Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Beware the Quack Quack Quack my Son

With apologies to Lewis Carroll although, we don't know, he might approve.

Beware the quack quack quack my son,
the laws they spite, sciences they hatch.
Beware the hate hate bird, and shun
The frumious band who snatch.

Lewis Carroll advises us to 'beware the Jabberwock and the Bandersnatch', which of course are not defined. Was he writing nonsense, or was he telling us to beware of nonsense?

What is a quack?
What is a quack quack?
What is a quack quack quack?
Why do we need to beware them?



Is a quack someone who sells 'false medicine'. Not just that. Merriam-Webster defines a quack as "one who makes false claims of identity or expertise" - not just medicines.

Does a quack know they are a quack. They are claiming to have expertise they do not have. Do they really think they have the required expertise, or are they simply lying, perhaps to sell a dubious product, and moving quickly to the new customer?  It doesn't matter. Both the idiot and the liar fit the definition of a quack.

A quack quack is someone who claims to see a quack, but is actually "making false claims of identity or expertise".

The name 'quackbuster' is used by a group of people who claim to 'busts' quacks, exposing their quackery. It's very easy for a quackbuster to be, or to become a quack, that is to say, a quack quack. How can  you tell if a quackbuster is just a quack quack? Check the width of their swath. And the number of quacks they find. The more quacks they find - the more likely they are quack quacks. If they find quacks everywhere, or if they find that everyone in a certain area is a quack - it's clear that their quackfinder is 'quacked'.

Tim Bolen, on QuackPotWatch.com advises us that the quackbuster's popular website Quackwatch.com is exactly that, a scam: 'North Americans have known, or suspected, for some time, that there has been an organized assault by a group, against companies, and practitioners, offering alternatives to the drugs/surgery paradigm. That group calls itself the"quackbusters," and they are a scam.'

According to Tim, Quackwatch is a collection of 'quack quacks' pretending to search for 'quacks'.

Confused yet? Right now, it seems about as clear as the mud underneath the ducks. But stick with me, soon it will be as clear as the quack of a mother duck.

Wikipedia defines Quackery as the promotion of unproven or fraudulent medical practices. Suddenly 'quack' has been extended from "false claims", to "unproven". How did this happen? If you check Wiki's reference link you find - none other than - Quackwatch.com. Does quackwatch have right to redefine the word quack? Or are they making "false claims of expertise about quackery". Tim Bolen is right. Quackwatch is a 'quack quack', attempting to redefine quack to suit their organizational goals. Presenting their 'new', definition as if it was fact.

You might ask, what's wrong with that definition? Isn't it valid to add "unproven" to the list of 'quack' products? Absolutely not.

Historically, a medical quack is someone who sells 'quacksalve', a salve or potion that does not cure. The top 70 best selling medicines in 2013 do not cure, and if you check Drugs.Com, for example, you can easily confirm these facts. Take your time.  Are these drug manufacturers, and their salesmen 'quacks'? Or are they 'proven' because they are proven to treat 'symptoms', but proven to 'not cure' disease?

As Satoshi Kanazawa advises us, in his article: Common misconceptions about science I: “Scientific proof” in Phychology Today, 'Proofs exist only in mathematics and logic, not in science. Mathematics and logic are both closed, self-contained systems of propositions, whereas science is empirical and deals with nature as it exists. ',

Proof is for the courts of law, and for mathematicians. Proof is binary and absolute.  Proof does not exist in science. Science searches for answers to questions, knowing full well that those answers do not provide proof - they provide access to more important, more challenging questions. Science does not believe in "proof". Medical science does not believe in proof. Only quacks do.

Quackwatch is a quack about quacks.  Check their website, where it clearly says "Quackwatch is an international network of people who are concerned about health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies, and misconduct."

