From Abracadabra to Zombies
The Skeptic's Dictionary Newsletter
Volume 12 No. 8
"...if Age of Autism likes something, the odds of its being based on good science are about as high as the odds of a single molecule of starting remedy being left in a 30C homeopathic solution." --Orac
My local metro newspaper, The Sacramento Bee, is not unique in trying to stay afloat by taking ads from dubious sources, many of which I'd classify under "junk-science health products." The Bee has gone one step further in publishing a column called "Integrative Medicine" by two highly qualified MDs (Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden). As Dr. David Gorski, a cancer specialist, has noted: "integrative medicine" is a brand, not a specialty. The term was created by Dr. Andrew Weil to describe his own practice of supporting both science-based medicine and treatments lacking any or much scientific support. Weil and others like Judge and Barish-Wreden clearly believe that what they do under the rubric of "integrative medicine" is superior to science-based medicine. What makes it superior in their eyes is that it is "holistic" and fond of what is "natural" or "organic." To me and many other supporters of science-based medicine, a doctor who treats the "soul" or brings any kind of non-scientific metaphysical belief system into the mix is not practicing a medical specialty. Nor is there anything special about being "natural" or "organic."
Barish-Wreden wears her metaphysics on her sleeve. On her work website we find this:
Dr. Max is the Medical Director of the Sutter Center for Integrative Holistic Health in Sacramento, and has been a practicing internist in Sacramento since 1988. Her long-term passion for a holistic approach to healing led her into the medical profession. That interest also led her to combine her medical training and Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition with studies in medicine that encompass the mind-body-spirit connection. In working with her patients, Dr. Barish-Wreden views illness as a teacher and looks at symptoms as signposts that can direct our attention to areas that may be out of balance in our lives. Together with her patients, she strives to create a healing partnership that treats the illness while restoring balance and wholeness. (emphasis added)
I'm not going to try to decipher what all that means, but if she were my physician I would prefer she not worry about my spirit or about restoring balance to my life, whatever in the hell she might think those things mean. If she is a competent physician, I would expect her to treat my condition as any competent physician would, regardless of belief in spirits, "balance," and "wholeness." In my view, those who claim to practice "integrative medicine" are deceivers. Medicine is medicine. Calling your work "integrative" just means you get to mix in non science-based beliefs and practices with science-based beliefs. Your metaphysical beliefs about spirits, harmonies, and wholeness aren't science-based and, in my view, make your practice less appealing rather than more appealing. I know there are many customers who are attracted to metaphysical add-ons to their medical treatments, just as there are many readers of metropolitan newspapers who are attracted to the astrological column and the advertisements for pills that can help you lose weight and increase your memory-power for pennies a day. If I've got a blockage in an artery or prostate cancer, I don't care what my doctor believes about spirits, harmony, balance, wholeness, and the like, as long as he or she knows the latest scientific-based treatments and is competent to perform them. Others might get comfort from those who lay on hands or pray over them, but please give me old-time medicine without any superfluous metaphysical baggage.
See if you can make sense out of this sentence from the latest column by our local integrative practitioners.
Fruits and vegetables that are raised organically are felt to have more phytonutrients than those raised commercially, since organic plants tend to be hardier as they learn to survive without the benefit of pesticides and insecticides.
We call this kind of writing "weaseling." It appears to say something concrete, but when you look closely you see that there's nothing there. There is no reference to scientific evidence, but we're asked to consider what is felt because of some belief. No thanks. The rest of the article is about the cancer-fighting properties of such things as kale. If you haven't heard about "phytonutrients," then you probably don't read Mike Adams's Natural News or Joe Mercola's hourly updates on cancer causes and cures. A phytochemical is simply a chemical that occurs naturally in plants. There are about 10,000 of these chemicals. The natural-must-be-good folks call these chemical phytonutrients, though it is far from being established that each of these chemicals is nutritious. In any case, some of them are being tested for such things as "fighting cancer." The evidence is far from complete, but that has not prevented many in the natural-must-be-good camp from advocating eating vegetables such as broccoli and kale to "prevent or fight cancer." Of course, the supplement industry is taking advantage of this and offers numerous phytonutrient supplements. As I said, the evidence is far from complete or overwhelming, but that did not prevent Drs. Judge and Barish-Wreden from claiming that “sulforaphane [a phytochemical] helps to fight cancer” and that kale is a “cancer-fighting” vegetable. Sulforaphane may prove useful in slowing the growth of cancer cells in humans, but the research is in the early stages. Even if sulforaphane does prove successful in slowing cancer in humans, the dose needed remains to be determined. The amount of sulforaphane in vegetables may be insufficient to fight cancer. The National Cancer Institute’s has a web page devoted to what has been learned so far about cruciferous vegetables and fighting cancer. The research is promising, as I said, but it is too early to claim that eating kale will prevent or "fight" cancer. It may be true, as Judge and Barish-Wreden claim, that "raw broccoli has 20 times more sulforaphane than cooked broccoli," but it has not been established that "sulforaphane helps to fight cancer" in humans. Even if it were true that sulforaphane helps fight cancer, the amount in raw broccoli that any normal human is likely to ingest may be insignificant to have any healthful benefit. If you ask me, the reasoning of Judge, Barish-Wreden, and other integrative/natural-is-good/holistic/organic proponents is based more on hope and wishful thinking than on scientific evidence. They give far more weight than they should to evidence from in vitro studies and small, non-replicated studies involving rodents or humans.
Attorney Jan Bellamy recently posted a piece entitled "Integrative Medicine Invades the U.S. Military: Part One" in Science-Based Medicine. If you're a taxpayer and/or a veteran, you might consider reading it. I should warn you: it may make you sick to your stomach or at least rattle your chakras.
