reader sent me four articles by Milgrom, all chock full of the same toxic woo brew (apologies to our latest host of the Skeptics' Circle). After a few pages, my brain's energy field must have become quantumly entangled with that of Dr. Milgrom at the subatomic level. Or something. Either way, my brain hurt too much before I could finish all of that woo. I think my neurons were rebelling as the homeopathic quantum woo field assaulted them.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Clark Bertram Speaks Against Homeopathy

Clark Bertram (a pediatrician and a skeptic ) responds to a reader

I resent the comparison of my calling homeopathy crap to hate speech. Do you honestly believe that my questioning your particular brand of quackery is equivalent to a racial slur or homophobic rhetoric? Are you placing me in the same category as the KKK or Neo Nazis? I don't hate homeopathy although it, along with similar bogus entities such as chiropractic and TCM, frustrates me. I don't hate the people who purvey this silliness but if I have evidence that they do so with intent to commit health fraud and not because they honestly buy into it they do anger me. I hope you can see that I voice my strong opinions because I care about my fellow man not because I am full of hate or just trying to attack my competitors.

I left a comment and thought I should post links to my anti-homeopathic writings (below the fold).


Continue reading "Clark Bertram Speaks Against Homeopathy" »

Monday, June 26, 2006

Holistic Dentists

Updated--see comments
From SkepChick, I learned about this article in the LA Times, criticizing "holistic dentistry".  One holistic dentist, James Shen, defends his practice.

"I don't care what science says," he said about criticism of holistic dentistry. "My patients leave here feeling better. That's their reality. You can't deny that."

"I don't care what science says."  "I don't care what the facts are." 

Continue reading "Holistic Dentists " »

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Rockstars' Ramblings: Doggerel Index & Suggestions

Link: Rockstars' Ramblings: Doggerel Index & Suggestions.

Here "doggerel" is defined as the cliches espoused by anti-scientists.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

100th Monkey

I just unsubscribed from a physician's blog because of the 100th Monkey post.  He bought the story, even though cursory research would show that it had been discredited.  Even the originator says, "It's not true. I made it up".

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Alternatista's Guide to Solving Computer Problems

EoR ,who blogs at The Second Sight, has written a funny post on quackery,  The Alternatista's Guide to Solving Computer Problems.

Acupuncture has also been proven to be effective in many cases, since it releases blockages in energy flows. If your computer seems to be running slow this is because of stagnant energy in the data meridians. You can release this energy by applying acupuncture needles to various points on the power supply of the computer.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Understanding alternative medicine "testimonials" for cancer cures

Orac, who is a surgeon and researcher, has a long post on  Respectful Insolence: Understanding alternative medicine "testimonials" for cancer cures.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Learning Rx

Update June 12 2006: there's a discussion on LearningRx at LD online.  Nancy (who also comments below) is a fan of Balametrics and Neuronet.  I'd sure like to see some serious research rather than endorsements before launching my child into an expensive and time-consuming "therapy".

A press release came across my desk yesterday, touting a franchise program,  LearningRx .  (If you want to buy a franchise, the cost is between $80,000 and $125,000--it grew rapidly in 2004 but growth stalled in 2005.

They make the claim that

We focus on identifying and improving  weak cognitive skills. Since studies show that 88% of learning problems  have weak cognitive skills as a primary cause, we are uniquely designed   to help struggling student overcome the core of their learning struggles.

The press release made the claim that

The learning disability now affects two in five school children. In a recent study, dyslexia made up 88 percent of reading problems affecting children.

Forty percent!  That's insane.  Nobody knows the correct incidence percentage, but reliable estimates are in the range.  Medline says it's 2% to 8%.  They are confounding "below basic" reading rates (attributable to dysteachia) with dyslexia.

The wild claims make me suspicious of the whole program.

I am skeptical.  As Larry Silver writes,

In my books and publications on controversial therapies, I define these proposed models of treatment as controversial if:

  1. There is no research to support the proposed treatment;
  2. The treatment approach is being commercially pushed before the research shows any support for the proposed treatment; or,
  3. There is clear research evidence showing that the approach does not work; yet the approach is still advertised commercially.

But some of the other claims on the site are sound. 

Do you know anything about this program?

Continue reading "Learning Rx" »

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The 31st Meeting of The Skeptics' Circle

Terra Sigillata: The 31st Meeting of The Skeptics' Circle is up. 

Monday, February 27, 2006

Why Fringe Methods Get Better Press

Orac has a great post on the latest quack treatment for autism: chemical castration. I've long been frustrated by the press quack treatments recieve; one of his commentors explains why, succinctly:

Mostly because the quacks are telling man-bites-dog stories whereas the scientists are telling dog-bites-man stories, and the latter is an oxymoron in journalism. There's also the fact that quacks speak of simple certainties whereas scientists speak of complex probabilities; the former works well with media whereas the latter doesn't (that's also why a biologist is almost guaranteed to lose a televised debate with a creationist; it's impossible to explain evolution in a few soundbites).

