A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies

reader comments: Alternative Health Practices

20 Nov 2013
It is a very interesting homepage you have! Very informative, thanks! By the way, I see that you have "Alternative Medicine" as a choice. Why don´t you have "Medicine" as a choice? I think there are bigger scams in that environment than in Alternative. Here is one example, "Swine flu false pandemic seems to be biggest pharma-fraud of Century." And that is only one. It is worth having "Medicine" as a choice too. I am really waiting to see that choice at the homepage! So, keep it up!

Tomas (from Sweden)
PS. If you will tell me that there are other homepage that have that in their homepages, my answer to that is you can write in "Medicine" that "Other homepages have information about Medicine, but you know there are bigger scams in this field than in Alternative Medicine so watch out!"

reply: Thanks for writing. First, regarding the swine flu pandemic that never happened: it is reasonable to mistrust Big Pharma and I understand why the Council of Europe would be concerned that many member nations had spent millions of dollars for a vaccine and promoting vaccinations that may not have been needed. I can also understand why they might suspect that Big Pharma duped the WHO. On the other hand, the WHO may have been duped on its own or nobody may have been duped. The pandemic didn't happen and maybe it never would have happened even if nobody got vaccinated. It is also possible that the pandemic didn't happen because enough people got vaccinated to prevent it from becoming a pandemic. Fear, no malicious profiteering, may have been behind the big sell on the swine flu in 2010 or whenever it was. In any case, the issue is complicated and not cut and dry like some of the anti-vaxxers have claimed. The Council of Europe did not find evidence of fraud.

Second, I do write about medicine. Here is what I say in my FAQ.

Q. Why do you criticize "complementary" and "alternative" medicine (CAM) only (aka "integrative medicine")? Why don't you have entries that are critical of the questionable claims, practices, and errors of medical science, such as vaccination or circumcision? Doctors commit malpractice. The FDA approves of drugs that turn out to be harmful, even deadly at times. Why don't you criticize the AMA, the FDA, and the pharmaceutical firms?

A. I don't oppose naturopathy, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, therapeutic touch, aromatherapy, and other types of CAM simply because some people who follow AM will be harmed by it. Some will be harmed by CAM and many people will benefit from it, but the entire benefit from CAM comes from the so-called placebo effect, which includes the reduction of stress hormones due to the calming effect of good ritual, "bedside" manner, promise of relief, and desire of the patient to be helped and to please the healer, classical conditioning, and the illness running its natural course. Some are actually harmed by an accepted CAM healing technique e.g., certain kinds of chiropractic. Many are harmed by not seeking science-based treatment known to be effective. Also, CAM therapies are based on irrational beliefs such as chi, vitalism, water with selective memory, and spirits. Much of the thinking in CAM is magical thinking, but when science is used it is either misused or misunderstood. For examples, see my entries on acupuncture and homeopathy (especially my exchange with a medical doctor who is also a homeopath). Dozens of acupuncture studies demonstrate that sham acupuncture is just as effective as true acupuncture, but defenders of acupuncture still maintain that acupuncture "works," i.e., has efficacious healing properties.

In any case, it does not follow from my criticism of CAM practices that I think scientific medicine is flawless. I criticize scientific medicine when it's appropriate to my task. (See here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. I criticize Big Pharma from time to time. See here and here.)  I do not criticize alternative health practices simply because their practitioners err or misdiagnose or cause harm to people. I criticize them because I believe their methods are fundamentally unsound and incapable of weeding out error. When doctors operate on the wrong side of the brain or prescribe a medicine that ends up almost killing a patient, that is a tragedy. But such tragedies don't make surgery or prescribing pharmaceuticals irrational or unreasonable.

Furthermore, CAM practitioners often do not care that their methods are irrational or unreasonable because they deceive themselves into thinking that what they are doing is justified because "it works," i.e., they have seen the results (confirmation bias) and they have a lot of satisfied customers (the pragmatic fallacy). A lot of medicine works because of what is misleadingly called the placebo effect, and a lot of science-based physicians are probably deceived by results just as CAM folks are. These fundamental human tendencies to confirmation bias and self-deception are common in all human thinking but are guarded against by scientists by requiring specific logical and scientific tests of causal claims.