Quackwatch is not interested in science. Quackwatch is not interested in truth. They are not interested in facts. They do believe in proof, and even going so far as to have a post about "extraordinary proof". Proof does not exist in science, but quackwatch seems to think it is possible to find different gradations of proof. They are 'concerned about fraud, myths, fads, fallacies and misconduct'. Quackwatch spends all of their time searching for lies, documenting lies, reporting lies. Can you find the truth by searching for lies? No. You can only find lies. And Quackwatch has lots of them. They take this to extreme, with dozens of websites and pretend 'organizations' with similar goals - and a final result of total nonsense. The Quackwatch definition of 'quackery' is all over the map, using a well known sales technique called FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt), designed to scare the client from actually investigating the details.  The final statement on their page "Quackery: How should it be defined?" says "All things considered, I find it most useful to define quackery as the promotion of unsubstantiated methods that lack a scientifically plausible rationale." Lots of big words, sound and fury, signifying nothing.

For example, their entry on Naturopathy, called 'naturowatch' says: 'Many naturopathic theories and practices are not based on the body of basic knowledge related to health, disease, and health care'. But on their mission page, 'Limks (sic) to Recommended Companies:' lists the book: Herbal Medicines, Third Edition - which if you drill down, claims to be written by 'distinguished contributors (who) hold doctorates in pharmacy, biochemistry, and naturopathy'. There are several congratulatory reviews of this book, by Quackwatch and their supporters.  I could only find one objective reviewer, who concluded with 'Essentially the book reads like a bad joke.'

Quackwatch is not interested in science, unless it supports their mission, to find 'quacks'. Science opposing their mission is labeled fraud, myths, fads, fallacies, and summarily dismissed. They have a quack hammer - and everything they see is a quack nail. They have a (faulty) 'quack detector' and everything they find is a 'quack'.  They are careful to never turn their quack detector on themselves. The proofs they present are proof, that they know nothing.

Quacks, and quack quacks, find proof by using a system of logic that is CLOSED. Arguing with a quack is nonsensical, resulting in circular conversations that never leave the closed system. The only difference in arguing with a quack quack, is that 'quack quacks' reach a higher level of nonsense, capturing more victims with their quackery.

What about quack quack quacks? This is a post about quack quack quacks, right?

Are there people who are accusing 'quack quacks' of quackery, using "false claims of identity or expertise".  Is Tim Bolen a quack quack quack? Am I one? Nope.

How can we tell? It's actually easy to tell that I am not a quack quack quack, and Tim Bolen is not a quack quack quack.  How?  Check our logic for 'openness'. A quack argues that they have PROOF, closing their logic and their arguments with proof.

Tim Bolen does not offer 'proof' that quackwatch is a quack, he provides information, and clearly states, several times, "I believe". Tim Bolen does not need to argue with the 'proofs' presented by quackwatchers, he simply presents facts and his opinion. This is much closer to science than 'proof'.

I don't need to argue with Quackwatch either. You can read their mission yourself, and learn that they know everything, about everything. The whole thing. The big hole. Nothing. Zero.  Quackwatch is so dedicated to their that they claim all of the territory surrounding it as their proof. Anyone who claims to "understand it all" has found their God, not our science. Quackwatch claims to see it all - proving in those statements, how blind they actually are.

What is a quack quack quack?  Do quack quack quacks exist?

Yes. But a quack quack quack is not a 'higher levels of quack'.  A quack quack quack is someone who knows almost nothing, with absolute certainty. With this certainty, they announce

quack quack quack

and have little more to say.  If you attempt to argue with them, the response will be more of the same:

quack quack quack

Quack quack quacks are people who support groups like Quackwatch, without honest questions or analysis. Quack quack quacks are not deliberately lying, they're simply laying down with the other silly quacks, quack quacks, and quack quack quacks, and quacking their agreement.

Beware of Quacks

Quacks are selling fake medicines, and either don't know what they are talking about, or are simply lying. They want your money - and as a result, you won't have money to buy a real medicine. The challenge is that all medicines are sold by salesmen, and all salesmen are prone to, shall we say 'exaggeration'. It's not trivial to beware of quacks. You need to do the work yourself - your government, the quack quacks and the quack quack quack quacks are not going to help you find your truth. Your freedom is not a door opened by someone else.

