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494 thoughts on “Longing for a past that never existed

  1. Plonit says:

    Oh well, if it’s time consuming to remove sCAM ads…..

  2. micheleinmichigan says:

    Huh, been trying to give Dr. T. the benefit of the doubt, but this post is sadly lacking in knowledge of anthropology and data to back up the claims. Average life span 35? who says? oh well, shouldn’t have read it, but bored, sick and napping all day.

    Alison and others regarding living past menopause. I think one theory is called the “Grandmother hypothesis”. Grandmother’s help with offspring survival. Sorry don’t have a citation, it can be googled by anyone curious. Also sorry if another commentor mentioned it, couldn’t get through the whole lot.

    Although I did read many at the end. I must say how much Dr. T’s calling out of Zoe, Plonit and others stuck me as more appropriate to the WWF than SBM.

  3. Calli Arcale says:

    Plonit — it’s not so much that it’s time-consuming as that it’s like playing Whack-a-Mole. There will always be more woo-woo ads out there. Me, I tend to find a gleeful irony in the fact that woo-woo sellers are, inadvertently, funding their arch nemeses. :-D

    Amy Tuteur:

    #
    # Amy Tuteur, MDon 22 Feb 2010 at 1:11 pm

    “$4.95 is the special introductory offer to have Dr. Amy explain to you how likely it is that you, personally, are pregnant right now.”

    See what I mean about a personal desire to discredit because you feel threatened? You’ll throw anything against the wall to see if it will stick in the hope that you can convince yourself and others that they don’t have to listen to me. It’s not working.

    Do you know how many questions I get each month? One or two. I instituted that method to cut down on the hundreds of personal e-mails I otherwise get each day, and it has been very effective.

    I tried to verify the claim, but unfortunately, your site is blocked at my workplace. (We’ve got an overzealous nanny filter, and it blocks a fair number of pregnancy-related websites for no good reason.) No matter; you have confessed it yourself. Words cannot describe how much this has lowered my opinion of you. You accept money to tell strangers, via e-mail, whether or not they may be pregnant? And you claim you only do this to cut down on unwanted e-mail? Am I misunderstanding something here?

    You know, a simpler (and more ethical) method of cutting down on unwanted e-mail is to simply say “I will not answer any e-mails requesting medical advice”, and then simply delete any e-mail that falls into that category. That’s what most doctor-bloggers (active and retired) do, and it is the ethical thing to do. There are also many techniques non-medical bloggers use to avoid undesired e-mail in their inbox — having separate accounts for blogging and for personal business, using e-mail filters, etc. This is not a problem unique to yourself, and frankly, there are bloggers who put up with a lot more than a few hundred e-mails a day. They just have the maturity to draw a line in the sand regarding how many they are actually going to read.

    Perhaps there is some way you can explain how charging a fee to give medical advice over the Internet is an ethical way to deal with unwanted e-mail. If so, I would be interested to hear it.

  4. Plonit says:

    it’s not so much that it’s time-consuming as that it’s like playing Whack-a-Mole.

    +++++++++

    Oh well, if whack-a-mole doesn’t appeal, then there is always….not carrying GoogleAds. They are not obligatory, and the only reason for carrying them is income generation.

  5. David Gorski says:

    SBM bloggers are not paid.

    Correct. Peter and I have paid gigs over at ScienceBlogs (marginally paid gigs), but neither Peter nor I nor anyone else here gets paid for blogging for SBM.

  6. weing says:

    michelleinmichigan,

    Are you using the Bible as your source for the average life-expectancy of our ancestors? I don’t have a reference either but I think Amy is correct about the average life expectancy. Do you have anything that counters that claim?

  7. JMB says:

    Alex Knapp wrote,

    “You say that diabetes is a condition of old age, and yet in the Lindeberg 2007 study I cited above, it’s worth noting that of the Type II diabetics who were given a paleo diet, every single one had normal fasting glucose levels and normal insulin sensitivity by the end of the study. Every single one. And this article isn’t an outlier or the only piece of research demonstrating similar results, either. This greatly undercuts your thesis that Type II Diabetes is merely a disease of old age.”

    Implicit in this statement is the assumption that the diabetes has been cured in the study. From the medical viewpoint, this represents successful control of the diabetes without insulin or other glucose lowering medications. The doctor would expect that the patient is at greater risk for diabetic problems when they get older, or endure physiologic stress (surgery, pregnancy, severe infection). Some of the patients in the study may never develop overt diabetes if they stick to the paleo diet. Some of them will develop overt diabetes (requiring glucose lowering medication) within five years, even if they stick to the diet.

    Chronic diseases of aging may be regarded as a pathway the patient walks down. The pathway is initially set by their inherited characteristics. The pathway may be modified by accidents or infectious diseases, as well as genetic mutations. The age at which the disease becomes manifest depends on the pathway, and how fast they proceed down the pathway. Certain habits affect the speed at which we proceed down the pathway. Diet, exercise, stress, and smoking all affect the speed at which we proceed down the pathway (smoking, and to a lesser diet also affect rate of mutation). Eat a lot, smoke a lot, get no exercise, and you will be running, not walking down the pathway. Whether or not we can identify signs (high fasting glucose), or symptoms (tiredness, increased susceptibility to infections) depends on how far the individual has proceeded down the pathway. Through some medical interventions, we might push the patient to an earlier point in the pathway. That would eliminate manifestations of the disease, but not alter the pathway. A lasting cure would be to alter the pathway (transplant islet cells, rejuvenate mitochondria, alter immune responses are the current hopes).

    Diet and exercise will delay the onset of type II diabetes in most but not all patients. In some patients, that delay will be sufficient that they will never suffer the complications of the error in metabolism. Some lucky people will never develop diabetes regardless of their diet.

    The interplay of diet, genetics, and aging is a multifactorial process in the development of the disease of type II diabetes. However, that interplay of factors is why type II diabetes is labeled a disease of aging. It can be identified in young people, it can be controlled by diet, but the prevalence of disease will increase as the population ages.

  8. Harriet Hall says:

    “on the circumcision thread where you refused to acknowledge that having performed circumcisions may lead a doctor to not want to see them as being harmful”

    That’s not what I said. I do acknowledge that it MAY; I just don’t accept that it necessarily DOES. There are plenty of doctors who were taught to do circumcisions who later decided to stop doing them, either for medical or ethical reasons.