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Skeptic Army

NOW REPORTING: Twenty-seventh Skeptic's Circle is now up at Photon in the Darkness!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Field Guide to Quacks and Pseudoscientists

Update: Second part has been posted  (more below the fold)
Prometheus (Photon in the Darkness) is posting a multi-part  field guide to quackery and pseudoscience:

Summary of the first post: quacks and pseudoscientists share seven ways of thinking, each of which is fallacious.  In the second post, Prometheus adds four more false ways of thinking, and two common types of pseudoscience.

Continue reading "Field Guide to Quacks and Pseudoscientists" »

Friday, January 06, 2006

Annals of Quackery: Magnetic Devices

Magnetic devices (like bracelets, insoles, even pillows and mattresses) are big business.  The estimated sales are over a billion dollars globally.  They are widely advertised (here's a sample) and promoted by famous athletes.

Today in the British Medical Journal,  (Magnet therapy BMJ, Jan 2006; 332: 4 ; doi:10.1136/bmj.332.7532.4),  Leonard Finegold and Bruce L Flamm report:

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. Patients should be advised that magnet therapy has no proved benefits. If they insist on using a magnetic device they could be advised to buy the cheapest - this will at least alleviate the pain in their wallet, the authors conclude.

Thanks to Kevin, MD.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006


So your sweetie comes home talking about this amazing new person who is going to help him/her be happy, self-actualized,  yadda yadda yadda -- what's a person to do?  Well, you can certainly read the archives at Guruphiliac.

While we understand that gurus are held sacred by many, they are also public figures deserving of scrutiny. Our primary aim is to inject a little humor into what can be an excessively self-righteous enterprise, and to illustrate the primary truth that no matter how divine their devotees believe them to be, gurus poop on the same pot we do."

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Skeptical Resources

Skeptico has a great post on "the appeal to science doesn't know everything"

The statement “science doesn’t know everything” is obviously true. The believer thinks the corollary is that any idea he likes the sound of, that cannot be proven false, is worthy of consideration. This is wrong. Something is only worthy of consideration if there is a reason to suppose it is true. Usually that means some evidence.....

The argument from the believer in these theories that have no evidentiary support goes something like this:

Hundreds of years ago we didn’t know radio waves existed, but they obviously did exist, so how do you know “qi” (or whatever [wild but unlikely]  idea they are promoting) does not exist today?

The answer is – we don’t. But, no one imagined radio waves existed, or claimed to be using them before they were scientifically discovered either. The thing is, “how do you know “qi” does not exist?” is the wrong question. The question you should be asking is, “is there any evidence for “qi”?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Annals of Quackery: Hypnosis and Dyslexia

Note: this post has been edited.  I moved my comment, with further criticism, from the comments section to the body of the post.

One Marilyn Redmond is promising "new hope for dyslexia":

Marilyn Redmond, Clinical Hypnotist and Registered Counselor, in Edgewood, Washington is combining hypnosis with other complimentary health methods to improve the process with children and adults. When she heard the latest scientific release that Russian biophysicist and molecular biologist Pjotr Garjajev has scientifically proven that affirmations along with meditation/ hypnosis (another term for meditation) will raise consciousness, well-being, and even change DNA, she became interested in helping students with Dyslexia.

What a load of hogwash.

This is the material I added:

As justification for offering hypnosis for dyslexia, your press release reads in part:

"There is a new use for therapeutic hypnosis and holistic counseling. Harold B. Crasilneck, Ph.D., and James A. Hall, M.D. of Dallas Texas states that relatively little use of hypnosis is used in treating dyslexia. However, they report that “three-fourths of the dyslexic children treated through hypnosis demonstrated moderate to marked improvement.” "

I went looking for scientific evidence of this claim. 

1. Crasilneck and Hall as joint authors have published six articles, according to PubMed. None deal with dyslexia, reading, or learning disabilities.

2. The statement above implies that Crasilneck and Hall have recently announced the effectiveness of hypnosis for dyslexia. The most recent of their articles was published twenty-eight years ago.  This is hardly cutting-edge research,especially in light of the great increase in the roots of dyslexia revealed by brain-imaging studies by Shaywitz, Eden, Beringer and Aylward, among others.  The claim that  “three-fourths of the dyslexic children treated through hypnosis demonstrated moderate to marked improvement.” seems to be drawn from Crasilneck and Hall's 1985 handbook,  Clinical hypnosis: principles and applications, 2nd Ed, Boston: Allyn and Bacon. 

3. Again according to a PubMed search, there are absolutely no controlled studies indicating that hypnosis is an effective approach to remediating dyslexia.