I do not believe that scientific medicine is infallible. I would criticize scientific medicine if it were fundamentally flawed, i.e., if it were based on irrational or unreasonable assumptions. There may be specific procedures that most medical doctors follow or recommend that turn out to be harmful or useless (e.g. diet for peptic ulcers). Nevertheless, I would not reject all medicine because of errors made by medical doctors. It would be foolish to reject science because of errors made by scientists. I reject "alternative" science not because it makes mistakes but because it is fundamentally irrational and unreasonable.

And, while I haven't posted anything on circumcision, I have written about vaccinations.


9 Dec 2011
While I respect your site I do think a number of your statements err on the side of bias. Of 686 GPs surveyed, 1 in 10 reported a problem with alternative therapies. Ergo, 68 cases or 10% error. My medical friends would love an error rating like that. Wrongful drugs, surgeries aggravating problems are way higher. However, I still want a Western doctor when my arm is broken.

reply: We all know that science-based medicine provides treatment for the serious illnesses and diseases that can't be treated with placebo medicine. Alternative therapies treat health problems that would resolve themselves anyway and which do not require significant intervention. Of course, drugs and surgery offer more risk to the patient than drinking water or having someone wave her arms above your sore knee. The more complicated the kind of illness and disease treated, the greater the risk for error. An incompetent homeopath isn't likely to harm too many people with her prescriptions. An incompetent physician can do untold harm by prescribing the wrong drugs, wrong dosages of the right drugs, or wrong combination of drugs. Patients of science-based physicians are more likely to cause themselves harm by abusing or misusing prescribed drugs than are patients of a homeopath or herbalist.

I hope you will publish this because in South Africa both homeopaths and chiropractors study 7 years with a 2600 hour internship. I know, as my daughter did 100 times in hours the anatomy and physiology that a medical practitioner is required to do.  Yes, accidents happen, yes patients lie, yet the science is there and I am living proof that chiropractors can improve a person’s quality of life. 

reply: I've never said that no physician does anyone any harm, nor have I ever claimed that no chiropractor has ever done anyone any good.

Mine saved a 19-year-old girl from surgery and 31 years later I bless him every day when I look at my beautiful children, the first born with a two hour labour from start to finish. I can stand in front of a mirror straight and proud. The medical fraternity had given me a reduced life span and told me I could never carry a child to term with the damage I had to my back and hips. My second daughter born with severe liver dysfunction was written off by the medical specialists as nothing more could be done, but a Dr De Nysschen ensured the herbs and diet she went on made her a strong capable 28-year-old today.

reply: I'm glad for your success with a chiropractor, and I am sorry you had the misfortune to be given bad advice by medical doctors. It would be foolish to claim that medical doctors never make mistakes or that chiropractors never give good advice. Clearly, the physician who told you that you couldn't have children unless you had surgery was wrong. The chiropractor might advise everyone who comes to him not to have surgery. Some of those might have stories of regret. We'll never know because the failures don't give testimonials.

I don't know what you mean when you say that medical specialists wrote off your daughter who had a severe liver dysfunction. Did they refuse to treat her? I take it that she received no medical treatment but took some herbs. I don't know what herbs have been shown in scientific tests to cure severe liver disease, but it is possible that your daughter's illness would have resolved itself without the herbs. How many other patients were prescribed herbs by Dr. De Nysshen but with negative results? We'll never know, but we need that information to determine whether there was likely any connection between the herbs your daughter took and her recovery.

Is the Dr. De Nysshen you mention the same fellow who introduced electro-acupuncture into South Africa?

Just want to put the other side out there, not all alternative practitioners are quacks and not all western medical practitioners the only route to health.

Thanks for the really interesting site.
Yours in learning,

Gail Gibson
D.Emed, CHt. CFP® Training Specialist

reply: There is no need to alert me and my readers to the fact that science-based medicine is imperfect. However, the anecdotes you relate further support a point I make repeatedly on my website: personal experience trumps science-based studies but it shouldn't. If you examine all the evidence you have put forth, you should see that there are alternative explanations for what you think happened. Your decision not to have surgery turned out to be a good decision, but the chiropractor's intervention may have had nothing to do with your being able to have babies. Likewise, your daughter may have been misdiagnosed or her disease resolved itself and the herbs she took may have had nothing to do with her recovery. If we had scientific evidence in the form of randomized, controlled studies that showed severe liver disease can be successfully treated with herbs, then we could use that data to support your interpretation of your daughter's recovery. Without such corroborating evidence, we have only the fact that one thing happened after another and we are guessing that the first thing caused the second. As noted above, we don't know how many people with liver disease were advised to take herbs by Dr. De Nysshen but who died or didn't recover.

