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612 thoughts on “Death by “alternative” medicine: Who’s to blame?

  1. Harriet Hall says:

    pec said,

    “Schwartz, and other scientists who have crossed the line from mainstream to alternative, are ignored by the mainstream for emotional/political reasons.”

    No, Schwartz is ignored by the mainstream for purely scientific reasons: he is not doing good science.

    See my article “Gary Schwartz’s Energy Healing Experiments: The Emperor’s New Clothes?” at
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2843/is_2_32/ai_n24379890/pg_1?tag=artBody;col1

    The other researchers of “energy healing”are no better. See http://quackfiles.blogspot.com/2006/01/review-of-energy-medicine-scientific.html

  2. pec says:

    http://uanews.org/node/17537

    “a control group of animals was housed in a small, quiet facility. A second group received Reiki while being exposed to 15 minutes of 90-decibel white noise daily (similar to the noise level of a low-flying aircraft). Two other groups received “sham” Reiki, where a student simply mimicked the physical movements of a Reiki practitioner, or were exposed to noise alone. The experiment continued for three weeks and was repeated twice.
    In all three experiments, Reiki significantly reduced the size and number of microvascular leaks, compared with the animals in the other three groups.”

    http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2007.0753

    “Reiki Improves Heart Rate Homeostasis in Laboratory Rats”

    There is plenty of evidence, but you will find some excuse to discount it.

  3. RickK101 says:

    pec: “but you will find some excuse to discount it”

    So if we ask questions about this – if we apply the same critical techniques that we apply to mainstream studies – then we’re guilty of being close-minded and dismissive. Is that what you’re saying?

  4. Fifi says:

    pec, just because you believe in “energy healing” for emotional and political reasons, doesn’t mean that’s the basis for other people’s skepticism. To recognize that an experiment is badly designed and therefore unreliable or inadequate evidence, and the conclusions are based upon shoddy research with an inherent bias or no consideration for confounding factors – is merely to recognize something for what it is.

    I think we all understand that you believe in energy healing for emotional reasons based in the fact that you feel you’ve had experiences that you consider “proof”. It’s clear that you have a very deep need for science, scientists and doctors to support your belief that you’re having mystical/psychic experiences and are very angry they don’t. So angry and obsessed that you spend a huge amount of time participating on these science based blogs even though you clearly have no interest in EBM, science or neurobiology.

    Plenty of people have auditory and visual hallucinations and experiences that feel “supernatural” because they’re out of the ordinary and they don’t understand much about cognition, neurobiology and how sound and vision function. This leads some people to believe in the supernatural, which may be misguided but isn’t a sign of insanity. What IS a sign of being deluded is denying all evidence and attacking those who don’t support the self or group delusion (pec seems to be a good example of an individual doing this, the Scientologists are an excellent example of a group that does this). I can see why pec hates doctors and is so angry that her mother sought our and accepted medical treatment for her own emotional/psychological disorders.

  5. David Gorski says:

    But you are not aware, and have no interest in becoming aware, of the work of scientists like Gary Schwartz, for example, who are doing research on energy healing, and other things you reflexively dismiss as unscientific. Schwartz, and other scientists who have crossed the line from mainstream to alternative, are ignored by the mainstream for emotional/political reasons.

    I am aware of Gary Schwartz. I do not find his work convincing or scientific. It doesn’t help that the reference to which you refer in another comment was published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, whose “peer review” standards are–to put it kindly–not particularly rigorous at all.

  6. pec says:

    Harriet,

    Your article about Schwartz is derisive, angry and emotional, typical of the current “skeptical” attitude. You are obviously afraid Schwartz might be right about something.

    Your major criticism of energy research centers on one small experiment where healers could not detect subjects’ energy fields. If there were only one small experiment in favor of energy healing, you would discount it immediately. But one small experiment that supports your views is never questioned.

    The number of experiments supporting energy healing is growing as interest in, and tolerance of, CAM increases. Yes they mostly publish in their own journals, because mainstream journals often share your intolerance about anything not already accepted by mainstream science.

    Why are so fighting so hard? Why aren’t you at all curious about things like energy healing? You have absolutely no way of knowing if their are forms of energy that physics has not yet hypothesized, detected, or considered. Why do you work so hard at getting people to doubt the results of energy healing research?

    You know very well that there are controlled scientific experiments showing real effects. You just imagine and assume that all these experiments are wrong and defective. All you need is one small low-power experiment that confirms your non-belief. All the positive results are cancelled out.

    Do you understand that “skeptics” can debunk anything at all using that trick? An under-powered experiment will always fail, however real the phenomenon being tested might be.

    I don’t think Schwartz is all that great at answering his critics. He is a good scientist, not necessarily a good advocate for alternative science. If you quoted him correctly, his objections to the Rosa experiment are pretty lame. But we all know that one negative experiment does not outweigh many positive experiments, however much you prefer the negative result.

  7. weing says:

    So you call yourself a skeptic and believe this nonsense? Why? If I wanted to borrow money from you and tell you I have a million dollars in a Swiss bank account, would you believe because there are banks in Switzerland? No, you would want some proof?

  8. David Gorski says:

    You know very well that there are controlled scientific experiments showing real effects.

    No, there aren’t. There are generally poorly designed experiments that seem to show an effect. One must also consider that by random chance alone at the 95% confidence level at least 5% of studies of a therapy that does not work, even studies flawlessly designed and executed, will turn out falsely positive and incorrectly support the hypothesis that the therapy being tested does work. Add the unavoidable imperfections of clinical research to the study design, and the false positive rate is often higher than that.

    John Ioannidis has also shown that, the more improbable the hypothesis being tested, the more likely it is that there will be false positives in clinical trials, leading to much larger numbers of false positives than 5%. (Steve Novella also wrote about this.) The same applies to animal experiments. That’s why one has to look at the totality of the evidence out there, and the totality of the evidence is that “energy healing” is bogus. There’s no good evidence that there is qi, much less that practitioners can consciously alter the flow of qi for therapeutic intent. Indeed, reiki is very improbable; so it is not surprising that there are a few trials out there that seem to indicate a positive result. Naturally, believers point to those few trials; they also ignore the huge flaws in nearly every one of them, as well as the preponderance of other evidence that argues against reiki.

    Indeed, the study you cite is like a lot of CAM studies: Lots of noise, virtually no signal.

  9. Fifi says:

    pec, you’re the one who’s obsessively trolling these blogs and attempting to attack both the authors and science based medicine. Apparently you don’t think that doctors have the right to question practices that aren’t based in evidence in medicine and “alternatives” to medicine – though you consider yourself fully qualified even though you’re a computer programmer who’s had some experiences you believe to be supernatural!

  10. RickK101 says:

    Pec: You call yourself a scientist but you accept the Reiki study you cited without any question.

    Pec applies a double standard – questioning everything about “mainstream” medicine and then questions nothing about this CAM study.

    Pec is a hypocrite, accusing us of double standard while blatantly apply one herself.

    The correct, the “scientific” response to the cited Reiki study is to ask LOTS of questions.