4.  The press release also claims that hypnosis is a valid treatment for dyslexia based on  a "scientific release"  from a  Russian  scientist, biophysicist and molecular biologist Pjotr Garjajev, with the following claims

scientifically proven that affirmations along with meditation/ hypnosis (another term for meditation) will raise consciousness, well-being, and even change DNA

Garjajev has no citations in Pubmed.   The claim for DNA modulation seems to come from the article entitled, "The Biological Chip in our Cells", by Grazyna Fosar and Franz Bludorf, published on their website, "German Magazine KonteXt reports on current developments within the ranges of border science and spirituality."   There are a number of claims made, but no data to back up the claims.  Remember, "Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof".  We can reject the Fosar-Bludorf claims for lacking evidence.

5. The press release also states "Frustrated parents and schools have not found ways to improve or resolve this malady [dyslexia] for successful school careers." That is also not true, on two counts.

a. Dyslexia is not a "malady" in the sense of disease, ailment, or unwholesome condition.  It is a neurological variation in how the brain processes the relation between symbol and sound.

b. "not found ways to improve" --this is just a flat misstatement of truth.  Multi-sensory, structured, intensive, instruction in synthetic phonics will allow most children to learn to read.    Anne Alexander and Anne-Marie Slinger Constant's article "Current Status of Treatments for Dyslexia: Critical Review"  (J Child Neurol.  2004; 19 (10): 744-758.) is perhaps the most comprehensive  current review:

treatment studies have shown that the majority of children respond to evidence-based treatment interventions

Yes, there are children who continue to struggle despite being in comprehensive programs, and there is certainly room for improvment in  both diagnosis and treatment options.  Alexander and Constant suggest a checklist:

  • An evidence-based program to remediate dyslexia and the phonological system weakness
  • Evaluate child's ability to focus/pay attention (remediate as necessary)
  • Evaluate the child's  working memory function (remediate as necessary)
  • Evaluate the child's executive function,(remediate as necessary)
  • Evaluate the child's sensorimotor capacity (the ability for fine and gross motor control. Deficits in this area can lead to dysgraphia.  (remediate as necessary)
  • Evaluate the child's psychological status (ADHD and dyslexia have a high degree of co-incidence; anxiety disorders also seem to be associated with specific language disorders)

I do not see the utility for a primary, secondary, or even tertiary role for hypnosis in the checklist above. 

Parents, if your child has difficulty learning to read, do not waste your child's precious brain, or your money,  on twaddle such as hypnosis.  (Or colored lenses, or balance training, or optometric interventions like vision therapy,  or  seasickness drugs or movement therapies.)

Back to the original post:

What should parents of poor readers do?  Here's what works: multisensory, methodical  instruction in phonemic awareness, grapheme-phoneme correspondence, and further training in the structure of the English language.

If there isn't a Masonic Children's Learning Center near you,  an independent  Orton-Gillingham-based remedial program (see list below),  or you can't find other help, go to Susan Barton's website and learn to tutor your child.

A list of  good solid programs follows.  Here's a description of effective teaching.

Continue reading "Annals of Quackery: Hypnosis and Dyslexia" »

Monday, August 29, 2005

Educating Education Writers

Nanette Asimov, the Chronicle education writer (who otherwise has good chops--she investigated Scientology's worming its way into the SF school district) made two serious  errors in a recent news article on special education:

In 2001, Juleus Chapman was a Fremont 8th-grader with "scotopic sensitivity syndrome" -- a condition that makes words seem to swim across the page -- and dyslexia, which causes letters to appear in reverse order.

In other words,

  1. She accepted a quack definition.  "Scotopic sensitivity syndrome"  exists only in the mind of the people who provide an expensive and useless fix
  2. She perpetuated two destructive myths about dyslexia: that it has to do with visual perception, and it has something to do with  reversal of letters.

Continue reading "Educating Education Writers" »

Homeopathy: It Just Doesn't Work

Homeopathy is big business.  But oops, it is just selling placebos.

The Lancet,  the United Kingdom's leading medical journal, has published a study (lead researcher) on the efficacy of homeopathy.

In a nutshell?  No homeopathic remedy has been found to work.  Any positive results can be ascribed to the placebo effect.  Allopathic medicine, on the other hand, does demonstrate results beyond the placebo effect.

In an editorial, the Lancet urged doctors to tell their patients they were wasting their time taking homeopathic medicines -- but also to make more time to connect with the patients rather than just prescribing and forgetting.

“Now doctors need to be bold and honest with their patients about homeopathy’s lack of benefits, and with themselves about the failings of modern medicine to address patients’ needs for personalized care,” the journal said.

Stand back and watch the homeopaths wriggle out of this one.

Continue reading "Homeopathy: It Just Doesn't Work" »

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Village Actor

The noted educational researcher, Mr. Tom Cruise,  is arguing that there is a drug commonly prescribed for dyslexia.    This is a classic "straw man" argument. 

Evidently Mr. Cruise also has extensive qualifications in treating postpartum depression. 