Beware of Quack Quacks

Quack Quacks, like Quackwatchers, are selling fake information about quacks, or simply lying. Their goals are not to provide information. Their goals are to limit your freedom to choose alternative medicines.

Beware of Quack Quack Quacks

Quack Quack Quacks are not selling anything except their ego. They are quoting the quack quacks, trying to impress others with the strength of their knowledge, without actually doing any research themselves. The danger from quack quack quacks is that they unwittingly support the goals of quack quacks - to limit your freedoms.

Stand up for your Freedom to Think, to Act, to Choose

Stand up for your freedom to access information about all medical alternatives. Stand up for your freedom to choose. Stand up to the quacks, the quack quacks, and the quack quack quacks. Fight for your freedom.

He took his vorpal sword in hand,
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

Beware the quack quack quack my son.
Take your sword, and check the facts.

to your health, tracy
founder: Healthicine.org

Monday, September 15, 2014

Placebo Paradoxes

When you research medicines, alternative medicines, even medical treatments that do not involve a physical substance, you will see reference to the "placebo effect". Statements like:

X is no better than a placebo.
Y is probably just a "placebo effect".
Treatment X is just a placebo.
Medicine X failed to beat a placebo in controlled clinical studies.

What is a placebo? What is a placebo effect? Are they real, fake, or something else? Is the placebo effect magic?  No, but placebo effects are a paradox. Merriam Webster defines placebo effect thus:

"improvement in the condition of a patient that occurs in response to treatment but cannot be considered due to the specific treatment used"

Placebo effect is a real effect in response to a treatment that cannot cause the effect.

A paradox.

Each instance of "placebo effect" contains the theory that this instance of the effect "cannot be due to the action of the medicine identified as a placebo". Theory is impossible to, prove. It can only be disproven - by proving what caused the effect. But, when you prove that the effect was caused by something, it is no longer a placebo effect.

Placebo effects are real. They really do exist.  The dictionary and medical textbooks agree. But, a placebo effect, as currently defined, is a  logical paradox.

Maybe we should look at the definition of a placebo? Merriam-Webster defines a placebo:

"medicine : a pill or substance that is given to a patient like a drug but that has no physical effect on the patient"

However, this is not precisely true, as evidenced by their further definitions, which say:

"a usually pharmacologically inert preparation prescribed more for the mental relief of the patient than for its actual effect on a disorder"

In the first definition Webster's says "has no physical effect", but in the second it says it is prescribed for the 'mental relief'' (a physical effect no doubt) of the patient. Medical authorities have problems defining physical things having a 'spirit' effect, while brain and mental effects are within their scope.

Webster's also describes a different type of placebo: "an inert or innocuous substance used especially in controlled experiments testing the efficacy of another substance".  We will come back to this type of placebo later, but for now, we will simply name it differently, as a 'clinical placebo', because it is a very different case. I will refer to the first type of placebo as 'placebo', because it matches the origin of the word placebo, which is Latin for "to please". A clinical placebo is not created 'to please' the patient. It is simply a "fake medicine".

Why would a doctor give a patient a drug that has no physical effect? A placebo is:

 placebo: a lie from your doctor. 

or, in dictionary lingo: "a usually pharmacologically inert preparation prescribed more for the mental relief of the patient than for its actual effect on a disorder, because the doctor believes the lie it will have a positive effect on the patient

Doctors prescribe placebo medicines, which they believe have no effect - in full anticipation of a positive effect. A placebo is created when a doctor lies to a patient, and possibly to themselves. White lies, useful lies. Statistical surveys have shown that most doctors 'admit to' prescribing placebos some of the time. The words 'admit to' are used because the prescription of a placebo is a lie.

What do we call it when someone does something, in full belief that it cannot work, expecting it to work, and it actually works?

