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Articles Associated with Keyword: woo

Criticism > Tuesday, 13 July 2010 19:16:26 EST

The Land Of Oz Is A Funny, Funny Place

Keywords: Mehmet Oz, woo, alternative medicine, health

Probably the biggest illustration today of how health woo concepts have made it into the mainstream virtually unchallenged is personified by doctor Mehmet Oz, co-author of the YOU books and endorsed by the queen of television herself, Oprah Winfrey.

Doctor Mehmet Oz

It's dismaying that he's become so popular and his health advice is often taken as gospel by so many, because a lot of what he has to say is pure nonsense.

The interesting dichotomy here is that Dr. Oz is a trained, and by all accounts competent, heart surgeon.  He knows how to fix your ticker, and with the exception of possibly allowing a medically untrained woman into the room to align your body's healing energies while you're under, he adheres to the best medical practices for doing so.

But his knowledge of other areas of medicine is decidedly spotty.  He's like a mechanic who can fix your engine with the best of them, but if you ask him to take a look at your brakes he's suddenly out of his depth.  And it wouldn't be so bad if he'd admit his limitations, but instead he pretends that he actually knows what he's talking about, and has fooled a lot of people into believing it.

The biggest problem is that he has very little understanding for the standards of scientific evidence required in medicine.  That's not necessarily an impediment for a doctor - after all, diagnosing and treating medical conditions doesn't absolutely require that kind of skill.  But if you want to keep up with the latest medical research, you should have enough an understanding of science and statistics that you can read the research critically. 

Otherwise your forced into choosing between credulous acceptance or cynical denial, neither of which is useful at all.  Dr. Oz falls into this camp, credulously accepting many woo claims while cynically playing down the abilities of western "allopathic" medicine.

He explains his view in this quote from his book "Healing From The Heart", where he explains his feelings on the Grandmother Cell Theory, which suggests that everything we know and feel about a person (such as a grandmother) is contained in a single neuron in the brain:
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Criticism > Tuesday, 1 June 2010 07:03:12 EST

Depressing Statement On Accepted Medical Practice

Keywords: woo, alternative medicine, acupuncture

I've commented before about how woo style medicine has weaseled it's way into the mainstream medical mindset.  The Acupuncture study I mentioned yesterday contains a particularly depressing example of this.

From the journal Nature:

Acupuncture is a procedure in which fine needles are inserted into an individual at discrete points and then manipulated, with the intent of relieving pain. Since its development in China around 2,000 B.C., acupuncture has become worldwide in its practice. Although Western medicine has treated acupuncture with considerable skepticism, a broader worldwide population has granted it acceptance. For instance, the World Health Organization endorses acupuncture for at least two dozen conditions and the US National Institutes of Health issued a consensus statement proposing acupuncture as a therapeutic intervention for complementary medicine. Perhaps most tellingly, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service approved acupuncture as a deductible medical expense in 1973.

Is it any wonder that people are so confused about health and the human body when mainstream medical sources... and the IRS (which for some strange reason is "most telling" in this regard), are giving credence to a treatment that is just not backed up by the evidence?
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Analysis > Monday, 31 May 2010 01:46:42 EST

Well, Don't Us Skeptics Of Acupuncture Feel Silly Now!

Keywords: study, woo, alternative medicine, acupuncture

I just came across this article on Cnet News entitled "Think Acupuncture's A Hoax? Think Again" written by freelance journalist Elizabeth Moore.

For the record, I don't believe that Acupuncture is a hoax.  I think that Acupuncturists are fooling themselves, but for the most part I think they actually believe in what they do.

Moore claims to have previously been a skeptic of Acupuncture, and I'm sure that she had her doubts.  But reading her article, it strikes me that she's way too easily swayed by weak evidence to really have employed much critical thinking here.

She calls the evidence "yet another pin in the proverbial coffin for skeptics like myself:"  And what is this evidence?  It's simply this: A study done on mice demonstrates that a needle puncture can release a nucleoside known as Adenosine into the surrounding tissue, which may help with pain relief.

Sound's pretty simple and scientifically valid, right?  What could I possibly have to say against that?
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Analysis > Friday, 19 March 2010 22:11:09 EST

Happy Meal McScience!