  9. JMB says:

    Alison Cummins wrote:

    “Question: is it normal for attendings to complain that their medical students are censoring them when the medical students notice they are being pimped?”

    No.

    Medical attendings just give the medical student seven study references to look up in the medical school library and present in morning rounds at 7 am the next morning. If they don’t complete the task, they get flunked.

    Surgical attendings just call the student a wimp (or worse) and tell the residents to keep the student out of their sight.

  10. pmoran says:

    “As far as the discussion of Dr Tuteur’s style, I think most medical doctors would recognize the style as a provocative style of teaching used by attending physicians and residents to get medical students to think for themselves.”

    Not me. Not in the least. The style is unnecessarily jeering in tone and too simplistic for a rationalist forum. I suspect I represent others who have remained quiet out of politeness until now.

    But leave well alone. Few of us can resist some jibes and hyperbole when feeling strongly about the subject matter. Let the drip, drip of adverse comment work its magic for now.

    FWIW, I recently sent to the healthfraud list an account of some CME material I received. It reminded me of the tentative way in which real scientists express the results of studies: ” may cause”, “may reduce”, “is associated with”, “linked to”, “may help prevent”. These cautious phrases were noted in six out of seven reports that dealt with specific scientific studies.

  11. Fifi says:

    Dr Hall – Actually, what you said was that it didn’t influence your own position that circumcision is harmless (if I remember correctly) since that’s what was being argued about since it was your opinion on circumcision that was being discussed. What I said was that it MAY and it was reasonable enough that it may influence your or another doctor’s opinion since no one wants to believe they were doing harm to a defenseless child (even if they thought it was in the child’s best interests at the time). I never claimed it ALWAYS creates a bias and obviously many doctors who used to do circumcisions no longer do them for ethical reasons and can admit that even though they did them at the time because it was routine that they no longer consider it good practice. Of course, we could go back to dredge the thread for exact quotes if you would like to or feel the need to do so.

    What do you mean by a “medical” reason to stop doing circumcisions? And how is this different than an ethical one (since I’d hope that medical practices are ethical according to the understandings of the time)? I genuinely don’t understand what you mean by “medical or ethical reasons” in regards to performing circumcisions!

  12. Plonit says:

    If there at one time appeared to be evidence of benefit, and then later the evidence appeared to show lack of benefit – that would be a medical, as well as ethical, reason to stop doing circumcisions? No?

  13. Alex Knapp says:

    JMB,

    Implicit in this statement is the assumption that the diabetes has been cured in the study.

    Had that been what I meant, that’s what I would have said. What I said was that fasting glucose declined and insulin sensitivity returned to normal levels. Given that the causes of Type II Diabetes are still murky, I would hesitate to label this as a cure.

    Some of them will develop overt diabetes (requiring glucose lowering medication) within five years, even if they stick to the diet.

    [...]

    Diet and exercise will delay the onset of type II diabetes in most but not all patients. In some patients, that delay will be sufficient that they will never suffer the complications of the error in metabolism. Some lucky people will never develop diabetes regardless of their diet.

    What’s your evidence to support this? The incidence of Type II Diabetes among the elderly in modern hunter-gatherer populations is virtually non-existent. See, for example, the Inuit studies of Otto Schaefer, et. al. in the 70s and 80s, which found zero cases of type II diabetes among those Inuit who still ate the traditional diet. Lindeberg’s Kitavan studies that I cited above did not check for incidence of diabetes, but the virtual non-existence of ischemic heart disease is suggestive that diabetes rates are low among their elderly population as well.

    The incidence of Type II Diabetes was also low among the islanders of Okinawa, the population with the longest life expectancy in the world, until the past decade, when substantial numbers of people there began adopting an American-style diet–resulting in almost doubling the incidence in a 13-year span of time. (see e.g. Takasu et al. Influence of Motorization and Supermarket-Proliferation on the Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes in the Inhabitants of a Small Town on Okinawa, Japan, Internal Medicine Vol. 46 (2007) , No. 23 pp.1899-1904).

    There are a significant number of good researchers out there hypothesizing that at least some incidences of Type II Diabetes are caused by a diet high in grains and refined carbohydrates over a number of years. I think there’s still a lot of work to do, but it’s a strong hypothesis and the data from populations eating traditional, non-Western diets is compelling enough for me to have cut grains out of my diet in an effort to lower my risk factors for chronic diseases.

  14. weing says:

    Alex,
    I love sashimi myself too but didn’t those Okinawans eat rice also? In the spirit of Redd Foxx, what are you going to die of when you get old?

  15. Alex Knapp says:

    Weing,

    They ate primarily unrefined brown rice, not refined white rice. They also did not eat it in very large proportions. I myself eat a little wild rice here and there, but overall I don’t need grains. I eat plenty of meat, fruits, vegetables, and nuts with some moderate amounts of cheese and greek yogurt. My diet is plenty varied and I find I really don’t miss the breads, cakes and chips–or the extra weight that came with them!

  16. Fifi says:

    Plonit – Seems to me, that’s why I didn’t understand medical OR ethical and am not sure if Dr Hall was making a distinction or really meant to write “medical and ethical”.

    Plenty of doctors change their practices based on the latest evidence, the majority do I’d suspect (though I have no evidence of that one way or the other). SBM is all about that. However, there are doctors who cling to practices or beliefs despite the evidence – sometimes because it involves a pet theory of theirs (this is where doctors often step over the line into being quacks) and sometimes because it’s a bit horrifying to think you did something harmful when your self image is that of a healer (and you genuinely are a pretty nice and decent person who was just doing whatever the norm was at the time so it’s easier to believe it isn’t really harmful or a big deal).

  17. weing says:

    Alex,
    Good for you. My personal feeling regarding these diets is that the quantity of the food and not the quality will turn out to be critical. It’s so much easier to overeat on our western diet. We still have a lot to learn.

  18. Zoe237 says:

    Dr. Hall: “That’s not what I said. I do acknowledge that it MAY; I just don’t accept that it necessarily DOES. There are plenty of doctors who were taught to do circumcisions who later decided to stop doing them, either for medical or ethical reasons.”