Scientology, Islam, and Nonscience-based Mental Health Care
The speaker at tonight's (August 1, 2013) monthly meeting of the Urban Los Angeles chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) calls herself "Dr." Hanan Islam. She's a naturopath with a degree from a diploma mill (Rochville University) and claims to have a doctorate from a seemingly vaporized Eden Institute).* The topic of tonight's talk is "Alternative Approaches to Mental Health Treatment and Self-Care." The email from NAMI Urban LA says: "Dr. Hanan founded the National Association of Alternative Health Practitioners, a comprehensive referral base of more than 1,000 Health practitioners, (MDs, NDs, Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, Homeopaths, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, RNs, Nurse Practitioners, etc.) practicing natural health therapies addressing the full spectrum of physical and spiritual maladies." I did a Google search for National Association of Alternative Health Practitioners and came up with only 73 results, all of them pointing to pages by or about Hanan Islam. I find it odd that none of the 1,000 other members has a website that mentions such an affiliation. On her Linkedin page she says she's been the president of this group for six years. She also seems to be its only member proud enough to let others know of her membership. She also says she's the owner of American Health and Education Centers. A Google search of that expression comes up with three hits, two of them to her Linkedin page, the other to an anti-Narconon forum. Narconon is a Scientology front group.
Hanan Islam wears many hats. She's executive director of World Literacy Crusade, a California organization that promotes Scientology.* She's the president of a company called Art of Management, which was hired to reorganize a tax-funded elementary school called Life Force Arts and Technology Academy in Clearwater, Florida, when the school filed for bankruptcy. The charter school receives about $800,000 a year in public funding and has become a Scientology recruiting post targeting children, according to Drew Harwell of The Tampa Bay Times. Life Force, says Harwell, pushes L. Ron Hubbard's "study technology," a ruse Scientologists use to infiltrate public classrooms.
World Literacy Crusade (WLC) was founded by Rev. Alfreddie Johnson, Jr., a close friend of Louis Farrakhan and Isaac Hayes, and all are good friends of Scientology, which is an enemy of psychiatry. The WLC website proclaims that it is a "community-based literacy programs that utilize [sic ] the breakthrough study and drug rehabilitation methodologies developed by author and humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard." Scientology is well-known for its anti-psychiatry stance and its outspoken opposition to using drugs to treat mental illness or substance abuse.
"Dr." Hanan is also listed (on the email announcement) as a board member of the African American Mental Health Coalition, an organization that promotes such things as prayer, meditation, herbs and vitamins, and diet as "alternatives" to science-based mental health care. Their website mentions Andrew Weil and Dr. Oz as "favorite doctors." They're also fond of Dr. Larry Dossey (scroll down to find my comments on Dossey).
NAMI, for those who aren't aware of that organization, is a friend of psychiatry, science-based medicine, and appropriate drug therapy for the mentally ill. Such an organization would be considered an enemy by Scientologists and friends of Scientology. Should be an interesting evening.
The Mail: I'm a dupe and a shill
Here's a shout-out from "Chris":
WHY ARE YOU TELLING OBVIOUS LIES ABOUT CHEMTRAILS ?? I HOPE THEY PAY YOU WELL FOR LYING, DECEIVING AND DISCREDITING THOSE WHO OPEN THEIR EYES AND LOOK TO THE SKY.
ANYBODY WHO IS OLDER THAN 20 YEARS, F.....G KNOWS BEYOND THE SHADOW OF THE SLIGHTEST DOUBT THAT THE SKY NEVER USED TO LOOK THE WAY IT IS LOOKING SINCE ABOUT MID-90s !! THE SKY USED TO BE DEEP BLUE AND NOT F.....G WHITE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MAYBE THE DUMBED-DOWN, BRAINWASHED POPULATION WILL NEVER REALIZE THEY ARE TARGETED WITH A SOFT-KILL OPERATION. BUT IF THEY EVER DO, A SLEEPING GIANT WILL BE AWOKEN WHO WILL DEMAND HELL FOR ALL THOSE INVOLVED IN ANY WAY.
Chemtrails are a paranoid's gift from the heavens. "They" are trying to kill us all, but we're so naive we attribute the white sky to things like "the weather." For example, the sky over my area of northern California was very white for a couple of days and I thought the weather people were telling the truth about the front end of a tropical storm that dumped buckets of rain on Las Vegas and various places in Arizona. Thankfully, Chris has straightened me out and now I see that Obama or Clinton was behind the white sky. They probably caused the floods, too. That would help spread the plague they dropped on us from the sky.
"Chad" is also concerned about my health.
Would you please add [an entry in The Skeptic's Dictionary] for the title of your site. A disclaimer that the contents are mainly of your opinion and not wholly based on facts. And that people should read at their own peril.
The content on your site is that of an establishment hack. Tell me this, are you getting paid for publishing mush [sic] of the disinformation and misinformation? I know people get a rise out of poking fun at real skeptics but make sure you allow for both sides of the opinion. Otherwise, this site is about as bad as Quackwatch.
Poking around at various topics, I couldn't help but laugh. Keep this in mind, as people learn more of what's going on in the world, the more your site will become irrelevant and seen as a tool of the System.
What am I commenting on? Not silly things like UFOs and reptilians. The focus is on critical health issues. People can laugh at the tooth fairy but not when their child has convulsions after a vaccination. You need to give fair treatment to neurological disorders and scientists & doctors that attempt to illustrate the causes. Not try to cast them off as quacks. Remember, these poisons affect you too.
I guess this is Chad's roundabout way of telling me he disagrees with my opinions on the anti-vaccination movement. I think my opinion is based on all the facts that I could gather. His opinion, I would wager, is based on all the facts he's aware of that support his position.