Both areas of expertise,  of course, arise from his experience and leadership in the Church of Scientology.  The world needs to be free of  Xenu indeed.

Continue reading "Village Actor" »

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Facilitiated Communication: Always Quackery?

I wrote about Sue Rubin and her film in December.   While I've had long-standing reservations about facilitated communication, I just sort of went along with this one.  Benjamin Radford pointed out I (like others) am gullible.

Continue reading "Facilitiated Communication: Always Quackery?" »

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Hypnosis and Quackery

Wendi Friesen has the answer and she is willing to sell it to you.

  She can help your cancer recovery for $100.00   or remove your desire to use alcohol for $150.00.  What a deal! She advertises heavily on the liberal radio network, Air America, which bothers some people. Boy, hope sure springs eternal--the free lunch, the no-effort improvement.  At least Friesen is honest:

My success is based on being a marketing expert

Continue reading "Hypnosis and Quackery" »

Thursday, December 02, 2004

A Blow to Science

Phooooeyy. But what do you expect from this administration, that supports teachings that outright lie? The U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection has announced that it deems homeopathic water rip-off material products to be "medicaments".

It is fitting that I found this from the Journal of Improbable Research.

For the record, homeopathic treatments lighten your wallet. That's about it.

Continue reading "A Blow to Science" »

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Loren Parks: Dyslexia Quack

Loren Parks is still spreading false hopes of a quick cure for dyslexia:

Dyslexia, a reading disability, is very popular nowadays, and much money and time is spent trying to correct it. However, dyslexia is often easy to fix. The problem is getting through the thick heads of the people making money off of it and those who are so programmed it is a medical problem, not a psychological one, that they are not receptive to any other type of therapy for dyslexia.

Well, I suppose that expecting e Not Alone to publish reliable stuff was a mistake.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Fear Leads to Fraud

Parents in the UK panicked, measles/mumps/rubella injection "might" have a link to autism. Non thinking resulted, and they rushed to pay extra to have single-disease injections.

(One mom realizes the objections to the 5-in-one inoculation ("jab" in Brit-speak) are mystical not rational; Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, who has an autistic child, wrote a long and scholarly analysis of the anti-vaccination scare story)

One low-life physician took advantage of parents' fears and "provided" separate vaccinations for measles. Oops, he used out-of-date or over-dilute preparations, which lead the kids unprotected. But his bank account was well fed..

Continue reading "Fear Leads to Fraud" »

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Why to Vaccinate Against The Flu

I have found a new medical blog, and a blogging hero. Dr. Code Blue Blog makes me look positively mealy-mouthed on some subjects. He or she says failing to vaccinate kids against influenza is causing a spike in death rate among the elderly. And Dr. CBB has coined a new word: Vagans, those against vaccination.

Continue reading "Why to Vaccinate Against The Flu" »

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Optometry for Learning Disabilities

If your child is having trouble in school, should you first look at his or her eyes?  The answer is yes and no.  The yes part is:  every child should have a thorough vision evaluation--my preference is as part of a whole, well-child workup in a pediatrician or physician's office.  More than just the kind of test you have to pass at the DMV is in order--remember, classroom work involves switching from the page up to the blackboard and back--near and far-term switching, and other visual skills.

The no part is that there is little evidence that  "developmental optometry" or "behavioral optometry" or "vision therapy"  has any long-term beneficial effect on a child's learning disabilities.  While the optometrists' official position is that Vision therapy does not directly treat learning disabilities or dyslexia., the statement then goes on to carve out a place for optometry in the burgeoning, and lucrative, field of learning disabilities.

Continue reading "Optometry for Learning Disabilities" »

Friday, October 29, 2004

Can Homeopathy (Oscillococcinum, Dolivaxil, Influenzinum) Help With The Flu?

Can Homeopathy Cure or Prevent the Flu? No, although homeopaths continue to misrepresent the research and insist that homeopathy is effective. (FYI, Oscillococcinum is dilute rotten duck meat, Dolivaxil and Influenzium are alleged to be prepared from influenza strains but no research has been published. They could easily be prepared from nothing other than pure water.)

Continue reading "Can Homeopathy (Oscillococcinum, Dolivaxil, Influenzinum) Help With The Flu? " »

Homeopathy is Good Because It Is Not Big Business

Is Homeopathy Pure, or Is Homeopathy Big Business?

The profit motive in medicine fundamentally distorts all health care, determining everything from the kind of research that is done to the recommended treatments to the amount of time spent with a patient.....There is an essentially progressive and non-capitalist alternative form of medicine that can yield effective and deep healing. It is the brilliant and healthy science of Homeopathy

Well, too bad that is not true.

Continue reading "Homeopathy is Good Because It Is Not Big Business" »


Iridology is not merely worthless. Incorrect diagnoses can unnecessarily frighten people, cause them to waste money seeking medical care for nonexistent conditions, or steer them away from necessary medical care when a real problem is overlooked.