A paradox

Placebos are paradoxical.  Doctors 'know' that the placebo they prescribe cannot work. They prescribe them, and they tell the patient they will work - or might work, and sometimes,  'magic happens' - they actually work. Some doctors are quite good at knowing when "something that doesn't work" will actually work. Are they magic?  Are these doctors 'witch doctors'?

Of course calling it 'magic medicine', or 'paradoxical' is not considered scientific, so instead, it is called a placebo. Placebo sounds scientific. In medical research, placebos are used in clinical studies - so they must be scientific.

Placebos can have placebo effects. Placebo effects are real. Thus, placebos are real medicines, even though they are lies.

Summary so far:

Placebos are lies. Your doctor prescribes something that cannot directly help your illness. 
Placebos can have placebo effects. 
Placebo effects are real. 
Placebos are real medicines. 

Is the naming of placebos, and placebo effects done under the theory that these are real effects, caused by something else? No. The word placebo is Latin and it means 'to please'. The doctor 'pleases' the patient. What happens when the doctor pleases the patient? Does it help the patient's body?  Does it help the patients mind?  No.

It helps the patient's spirit.

The Hierarchy of Healthicine rises from genetics and nutrients, through cells, tissues, organs, systems, body, minds, spirits, and communities.  Medicine, in theory, treats the body - which includes the mind, but not the spirits, and not the communities.

Placebos arise from the community.  Your doctor, part of your community, provides a prescription for hope. Placebos treat the spirit. A good doctor can treat the spirit of the patient, sometimes by providing hope, and sometimes even with a lie.

The positive effects of a medicine are not limited to physical effects, they can also include spirit effects. Are all non-physical effects as spirit effects? If not, what are they? Note: Not 'spiritual' effects. Spirituality is a small part of our spirits. Spiritual effects are a small part of spirit effects.

Spirit effects have physical effects. So a medicine that does not have physical effects, and only has effects on our 'spirit', leads to physical effects.  This makes measurement and distinction between physical effects and spirit effects difficult. If a medicine lifts only your spirits, and when your spirits are lifted, you feel better, take your other medicines on time, change your diet, get out and walk the dog - and your health improves.  Did the medicine have only a spirit effect?  No, the first effect was on your spirit.

It wasn't the 'medicine' that caused the placebo effect. It was the doctor's hope. The dictionary definition of a placebo is actually incorrect.. A placebo is something the doctor recommends when he has no solution to sell. It is a recommendation of hope. Prescribing a placebo is the act of prescribing hope.

Placebos lift the patients spirits. What we call 'placebo effect' is actually the of lifting the patient's spirits.  It is not the medicine that the patient takes, it is that the patient believes in the medicine. Belief has real, powerful effects.

Of course there are medicines that can depress or lift the spirits, like alcohol and caffeine. But none of these are placebos. These typically result in rebound effects, often called 'side effects' as your body recovers from them.

We can now define placebo, placebo effect, active placebo and medicine, to remove all of the paradoxes.

A placebo is a prescription given to lift the spirits of the patient. It often contains a medicine recommendation that the doctor does not believe will have any direct physical effect on the body of the patient. The spirit lift often results in positive physical effects on the patient. 

 - What's different about that definition?  It feels right. And there is no paradox.
 - The medicine prescribed is not a placebo. Nothing is a placebo in itself. It becomes a placebo only when it is prescribed by a doctor. The act of giving a prescription, creates a placebo and the placebo effect.

Placebo effects are the effects of a placebo, on the spirit of the patient, and the subsequent effects on the patient's body.  Placebo effects are 'spirit effects'. The strength of a placebo effect is determined not by the substance recommended, but by the sincerity of the doctor, and the belief of the patient. 

Note: Placebo effects are not effects of the actual medicine. They are the result of the patient's belief in the doctor.

An active placebo is a prescription that contains a something that has an effect on the patient's body, not related to the illness.  It does, as a placebo, have an effect on the patient's spirits, often a stronger effect, because the patient's spirit is lifted by the physical sensations.. 