    For example, it is well known that human physical contact can be comforting. This has nothing to do with unexplained energy fields. It is testable, and brain imaging shows exactly what’s going on in our heads and nerves when we are touched. So, when I see the Reiki rat study, I have to ask many questions:

    - How human-socialized are the rats?
    - How much comfort do they take from human interaction?
    - What is the exact difference between “sham” Reiki and actual Reiki, and how many trials were performed with each.
    - Who performed the tests? Was the microvascular measurement step blinded from the Reiki/control step? Or did the person whose career depends on a positive outcome do the measuring?
    - What other factors lead to the microvascular effects?
    - Were there controls to establish that the noise actually caused the effects to begin with?
    - How was the timing of the exposure-to-measurement process controlled?
    - Why only 3 rats? Why such a statistically small sample?

    Asking questions like these is not discouting or being dismissve, Pec, it is SCIENCE. If Dr. Baldwin doesn’t have to defend her study against 200 questions like this, she’s not a scientist. If the Alternative Medicine journal in which she published doesn’t question her study with those 200 questions, it’s not a scientific journal.

    There’s one standard. If a study, a researcher or a journal don’t meet the standard, then they ARE NOT PERFORMING SCIENCE and should not be accepted by the scientific community.

    But then, Pec, as a “scientist”, you must know this.

  11. pec says:

    ” the more improbable the hypothesis being tested, the more likely it is that there will be false positives in clinical trials”

    NO! There is absolutely nothing that would make a less probable hypothesis more likely to show positive results. What a bizarre idea!

    “reiki is very improbable; so it is not surprising that there are a few trials out there that seem to indicate a positive result.”

    Oh come on. You have complete faith in one little experiment with negative results for detecting energy fields. But any experiment with positive results for energy healing just has to be wrong, no matter what. You find the strangest reasons for discounting positive results.

  12. pec says:

    Dr. Gorski,

    I think you interpreted that article on statistics wrong. It just explains some general problems with research and gives the usual suggestions.

    Your idea that less probable hypotheses give more false positives makes no sense at all.

  13. Fifi says:

    pec, your reason for not questioning obviously problematic research doesn’t seem particularly strange or mysterious, it’s quite obvious your faith has made you blind to evidence and reason. Science goes to great lengths to try to deal with these – and less pernicious – issues regarding subjectivity and belief – clearly you object to this since you feel that the best evidence contradicts the weak and shoddy evidence you promote as proof of your beliefs. I do understand that this is very personal for you since you base your beliefs in the supernatural on experiences you have – and that the alternative explanations for your experiences may frighten you. It’s just that your obsessive need for affirmation and to deny evidence tends to indicate that you’re working very hard to try to convince yourself and others that your experiences are what you want them to be.

  14. pec says:

    And by the way I posted those links because someone said there is NO EVIDENCE for energy healing. I was not trying to provide a complete literature review and meta-analysis showing that energy healing works. I was showing that it is NOT TRUE that there is no evidence. You just don’t know about the evidence. And you think of bizarre reasons to discount evidence that supports any hypothesis you do not consider plausible.

  15. pec says:

    Fifi,

    You majored in art and communication, so shut up and go away.

  16. David Gorski says:

    Your idea that less probable hypotheses give more false positives makes no sense at all.

    It’s not my idea. It’s John Ioannidis’ idea, and he provides good reasoning, mathematics, and evidence to back it up. That you think that the idea does not make sense does not matter unless you can read Ioannidis’ work (linked to the posts to which I linked) and provide concrete reasons why he might be overestimating it. One of the links I provided explains very clearly with a flow chart why this is so.

    Even if Ioannidis does overestimate the probability problem, the very lowest percentage of false positives that can ever be achieved under currently accepted statistics is 5%, meaning at least 1/20 studies of a treatment that doesn’t work will, through random chance alone, incorrectly find that it does. That’s the minimum. Add to it the flaws that are always inherent in clinical trials, and it’s not unreasonable to increase that estimate to around 10% of clinical trials of ineffective remedies falsely showing results suggesting that they are effective.

  17. David Gorski says:

    And by the way I posted those links because someone said there is NO EVIDENCE for energy healing.

    That’s why I always say there is no good evidence, no scientifically compelling evidence, or variations thereof.

  18. pec says:

    Of course there are false positives. Of course we have to be skeptical of any research results.

    But Harriet Hall isn’t the least bit skeptical about the experiment showing 20 supposed energy healers could not detect subjects’ energy fields. Her “skeptical” article goes on and on about that experiment, as if its negative results are the last word on energy healing.

  19. pec says:

    And that is a very common trick played by “skeptics.” Design a crummy experiment that will fail to show an effect even if it should, and proclaim forever after that the hypothesis is wrong, based on one crummy experiment.

  20. pec says:

    I am 100% in favor of being careful and conservative in interpreting research. Don’t accept every new idea that’s supported by one or two experiments. But don’t reject every new idea just because it differs from what you currently believe.

    Science is hard, there is no easy path to discovery, and human nature loves ideology.

  21. David Gorski says:

    And that is a very common trick played by “skeptics.” Design a crummy experiment that will fail to show an effect even if it should, and proclaim forever after that the hypothesis is wrong, based on one crummy experiment.

    Please. Tell us exactly why the experiment Harriet described is “crummy.” Tell us the flaws in its design and methodology that render its conclusions suspect. I want specifics. No vague or general comments about “it’s crummy” or “it’s badly designed.” I want to know specifically why it’s badly designed. I want to know specific flaws that are serious enough that they call its conclusions into doubt.

    You can tell us that, can’t you?

  22. pec says:

    “Tell us exactly why the experiment Harriet described is “crummy.””

    First, it’s only one experiment and you have just been making the point that we cannot trust the results of only one experiment.

    In addition, we are not supposed to accept the null hypothesis unless a good and sincere effort has been made to reject it. It’s very easy to under-power an experiment. That’s why it is often necessary to do pilot studies, since we have no simple way of knowing how many subjects and trials are needed to find a particular effect.

    Those to reasons are more than sufficient to make us skeptical of Rosa’s energy detection experiment.

    But she was also testing something that supposedly requires a special skill or talent. Maybe the 20 subjects selected were not especially skillful practitioners. When you study something that you expect to be evenly distributed in the population 20 subjects might be enough (depending on the expected effect size and variance), but we can’t assume that about energy healing.

    I am not saying the above are the only problems with the experiment, just some obvious ones I had noticed.

    But what is really important — and I already know that you agree — is that we should be skeptical about the results of any isolated experiment.

  23. Calli Arcale says:

    pec, “skeptic” does not mean “disbelieves everything on principle”.

  24. Fifi says:

    pec my dear, yes I studied art and communication but that makes me no less qualified than you to participate in the discourse here. You studied computer engineering (or computer science if you’re mainly theory but little action), that doesn’t qualify you as a scientist either – much as you mistakenly think it does (a belief that only highlights how tenuous your understanding of science is). What DOES give me a deeper understanding of science, medicine and biology than you, is that I grew up with two doctors for parents, one who was a researcher. This meant I grew up around scientists, researchers and doctors, I was taught to think critically and for myself from the start (and got to do some neat experiments as a kid), and having a Dr Mom meant that I have a firm understanding of biology, the role of nutrition and exercise in health, and assorted other things about health and disease that most people don’t know or think about unless personally affected. I also probably know much more than you about the internal workings of medical institutions and healthcare systems.