Continue reading "Iridology" »

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Stealth Endorsement

You know that I am sure homeopathy doesn't work--indeed, it is quackery. "Scotopic Sensitivity" doesn't exist, so it can't be "improved" or "remediated". There are a lot of dyslexia "treatments" that likewise fail the independent research test.

One criticism to all of the fringe efforts--in this instance, especially intelligent design (a proxy for creationism) is that proponents of these ideas have not been able to pass muster in the process of science known as peer review, with implies that the ideas so proposed aren't scientifically verifiable.

There's now an explanation how the peer-review process has been finessed,

Continue reading "Stealth Endorsement" »

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Another Quack Claim for Dyslexia

Neural Organizational Technique: Claim on curing dyslexia

Ferreri and Wainright, discoverers of the technique, have found that this treatment can result in a reversal of all symptoms in relation to the learning disability

No proof is offered, just bald claims. No data with pre-test and post-test of hundreds of children, just a bald claim. No followup, just a bald claim. Avoid this person and this technique--you'll waste your child's time and your money.

Monday, August 30, 2004

53 states

Joanne Jacobs wrote about it--the school chain that recruited through churches and awarded "diplomas". Jason Felch wrote about it for the LA Times, and now there's a follow up.

Continue reading "53 states" »

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Retreated from New Age

As you know, I regard homeopathy as so much nonsense. People who continue to defend its use as "medication" or "alternative health" can't think their way out of a dead-end with both hands (to mix images). This woman used to believe in all the New Age stuff--channeling, homeopathy, the whole nine yards, but changed converted.

Continue reading "Retreated from New Age" »

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Greg Cynaumon's Study Doesn't Exist

I started wondering one day, does the The Phonics Game   prevent or remediate  dyslexia? I mean, $200 and no reading delay?  No brainer! (Turns out that while additional phonics instruction is good for all kids, only simultaneously multisensory, systematic, and cumulative with  direct and explicit instruction in both synthetic and analytic  phonics with intense practice will really do the job with dyslexic kids.)

So the home methods, such as the Phonics Game,  PhonicsOpoly, Hooked on Phonics (here's a site that compares them.

So I was looking up the background of the Phonics Game.  That's how I found Greg Cynaumon.  And  from there I saw that he had a "tailored" discipline program (the Discipline Quotient)  and I was also interested in that.

I discovered that Cynamoun lies (and also uses language in such a way that he is intentionally misleading)  about just about everything.

Continue reading "Greg Cynaumon's Study Doesn't Exist" »

Saturday, April 10, 2004


In some circles (especially chiropractic) vaccinating your children against disease is seen as child abuse (I'm not kidding!) Here is a very good article on why chiropractors should advocate vaccination (pdf format). Here is a widely-circulated article on the "dangers" of vaccination, with a point-by-point rebuttal by a pediatrician. And here is a reputable source for vaccination information.

Critique of Homeopathy: Index

I stopped working with a (horse) trainer I really respected because the trainer was insisting on treating the horses and riders with visceral manipulation and homeopathy. I wasn't seeing the benefit of either treatment and it was starting to run into large amounts of money, on top of training fees. Then my sister (who should be able to think better than this) said "Oh, I know homeopathy works because I've tried it and it works for me."

So I researched and wrote an essay (in four parts) as a critique and rejection of homeopathy. Here is an index of posts on this blog about homeopathy, and a line to a webring.

Part I--Critique of Homeopathy: An Overview of Why Homeopathy Cannot Be Effective, And Is More Like A Religion

Part I--Critique of Homeopathy: The Foundations and Background; Why It Is Hard to Think About Homeopathy; and Why It Is Health Fraud

Part III--Critique of homeopathy: An Examination of Its Utility in Some Life-Threatening Medical Conditions
Where The Tough Get Going: Homeopathy and Life-Threatening Conditions

Part IV--Critique of Homeopathy Is Homeopathy Pure, or Is Homeopathy Big Business?

Dyslexia and Homeopathy Don't waste your money and time.

Another Confused quack homeopath.
Dolivaxilcannot cure anything.

Here is the webring Hub

This ring is for sites that combat & debunk health-related frauds, myths, fads, and fallacies, and are more interested in real, objective, scientific proof, than in the speculative, subjective, and unproven theories and anecdotes of so-called Alternative Medicine. If you are sympathetic to the aims of the National Council Against Health Fraud, and you consider Quackwatch to be a reliable source of anti-quackery information, then this ring may be just what you're looking for

Monday, April 05, 2004

How to Sell a PseudoScience

This has to do with pseudo science (like the wonderfulness of homeopathic medicine, or colored lenses to cure specific reading disabilities)

Brian O'Connor started wondering about

How are intelligent and otherwise normal people persuaded to believe in really weird stuff? How does persuasion work, both self-persuasion and persuasion from without?