Keywords: health, woo, concern about children, product

I tell everybody upfront that I'm just some dumbass with a blog.  But the thing is, I'm a dumbass who at least tries to know what he's talking about.  I make an effort to understand science, and I try like hell to get my facts straight as much as possible.

So it annoys me a little when people who don't understand how science is done and haven't done their homework present themselves as knowledgeable authorities on a topic and start making claims that are not supported by their evidence.

What I'm talking about here is a story that's been making the news about author and blogger Joann Bruso, who bought a McDonald's happy meal, and left it on her office shelf for a year in order to prove a point.



Her point?  The happy meal didn't decompose, and that means that it's made up of materials that your body can't metabolize.

I'll let Mrs. Bruso explain in her own words, taken directly from her blog:
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Analysis > Sunday, 21 February 2010 09:52:50 EST

Chemical Chaos: DCP

Keywords: chemicals, woo, health

Several years back I got into an online debate with somebody pushing a health elixir known as "Seasilver".  It was probably the first time that I had the urge to do the research and debate with snake oil salesmen, leading me on a course of critical thinking culminating with this blog.  I amassed a large file of quotes and references, and I was going to set up a website to display this information.

Fortunately for the world, but unfortunately for my website, the FDA came in and forced Seasilver to stop making their outlandish claims as I was in the middle of setting it all up.  Most of the Seasilver websites have disappeared by now, but I've still got cached copies and quotes.   I figured that some of the material I have saved will make good example material for the kinds of claims these kinds of people make.

So today, I want to look at a very interesting quote regarding the "deadly chemical" DCP.
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Analysis > Sunday, 31 January 2010 19:20:00 EST

Man Cured Himself Of Cancer With Homeopathy?

Keywords: woo, homeopathy, health, alternative medicine, cancer, bad reporting, Canada

One thing that you learn when you read a lot of books on critical thinking and logic and statistics is that you really can't accept everything at face value.  It's dismaying how much rampant credulity is out there, even from news sources that we want to trust.

I came across an article in the Ingersoll Times which credulously recounts the story of a man who claims to have cured himself of cancer through the use of homeopathy.  Naturally, I feel that this article could use a re-analysis with a more critical eye.

Unfortunately, I'm the only one volunteering, so my dumbass eye will have to do.  So let's take a look at what this article has to say:
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Musings > Monday, 18 January 2010 12:28:09 EST

Health Hokum: Dismayingly Mainstream

Keywords: woo, alternative medicine, holistic, health, Mehmet Oz

Health is an obsession for many people.  None of us want to be sick or infirm.   The problem is knowing how to keep ourselves from those conditions.   Promises of methods that will secure our good health have been plentiful throughout history.

Today, advances in medicine and public sanitation have actually been able to fulfill that promise to a great extent.  People are living longer than ever before, and the average lifespan continues to increase.  Technology has also allowed us to live into old age with a higher quality of life than we could expect a century ago if we were lucky enough to become doddering senior citizens.

But still the prospect of ill health looms over us, casting a shadow of fear that convinces us to take any measure to prevent it.  Perhaps the fact that we're in greater health than ever before causes us to be even more afraid of losing that health.  Back when ill health and early death were a common fact of life, we may have accepted our fate more easily.

But it's been the advances in science based medicine that have done the most to allow us to live life as we do today, with disease and early death an uncommon occurrence.  So I find it highly dismaying that unscientific and unproven health practices seem to be dominating the public discussion.

Sometimes the health practices under discussion are a little less "alternative" than others.  But even there it seems to me that many apply an "alternative medicine" type mindset that distorts issues of science and fact and gives people a very strange picture of how medicine and our bodies work.

What do I mean by that?  Well, read on and I'll explain further.
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Criticism > Sunday, 10 January 2010 17:43:30 EST

The Weather Network's Inappropriate Segment

Keywords: video, holistic, woo, health, alternative medicine, bad reporting

As a Canadian, I'm sorely disappointed in this clip that I recorded from the Weather Network a few weeks ago:



For a news network that has put out many segments relating to bona fide useful health tips (click here for videos), a piece like this can definitely give people the wrong impression.  I realize that they couched their language in such a way as to avoid giving this woman's views an outright endorsement, but that's not going to cut it.  Just making this piece at all is completely inappropriate, and will give people the impression that the weather network is okay with this kind of thing.
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