    That seems fair to me, Fifi. If Dr. Hall has a bias on the matter of circumcision, it’s nothing like Dr. Tuteur’s (just look at the difference of their titles of the blog posts on circumcision). That’s why I posted a link to Halls much more reasonable sbm post on Dr. T’s “The benefits of infant circumcision.” Now, I do disagree with Dr. Hall somewhat on circ, but my personal blogging preference is respectful, honest disagreement and balance. And backed up with evidence, and I don’t believe that Dr. Tuteur has provided a single link to back up her statements in 400+ comments (despite promising to a commenting doctor to do so).

  19. Alex Knapp says:

    Weing,

    I used to think quantity mattered more, too, until I reviewed some of the literature on the insulin response to refined carbohydrates and its effect on the insulin response, as well as insulin’s role in fat storage and satiety. This comports with my own personal experience, too. After the first couple of weeks of weaning myself off grains, I don’t count calories at all, but then again I don’t have to. I’m hungry less often, and when I am hungry it’s not the gnawing, “dear god I have to eat now or I will die” hunger. It’s, “oh dear, I should probably consider eating something in the next couple of hours.” But when I do eat, there’s no real skimping. For dinner yesterday I had fried chicken (no breading, of course), a salad, and cauliflower with a heavy cream sauce. That’s a pretty typical meal for me and yet, I lose weight, my triglycerides are lower, my blood pressure is lower, my fasting glucose is lower, etc.

  20. Alex Knapp says:

    Crap – I submitted too early.

    My point being, I am definitely eating fewer calories than I used to, but it’s very natural to do so. For me, at least, cutting out grains means that I’m hungry less often. But that appears to go hand in hand with the role of insulin in satiety.

  21. Fifi says:

    weing – “My personal feeling regarding these diets is that the quantity of the food and not the quality will turn out to be critical. It’s so much easier to overeat on our western diet. We still have a lot to learn.”

    I suspect you’re right in many ways but the quality does also seem to be a factor, in the research that’s been done on fruitflies at least. The key seems to be less food but very nutrient rich. We most definitely still have a lot to learn and it’s a fascinating subject for those of us who love food and eating (and cooking and growing food too).

  22. weing says:

    Alex,
    As the blind man said. “We shall see.”

  23. JMB says:

    Fifi wrote:
    “This isn’t a beat up on the interns session, this is SBM blogging that’s meant to support SBM and educate the public about what is science and what is pseudoscience…or at least I thought that was what this site is about!”

    I wasn’t passing judgment on what the correct method for blogging on the SBM site is. The majority of articles on SBM are written with the nuturing style of education. I would assume that the editors will continue to allow different styles, whether provocative or more nuturing. That is a decision for the editors.

    I was explaining that proponents of the provocative style argue that if you are to educate people in critical thinking, you must provoke them to engage in their own literature research. Only when they get steamed up will they really learn what critical thinking entails. Many people take such provocations as personal attacks. The key distinction is whether the provocation is trying to make the respondent examine their scientific basis. Many of the perceived personal attacks on this site were just challenges to the scientific basis.

    Science education isn’t just about reading a textbook to determine what the consensus of textbook writers determines are scientific facts and concepts. We know many of those facts and concepts will change in a short period of time. Answers will change over time, but the principles of critical thinking have not changed since Galileo. Part of science education is teaching the critical approach to information and conclusion. One shortcoming of science education in secondary education is the failure to teach critical thinking.

    Can critical thinking be taught without the provocative approach? I don’t pretend to have a scientific answer. Those with education degrees can discuss that. Academic physicians rarely write articles about education techniques, so the provocative style is just passed on from generation to generation in medical schools. I think it was the subject in a movie about legal education (Paper Chase?). The provocative approach is just one more thing I adjusted to in medical school (I’d like to think I was a critical thinker before that). As a teacher I noticed it would certainly keep students awake in class. I also think different students responded to different styles of education.

  24. Fifi says:

    zoe – “That seems fair to me, Fifi. If Dr. Hall has a bias on the matter of circumcision, it’s nothing like Dr. Tuteur’s (just look at the difference of their titles of the blog posts on circumcision).”

    Oh I agree, that just wasn’t exactly what Dr Hall and I were disputing from what I remember (though perhaps I should go back and re-read the thread to be sure). I totally agree that Dr Hall’s post was much more reasonable than Dr Tuteur’s, even she did get a bit over the top with the fanatics and even if we disagreed on some aspects. I’m neither really pro nor against circumcision, it just doesn’t seem to stand up as a medically necessary procedure or a scientific practice for either boys or girls. Not having a penis, I can’t really comment from a penis having perspective on male circumcision and as a lover of penises it’s all about the individual penis and who it’s attached to so no fetishistic preference there either. It’s kind of interesting that both of the SBM bloggers who took on this subject are women! Hmmm, maybe the men here weren’t ready to touch it with a ten foot pole? ;-)

  25. Fifi says:

    JMB – “Part of science education is teaching the critical approach to information and conclusion. One shortcoming of science education in secondary education is the failure to teach critical thinking.
    Can critical thinking be taught without the provocative approach? I don’t pretend to have a scientific answer.”

    Fair enough, both my parents are doctors (one was also a researcher) so I grew up being taught how to think critically and around science. Plus my grandmother was a teacher so I knew how to learn well before I got into school (much to some of my boring teachers’ displeasure and my engaged teacher’s joy ;-)

    I agree that many people never learn to think critically, whether it’s being able to think critically about science or art or literature. However, one doesn’t need to be provocative to teach critical thinking, one needs to teach people how to research, analyse and the basic cognitive traps we fall into that create biases that get in the way of seeing reality or the facts for what they are. (The comon sense fallacies, the seeing is believing fallacies, confirmation biases, etc.) Most of critical thinking entails being able to get beyond either/or kind of thinking, which is one of the most basic cognitive traps there is (it has nothing to do with intelligence, it’s just the way our brain is set up for expediency, so even intelligent people can fall into this trap). The other problem even intelligent people often have is a lack of ability to deconstruct and recognize our own personal biases and the biases of our own culture. The only way to really get over that one is travel and friends from other cultures, actually coming up against other cultures and beliefs so you become aware of your own beliefs (since these are what we construct our personal/subjective realities out of, and it’s these personal/subjective realities that can get in the way of seeing actual/objective reality).