A medicine has an effect on the patients illness, the patient's body. To a certain extent, medical prescriptions are also placebos, even if the doctor is absolutely certain they will work. If the doctor believes, the patient's spirit, the patient's "will", is more likely to believe in, and to take, the medicine. Medical prescriptions also have spirit effects on the patient. 

Medicines that are prescribed are also placebos. They have medical effects and also placebo effects. Even the wrong medicine might have a positive effect, due to the strengths of the placebo effect. Medicines can have positive medical effects, when the doctor is wrong.

Once we correctly define placebo and placebo effect, there are no paradoxes.

Even self-medication can have a placebo effect. A patient chooses a self-medication because of a belief that the medication can have a positive effect. The act of choosing and using the medication lifts the patient's spirits. Self-medication can be based on previous experiences, or it might come from other people in the patient's community.

There is an interesting technical issue.  The prescription of a placebo is still a lie. A white lie. If the doctor tells the patient what he believes to be the truth, then the 'placebo prescription' will not work. The doctor doesn't tell the patient he is prescribing a placebo - he says "I'm prescribing a medicine.", knowing himself that it is a placebo.  The nurse, the pharmacist, and others might not know that it is a placebo, or a spirit medicine.  They don't need to know for it to work. And if they know, and they tell the patient, it might be less effective.

Placebos are not 'physical things'.  They can lift the spirit, because they are imaginary things - rising above the physical realm. Placebos are real aspects of medicines, they have real effects and they can even have side effects - effects that were not intended by the doctor. All medicines have the attributes of placebo, when they are actually prescribed.

==================================================

To this point, we have not discussed Clinical Placebos.

Clinical placebos have a different definition, and should not be confused with the real placebos. Clinical placebos are null medicines, not real placebos. They could be named 'fake placebos', but I believe the term 'null medicine' or simply Clinical Placebo is more accurate.

Clinical placebos only exist in a clinical trial, and only when a 'test medicine' is being tested in a clinical trial.

Clinical placebos do not require the doctor to lie to the patient.  When clinical placebos are used, the doctors are not allowed to lie to the patient, rather - they tell the patient that the doctor does not know if the patient is receiving the 'medicine being tested', or a clinical placebo.

Clinical placebos are not designed, nor delivered, to improve the spirits of the patient.

Clinical placebos are actually designed to eliminate the real placebo effects from the mathematics of clinical studies. However, this theory is weak and problematical, because, even though clinical placebos are not real placebos -they sometimes have placebo like effects.

Clinical placebos are not 'prescribed', they are 'administered'.

Clinical placebos are not given in the best interest of the patient. They are administered to assist medical scientists gain knowledge for future use.

Doctors who administer clinical placebos want the clinical placebo to fail. If the clinical placebo fails, and the 'medicine being tested' works, then the clinical trial has been a success.

Clinical placebos are very, very different from a placebo from your doctor,  A placebo from your doctor is an honest attempt to provide effective medicine for your condition.  A clinical placebo is an attempt to determine if a specific medicine provides some statistical benefit.

Clinical Placebo Effects - are still a paradox. We can understand that a normal placebo lifts the patients spirits, and results in better health. But clinical placebos are not designed to lift the spirits of the patient. But the fact is that clinical placebo effects also exist. Why? Because we don't understand. When we do understand, this paradox will also fade away.

So...When you read statements like:

X is no better than a placebo.
Y is probably just a "placebo effect".
Treatment X is just a placebo.
Medicine X failed to beat a placebo in controlled clinical studies.

Ask "Are you talking about a real placebo, or a clinical placebo?"

to your health, tracy

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Should Homeopathic Medicines be Banned?