    Unlike yourself, I’ve also worked professionally in a medical clinic so I have a broader perspective and understanding than you do regarding patient care since you’ve only ever been a patient.

  25. Fifi says:

    pec wrote “science is hard”. This may be true for you since you seem confused about science (and this may be why you choose to base your beliefs in faith in your subjective experiences not on scientific evidence), however science isn’t hard for everyone and most people interested in it and involved in it don’t find it hard. Science can be long and boring at times but it’s not particularly hard.

  26. daedalus2u says:

    Actually science is quite easy. It is rejecting the wrong ideas that come so easily, naturally, obviously and intutively that is hard.

  27. qetzal says:

    Re Schwartz’s rat study, at least one serious flaw seems apparent from the abstract:

    Three unrestrained, male Sprague-Dawley rats implanted with radiotelemetric transducers were exposed daily for 8 days to a 15-minute white noise regimen (90 dB). For the last 5 days, the rats received 15 minutes of Reiki immediately before the noise and during the noise period. The experiment was repeated on the same animals but using sham Reiki.

    There’s no control for period effects. The first time, all 3 rats got Reiki and (supposedly) showed effects. The second time, all 3 rats got sham, and (supposedly) showed no effects. Was it the Reiki vs. sham that caused the difference? Or was it something else? Age of the rats, uncontrolled environmental differences, seasonal effects, who knows? The study should have been done as a parallel group or a two period crossover. As described, it’s uninterpretable.

    Plus, 3 rats total? You’ve got to be kidding! If you’re going to bother designing and conducting a study, writing it up, and submitting it for publication, how can you justify trying to get by with n = 3?

    This is very poor experimental design. I’d expect such flaws from a high school science project, but not from a university professor. Schwartz should be ashamed to have his name on this!

  28. daedalus2u says:

    Also, without having a method to assay for actual Reiki, how do they know that what was being delivered was actually “sham” Reiki? Maybe it was the more powerful type of energy healing called Ikier (Reiki spelled backwards).

  29. pec says:

    Fifi,

    I have a PhD in cognitive science and did 4 years of experimental research. It is possible to have more than one degree, but I guess you wouldn’t know that.

    Anyone who thinks science is easy either has never done it, or has been one of the uncreative lazy scientists who never discover anything of interest. But there are probably not many like that, and most researchers probably take their work seriously. And they know it’s hard. It’s hard to come up with a meaningful, original, hypothesis in the first place and it’s hard to find good ways of testing it.

    Discovering and inventing is hard. If it weren’t, every scientist would have the Nobel prize and every inventor would be rich.

    So, again, you are a dope Fifi and I can’t understand why I bother to answer you.

  30. pec says:

    ” One group of four rats simultaneously received daily noise and Reiki, while two other groups received “sham” Reiki or noise alone. A fourth group did not receive noise or additional treatment. The experiment was performed three times to test for reproducibility.”

    http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2006.12.15?journalCode=acm

  31. RickK101 says:

    From the same citation:

    “Whether or not these effects are caused by Reiki itself, or the relaxing effect of the Reiki practitioner, this procedure could be useful for minimizing effects of environmental stress on research animals and hospital patients.”

    So, massage feels good and touch is comforting. So what is the difference between a “trained Reiki practitioner” and the high school girl at our local animal shelter who is responsible for snuggling and socializing feral kittens?

  32. pec says:

    They also did experiments with bacteria, and I don’t think they tried to cuddle the bacteria.

    There is a ton of research on healing energy.

  33. Fifi says:

    pec, now I KNOW you’re lying. A PhD in Cognitive Science! Thank you for that laugh, you’ve made me cry tears of merriment. Considering you don’t reveal the most minimal understanding of cognitive processes – let alone recognize your own cognitive biases and keep calling abstracts “articles” and such while clearly not understanding the basics about scientific experiments – this has really got to top your outrageous claims.

    If you did four years of research, please illuminate us to what your specialization was/is and where we can read the results of your research.

  34. pec says:

    And one of the reasons “skeptics” don’t believe in Reiki is that the healers do not actually touch the patients. So they weren’t cuddling the rats.

  35. David Gorski says:

    “Whether or not these effects are caused by Reiki itself, or the relaxing effect of the Reiki practitioner, this procedure could be useful for minimizing effects of environmental stress on research animals and hospital patients.”

    Is it just me, or does the image of a reiki master relaxing rats and then performing reiki on the poor critters strike anyone as hysterically funny?

  36. David Gorski says:

    Plus, 3 rats total? You’ve got to be kidding! If you’re going to bother designing and conducting a study, writing it up, and submitting it for publication, how can you justify trying to get by with n = 3?

    That reiki‘s so powerful that N=3 used as its own control group is enough. :-)

  37. RickK101 says:

    Pec: “And one of the reasons “skeptics” don’t believe in Reiki is that the healers do not actually touch the patients. So they weren’t cuddling the rats.”

    Reiki reference: “The treatment proceeds with the practitioner placing his hands on the recipient in various positions. However, practitioners may use a non-touching technique, where the hands are held a few centimetres away from the recipient’s body, for some or all of the positions.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reiki#cite_note-41

    Sorry Pec – sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. And the STUDY ABSTRACT SAID IT COULD BE THE COMFORTING EFFECT OF THE PRACTITIONER. No PROOF of “healing energy” – none, zero, you lose.

    No matter how strongly you believe, that doesn’t make it science.

    “There is a ton of research on healing energy.”

    And none of it is conclusive, otherwise it would have been proven 600 years ago.

    Every day potential scientific medical treatments fail tests and are dropped due to lack of evidence of effectiveness. No CAM treatment is EVER dropped no matter how strong the evidence against it.

  38. Harriet Hall says:

    pec said,

    “But Harriet Hall isn’t the least bit skeptical about the experiment showing 20 supposed energy healers could not detect subjects’ energy fields.”

    The most convincing thing to me was not the experiment itself but the aftermath. Of all the hundreds or thousands of TT practitioners who claim to have that ability, only one individual subsequently volunteered for testing, and she failed.

    These practitioners BELIEVED they would succeed under the circumstances of Emily’s experiment. If they really had the ability and thought the experiment was falsely negative, it would be simple to repeat the experiment and get positive results. No attempt at replication has ever been published.

    It would be simple for TT practitioners to design their own experiments to prove that they could really sense the human energy field. Instead of doing that, they ASSUME they HAVE that ability and they do poorly designed experiments that purport to show that “using” that ability has effects on patients. That isn’t good science any way you look at it. It’s a classic example of what I have called Tooth Fairy science – studying the money under the pillow without any attempt to find out if the Tooth Fairy is real or if something else (parents) might explain the observations.

  39. weing says:

    pec,
    Are you telling us that you are not skeptical about these studies? Do you not see holes in their experimental design that you could drive a truck through? I am skeptical of all studies, especially those that appear to confirm what I think to be right and I look for flaws in all of them. But that’s just me.

  40. Fifi says:

    What is completely strange is that pec doesn’t even know how reiki is done! Here she is advocating for it and she’s obviously totally unaware of what reiki entails and common practices. She clearly also hasn’t even read the studies she’s saying prove her (mistaken) beliefs about reiki. It seems there’s a lot of make believe, even about the make believe, in pec’s life!