  26. JJ from Cowtown says:

    @Alex Knapp

    You have many links to provide but do a poor job presenting anything from them that is specific to your point and not diluted by the nuances of the work.

    You cite:

    Influence of Motorization and Supermarket-Proliferation on the Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes

    But you don’t actually try to say what this paper does to bolster your position. I assume this is because of the nuance – the paper shows trends of increasing supermarket shopping *and* decreases in foot travel. The conclusions depend on both being present. No attempt is made to separate them in this paper.

    This citation does nothing for specifically speaking about diet. All conclusions depend on both diet changes and lifestyle changes. This doesn’t mean diet changes don’t correlate to diabetes rates but this paper does not present a clear connection without other associated causes.

    Your point is better made if you stop posting links without context and start providing analysis.

  27. Fifi says:

    JMB – I’d add that one of the most valuable things I learned growing up around science and medicine was that we simply don’t know all kinds of things. “I don’t know” or “we don’t know” are in the vocabulary of every real critical thinker – uncertainty and questioning yourself is your friend as a critical thinker. Absolute certainty is a symptom of ideological infection and faith and not critical thinking or skepticism! Not that I’m not prone to being human myself and growing up around science certainly made me a knowledge junkie and means I love a good debate (or even a poor one sometimes).

  28. Alex Knapp says:

    Hey JJ,

    From just that paper, you’re right–the researchers didn’t distinguish between the diet and the change in exercise levels, and I wouldn’t use just that paper to prove my thesis by itself. If it seemed I was doing otherwise, my apologies.

    There is some research to suggest that exercise has very little effect on obesity or diabetes rates, but from this computer I don’t have the citations handy. I’ll look them up and post later.

  29. Zoe237 says:

    “I was explaining that proponents of the provocative style argue that if you are to educate people in critical thinking, you must provoke them to engage in their own literature research. Only when they get steamed up will they really learn what critical thinking entails. Many people take such provocations as personal attacks.”

    Except Dr. Tuteur is the one claiming to be personally attacked when somebody questions either her simplistic writing or her “authority” status that she promotes. Nobody else, that I can think of, has said anything about feeling attacked personally (although they probably could have, particularly “outing” Plonit as a midwife). On other forums, Dr. Tuteur has gone so far to post full name, city, and occupation of anonymous posters that she feels threatened by (instead of addressing their points).

    Also, it isn’t *only* the same 5 posters calling Dr. Tuteur out on her inaccuracies. She has received many negative comments from dozens of different posters, including regulars, on here. I’ve never seen this for another sbm blogger.

  30. JMB says:

    To Fifi, I agree that we know far less than we think we know. The smartest professors were often more humble because they had learned the limitations of their knowledge.

    To Alex Knapp, I have never stated that diet and exercise were not factors in the development of diabetes. I was just explaining the model of interaction of heredity, age, and diet in the development of diabetes. Anybody that wants to minimize their risk of diabetes which watch their diet. Whether there is sufficient comparative evidence about which diet is best, can be debated by someone with more time and expertise in nutrition than me. There is some evidence that simplifies the issue of diet down to what your weight is as a result of the diet. Bariatric surgery has been shown in some small series to revert type II diabetes more effectively than diet/lifestyle changes, but that probably reflects patient compliance as well.

  31. wales says:

    JMB said “I was explaining that proponents of the provocative style argue that if you are to educate people in critical thinking, you must provoke them to engage in their own literature research.” If Amy wants this “method” to be effective at “teaching” readers, she must therefore cite references, which she rarely does. So how does that work exactly?

  32. wales says:

    Make that voluminous reference citations. See Novella’s Feb 19 post comments where a discussion took place on how it’s necessary to read multiple primary research sources to arrive at any sort of conclusion, and how difficult/expensive it is for lay persons to obtains access to medical journals.

  33. Zoe237 says:

    “Part of science education is teaching the critical approach to information and conclusion. One shortcoming of science education in secondary education is the failure to teach critical thinking.
    Can critical thinking be taught without the provocative approach? I don’t pretend to have a scientific answer.”

    That’s why I was wondering what the provocative approach was, exactly. I certainly have used a “devil’s advocate” position in the classroom as the teacher, as well as the Socratic Method. The students also rarely knew my personal position on a topic- I wanted them to draw their own conclusions, backed by evidence, which is the entire point behind education. But I haven’t seen any of that from Dr. Tuteur.

  34. Alex Knapp says:

    To JMB,

    To Alex Knapp, I have never stated that diet and exercise were not factors in the development of diabetes. I was just explaining the model of interaction of heredity, age, and diet in the development of diabetes.

    I misunderstood, then. It looked to me like you were assuming that diabetes was primarily a question of heredity and age and downplaying diet. I apologize for the misunderstanding.

  35. JMB says:

    “So how does that work exactly?”

    The idea is that the student would have an incentive to start with a question, find references that may apply, filter those references as to how appropriate they are, and analyze their methods and conclusions to arrive at an answer. That is a process that the student will gradually get better at with practice. If references are supplied, that doesn’t fully simulate the problem solving situations that may be faced in the practice of medicine.

    “and how difficult/expensive it is for lay persons to obtains access to medical journals.”

    While some in academic medicine may enjoy full support of a librarian and a nearby library of medicine, those in private practice are faced with the same problems as the lay person. Too bad it isn’t a requirement that all research supported by public funding, or performed at schools supported with public funding, be made freely available. Most of the difficulty in finding a reference to cite in this blog, is to find one that is freely available.

    “However, one doesn’t need to be provocative to teach critical thinking,”

    What worked for you might not work for someone else. Different students respond to different methods of teaching. If a faculty member is faced with a student who don’t seem to be making adequate progress in developing critical thinking, then the teacher might resort to a different method of teaching (moving from a nuturing style to a more provocative style). It didn’t always work.

  36. JMB says:

    I guess the incentive in the provocative approach was, “Get mad at me, then go prove me wrong.” Some attendings would even make invalid statements, to see who could come up with the best evidence to prove them wrong.