You might also enjoy 10 Reasons to Love your Homeopath

Should homeopathic medicines be banned? I've seen this statement quite a few times in recent months. I just returned from a trip to England and Scotland, where there has been a lot of discussion of banning homeopathic medicines. The Daily Mail Reporter headlines "Homeopathy remedies should be labeled as placebos and banned on NHS", but added, "But some doctors said their patients seemed to benefit despite no clinical trial evidence that homeopathy worked."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pseudo-Pseudo Science in the Blogosphere

I recently read a post claiming to bust “10 pseudo-science theories”. However, like many posts claiming to be science based, claiming to be about science it is actually a ‘pseudo-pseudo-science’ post, presenting many ‘pseudo-pseudo-science’ theories. Many people commented on the post, most with simple statements like ‘great’ and others with minor complaints.

To be honest, when I first read the post, I thought – this makes some sense, but the author(s)? have made a few simple errors.  As I read the post over, and over, and over again, I found more holes, more nonsense, more ‘pseudo-pseudo-science’ with each re-read.

If you want to test your own sense of science, you can read the post here.  Of courses internet posts are always ‘subject to change’, so by the time you read this, the post might have changed. I often improve on my posts after they are published.

10 Pseudo-Science Theories We'd Like to See Retired Forever
If you have seen this post before, no matter what you thought, you might be very surprised by my conclusions - I have read the post at least 5 times.  I have taken the time to research many of the points, the words, the ideas and the sciences discussed therein.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Can the rich buy healthiness?


If you are very rich, can you buy healthiness?  It's an interesting question. We know that those with money can afford better 'medical care', but can they buy 'health'?

What if money is no object? How much would you pay to raise your health 'as high as possible'? Presumably, if you can raise your health as high as possible, you will suffer much less illness. When you do suffer an illness, you will recover much faster. If you can raise your health, you will live longer, healthier, look younger.  What's not to like?  If I had the money, that's what I'd want.

But, if I had money, what would I spend it on, to improve my healthiness? There are lots of 'theories' of how to improve healthiness. Eat a healthy diet and exercise are the two most often suggested. But what's the complete list?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

When I let loose my dog, my spirits fly free

When I'm in Arequipa, Peru, I walk Otto, the dog, every morning. When we're in the city, with lots of people, children, cats, and dogs, I keep him close - to keep himself and others safe from his exuberant spirit.  But once we reach the fields in the countryside, I ask him to sit quietly while I unhook the leash - and he's off. When I let loose my dog, my spirit flies free.

In the distance, I can hear the church bells, and the recorded music calling the parishoners: choir music, organ music, Spanish hymns, and the occasional hymn from John Lennon - Imagine is a local favorite here in Arequipa.

My spirits lift, as his freedom lifts his body.

What are our spirits? How can we make our spirits healthier? In the book Healthicine: The Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness, spirits are defined as "Our spirits are our wills, our desires, our longings, to be, or not to be." Do we need religion, or faith in God to have strong spirits. Are spirits only about religious spirituality? I don't think so.

When Otto runs free, he reminds me that I "want to be". My spirit soars with him, as he floats over the fields, ignoring the peruvian burrowing owls that screech above him, searching out the smells of the earth.

When I stop to think about it, I also realize that Otto has become part of my communities - and my community healthiness. When I walk with him and he runs with me - we both grow healthier.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Vitamin D: Science vs the Media

In early December, 2013, the Lancet published a paper measuring the effects of Vitamin D supplements on illness. On January 24th, 2014, seven weeks later, the media woke up and published many 'reports' on the unstudied effects of Vitamin D supplements on health (not on illness).  Should you trust the science? or the media?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Annals of Internal Medicine Claims Black is White: Further Explorations


The Annals of Internal Medicine today published an editorial titled "Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements". The editorial tells us that three separate research projects studied the effects of 'supplements' on different chronic illness, and found no significant disease benefit from 'supplements'.  

What's right with this picture? Seriously? What healthiness was measured? The editorial says: "most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death". The use of supplements is not justified because they cannot prevent death? So who can prevent death? Medicines can extend life, but they can't prevent death. And chronic disease? What medicine can prevent the chronic diseases that were tested? None. Should we "stop wasting our money on medicines"? Well, maybe we should.