  41. pec says:

    I linked to some energy healing studies to show there is research. I said I have not done a literature review or meta-analysis, and I did not claim proof of anything one way or another.

    I have read some of Gary Schwartz’s books and I am going to read the one about energy healing. I do not think he is an idiot or delusional or an incompetent scientist. If he is finding something, then there probably is something going on. Maybe not what he thinks it is, but who knows. It’s more interesting to be open-minded and look at evidence.

    The “skeptics” here are not interested in what alternative science researchers are finding, so you will be left in the dust and you deserve it.

  42. weing says:

    So you believe his nonsense because you want to. You haven’t reviewed his work for scientific rigor. You trust him because he is an authority? Isn’t that a logical fallacy? As the great Reagan said “Trust! But verify.”

  43. msclark says:

    My congratulations to you who have tried to pin pec down on what she believes.

    I just wanted to comment on the fact that the woman who refused all rationality-based treatments for her probably initially curable breast tumor had a big hole in her breast.

    One of the Hoxsey treatments for cancer, as I understand it, involves using a paste made of chemicals and “blood root” that can dissolve skin and flesh. I know some folks call it “black salve” and it’s supposed to be a traditonal Native American remedy. Believers think it can pull the cancer out of the person, so that when they see this goo on their body that is their dissolved flesh they think it is the cancer coming out. (The process is incredibly painful, so I hear. I haven’t tried it.) I would guess that that is what caused the big oozing sore on her breast, though maybe cancer alone can do that.

    Poor woman. I used to believe in alt med to a considerable degree, but I don’t think I would have tried it had I been diagnosed with cancer. I hope her children are OK, presumably without a mother.

  44. Michelle B says:

    Pec writes: The “skeptics” here are not interested in what alternative science researchers are finding, so you will be left in the dust and you deserve it.
    _______

    Your prophecy does not ring true. Effective treatment will be embraced. PERIOD.

    There is only one science with its evidence-based knowledge and its experimental method. If anyone is doing science and they discovered something new, it will be included in the body of knowledge. The scientific method is a sieve–with a fine mesh–and is fully capable of finding the gold.

    Beware of the gold diggers who put fool’s gold on top of the mesh without the necessary sieving. They are the ones that are dangerous because we then believe that something fake is real. Even worse, we stop looking for the real solution because we incorrectly think we have found it. Knowledge is built upon knowledge built above knowledge. All finely sieved, all proven gold. Fort Knox does not hold a candle to the body of scientific knowledge so far amassed by us mere humans.

    Being completely smitten with Metabolomics at the moment–which I find so promising–I will make some comparisons with it and life energy.

    Fine tuning treatment to each individual is the holy grail in medicine as far as I am concerned–many have searched in vain, eg., genomics was a false start it seems.

    Biologists learned from the mapping the genome enough to be able to apply their hard-earned knowledge to mapping something that can be a much better tool for preventing disease and tailoring such programs to each individual; in addition the treatment of disease can be done so finely that side effects of drugs, etc., can be minimized.

    Life energy does nothing, give us no handle in applying it in any meaningful way (not to mention it has not even been identified). The main trouble I have with putting one’s hopeful eggs in the life energy basket, is that there is a much better basket in which we can place our hope, a beautifully, tightly woven basket in which we can collect data and extrapolate from that to make most delicious and nourishing omelettes (oh come on, you think I could go this long without getting a food metaphor in?).

  45. pec says:

    “So you believe his nonsense because you want to. ”

    That is not at all what I said. Research on energy healing is getting started and I don’t think you will succeed in blocking it. Gary Schwartz is one of the small number of academics who decided to put scientific curiosity ahead of acceptance by peers. I am interested in his research and that of other alternative scientists. I have read some of his other books, and I will read the one about energy healing.

    The “skeptics” here are willing to dismiss energy healing based on one experiment. At the same time they are willing to reject hypotheses they don’t like even when supported by experimental evidence.

    I am interested in scientific progress in general, and I think we should draw conclusions based on evidence, not on ideological preference.

  46. David Gorski says:

    Research on energy healing is getting started and I don’t think you will succeed in blocking it. Gary Schwartz is one of the small number of academics who decided to put scientific curiosity ahead of acceptance by peers. I am interested in his research and that of other alternative scientists. I have read some of his other books, and I will read the one about energy healing.

    And so pec finally reveals at least one of the “nontraditional” sources behind her beliefs in “energy healing.”

    The “skeptics” here are willing to dismiss energy healing based on one experiment. At the same time they are willing to reject hypotheses they don’t like even when supported by experimental evidence.

    No, there’s much more reason to reject energy healing as highly implausible and not supported by evidence besides that “one study.” However that one study was well done and quite convincing. It only confirmed what basic science and other studies demonstrate.

    I am interested in scientific progress in general, and I think we should draw conclusions based on evidence, not on ideological preference.

    I got a new irony meter to replace the one the pec caused to explode earlier, and damn if pec didn’t manage to make the new one explode too.

  47. pec says:

    And so pec finally reveals at least one of the “nontraditional” sources behind her beliefs in “energy healing.”

    I have studied alternative science for about 30 years so far. Gary Schwartz is not at all my primary inspiration; I mentioned him because he happens to be well known now. There are and have been many scientists who risked their careers for pure scientific curiosity, and each one has helped to inspire my love of learning.

    I am just as interested in mainstream science as I am in alternative science, and that’s why I got a mainstream PhD. I am a skeptic. I don’t like intellectual laziness or rigid dogmatism any more than you. I have had arguments with born-again Christians about evolution.

    Again, my goal is scientific progress and understanding. I think some areas of CAM are promising and, because of my knowledge of alternative science, I strongly suspect that some of them are scientifically plausible.

    Alternative science is not taught in universities. I studied it on my own, but most people only study what their professors happen to know about. If you knew more about alternative science and its long history you might be more open-minded about it.

  48. Fifi says:

    pec – Surely between the computer science degree and PhD in cognitive science (which you claim to have) you could do your own experiment that proves your beliefs rather than whining about the well designed one that disproves it? Now, while I find it highly unlikely that you do actually have a degree in Cog Sci – let alone a PhD (and the grandiose claims are making me question if you’re even qualified to write code) – you would have had to have been published to get your PhD…so what was your thesis on? I’m incredibly curious as to how someone who claims to be a PhD in Cog Sci can be so clearly ignorant about the quirks of cognition…

  49. pec says:

    Why would I let you know who I am Fifi? Wouldn’t that be insane?

    “the grandiose claims are making me question if you’re even qualified to write code”

    I don’t see anything grandiose about claiming to have a PhD. It might be a big deal for someone with a pathetic little brain like yours.

    And now we really know how utterly stupid and ignorant you are about anything related to science or technology — the only reason you think writing code is easy is because you obviously have never done it and couldn’t if your life depended on it.

    You’re a dope, as I have told you already. And insulting, wicked, ignorant dope.

  50. Fifi says:

    pec, somehow I doubt I’m the only reader who suspects you may be delusional and harboring a deeply neurotic resentment of doctors and science – and willing to make up any old thing as you continue to try to pass yourself off as a victim (when you’re choosing to visit someone else’s blog and choose to be consistently ridiculous and offensive). Not that I think being offensive is a big deal, I’m merely point out the very obvious hostility and resentment you continually reveal towards science in your attempts to get it to affirm your quasi-religious, vague new age beliefs.