  37. wales says:

    JMB thanks for clarification. In the medical school situation, if a student presented legitimate reference citations at odds with the professor’s teachings how did the professor react? Does the professor summarily dismisses legitimate research that conflicts with his/her theories, while not providing any evidence for his/her theories? Did Amy learn this method in medical school too? And what about the use of qualifiers when communicating? I find it hard to believe that medical school information is taught entirely as absolutes…

  38. wales says:

    I dunno, maybe I’ve become too cynical, but the premise that Amy’s blogging style has been a deliberate “teaching” method seems implausible. Seems more like a Hail Mary pass. I’ve had my fill of this entertainment.

  39. Chris says:

    I have only glanced at this thread. I did notice one name that I had never heard of before pop up: Lomborg. Then while checking PZ Myer’s blog I saw it again, with a link to a news article:
    Book Review: The Lomborg Deception

    (there is a word for noticing a word or incidence shortly after it comes to your attention, I don’t think it is bias confirmation, but something similar)

    Wait, he is a political scientist, not a climate scientist!? Isn’t polictical science an oxymoron?

    Now back to your normally scheduled attacks and/or support of Dr. Tuteur.

  40. Plonit says:

    Some attendings would even make invalid statements, to see who could come up with the best evidence to prove them wrong.

    +++++++++

    Well, that explains everything.

  41. JMB says:

    wales wrote:
    “if a student presented legitimate reference citations at odds with the professor’s teachings how did the professor react? Does the professor summarily dismisses legitimate research that conflicts with his/her theories, while not providing any evidence for his/her theories?”

    Most students got credit for attempting a literature review if they cited references to studies published in recognized peer review journals, regardless of whether it agreed with the professor’s opinion. If the student’s analysis was based on less renown journals, then it would tend to be dismissed without much comment. That is one of the similarities in approach I recognized. What the student learned was to pay attention to the credibility of the source. Now, I am not saying that approach is right for a discussion of SBM, I am just saying that is how we were taught in medical school. It is important to learn that different scientific approaches yield different degrees of quality of information that can be used to make a medical decision. However, that judgment of the quality of the source is an easy way for biases to enter the process.

    I cannot speak for Dr Tuteur, I just recognized a style of teaching and a thread of scientific reasoning in the earlier posts that triggered my memories. Whether that is her method, only she knows. I don’t know if she was subjected to that as a student, or if she taught in an academic medical center. Part of the job as a resident is to teach those with less experience, so most doctors have some limited teaching experience. Doctors’ experiences in training are not uniform. I think I was exposed to fairly harsh methods (there was significant morbidity and mortality in my cohort of medical students), more modern teaching programs may have evolved beyond that.

  42. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    “You appear to be a champion of brevity and your comments that “I think she paints with a broad brush for impact. “ and “And, with the unstated qualifiers – which don’t add up to much – it is basically the truth of the matter.” Leave me wondering if you believe that impact is placed above accuracy on a hierarchy of effective science writing skills. ”

    I suppose I have to say it yet again:

    I was responding to posters who claimed that Amy’s opinions on what the evidence says is different to Harriet’s opinion on what the evidence says. I demonstrated that this was not the case and that their views are almost the same. Amy uses brevity for impact, Harriet uses all the qualifiers that Amy merely implies, but there is no disagreement and Amy demonstrated when she unhesitatingly accepted that large paragraph of qualifiers that I offered regarding herbal treatments.

    And, again, I have not given an opinion on which method I prefer.

  43. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    “Billy Joe said in defense of Amy’s style: “With Amy, you have to read between the lines.”

    I was not defending her style, I was describing it.

    ” Is this really the goal of science writing, to prompt readers to substitute their own intuitions and biases for objective fact stated with clarity and precision?”

    How is Amy prompting readers to substitute their own intuitions and biases for objective fact. In fact, she almost does the reverse. She almost shoves the facts – condensed for clarity and impact – down your throat! “CAM is useless” The objective facts are that CAM is useless except for [add a large paragraph of qualifiers which add much to the statement that "CAM is useless"]. Where has she allowed any wriggle room for your intuitions and biases?

  44. BillyJoe says:

    …in the penultimate line that should read “which don’t add much”

  45. BillyJoe says:

    plonit:

    “Ultimately, you are responsible for what appears on your own website.
    If you regularly have prominent advertising for sCAM products…then you have some responsibility for that…No one forces anyone to carry GoogleAds. People who do so are willing to sacrifice editorial control in return for the income generation.”

    I have a lot of sympathy for that view.
    In my opinion, when JREF allowed google ads, which predictably featured all sorts of scam products, they sold out.

  46. JMB,

    From her bio on this site: “Dr. Tuteur is a former clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School.”

  47. micheleinmichigan says:

    # JMBon 22 Feb 2010 at 10:10 pm
    “I guess the incentive in the provocative approach was, “Get mad at me, then go prove me wrong.” Some attendings would even make invalid statements, to see who could come up with the best evidence to prove them wrong.”

    Yes, I’ve seen similar done in art school, but the difference is that when you disagree they do not attempt to discredit you by claiming you are just out to get them or that you are part of a “insert group here” consortium that is just trying to protect their interests. (Oh well, unless their divorce is getting too nasty or the drinking is getting out of control)

    They actually argued the art and the principles.

    All I can say if you are trying to use that style you should be a lot tighter in your evidence and logic than this article.

    Firstly who are these alternative health people? Not alternative medicine, health. For that matter what is mainstream health? How are they the same and how do they differ. I am to belief that alternative health believes that the past was a paradise. Example? who, said what when to demonstrate that?To dispute these hypothetical (strawmen)) “Far from being a paradise, it was hell.” Well gosh, subjective much? Sure, I’d experience it as hell, but then in some possible future there may be millions of people thinking that our life is hell. Does that mean it really is?

    As I see it whether the past was a paradise or not is pointless. There were positive aspects and negative aspects. Today there are positive aspects and negative aspects. We look to science to help us build on the positive and eliminate the negative. I’d much rather read about science than some pseudo psychoanalysis of some made up group.

  48. wales says:

    JMB thanks for taking time to explain your point of view. If indeed this is Amy’s modus operandi, I question the belief that this method would be as effective in the real world. It might work in medical school, where the students are a captive audience and where the entire ritual of enrolling in school, paying tuition, and knowing a degree is received at the end reinforces the proscribed roles of student and teacher and supports the learning process, no matter how angry the student feels about the teacher. I have doubts that this method can be effectively transferred outside of academia. In a world where we are bombarded by bombastic and sensationalized news reporting and blogging this harsh teaching method doesn’t have the support and captive audience proffered by the halls of academia. Emulating the Fox News model (or appearing to do so) would seem to narrow the teaching possibilities rather than broaden them, in terms of actually reaching a prospective audience.