Gail responds:

Thank you for publishing my letter. To answer your questions. To correct a misapprehension- I was not advised surgery by the medical doctors- they treated me for 6 years from 13 years of age with extremely potent painkillers to manage my condition, when they caused psychological problems, then more drugs and at one stage gave me two weeks to live. For the record I had been badly beaten and had Rheumatic fever and TB- this led to a heart damage which you can still hear faintly when the heart valve is under pressure. My lungs are completely healed, which my pulmonologist still finds hard to believe with the x-rays I kept.

reply: Thanks for clearing that up. Your story is a sad one and it is a testament to your character that you are able to find good in some of the treatments you have been given.

I take it that it is speculation on your part that your chiropractor saved you from surgery. It also seems that you have created a causal narrative that gives undue credit to your chiropractor. It isn't evident from what you have written how his work had any effect on your health.

The European commission is starting to do research on the whole drug aspect of herbs- maybe one day we will get some answers, but in truth it is difficult as herbs do not get picked in standard strengths, and many factors play a role, when were they picked, what was the treatment after picking. The season and even if they were picked upwind or downwind can change the chemical composition.

reply: Excellent point. There has been a good deal of research on herbs, but so far with little positive results. No herb except milk thistle, as far as I know, has been touted as being effective in fighting liver disease. There has been little scientific support for this belief, however. Recently (November 2011), a study found milk thistle ineffective in treating hepatitis C.

Patients with hepatitis C virus infection who failed interferon treatment showed no symptom improvement or slowing of disease progression with the popular herbal extract silymarin (milk thistle), compared with placebo, in a randomized trial. The results were presented here at The Liver Meeting 2011: American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases 62nd Annual Meeting.

Dr De Nysschen may be the same one- he is ancient and is a legend in South Africa for many people who he helped when they had their backs against the wall. To clarify: For my daughter she was told that we should prepare for the worst. My doctor told me to pray. I decided to do more than pray. Dr De Nysschen managed her and went on to cure my step brother’s niece who was told she needed a liver transplant as a baby, something our family could not even think of affording. Today she is a successful lawyer. His main secret was food, not herbs though he gave us a couple of tinctures for three months one of which had yellow dock in it- I cannot remember the rest of the herbs, which he told us about- it was a long time ago. The diet was strict, and included a baked potato with the skin as well as fresh fruit and vegetables, no meat, no chemicals and no milk and wheat. She still has to do the diet every so often or she gets migraines and skin rashes. He certainly never got rich out of our family. He also extended my father –in –law's life span by a good ten years after the medical doctors said his emphysema would mean oxygen therapy for the year or two he had left, he was blue and really heartbreakingly sick- by the way he lost a huge amount of weight on his diet and was able to play bowls after that, although he still had slight breathing.

reply: As I noted above, we don't have the narratives of those who went to this herb doctor but did not survive or did not do well after the visit. You have constructed a causal narrative that gives the herbal doctor credit for "saving" many people. Maybe he did, but since there is no corrobating scientific evidence that herbal therapy ever prevented a liver transplant from being necessary, I see no reason to give the herbs or the herb doctor credit for anything.

A lesson to us all about smoking. In addition he helped my own father, a severe asthmatic- he never had another attack while under his treatment and was able to even have the cat and dogs inside the house. His treatment for diagnosed Attention deficit disorder is really good and kids are a pleasure once on his medication, which has none of the side effects of the drugs. We have western type doctors in our family and they have come to believe in the treat whole person theory as a result of our experiences.

reply: Your experiences are poignant for you but for me they are just stories of one thing happening after another that you contructed into a causal narrative.

I wish more would learn the trick of successful medicine is talking to each other, so we can learn how to benefit the patient as opposed to using the patient as a cash cow, which is all too often the case. Your site is not a bad site, it just does not show balance.

reply: If by not showing "balance" you mean that I don't give credit where credit is not due, then I plead guilty.

A 5% stroke risk is accepted by Western professionals-why hit the chiropractors when they have the same statistics? I going to ask my daughter Dr Alex Gibson, to send you some of the scientific research done at the Universities around the world. A final word: in my work with a large medical scheme, I get to see many research projects and we have a worldwide program in place, based on this healthy lifestyle thought process- similar to what Dr De Nysschen recommended to us back in the early 80s . A lifestyle that people called out the social workers to try and stop us putting in place with our little girl. Apparently us refusing her chocolate and meat was akin to beating her with a stick in some people's minds. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

reply: Yes, it makes me think about how hard it is to overcome our natural tendency to find meaning and see causal patterns where there probably are none. It makes me think about the difficulty in overcoming our natural biases. It makes me think about how easy it is for someone knowledgeable of our natural tendencies to take advantage of us. But it doesn't make me think that herbalists and chiropractors have much to teach science-based medicine.