    It’s quite reasonable to ask what you wrote your thesis on if you’re claiming to be a Cog Sci PhD – particularly since you clearly don’t understand the first thing about cognition. (You’re “I experienced it therefore it’s objectively true/real” would be the most obvious and glaring example!) If you feel it’s too revealing to discuss your thesis topic, perhaps you can share something that isn’t revealing, such as the thrust of the experiments you were involved in? Don’t get my wrong, I suspect you’re lying through your chakras and you’ve revealed you’re even ignorant about the energy healing practices you promote, I’m just curious as to whether you’re even capable of coming up with a decent lie or you’re so ignorant about Cog Sci that you’re not even capable of doing that.

    Though, if you were actually being honest, I can see why you’d want more money put into CAM studies (even if they are a total waste of money) because you’d get a personal benefit out of it. Or don’t you actually work in the field of Cognitive Science? Is this where some of your bitterness towards science comes from?

    Do you really think just being able to write code makes you 1337? Before you claimed that having studied computer scientist made you a scientist – now you’ve adjusted your claim since that’s just so silly apparently.

  51. pec says:

    I have no reason to care what you think Fifi.

  52. David Gorski says:

    I think some areas of CAM are promising and, because of my knowledge of alternative science, I strongly suspect that some of them are scientifically plausible.

    There is no such thing as “alternative” science. There is just science.

  53. Fifi says:

    pec, I didn’t ask if you cared what I think *lol* I’m merely asking you to back up some of your wild claims that, so far, the evidence tends to belie (of note, of course, being your belief in subluxations based upon your subjective experience and your whole “subjective experience is proof of objective reality” stance….EXTREMELY odd for someone who claims to be a PhD in Cog Sci and to be a scientist). You still haven’t been open about whether you consider yourself to be psychic or not…do you?

    Or did you study some form of “alternative” cognitive science a la Scientology or some other religion that is anti-science and anti-reality based thinking?

  54. weing says:

    If a pharmaceutical company tried a drug, like prozac, instead of reiki, on those rats. Using the exact same study design and number of subjects. Would you accept the results that prozac was effective recommend it for use? Why or why not?

  55. Michelle B says:

    Fifi, PEC is not anti-science, she is pro-alternative science!

    Borrowing from ole Gertie: Science is Science is Science.

  56. David Gorski says:

    Fifi, PEC is not anti-science, she is pro-alternative science!

    You mean like when antivaccinationists say they are “not anti-vaccine, but pro-safe vaccine”? :-)

  57. pec says:

    “There is no such thing as “alternative” science. There is just science.”

    There is mainstream established science, which gets most of the research funding. Science, like every human endeavor, is political. If your beliefs are in harmony with the established majority, you will find it easier to get grants and publications.

    I am not complaining about that; it can’t be otherwise.

    By alternative science, I mean the scientific views that are not held by the current majority. Scientists have visceral, emotional, reactions to ideas that seem foreign, ideas they did not learn in school. Referees are less likely to accept papers on ideas that were ridiculed by their professors.

    Alternative science has been around a long time, but has not generally been accepted by the mainstream. As a very brief definition, I would say that alternative science tends to be “holistic” in the sense of general systems theory. Many of these ideas are accepted in engineering and mathematics, but they have often been rejected by mainstream biology.

    I think biology will catch up with engineering and computer science, eventually, and will incorporate ideas from systems theory.

    My definition of alternative science does not include ideas from ancient traditions that do not have a scientific basis. However, alternative science does not reflexively dismiss all ancient traditions as superstition.

  58. weing says:

    “Scientists have visceral, emotional, reactions to ideas that seem foreign, ideas they did not learn in school.”
    Do you mean like your reactions to “mainstream” science and SBM?

  59. pec says:

    I realize I gave such a quick summary of my ideas about alternative science that someone is sure to misunderstand it.

  60. David Gorski says:

    There is mainstream established science, which gets most of the research funding. Science, like every human endeavor, is political. If your beliefs are in harmony with the established majority, you will find it easier to get grants and publications.

    Here comes the postmodern stuff…it’s coming, soon. Just you wait.

    Alternative science has been around a long time, but has not generally been accepted by the mainstream. As a very brief definition, I would say that alternative science tends to be “holistic” in the sense of general systems theory. Many of these ideas are accepted in engineering and mathematics, but they have often been rejected by mainstream biology.

    Apparently pec has never heard of systems biology or scientists like, say, Dr. Leroy Hood. He does systems biology. No “holistic” woo is required. A colleague of mine working on the same floor does systems biology applied to cancer; another does network and systems biology of cancer. “Mainstream” biology is embracing systems theory. Oddly enough, the systems theory they embrace does not require “energy healing” or “woo” to make sense. The good, old-fashioned scientific method is all it needs. Well, that, and a lot of computing power that didn’t exist a few years ago. Systems biology is incredibly complex and requires massive amounts of computing power.

  61. pec says:

    “Do you mean like your reactions to “mainstream” science and SBM?”

    I admit I have some negative emotions about some of it. For example, I saw a TV news story recently about screening 8-year-old children for high cholesterol. The idea is (of course) to recommend lifestyle changes to obese children, but when they (of course) do not follow the recommendations, put them on statins for life.

    I also have some negative emotions when people tell me they have their teenage children on medication for depression and anxiety. Yes the parents should be more responsible, but they would never do this if their MDs had thought to warn them about prescription drug abuse.

    My emotions about the drug industry and its alliance with the medical industry tend not to be very loving, that is true. I hate a lot of what I have been seeing.

    But just because I am a critic of the established system does not mean I am against science or modern medicine. I am against certain aspects of it that I see as irresponsible.

  62. pec says:

    ” “Mainstream” biology is embracing systems theory.”

    I am happy to hear that.

  63. Harriet Hall says:

    pec said,

    “alternative science does not reflexively dismiss all ancient traditions as superstition.”

    Neither does “non”-alternative science. There is only one science.

  64. Harriet Hall says:

    pec said,

    “I admit I have some negative emotions about some of it.”

    Can you admit that those negative emotions might have impaired your ability to understand and accept the facts and arguments you read on this blog?

  65. weing says:

    “I admit I have some negative emotions about some of it. For example, I saw a TV news story recently about screening 8-year-old children for high cholesterol. The idea is (of course) to recommend lifestyle changes to obese children, but when they (of course) do not follow the recommendations, put them on statins for life.”
    If this child had a cholesterol of say, 600, would you be more accepting of using reiki for life based on a couple of rat studies similar to what you described previously?

  66. pec says:

    First of all weing I never said the rat studies proved anything. As I keep having to explain, I was responding to someone who said there is no evidence, and I linked the first couple of articles I found. There are thousands of others. It was also in response to someone who said there have not been any animal studies on the topic.

    If an obese child has a cholesterol level of 600 it is almost certainly because of lifestyle. If his lifestyle is not changed he will get very sick, with or without statins. And the long-term effect of statins on a child are not known.

    A child has no choice but to take the drugs his parents are given by his MD. I think it’s abusive to force these chemicals on a child who does not understand the long-term consequences.

    The obvious message is that you can make lifestyle changes that will be very difficult at first, or you can remain addicted to junk food and inactivity and take a pill. Taking the pill is so much easier.