  49. wales says:

    To clarify my point, in the medical school method being discussed, the stick and carrot are being employed simultaneously, and the students are invested in (literally) obtaining that carrot. In the real world (or blogging world) there are multiple methods for obtaining the carrot, other than being subjected to the stick. And since, as Amy pointed out, a large number of the comments she generates are from a small group of individuals, it would seem there is a small group of prospective students. End of observation.

    Billy Joe, I apologize for interpreting your comments as support of one method or the other. That was my perception, not necessarily your message.

  50. Zoe237 says:

    “I have only glanced at this thread. I did notice one name that I had never heard of before pop up: Lomborg. Then while checking PZ Myer’s blog I saw it again, with a link to a news article:
    Book Review: The Lomborg Deception ”

    Did not know there was a book coming out against the “skeptical environmentalist.” Will have to check it out.

  51. StatlerWaldorf says:

    Amy Tuteur said, “$4.95 is the special introductory offer to have Dr. Amy explain to you how likely it is that you, personally, are pregnant right now.”

    See what I mean about a personal desire to discredit because you feel threatened? You’ll throw anything against the wall to see if it will stick in the hope that you can convince yourself and others that they don’t have to listen to me. It’s not working.

    Do you know how many questions I get each month? One or two. I instituted that method to cut down on the hundreds of personal e-mails I otherwise get each day, and it has been very effective.

    How about sticking with the actual facts? Or do you avoid them because you know you can’t win?
    ———————————————————
    So, let me get this straight. You have a website called “Ask Dr. Amy”, but then you needed to implement some fees to help reduce the number of people contacting you with their personal questions? Wouldn’t it just be easier and more ethical to refer women to their own ob-gyns with their personalized fertility questions, as those ob-gyns are authorized to give actual medical advice?

    The disclaimer from your site says,

    “Disclaimer: Dr. Amy does not and cannot provide medical advice. Only someone who has examined you and reviewed your medical records can provide advice. Dr. Amy offers explanations and information.
    Dr. Amy Tuteur is an obstetrician-gynecologist. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard College and her medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Tuteur is a former clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School. Her book, How Your Baby is Born, an illustrated guide to pregnancy, labor and delivery, was published by Ziff-Davis Press in 1994.”

    Interesting. A reader gets the impression that Dr Amy is a practicing ob-gyn, but just can’t give advice because she hasn’t personally examined the person or reviewed their medical records.

  52. Fifi says:

    michele – “Far from being a paradise, it was hell.” Well gosh, subjective much? Sure, I’d experience it as hell, but then in some possible future there may be millions of people thinking that our life is hell. Does that mean it really is?”

    Exactly! These kinds of value judgments based on personal perceptions instead of evidence are equally as meaningless when promoted by either side that’s fanatically attached to ideas about the past or “modern” life (“modern” is so quaint and retro to use…such “better living through chemistry” science romanticism!). Both are also equally tied up in very colonialist (and incorrect) ideas about other cultures (and our own) that date back mainly to the late 1700s and 1800s. If one is going to talk about history and culture, it’s worth knowing a bit about history and culture instead of just promoting what is essentially anthropological woo!

    Neither of these romantic notions are being particularly realistic and both are clearly reactionary and ideological. One is presenting a naturalist fallacy, the other is presenting a techno-industrial fallacy. Neither is actually in line with how anthropologists and archeologists (contemporary ones at least) view or discuss past cultures (or present existant ones other than our own). And both are rejecting science for ideology (apparently technology and science are one and the same in Dr Tuteur’s mind).

    One belief system involves creating fantasies about the past and nature as a reaction against fears about the future and present, the other is creating fantasies about the past, present and future, and technology, out of a desire not to see reality as it actually is so as to avoid recognizing the potential longterm consequences of our actions. Dr Tuteur’s apparent prejudice against preventative medicine – and cognitive science and psychology – isn’t very surprising when you see how it’s connected to her belief system regarding actions and consequences. It also seems just as fear based as the beliefs of those who cling to naturalist fallacies, it’s just that Dr Tuteur seems to think that technology is infallible and the “all good” magic to ward off scary nature instead of believing the naturalist fallacy that one can appease nature by being “good” or “in harmony”. Both are pretty silly positions and neither are actually based in reality!

  53. Fifi says:

    StatlerWaldorf – I’d suspect it’s illegal to give medical advice over the internet (in this kind of context, legitimate telehealth setups associated with reputable health institutions can be very useful for remote communities). All in all, it seems pretty spectacularly unethical to be proposing one can tell someone via email whether their chances of being or getting pregnant are good or not. As you rightly point out, we have no idea if Dr Tuteur still holds a medical license and she does give the impression she’s a practicing Ob/Gyn on her site. Apart from not being nearly as successful, I can’t see how this is particularly different than what the Dr Phils and Mercolas and other TV/internet medical charlatans are doing. Particularly since Dr Tuteur just made an excuse for doing it and tried to brush it under the carpet by once again claiming that she’s being victimized simply because someone pointed out that she’s engaging in unethical behavior that certainly isn’t in line with what one would expect from someone who claims to be an advocate of SBM!

  54. Fifi says:

    “You have a website called “Ask Dr. Amy”, but then you needed to implement some fees to help reduce the number of people contacting you with their personal questions?”

    Heh, that hadn’t even occurred to me! That is pretty funny that the site is “Ask Dr Amy” and then she only wants to answer questions for a fee. (There are tons of other general info sites out there about women’s health and pregnancy so obviously this is about promoting the Dr Amy brand and not just being informative like most skeptics are generally doing.)

  55. Fifi says:

    Neither did I realize until I visited Ask Dr Amy again that she actually sells all kinds of baby products on her site as well! Rather ironically, considering the subject of this particular blog, she sells organic baby formula and green baby products alongside the Pampers. Nothing essentially wrong with that, of course, it’s just rather hypocritical to spout off against organic farming on SBM and then to cynically exploit people’s desire and willingness to pay more for organic and green products on your site. Heh, Dr Amy’s Pregnancy Store even sells Baby Einstein videos…nice endorsement of baby woo there Dr Amy!

    http://astore.amazon.com/askdramy-20

  56. BillyJoe says:

    Today Simon Singh goes to court.