I wish I were an artist and could create a cartoon to show you what I mean. The first panel in the cartoon would depict the face of a building with a door and a sign. Outside the door, diminishing into the distance, is a long line of people waiting to get in. The sign reads acupuncture, herbs, homeopathy, magic. Acupuncture, herbs, and homeopathy have lines drawn through them. The next panel shows two people in a room with two doors. The doors are labeled A and B. On A is written "feel better already" at the top and beneath that is an arrow pointing to a sign reads "testimonials." On door B is written "feeling the same or worse" and under that is an arrow pointing to a sign that says "goodbye."


4 Sep 2000

I was just looking at your interesting web site, "Skeptics Dictionary". While it is of course beneficial to scrutinize every new idea; and while real scientists never publish anything until they are certain, with many hard reproducible facts; still we have to remain always open-minded to new possibilities, or else all progress would stop.

With those caveats in mind, there are two things in general I noticed about your web site, which you might wish to address.

reply: Let me guess. I'm not a real scientist and I'm not open-minded.

First, in the field of alternative medicine, it should be noted that our current choice of medical therapies and drugs is not purely scientific, but based partly on the profit motives of large multinational corporations, as well as certain medical organizations. One only has to do research in modern biology for a very short time, to reach that conclusion.

reply: I see. And all those in alternative medicine, including those who produce the products they sell and promote, are not partly motivated by profit? What's the point. Who cares if anybody is partly motivated by profit? Why do you think the big pharmaceutical firms are pumping out alternative remedies as fast as they can label them? It's a multi-billion dollar a year business. You don't have to do research in biology to know these things.

Indeed, certain accepted medical practices today are quite inefficient and harmful, and could immediately (or soon) be replaced by "alternative safe treatments", were it not for vested interests.

For example, one group here and others worldwide have found a safe, efficient way to test for prostate cancer, which would eliminate perhaps 2 / 3 of urological surgery, which causes pain and misery to millions of older men. But there is a large vested interest in continuing such surgery, and progress is slow. Similarly with surgery and chemo for breast cancer in women, which after 20 years of unneeded pain has shown no beneficial value in controlled studies.

reply: So? What makes you think I agree with current medical practices regarding prostate testing and treatment?

In terms of pharmaceuticals, if a US patent cannot be obtained on any kind of medicine, the big drug companies will never test it formally, and patients will never receive it except from alternative doctors.

reply: This is nonsense. Big drug companies are now testing traditional herbs and remedies as they sell them. Read this article from US Business reporter. It is because of the profit motive that the large pharmaceuticals are jumping on the alternative bandwagon. It is partly the profit motive that is driving many traditional physicians and hospitals to offer "alternative" or "complementary" care. Do you think they are doing this because they have evidence such things as therapeutic touch have been validated by scientific studies? I don't.

 For example, vitamin C and echinacea have been very valuable to people's health, yet there is a vested interest in other cold-flu remedies. Personally I take those two, plus glucosamine for soft-tissue repair (a common animal drug), and melatonin occasionally for stress relief. Those and other alternative products, to my mind, work beyond any shadow of a doubt; and indeed there are new scientific tests which would prove such in a large-scale trial, yet funding has to come from large drug companies: qui custodies custodiere?

reply: Thanks for the free medical advice, but not everybody agrees with your assessment of vitamin C. (update: Oct 11, 2001, a new study from Australia [Medical Journal of Australia 2001; 175:359-362] finds vitamin C worthless in preventing colds.) Furthermore, as long as there is scientific testing of the substances you mention, they are not "alternative" remedies. Many folk remedies turn out to have some merit, but until scientific testing is done, to recommend them is "alternative."

Meanwhile other dangerous drugs (e.g. warfarin-coumarin for blood thinning, pain killers for back pain) are given routinely, often with 3-5% lethal side effects due to bleeding or long-term use (my father nearly died last year from an aneurysm caused by warfarin).

reply: So? What's your point? Do you expect medical science to be infallible? Do you expect me to evaluate every questionable medical practice as a matter of fairness and completeness? Some medical practices may be stupid and unjustified, but unless they make claims based on metaphysics or occult assumptions, they are outside the purview of my stated purpose and interest.