    It might be long time before we really see the horrific results of these irresponsible and unthinking policies.

  67. Michelle B says:

    Pec writes: …The idea is (of course) to recommend lifestyle changes to obese children, but when they (of course) do not follow the recommendations, put them on statins for life.
    _____

    Where is the evidence that shows that this is what happens? Are there studies that follow obese children throughout their lives? Their obesity is continually ignored by all medical doctors everywhere? And they are force-fed statins?

    Sorry to be snarky, but despite your obvious intelligence and knowledge, you throw out statements that are hyperbolic. I suspect what you mean instead is that you perceive a trend based on personal experience that this is what happens. I can accept that; there is no need to couch your personal experiences and your justified concern in hyperbolic language. Perhaps, it would be more reasonable to say that some doctors do not care about enabling their patients to change their lifestyles and prefer to stuff them with statins.

  68. weing says:

    If there are thousand of other crappy studies llike those, then they are not worth anything either. Multiply a million by 0 and you have the same answer. If a child has a cholesterol of 600 at 8, they will probably have an MI anytime and a bypass, if they haven’t had one already. A 600 cholesterol is almost never due to diet and most likely familial hypercholesterolemia. These kids used to die by the time they were 12 or so, and they weren’t obese.

  69. pec says:

    Michelle B.,

    I was referring to a news story I saw recently on CNN. They were interviewing an MD who said this is a new policy.

    weing,

    You are talking about a very rare condition. This policy is meant to screen all kids for elevated cholesterol and in many cases to prescribe statins.

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/conditions/07/07/children.cholesterol.drugs.ap/index.html

    “For the first time, an influential doctors group is recommending that some children as young as 8 be given cholesterol-fighting drugs to ward off future heart problems.”

  70. weing says:

    I’m not a pediatrician, so I don’t know what their guidelines are.

  71. qetzal says:

    First of all weing I never said the rat studies proved anything. As I keep having to explain, I was responding to someone who said there is no evidence, and I linked the first couple of articles I found. There are thousands of others.

    If a study is so poorly designed as to be uninterpretable, it’s not evidence of anything.

    Would you have cited such a study in your Cog Sci PhD thesis? I hope not. So why cite it here? Especially if you had thousands to choose from. Surely a person with a computer science degree, a PhD, and an interest “alternative science” should be able to find better citations than that.

    I’m with Fifi. You may well be everything you claim, but you sure don’t sound like it.

  72. Fifi says:

    qetzal – Apparently pec does consider this kind of study to be “evidence” – it’s all she’s got apart from her own experiences that “prove” subluxations and perhaps other phenomena (she won’t answer questions as to whether she considers herself psychic or not). I suspect she advocates more funding for CAM for because she thinks that merely studying something legitimizes it – apparently it does in the public eye (which is not an unreasonable assumption on the part of the public, even if it’s incorrect).

    When I first started visiting this blog, pec tried to make out that she wasn’t professionally involved in CAM and was just a general member of the public. She even said she didn’t frequent chiropractors! (While also refusing to share where she learned the chiro-specific concept of “subluxations”…maybe her yoga teacher?) It’s odd that she now claims to have a PhD in Cog Sci – since that would actually mean she has a very specific personal (and professional if she actually works in Cog Sci) interest in CAM trials being subsidized by tax payer dollars and make her earlier claims to be a lie.

    Though, after looking at all pec has said and done – and how passionate she is and how she’s in total denial about evidence (and has such a resentment of science and doctors) – my money is on her beliefs having a much more personal source in her own experiences. Though I still find it odd that someone who claims to be a PhD in Cog Sci doesn’t understand how unreliable personal experience is as a measure of objective reality!

  73. Harriet Hall says:

    pec said,

    “This policy is meant to screen all kids for elevated cholesterol and in many cases to prescribe statins.”

    You didn’t read it carefully. It is not meant to screen all kids. It only recommends screening for kids who are at risk because of a family history, obesity, etc. Then it recommends weight loss, exercise, nutritional counselling. Only when these measures fail does it recommend statins.

    Only one organization has put forth these recommendations, and I suspect they will be questioned by those who want more evidence that statins are safe and effective in children.

  74. pec says:

    Ok qetzal I was in a hurry when I posted those links. To make up for it, I am going to read up on energy healing research, and will be ready to comment next time one of the “skeptical” bloggers here trashes CAM.

    Since CAM is gaining acceptance — and it’s about time! — I expect there will be an increasing supply of quality research to select from.

  75. pec says:

    “Only one organization has put forth these recommendations, and I suspect they will be questioned by those who want more evidence that statins are safe and effective in children.”

    I certainly hope so!!!

  76. Fifi says:

    pec – So you have a PhD in Cog Sci and a belief in subluxations, energy healing and psychic abilities, and assert that there’s evidence to support your beliefs (based upon your personal experiences), but haven’t actually read any of the research on energy medicine but you point to it as evidence anyway?

  77. weing says:

    pec,
    Do you see the double standard you are applying when you accept the flimsy reiki studies and reject the recommendations of experts outright? Why not reject them both until they prove by their studies and evidence that their conclusions are valid?

  78. pec says:

    weing,

    There is an awful lot of energy healing research. But if I link to an alternative science publication you will automatically dismiss it because it isn’t mainstream. But this research is generally published in the journals that are receptive to this kind of evidence, which are not usually mainstream. I will see what I can find and hope you “skeptics” will look at the evidence objectively rather than complain that it wasn’t published in JAMA.

  79. Harriet Hall says:

    pec,

    James Ochsman believes in energy medicine and has written a book entitled “Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis.” He gathered all the published evidence and it didn’t amount to much. See my review of his book at:
    http://quackfiles.blogspot.com/2006/01/review-of-energy-medicine-scientific.html

    I think I’ve given both Ochsman and Schwartz a fair hearing, and I have rejected their claims because their “evidence” is not acceptable scientific evidence.

    I doubt if there is any point in you trying to provide that evidence over again or trying to find obscure articles that are just more of same.

    What they need to do is a really well-designed study with better controls. Then that study needs to be replicated in an independent lab. Good studies do get published in good journals. Benveniste even made it into “Nature” although his research was later discredited because the results couldn’t be replicated with proper blinding procedures in place. The energy medicine studies would not get published in a mainstream journal simply because they don’t meet the standards of those journals. I’ve pointed out some of their flaws; there are many others.

    You think we are prejudiced against energy medicine; we think we are applying exactly the same scientific standards to any claim. We think you are the one who is prejudiced against scientific medicine and in favor of energy medicine and other non-evidence based treatment systems.

  80. Harriet Hall says:

    pec said “if I link to an alternative science publication you will automatically dismiss it because it isn’t mainstream.”

    I don’t dismiss articles in non-mainstream journals. I read them carefully, and I usually find so many things wrong with them that I can fully understand why the editor of a mainstream journal would not accept them for publication.

  81. TsuDhoNimh says:

    PEC … Here’s the “research” you cited, and it is a superb example of poor experimental design.

    “Three unrestrained, male Sprague-Dawley rats implanted with radiotelemetric transducers were exposed daily for 8 days to a 15-minute white noise regimen (90 dB). For the last 5 days, the rats received 15 minutes of Reiki immediately before the noise and during the noise period. The experiment was repeated on the same animals but using sham Reiki.”