About 10 years ago, Anthony R. Pratkanis wrote a provocative and very readable article entitled: "How to Sell a Pseudoscience". The title of the article explains it all - if you want your own pseudoscience, Pratkanis offers "nine effective persuasion tactics for selling all sorts of flimflam." For openers, try this on for size:

Saturday, January 24, 2004

New Age Profiteers

I am working on another essay on the celebration of out-of-control children which is the "Indigo Children" phenomenon, and how many Americans have lost the knack of good parenting, or refuse to see the consequences of the way they treat their children.  Along the way, I encountered a woman who used the phrase "New Age profiteers" (in reference to a man who was promoting the existence of psychic children. ). 

I have a hunch that  many New Age healers are in fact, soulless profiteers, merely  looking for a way to support themselves instead of doing honest work.

First of all, a working definition of "New Age": this seems to fit (from Religious Tolerance.Org)

Although it is often referred to as a religion, the New Age is in reality an almost completely decentralized and unorganized spiritual movement. It is composed of metaphysical bookstores, seminar leaders, authors, teachers and user/believers of a variety of techniques, such as channeling, past life regressions, pyramid science, crystal power, etc. It is a free-flowing spiritual movement -- a network of believers and practitioners -- where book publishers take the place of a central organization; seminars, conventions, books and informal groups replace of sermons and religious services. Conservative usage: closely coordinated groups including occultists, Wiccans, Satanists, astrologers, channelers, spiritists, etc.

The first stop is where I saw the phrase, an essay by Lorie Anderson warning her fellow citizens of Ashland that one James Twyman is in more interested in making money and having a successfull career than in helping children:

We have an incredible story that perfectly fits a bogus archetype that has been perpetuated, repeatedly, by dubious spiritual seekers of the past. We can see striking similarities between Twyman's story and his familiarity with A Course In Miracles, and his associations with ENDEAVOR ACADEMY and The Emissaries of Divine Light. We have several events in the real world that Twyman embellished, misrepresented, and spin-doctored to serve his own interests. And we have Twyman, continuing to claim his emissaries are real, but providing no way to contact the other people who reportedly shared the experience with him.

Anderson closes her essay with a call to parents to become more skeptical:

As the New Age movement grows from marginal to mainstream, we need programs for New Age consumer protection. We must caution educators and parents about, and object to, programs with paranormal underpinnings, like the Indigo Child and Brain Respiration, which are fervently marketed to private and public schools. We need age-appropriate critical-thinking skills programs in education, starting in the early grades. We must educate ourselves and our children on the scientific method of inquiry, how to evaluate studies and spot pseudo-science and pseudo-scientists. We must help our children to develop radar to detect and avoid deceptive New Age profiteers - no matter how noble their stated cause.

New age profiteers?  Where else does that take me? To Druids;  to the New Age hucksters who rip off Native American spirituality;  to people who want to revive European tribalism; to Native Americans rebuffing the hucksters.

Continue reading "New Age Profiteers" »

Friday, January 23, 2004

Indigo Children--Child Protection Manifesto

Lorie Anderson wrote As the New Age movement grows from marginal to mainstream, we need programs for New Age consumer protection. We must caution educators and parents about, and object to, programs with paranormal underpinnings, like the Indigo Child and Brain Respiration, which are fervently marketed to private and public schools. We need age-appropriate critical-thinking skills programs in education, starting in the early grades. We must educate ourselves and our children on the scientific method of inquiry, how to evaluate studies and spot pseudo-science and pseudo-scientists. We must help our children to develop radar to detect and avoid deceptive New Age profiteers - no matter how noble their stated cause.

More on "indigo children"  at Indigo Children: Delusional Parenting and this New Age Profiteers


Miracle Cures and Quackery

Regular readers have gotten thedrift that there are some widely-touted treatments (especially for dyslexia and autism) that I don't hesitate to label quackery. Here's another list:

Characteristics of "Miracle Cures" The approach is discovered through a personal epiphany. The approach is proclaimed useful for a large range of ailments. The developers establish lucrative training institutes and insist on trainee secrecy. The developers inspire the founding of professional societies to promote the approach. The developer offers pro bono therapy in the face of criticism. Poor results in objective studies are blamed on poorly trained researchers or inadequate research design. Others appraisals of the method/approach vary from extremely positive to extremely negative.

The parent website is also an interesting place, if you have an interest in how beliefs and perceptions intersect.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Annals of Quackery:Dyslexia:Hypnosis

Loren Parks is another person claiming to be able to cure dyslexia. At least he is not making money from people's suffering. You will note that there are no control groups, no pre-tests, no post-tests, no objective evaluations of improvement in function, just claims and anecdotes.