In summary, as a first point, your web site does not seem to reflect accurately the current situation in medical research, that professionals see every day. There is no reason a priori to think that an "alternative cure" will be bad, while an "accepted cure" will be good. Every situation or therapy has to be judged on its own merits, as to how well it produces results without ill effect.

reply: I agree, but there is no reason my website should reflect the current situation in medical practice.

As a second brief point, I do not seem to see the same rigorous skepticism on your web site, when applied to "conventional" scientific theories as to "paranormal" ones. For example, as someone knowledgeable in the area, I would tend to believe in at least some paranormal phenomena, when compared to the "Big Bang" theory of cosmology or the "quark-gluon" theory of particle physics. If you are not familiar with such academic theories, or say with "renormalization" in QED, or "Lorentz covariance" in relativity, I advise you to investigate those well-accepted subjects further, in order to find additional evidence for poorly-supported group beliefs, which can add to the substance of your dictionary and make it more complete.

reply: I have not set out to be critical of "theories" or "medicine". I have set out to offer skeptical arguments and references to occult, supernatural, paranormal and pseudoscientific notions. Whenever a traditional medical treatment or theory is based on paranormal or metaphysical claims, I will be the first to rip into it. If you want a website that offers skeptical analyses of scientific theories and inferences from empirical data, you should start your own. That is not what I want to do. I have no idea why you think I should want to do this, except that you do not like the fact that I criticize "alternative", i.e., unscientific and pseudoscientific, thinking.

To conclude, as a second point: logical skepticism is fine, but it should be applied objectively to conventional peer-reviewed science, as well as that which appears less secure. Lack of research is no excuse, because I am sure you must have researched carefully all of the other subjects in your dictionary, before posting such severe criticisms!

reply: Get off your horse and get a life.

The motto of any true scientist is "nullia in verba": not to take anyone's word for it, no matter how authoritative they appear. Or alternatively, "there is no error which has not had its Professors." --John Locke, 1690.
Horace Drew, a professional scientist

reply: You're right about one thing, anyway.

02 Aug 1999
Perhaps it's not worth the effort, but an entry on the basic fallacy of the "doctors and pharmaceutical companies are conspiring to keep my miracle cure off the market" bull that we hear all the time might be an idea.

1. Doctors and their families get cancer, low back pain, go bald, etc. at the same rate as everyone else. 2. So do pharmaceutical company employees and their families. 3. Both pay the same insurance rates as everyone else. 4. Both like to save money, same as everyone else. 5. Nobody gets issued a magic talisman to protect them from exposures to HIV, Hepatitis C, or any other hazards.

I know it seems obvious, but my conversations with people indicate that no one ever thinks thinks about such things.
Cheryl Hoffman

14 Aug 1999
I'm skeptical of your skepticism! On pseudosciences you failed to mention modern medicine. Correctly prescribed medicine is the 4th leading killer in America. Ok, homeopathy might seem like quackery to you, but how about some balance buddy? Spend some time being skeptical about what is in front of you. Are you paid by the American Medical Association?


reply: Unfortunately, I'm not paid by anybody. The misleading statistic you mention has been irresponsibly passed on by the mass media. My comments on it may be found at: Mass media bunk

22 Apr 1998
Last night I heard about a new alternative treatment (or, as I call it, voodoo) that sounds like something for the Dictionary (of which I've been a follower for months).

My sister-in-law has a bone marrow disease called ITP [Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura is an autoimmune disorder]. She is also obsessed with being thin, even though she's a rail already. Her traditional doctor prescribed cortisone, I believe, [corticosteroids are part of the first line treatment of IPP] which would have the side effect of causing weight gain. Since that is not acceptable, she is going to an acupuncturist who has her using some wacky therapy at home three times a day. She takes some herbs which, I'm told, smell somewhat like pot, rolls them into a joint, lights it, but instead of smoking it, she -- get this -- points the lighted end at certain parts of her body. With a straight face, she says that pointing this stinky joint at her big toe (right or left is irrelevant) will directly affect her spleen. She also named other extremities that "rule" internal organs. The herb is called amoxi-something.