    The study population consists of THREE FRICKING RATS! They were used as tests and as “controls”. Calculating the confidence levels with a sample size of three is ludicrous.

    They had no no-exposure control group – that would have been a group of rats that was never exposed to noise, but went through the same handling as the others, being moved into the lab and out of the lab without noise or reiki.

    They subjected the three rats first to plain noise and then noise +reiki (whatever that means when one does it to a rat). Any habituation, and rats are smart enough to habituate quickly, would make the reiki look good. There should have been three groups of test rats: one got noise only, one got noise and reiki, and one got “sham reiki”.

    Each of the test groups should have been much larger than three to be sure that the effect was not due to chance, but then the researcher would have spent far longer standing in a lab with her hands on a rat.

  82. Harriet Hall says:

    pec,

    Imagine a study where 3 children were put on statins. How credilble would you find that study?

  83. TsuDhoNimh says:

    PEC said: alternative science does not reflexively dismiss all ancient traditions as superstition.>/I>

    Neither does science. There is usually a grain or two of truth under the accretions of supersitions and ritual.

    Buried under the layers of woo and archaic symbolism that is Feng Shui are some very practical bits of advice for siting a farm or even a village for maximum solar efficiency and minimum flood suceptibility.

    The Indians in the Northern Rockies refused to enter certain canyons until the snow was on the ground because the spirits of those canyons would strike them dead. Those canyons map nicely to the currently known “hot spots” for rickettsial infections …either exceptionally virulent or exceptionally high chance of infection. The descendants of the Indians now refuse to enter certain canyons until the snow is on the ground because the chances of geting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are high.

    Even the much-derided homeopathy had its good points … getting the full Hahnnemanian treatment in the 1800s meant a spa-like treatment of controlled and healthy diet, regular exercise and lots of sleep.

  84. pec says:

    “Imagine a study where 3 children were put on statins. How credilble would you find that study?”

    You just continue picking on one article I happened to link when I was in a hurry. I already explained that. I already said there are a lot more — but I am not going to link anything else without reading the entire thing carefully. And I did not have time for that yet.

    And we already know that one experiment in medical science doesn’t prove anything one way or the other.

    This one was probably a pilot study. Anyway you don’t need to keep complaining forever about the 3 subjects. I get it.

    I wish I had time to do a complete literature review and meta-analysis.

  85. nwtk2007 says:

    Interesting about the Indians and the things they knew about disease and farming.

    Do you think their knowledge of such things was based upon strong evidence? Do you think they correlated entering the canyon without snow with causing rickettsial disease and now correlate it with Rocky Mountain Spotted fever?

    What would have been their evidence for deciding not to enter the canyon when there was no snow?

  86. pec says:

    This post might scroll off the page before I finish my little lit review and analysis of Harriet’s article on energy medicine, so I just want to squeeze in one more comment.

    A big deal was made about the fact that one of the studies I linked only used 3 rats as subjects. Because most of you have little or no research experience, you don’t realize that a small N is not so terrible when you’re trying to reject null. It is downright dishonest, on the other hand, when you are trying to accept null — and that is a favorite sleazy trick of so-called “skeptics.”

    I don’t know why they only ran 3 rats, but since they already had a positive result, and maybe this was only a pilot study, they decided to stop. As I said, not a big deal, and not deceptive.

  87. Harriet Hall says:

    pec,

    If a similar study were done on 3 children, taking a drug and also serving as their own controls off the drug, and they reported fewer symptoms when they took the drug, would you accept that the drug was effective?

  88. RickK101 says:

    Pec: “I don’t know why they only ran 3 rats, but since they already had a positive result, and maybe this was only a pilot study, they decided to stop. As I said, not a big deal, and not deceptive.”

    I and others listed a whole stack of questions that would have to be answered for this study to be considered anything other than lousy science. From the abstract alone, there are waaay to many variables for it to show anything at all.

    But then, the abstract itself says the lower stress may have been caused by the presence of the practitioner.

    In very simple English that might just get through the fog of Pec’s ideology: The abstract itself admits the experiment is useless.

    Drop it. Move on. Find another example. I personally would LOVE to see an experiment or study that really challenged conventional physics and biology. So keep searching, Pec ol’ girl.

  89. Harriet Hall says:

    pec said,

    “a small N is not so terrible”

    An N of 3 is always terrible.

    “I don’t know why they only ran 3 rats, but since they already had a positive result, and maybe this was only a pilot study, they decided to stop.”

    Oh, wouldn’t that be a great way to do research?! Quit while you’re ahead! If you flip a coin 3 times and get 3 heads, you can stop right there and say “coins always come up heads.”

  90. pec says:

    “He claims that there is a growing body of evidence for energy healing, but that even carefully controlled studies have been dismissed, simply because science does not recognize their rationale. This is not true; the positive evidence is of poor quality and is outweighed by the negative evidence that this book consistently refuses to acknowledge.”

    Harriet,

    It’s really easy for you to say Oschman is wrong, that his evidence is of poor quality and outweighed by negative evidence. It would have been more difficult for you to have explained why you think there is no good evidence for his beliefs, and to have said something about all this negative evidence you claim exists.

    You describe some of his ideas and obviously expect your readers to think “wow is that ever ridiculous,” without explaining at all what you think is wrong with them. To a follower of alternative science, many of these ideas seem reasonable. If you want to discredit an idea, it is not enough to describe it; you would have to provide some reasons and evidence for your disbelief.

    Your article doesn’t bother very much with logic or evidence. You make vague general statements, saying research cited by Oschman was never replicated. You don’t say exactly who tried and you don’t link to any failed attempts.

    You are obviously extremely biased against alternative science, and you are not aware of your bias. If you were aware of your bias, you would make more of an effort to be objective and rational in your criticisms. You don’t seem to make any such effort, and you do not seem to be the least bit curious about any of the ideas you criticize.

    You, and other “skeptical” activists, are fighting a political war, using words as weapons to ridicule and disparage. That is not constructive scientific discourse.

  91. pec says:

    “If a similar study were done on 3 children, taking a drug and also serving as their own controls off the drug, and they reported fewer symptoms when they took the drug, would you accept that the drug was effective?”

    I would not accept a drug based on one small study, no. I wouldn’t accept energy healing based on one small study either. That should be obvious, since I have never advocated belief in anything based on minimal evidence.

    But when something has been experienced by countless individuals in many, possibly all, cultures, and there is also a growing number of controlled studies that demonstrate its existence — then I think it might not be all illusion and delusion.

  92. TsuDhoNimh says:

    nwtk2007: Do you think their knowledge of such things was based upon strong evidence? What would have been their evidence for deciding not to enter the canyon when there was no snow?

    Experience over centuries of living in the area … when people repeatedly sicken and 50% or more of them die if they go into a certain area in the spring or summer and none if they are in there in the winter it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or even EpiWonk to figure out it’s a seasonal thing. And not having a germ theory of disease, they blamed it on evil spirits.

    The virulence of RMSF is wildly variable- the Snake River valley was only about 5% mortality, while just through Lolo pass, some of the canyons leading into the Bitterrot had a 90% mortality if you caught it there. Those are the same canyons that the Nez Perce and Salish and Blackfeet called “evil”.