All is free. All is experimental and not everyone will be helped DYSLEXIA -- A SIMPLE THERAPY...Dyslexia, a reading disability, is very popular nowadays, and much money and time is spent trying to correct it. However, dyslexia is often easy to fix. The problem is getting through the thick heads of the people making money off of it and those who are so programmed it is a medical problem, not a psychological one, that they are not receptive to any other type of therapy for dyslexia
I guess the repeated brain imaging studies showing dyslexics use their brains in a way normal people don't, such as Temple, at Stanford; Burdette at Wake Forest; Corina at University of Washington; and Eden at NIMH are all just the products of "thick headed" scientists imagining things.

Listen carefully: there are reputable treatments for dyslexia. Hypnosis isn't it. This person, Parks, ought to be ashamed of himself for ignoring the research.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Annals of Quackery:Dyslexia:Sound Entrainment

I don't know why newspapers keep publishing this stuff. They wouldn't publish "Breakthough treatments for Broken Limbs: Do Nothing: (No, I am not arguing that dyslexic brains are "broken", I am arguing that there are proven, well-established understandings of what dyslexia is, and how best to remediate people who have it.)

Another Quack TreatmentDirectors of the center, Sound Entrainment Therapies Institute, say they can cure children of autism, attention deficit disorder or dyslexia with a specialized testing process and a series of music-listening sessions.

The two-hour sessions are held two or three times a week for a few months, and usually cost from $2,000 to $7,000, depending on the complexity of the diagnosis, she said. Financing for single parents and low-income households is available.

No, parents, RUN the other way. This is quackery, pure and simple. Depriving your dyslexic child of effective remediation is child abuse.

Annals of Quackery:Dyslexia:Homeopathy

Amish Hospital & Research Center is all over the internet. It promises cures (I added the emphasis):

Dyslexia is a brain-based type of learning disability that specifically impairs a person's ability to read. These individuals typically read at levels significantly lower than expected despite having normal intelligence. Although the disorder varies from person to person, common characteristics among people with dyslexia are difficulty with phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds) and/or rapid visual-verbal responding.

Allopathic and other systems don’t have effective treatment, but homeopathy has the best treatment for it. We, at our center, have treated many dyslexic children successfully.

In normal course, it takes 1 to 2 months for appreciable improvements, and 8 to 10 months to clear it completely.

Alleging that there isn't effective treatment is a vicious, evil lie. Claiming that homeopathy is effective is a vicious, evil lie.

Why? Homeopathy can't hurt--it can't do anything! But if the parents are delaying getting effective therapeutic teaching for the child, the child will suffer, falling further behind in school, not being able to read to learn--and on and on.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Annals of Quackery: Ear Candling (and worse)

Earcandling. Some people think that if you stick a candle in your ear and light it on fire, good things will happen:

Do you have....
Chronic or acute ear infections, hearing loss, sinus congestion, ear pain, itching, allergies, ringing (tinnitus), or vertigo (dizziness)? EAR CANDLING MAY BE THE ANSWER!
This ear cleaning technique has been around for centuries. It is a safe, natural, and effective method. Conventional ear cleaning processes done at home or in the doctor's office will never come close to removing what this gentle technique can remove by certified natural health professionals.

What a pack of arrant nonsense and outright lies.
It is a safe, what is safe about

Continue reading "Annals of Quackery: Ear Candling (and worse)" »

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Dyslexia Cure? No, and it is wrong to claim it is

Here's the URL:

NSRI Colored Overlays Reduce Dyslexia Quickly and Dramatically

Yet more claims, just from putting colored plastic over the page:

20th National Reading Styles Conference - July 10-14, 2004 Achieving the Impossible for Struggling Readers Inspiring, cutting-edge, and powerful! Achieve instant success, extraordinary reading gains, reduced discipline problems, and lowered dropout rates. Over 40 outstanding presenters, 100 different sessions, hands-on teaching, special strand for administrators. K-12

Look, I don't doubt that some children and some adults are troubled by glaring lights and/or high contrast. It is just not the cure for dyslexia they say it is.

I also think it is unethical for these people to be making money off a simple claim without even a link to an effective solution

Sunflower Method

In October 2000 the University of Surrey began a four-year research project into the Sunflower Method for helping dyslexics (jointly funded by The Sunflower Trust, the university and a manufacturer of food supplements.

The Sunflower Method is an holistic approach based on applied kinesiology, and the principle that the physical, mental and emotional systems are interdependent - that an imbalance in one area affects the other. The

Continue reading "Sunflower Method" »

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Excellent article on how to evaluate claims

Characteristics of Quack Claims

Listening to the frequent discussions over controversial empirical claims, an unsophisticated reader could easily walk away with the view that only tradition and prejudice separate the sparring factions. Such a reader might think that most scientists cast a skeptical eye on paranormal phenomena, the claims for homeopathic dilution, the idea that the earth is relatively young, etc., merely because these scientists were taught opposing claims. As one poster's signature would have it, such critics merely engage in "school of thought bashing."