Sorry my details are sketchy but I had to walk away from her before I started screaming at her. Any of this ring a bell with you?
Please don't use my name if you publish.

reply: My source (David Ehrensperger, an aromatherapist--see next letter ) tells me that your sister-in-law is being treated with "moxibustion." My Webster's dictionary tells me that "moxa" is an escharotic (a caustic which produces scabbing or crusting when applied to a wound or burn). In Japan, mogusa (moxa) is made from the yomigi plant. Here, leaves from mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) or the wormwood tree (Artemisia chinensis) are usually used, according to Jack Raso.  According to Mr. Ehrensperger, moxibustionists do touch the body with moxa, and do not, as you described, point the burning mass at various body parts. (Maybe your sister's "therapist" is practicing sympathetic magic.)

Moxibustion is often used in conjunction with acupuncture, another swell treatment for serious diseases. The chance that burning herbs will harm your sister-in-law are slim, but they are not likely to help her condition, either.

17 Nov 1997

I was fascinated and refreshed by The Skeptic's Dictionary. My parents-in-law use only alternative medicine to treat their two young children who have muscular dystrophy, a concept which scares and angers me. I have been excluded from the family because of my lack of belief in these treatments which do not give any proof of their ability to heal. It was great to be able to read some published information to back up what I have always believed to be true.

Their latest cure is called 'Neuro-skeletal dynamics', which consists of touching pressure points on the back in order to send messages to the brain's map of the body, which will then restore the body to the condition in which it functions best. They also see another alternative therapist who claims to be able to control all of the body's functions through pressing the navel.

What I find fascinating about these alternative therapies is that they all contain just a pinch of medical or scientific fact which, to the uneducated, is enough to convince them of their validity. Alternative medicines uses phrases like "the body system" which sound sort-of medical or scientific but which is "fuzzy."

Anyway thanks for giving me some concrete information on a topic which I have always found really infuriating.


reply: Many believers in "alternative" health care become so devoted to their various herbs and practices that the herbs and plants become like sacraments and the practices like rituals in a religion.

19 Nov 1997
You are completely correct when you say that it's like a religion. In fact my in-law's have replaced their religion with spiritual healers, which seems to go along with their belief in the alternative medicines.

What I find most annoying about the whole situation is that I am a professional in the disability service field and also have a strong medical background, so I can pick the differences between medical science and quackery. It is incredible frustrating to me to see two young children who are going to have a shortened lifespan anyway be denied the medical help that could at least help to make their time more comfortable.

I have come to the conclusion that this is their coping mechanism, and that they are desperately clinging to any glimmer or hope that they can find. Ultimately they are avoiding the issue but for now these beliefs are the 'band-aid' which is their temporary solution.

note: the following is one of several I've received from someone who identifies himself only as Doc6262@aol.com. From what he's said in some of his notes, I think he's a chiropractor...at least that's the only kind of doctor he's had kind words for so far.

22 Jan 1997
How come there aren't more articles on the ill effects of traditional medicine?? I'm willing to bet that most people don't realize that a person dies every 8 minutes directly due to Medical physicians!

reply: It would have been nice if you had provided the source of this startling statistic.

Let's do a piece on "Prozac" for instance......

reply: You might be happy to know that today's [Jan 23, 1997] newspaper has a story about Prozac: a new study has found no sign that taking Prozac during pregnancy can harm a woman's unborn child. Contact Dr. Gideon Koren of the University of Toronto for more information. Or read the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, if you're truly interested. I imagine, however, you are referring to stories about people who kill while on Prozac. It is true that there have reports in the mass media about the dangers of Prozac. However, there have also been reports in the mass media about the dangers of silicon breast implants. There is another side to these reports which rarely gets reported. For instance, the scientific studies done on the health of women with breast implants versus those without them does not support the claim that breast implants are a significant causal factor in female ill health. People have killed while on Prozac. People have killed while not on Prozac. Prozac is taken by over 12,000,000 people a year. The percentage who go berserk and kill is rather small, just as it is in the population which does not take Prozac. Plus, those who are given Prozac are sometimes severely disturbed before taking it. Those who go berserk may have done so had they not taken Prozac and visited their local chiropractor or naturopath instead. Would you blame chiropractic or naturopathy for the berserk behavior just because it occurred after a visit to a chiropractor or naturopath?

...or maybe about getting the wrong leg cut off during surgery,

reply: These types of malpractice are mentioned in the article on alternative medicine.

....or possibly the removal of tonsils ( the immune system's first line of defense).

reply: Your point, I take it, is that traditional medicine has frequently advocated procedures or practices which not only did not improve health but made matters worse. You are correct.