    Even with antibiotics and vaccines, the occasional hunter or hiker can be hauled out wrapped in canvas, slung over a pack mule. It’s easier to just avoid the issue and wait till the danged ticks are hibernating.

  93. Harriet Hall says:

    pec said,

    “research cited by Oschman was never replicated. You don’t say exactly who tried ”

    Nobody tried. That’s the point. The energy medicine researchers jump all over the map instead of sticking to one point. Good scientists look for confounding factors and attempt to disprove their own results before they trust them.

    Before you criticize my book review, keep in mind that that’s what it was: a book review, not a scientific treatise. I would have had to write another book to address every point in detail.

    “If you want to discredit an idea, it is not enough to describe it; you would have to provide some reasons and evidence for your disbelief”

    Do you mean I can’t discredit the Tooth Fairy by describing how children believe a magical being leaves money under their pillow? That I have to provide evidence for her nonexistence???? No, that’s not how it works. The person making the claim is the one who has to provide the evidence.

    If you want to credit an idea, you would have to provide some evidence for your belief. If you tell me there’s an invisible dragon in your backyard but provide no credible evidence and have no suggestions for how I could verify its existence, you can’t expect me not to laugh. Some of the things in Ochsman’s book were pretty funny.

    You “say” I am biased, but you can’t show that I don’t apply the same scientific standards to all claims.

  94. weing says:

    “I would not accept a drug based on one small study, no. I wouldn’t accept energy healing based on one small study either. That should be obvious, since I have never advocated belief in anything based on minimal evidence.”
    Would you accept thousands of small studies just like that one? Would you consider the thousands of poor studies as evidence, and recommend the drug be used in children?

  95. Harriet Hall says:

    pec said,

    “But when something has been experienced by countless individuals in many, possibly all, cultures, and there is also a growing number of controlled studies that demonstrate its existence — then I think it might not be all illusion and delusion.”

    I think it still might still be illusion, especially when the controlled studies are not well-designed and do not form a coherent body of research. And since we know of so many instances of large numbers of people believing something that isn’t true.

    Dowsing has been experienced by countless individuals in many cultures, and poorly designed studies may show that it works; but proper tests have shown it is only an illusion.

  96. TsuDhoNimh says:

    pec says: “But when something has been experienced by countless individuals in many, possibly all, cultures

    How about demonic possession? Hexes, curses and black magic?

    and there is also a growing number of controlled studies that demonstrate its existence — then I think it might not be all illusion and delusion.

    The “controlled studies” are not so well controlled. Ezard Ernst noted that the more closely controlled a study was, the less effective the CAM was.

    You might like reading “Trick or Treatment” by Ezard Ernst. He’s the UK’s only Professor OF Alternative Medicine, and an excellent writer.

  97. Fifi says:

    TsuDohNihm and nwtk – It’s certainly worth listening to indigenous people and digging for the reality behind myths. Scientists often do this and it often yields some interesting results. In the case of the Indians, tics and fever, there was a myth about evil spirits in certain valleys that served to explain why people died when they entered those valleys. This doesn’t prove evil spirits exist and the people obviously (now and to us) didn’t die from evil spirits. What it does prove is that the indigenous people came up with the best explanation they had according to their concept of how the world works, not having science or a practical explanation they fell back on superstition. Like many myths and religious rules of diet and conduct, the myth served a useful purpose and so was handed down as a form of codified knowledge. The knowledge was that people who go into the valley die, which was quite correct and based on people going into the valley and then dieing. However, the cause of the danger and deaths was not the supernatural explanation (evil spirits) but a rather mundane, natural one that the indigenous people didn’t have the knowledge (natural or learned) or even observational prowess to deduce the connection between tics and illness (I don’t know what the incubation period is and how common non-virulent tics are but if the default explanation of bad things happening wasn’t evil spirits they may have made the connection between the tics and the illness).

    Science has allowed us not only to know why people died when they entered the valley but what they died of and the biology of the illness. In some cases, fatal illnesses that were previously designated as possession by evil spirits or spirit attack, now have treatments more effective than prayer or making sacrifices to malevolent spirits. So, now we know the real dangers that lurk in the valleys, which happen to be tics not evil spirits.

    Farmers (and gardeners) also often have rather profound knowledge about their own land, particularly if it’s been passed down through the generations. Since weather and soil is so important to farming, farmers record weather cycles and observations about crops. Over time, a body of information is collected and patterns emerge and farmers make deductions based upon observation. It’s all really very practical. As were the lifestyle instructions in the Bible and Koran (for the time and place it was written), and the Tao. Particularly in cultures that don’t have a written language, or folk knowledge, information is passed on through stories and myths that are easy to remember and get the main message across. It was (and still is) a useful way to transmit information through generations. Our own folk and religious myths also carry knowledge of various kinds in metaphorical form. Fairy tales, particularly in their bloody, pre-Disney incarnation, and myths often tell us about the struggles of being human, living in our culture(s) and the different stages of maturity and personal evolution. They are metaphoric tales about universal stages we pass through as we go from childhood to adolescence to adulthood and old age. Storytelling is a valuable and important human function, including being creative and just making things up. It is not science, however, and doesn’t serve well as a substitute.

  98. Fifi says:

    “Demonic possession” is another perfect example where a supernatural explanation is given to a variety of natural events/conditions. Historically, all kinds of conditions were attributed to demonic possession – there’s the obvious things like schizophrenia and mental illnesses which involve hallucinations and psychotic episodes, but there’s also epilepsy, Tourette’s and various other conditions that scared people so, because they were afraid, people explained these conditions as being demonic possession. Unfortunately the attempts to exorcise the evil spirits often killed the sufferer (this still happens in the US, to children who are being restrained).

    We now have a much clearer picture of what’s going on neurobiologically in many of these illnesses – so far no demons as the cause! People with schizophrenia, epilepsy and Tourette’s aren’t evil, they merely have a neurological disorder. Some we know how to manage and treat, others we’re still researching. And, of course, many people with these neurological disorders lead relatively normal and happy lives (at least without the fear of being drowned, burned, stoned or smothered for being a witch or the spawn of The Great Satin). Of course, simply hearing a voice in one’s head that feels/sounds disconnected once in a while is pretty normal (thinking that the voice in your head is coming from God, Satan or an alien as embodied in the neighbor’s dog isn’t). It’s understandable that many people would rather believe they have supernatural powers than a natural condition distorts their perception of reality and ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Don’t get me wrong, I love and indulge in fantasy and creative thinking – I think it’s not only enjoyable but constructive when it’s done in a positive manner (morbid ruminations aren’t so helpful!).

  99. TsuDhoNimh says:

    Fifi- Like many myths and religious rules of diet and conduct, the myth served a useful purpose and so was handed down as a form of codified knowledge.

    My epidemiology professor had us study all the rules in the Old Testament (Leviticus?) about sanitation and diet. He said that as a model of how to run a group on the move it was superb.

  100. Fifi says:

    TsuDhoNimh – Neat! The Hindu belief that cows are sacred is also very practical since it means cows aren’t slaughtered for their meat (even during periods of starvation their survival is important because they are sacred) so they are kept alive and can keep producing dairy. And it’s obvious why there are prohibitions on pork. (Not to mention killing one’s neighbor or screwing their wife!)

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