    He was sued for libel for saying that “there is not a jot of evidence” that chiropractic is useful in the treatment of certain childhood conditions, and that the respectable face of the chiropractic profession, the British Chiropractic Association, “happily promote these bogus treatments”

    “there is not a jot of evidence”
    “happily promote these bogus treatments”

    Hmmm…

  57. Fifi says:

    BillyJoe – British libel laws are pretty ridiculous and are very often used as a political tool to try to silence people.

  58. wales says:

    Thanks to Fifi for the tip. I did view Dr. Amy’s site and saw the organic products for sale in the “store”. What a load of hypocrisy. Amy writes a post about how toxins are non-existent (Dec. 24) then sells organic diapers and baby food on her site. What other reason for selling “chlorine free” diapers than exploiting parents’ fear of toxins? What gives? Well the entertainment value is certainly deepening here.

  59. wales says:

    I expect if we hear from Amy at all it will be to say that she is just offering a wide range of products to satisfy all parents and that she does not endorse the products she sells….

  60. micheleinmichigan says:

    I thought the chlorine free aspects of diapers was more of an environmental thing (chlorine processing, bleaching, going into groundwater, etc).

    Not saying I’m wild about the e-commerce/online pregnancy advice line of work in a SBM blogger, just nitpicking for accuracy.

  61. Fifi says:

    Well it is a good lesson in critical thinking and doing a bit of research to see if someone’s words and actions align and what their general integrity level is. Just because someone is an SBM blogger and claims to be a skeptic doesn’t mean they actually are one. (Perhaps Dr Tuteur confuses cynicism with skepticism?) While I don’t always agree on all matters with all the (other) bloggers who are part of the SBM collective, I generally have found that the integrity level is pretty high and most can be trusted to be honest and provide insightful analysis. Hey, even when there’s the odd confirmation bias or ideological issue it’s usually pretty minor and doesn’t really impact the actual science being discussed. Hey, we’re all human – it’s only when someone claims to be super-human or immune to human foibles that it becomes problematic.

    Since a popular and very successful tactic of purveyors of anti-medicine woo and pseudoscience is to try to make out that SBM isn’t trustworthy and is merely a front for industry or is financially self-serving, it seems crucially important that SBM bloggers actually be pretty spotlessly ethical and not blatantly engaged in the same kinds of mercenary activities as the more nefarious woo merchants. You can’t be a trustworthy whistleblower if you’re doing all kinds of unethical things yourself! That said, it IS interesting and kind of nice to see that “skeptic” as a brand or label is becoming marketable (though unfortunate that it’s often pseudoskepticism that’s being sold since most actual skeptics seem to view educating others about skepticism as more of a public service than a commercial endeavor). I am skeptical of the commercial promotion of skepticism as a brand rather than as a means to better understand reality and the world.

  62. wales says:

    Given Amy’s stance at sbm on toxins I would expect to see her advising parents not to waste their money on the more expensive chlorine free diapers and organic baby food because there is no “evidence” that diapers bleached with chlorine and food grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides pose any harm to babies.

  63. wales says:

    Michele: I think the theory is that the “environmental thing” is a toxin thing via chlorine leaking into landfills and groundwater(which makes sense to me). And also perhaps that chlorine residue on diapers is toxic to infants.

  64. Fifi says:

    michele – “I thought the chlorine free aspects of diapers was more of an environmental thing (chlorine processing, bleaching, going into groundwater, etc).”

    I would have thought that too but they’re not marketed that way.

    Seventh Generation offers a safe conventional diaper without dangerous toxins. Keep your baby dry and comfortable in between changes and through the night, and go chlorine free at the same time.

    In addition to being effective at keeping baby dry and reducing the risk of diaper rash, studies show that our absorbent polymer is non-toxic and non-irritating to baby’s sensitive skin.

    Features:

    Hypoallergenic
    Cloth-like covering
    Premium fit and absorbency
    Resealable tapes & stretchy leg gathers
    Fragrance and latex free
    Most diapers have been bleached with chlorine, which creates dangerous toxins (i.e. dioxin, furans and other organochlorines) that accumulate in both people and animals. Choose wisely!

  65. Zoe237 says:

    Organic babyfood? Profiting off of those who are “longing for a past that never existed” given this exact blog post talking about the stupidity of people who are concerned about pesticides? Huh, enjoying the irony.

    If she were so concerned about the amount of email comments about pregnancy she was getting, I guess she could have called it dontaskdramy.com instead of charging people $14.95 for an email from a doctor whose been retired for over 15 years.

  66. wales says:

    If you agree with Amy’s stance on toxins, chlorine leaching into the soil and groundwater shouldn’t be a problem. So it’s still hypocritical to sell these products. Whichever reason draws parents to chlorine free diapers is a result of perceived toxins either in the environment or on the baby.

  67. wales says:

    So which is it? Is Amy a cynical skeptic who doesn’t believe in toxins but panders to the publics fear of toxins? Or is she a believer in toxins who pretends to be a non-believeing skeptic? Or just a good old fashioned American salesperson who believes the public should have options to waste their money whichever way they wish to?

  68. micheleinmichigan says:

    FiFi – sorry, I was going from past memory of my diapering days and the amazon description…

    “Hypo-allergenic and offering soft, cloth-like comfort and premium absorbency, these diapers are made of chlorine-free absorbent materials that do not contribute to dioxin pollution.”

    But your quote does have a different spin, My bad.

  69. Fifi says:

    michele – What you said made total sense and I’d have thought it was mainly about the processing and environmental pollution myself but the marketing does play on parental fears (reality based or not) of their children being exposed to toxins.

    I’ve never understood why people get so bent out of shape about organic food or farming. It’s not like anyone’s forcing them to buy, grow or eat organic food, or support it financially. On the other hand, almost all of us in North America indirectly financially support factory farming of various kinds through all kinds of government subsidies given out – even if we choose to support local or organic agriculture by buying organic or local produce our tax dollars still support factory farming.