I mean come on let's show the tragedies that are caused daily, by MD's who could care less about the patient and more about the disease!!!

reply: That seems like a job for someone of your disposition. Just remember, should you ever need brain or bypass surgery, or insulin for your diabetes, your doctor may not be a chiropractor or naturopath and may not look kindly upon your slanders. She may turn you into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Here is another missive from Doc6262:

January 31, 1997, page 1 of the USA Today quotes sources at the U.S.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention stating "Nearly all cases of
polio since 1980 were caused by the oral polio vaccine".

The oral vaccine contains a weakened polio virus intended to stimulate
immunity without causing the disease.

reply: I suppose the good doctor takes this as further proof of medical murder. Actually, it demonstrates a rather common error many people make: statistics need a reference point or standard in order to understand their significance. How many cases of polio would there have been had the polio vaccine not been used? 

9 Feb 1997
I think the only fair way to test the validity of "scientific" medicine is with double blind studies. Your use of a friend's name who died of a treatable form of cancer after submitting to a naturopath is not skeptical enough! How many cancer victims die every year while using the approved methods of the "scientific" community? Cancer is on the increase.

reply: The naturopath did not diagnose cancer. He diagnosed something benign and treated accordingly. Had he suspected cancer, he probably would have sent her to a traditional medical doctor. I have tried to explain this elsewhere, but here goes again. No doubt there are some naturopaths who are better healers than some MDs. But, naturopaths should not be compared to medical doctors when the issue is naturopathy vs. medical science. Naturopathy is based upon a questionable assumption: that healing should be by a "natural" process. Medical science is based upon the same assumptions all the sciences are based upon. To prefer naturopathy to medical science is to prefer quackery to science. I never claim that quackery can't sometimes have good results. Nor do I claim that science is infallible. To expect me to be as skeptical of medical science as I am of naturopathy, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, therapeutic touch, aromatherapy, etc., is unreasonable. I am not skeptical of these alternative health practices because they are fallible, but because they are based upon false or questionable assumptions and generally do not follow scientific methods to establish beliefs. It does not follow from my criticism of alternative health practices that I think traditional medicine is flawless. I do not criticize alternative health practices because their practitioners err or misdiagnose. I criticize them because I believe they are fundamentally unsound. It does not follow that I believe traditional medicine is infallible. I would criticize traditional medicine if it were fundamentally flawed, i.e., if it were based upon false or questionable assumptions. Now, there may be specific procedures which most medical doctors follow or recommend which turn out to be harmful or useless. Nevertheless, I would not reject all medicine because of errors by medical doctors. It would be foolish to reject science because of errors by scientists. It is also foolish to accept alternative medicine because it "works." Yielding results you are satisfied with is not what is meant by "works" in science. Placebos "work." Cures of misdiagnoses "work." Like you say, the only fair way to test the validity of "scientific" medicine is with double blind studies. That's how we find out what "works" in science.

While I truly appreciate the skeptic's philosophy, it would seem that it may be more of a bias against "traditional" healing practices in favor of the "modern" university approach. Yet many of our prescription drugs are discovered by investigating the "traditional" folk remedies.

reply: Yes, and many folk remedies don't really work and science is a process of testing what does and doesn't work. Traditional medicine is not opposed to folk medicine, but it does not assume that the folk remedies are necessarily correct. If by "modern university approach" you mean the approach of science, of tentatively accepting claims and testing hypotheses, then by all means that is the approach of the skeptic.

The protective sanction of 'bad' medicine by the university/medical "profession" is the major force driving the alternative medicine market. The outrageous prices of the "services" offered by MDs, the pharmaceutical industry, and killing zones referred to as hospitals are the real problem. This inhuman "slaughter house" industry is regulated/driven by the profits of the insurance industry; not scientific medicine.
john pash 

reply: I'm sure you can back up these claims with evidence. I'm also sure that when you need a liver transplant you won't check into a hospital nor will you take insulin if you develop diabetes. Anyway, I recently received a letter from a man worried about his 97 year old grandfather who was shelling out $5,000 for chelation therapy. Does that sound reasonable to you? I think you should not overlook in your inventory of horrors the fact that traditional medicine cannot cure everybody's illnesses, much less even diagnose what is ailing many people. Those are reasons many seek alternatives. Science has no answers for them and they are understandably desperate and vulnerable.

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