I think this view is wrong. I think it stems, in part, from an inadequate understanding of how to evaluate evidence. The evidential claims for many of these controversial notions exhibit common flaws. They are the kinds of flaws that scientists recognize from many, many past failures. It is this history of dead ends which seduced previous researchers with flawed evidence that informs the way scientists evaluate the evidential claims accompanying these controversial notions.

">Go on, read the rest

Another confused homeopath

Dr. Mirman, Dr. Mirman, just proclaiming something is true does not make it true.

Hello everybody. Thank you for visiting. The primary purpose of this site is to educate about Homeopathy. Homeopathy is serious science and as such deserves a serious explanation. I attempted to provide such an explanation in my booklet Demystifying Homeopathy.

Repeat after me, there is no reputable evidence that homeopathy works.

Dolivaxil can't "cure" anything.

(Update 10/29/2004: More on Dolivaxil's effectiveness)

I get a lot of searches for things about homeopathy. Following back this one, I got:

Dolivaxil is our #1 remedy to prevent the flu. Safer than other methods to prevent the flu. Safe to use for all ages. Unlike vaccine, there are no contradictions to prevent safe use of Dolivaxil. Each box of Dolivaxil contains the complete treatment for 1 person. Take 1 vial of tiny pellets once a week for 4 weeks. Wait 3 weeks and take the final vial. That's it! Avoid the dangers of the flu shot. We receive many requests now from many families who used Dolivaxil successfully last year. Think of the savings in doctor visits, missed school and work, and worthless over the counter treatments. Includes 5 vials and instructions on how to use to prevent the flu. Purchase one box per person when using as a vaccination alternative. Homeopathy works with your body and strengthens your immune system!

How many misstatements of truth can you find in that paragraph?

Repeat after me: there is no proof that homeopathy works in any way to do anything other than making your wallet lighter.

The quack homeopathic expensive waterremedy referenced above is a product of the Dolisos group, which is a subsidiary of the French health care giant Pierre Fabre

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Where to report Quackery

Until people stop buying quack products, they will remain on the market. Contact these organizations for more information about reporting medical quackery:

The National Fraud Information Center of the National Consumers League
This group will assist you in reaching your state's attorney general office
P.O. Box 65868
Washington, D.C. 20035

The National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF)
119 Foster Street
Peabody, MA 01960
Telephone: (978) 532-9383

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
5600 Fisher's Lane
Rockville, MD 20857
Consumer hotline

Chief Postal Inspector United States Postal Service
(for mail fraud)
475 L'Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, D.C. 20260-2100
(202) 268-4267

Federal Trade Commission - Health Care Fraud Bureau of Consumer Protection
Washington, D.C. 20580
(202) 326-2222

Better Business Bureau
1012 14th St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20005
(202) 393-8000

Friday, December 26, 2003

Constructing a logical argument

This handy-dandy little site will assist you in straightening out your thinking. This is especially useful in deconstructing the arguments that quacks give for the validity of their treatments. It is

There's a lot of debate on the net. Unfortunately, much of it is of very low quality. The aim of this document is to explain the basics of logical reasoning, and hopefully improve the overall quality of debate

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

A new protection

Currently: The Danger of Refusing to Sell Fake Medicines

In the United States, many pharmacists now dispense "medicines" they believe to be worthless. They feel compelled to do this because (a) some customers demand to buy them and (b) many pharmacy owners insist on taking the money those customers offer up.

In theory, these pharmacists could be fired for refusing to sell what they believe to be ineffective, and in some cases fraudulent, nostrums. This puts the pharmacists in a terrible spot -- wanting to keep their customers from buying junk, but fearing retribution from their employers.

Read All About It This is from the Annals of Improbable Research, those good people who give you the Ig Noble awards.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Saying Irlen Lenses can Cure Dyslexia is Quackery

Colored Lenses and filters do nothing to improve reading ability. If you use colored lenses first, without addressing your child's difficulty in processing the sound of language (phonemic awareness) or your child's difficulty relating a symbol to a sound (graphophonemic difficulty)you are wasting your money and your child's precious time.

Accomplished, fluent reading, with good comprehension, is a complex chain of visual and neurological events. Although dyslexia--difficulty reading--was described first in 1886, it is only relatively recently that we have had the technology to see what really goes on in the brain of fluent readers and problem readers.

In 1983 (remember, before we really could see into the brain) a woman named Helen Irlen hypothesized that there might be an underlying neurological problem in encoding and decoding visual information for some people who have trouble learning to read, or for people who have trouble with sustained reading. She futher hypothosized that this problem can be alleviated by adjustments to the appearance of the printed page: that is, special colored lenses in glasses, or colored overlays on the page, and so forth.

They are not such bad hypotheses; its just that the hypothoses, repeatedly, have not been borne out by research.

Continue reading "Saying Irlen Lenses can Cure Dyslexia is Quackery" »