  70. BillyJoe says:

    “BillyJoe – British libel laws are pretty ridiculous and are very often used as a political tool to try to silence people.”

    I was referring more to those short (qualifier free) phrases of his.

  71. Plonit says:

    The extent to which one ought to employ qualifiers depends on the topic of discussion, surely?

    In the case of Simon Singh vs. BCA, he was referring to Chiropractic claims to treat childhood illnesses including asthma. The short phrases without qualification are therefore justified.

    Had he been talking about lower back pain, he would no doubt have been more long-winded, discussing the evidence that chiropractic manipulations appear help and discussig whether this was because of ‘subluxions’ or just because chiropractic is similar to other sorts of hands on stuff which also appears to help like massage, osteopathy etc…

  72. BillyJoe says:

    Plonit,

    Let’s cut to the chase:
    Chiropractic is useless for back pain.

    You don’t agree?

  73. micheleinmichigan says:

    #
    # BillyJoe on 24 Feb 2010 at 6:04 am

    Plonit,

    Let’s cut to the chase:
    Chiropractic is useless for back pain.

    You don’t agree?

    oh, gotta see a source for that claim.

  74. Fifi says:

    BillyJoe – Actually, I’d rather see Singh’s quotes in context since he’s actually not just making non-evidence based assertions and generalizations as you seem to think he is when you see him quoted out of context. Just because I agree with Singh (a confirmation bias) and know what he’s talking about (the context) doesn’t actually mean that the quotes you’ve presented are any more legitimate than any other opinion proffered without evidence.

    And, in many ways Singh is doing the same things as a journalist that some bloggers here complain about when science writers do them regarding things they don’t agree about (using anecdotes, making assertions about evidence without presenting the actual evidence, relying upon an expert rather than analysing the data himself, etc). I don’t have a problem with that but then I don’t have unrealistic expectations of journalism (or science, medicine or doctors for that matter…though I may apparently have unrealistic expectations regarding the integrity of SBM bloggers practicing what they preach and going by the same rules as ethical scientists do).

    A link to the actual article…
    http://svetlana14s.narod.ru/Simon_Singhs_silenced_paper.html

    To contextualize what Singh wrote and is being sued for…

    “You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything. And even the more moderate chiropractors have ideas above their station. The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.”

    The libel is around the “promotes bogus treatments” since it implies that the BCA is being intentionally unethical (I have no doubt they are but we’re talking British libel laws here).

    What he said about chiropractic for back pain (from the same article)…

    “But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.”

    Plonit – It is true that chiropractors use some of the same techniques as physiotherapists but that doesn’t actually make chiropractic methods (which rely upon the concept of subluxations) effective, it just means that chiropractors use non-chiropractic techniques. That said, back pain is still somewhat mysterious even to medicine (hence it being a fertile ground for woo). Of course, the biggest problem with chiropractors isn’t that they’re ineffective, it’s that their neck cracking confidence trick can cause strokes.

  75. Fifi says:

    Alison – Well I guess it’s easier to quit (or whatever happened) than to simply act like a reputable skeptic or ethical SBM blogger. I’m happy SBM will return to being a source of good science and real skeptical thinking. Yay! :-)

  76. edgar says:

    Would you mind cutting and pasting? I cannot access anything with the work ‘blog’ in the title.

  77. micheleinmichigan says:

    Alison Cumminson 24 Feb 2010 at 8:37 am

    Has everyone seen the news?

    http://skepticalob.blogspot.com/2010/02/i-quit-sbm.html

    Wow – that is a class act.

  78. David Gorski says:

    Yes, it is true, and an announcement will be forthcoming. In the meantime, I think enough has been said in this comment thread.

  79. edgar says:

    hey,
    where did Gorski’s post go?

  80. BillyJoe says:

    BillyJoe: “Let’s cut to the chase:
    Chiropractic is useless for back pain.”

    micheleinmichigan said: “oh, gotta see a source for that claim.”

    There are plenty of sources and it’s not hard to find them ;)
    (Hint: first define chiropractic)

  81. BillyJoe says:

    Fifi,

    “BillyJoe – Actually, I’d rather see Singh’s quotes in context since he’s actually not just making non-evidence based assertions and generalizations as you seem to think he is when you see him quoted out of context. ”

    I don’t think he is.

    And that is exactly what I’m getting at.
    The bold assertions: “there is not a jot of evidence” and “bogus treatments” are fine because they are true and there is evidence to back them up, but if you have to stick strictly with what the evidence says, it confines you to making statements that run into a long paragraphs of explanations and qualifications. At the end, few are still listening and fewer still will get the message.

    I think it is legitimate to use both the short, snappy and, for all intents and purposes, true three-second grabs AND the long-winded sit-down, read-and-concentrate, considered response.

  82. BillyJoe,

    No.

    Unqualified assertions wrt chiropractic’s ability to treat childhood asthma are correct and justified. Simon Singh made them. This was good writing both in the sense of being accurate and in the sense of being clear and easy to assimilate.

    Unqualified assertions wrt chiropractic’s ability to treat back pain are unjustified. Writing about chiropractic and back pain would have to choose between being accurate and being easy to digest. Singh chose not to write about chiropractic and back pain and therefore did not have to make this choice.

  83. Fifi says:

    BillyJoe – I don’t find Singh’s writing or approach to skepticism to be anything like Dr Tuteur’s, are you generally familiar with his work? And had you read the whole article or were you just familiar with the phrase that the libel suit was hung on?

  84. BillyJoe says:

    Alison,

    “Unqualified assertions wrt chiropractic’s ability to treat childhood asthma are correct and justified. Simon Singh made them. This was good writing both in the sense of being accurate and in the sense of being clear and easy to assimilate.”

    Yet there is evidence that chiropractic works for asthma. So it is strictly unjustified to say “there is not a jot” of evidence that chiropractic can treat asthma. What is true is that “given the evidence, a reasonable and informed person would have not a jot of belief that chiropractic is a remedy for asthma”.
    (I borrowed that from Tony Lloyd)

    “Unqualified assertions wrt chiropractic’s ability to treat back pain are unjustified. Writing about chiropractic and back pain would have to choose between being accurate and being easy to digest. Singh chose not to write about chiropractic and back pain and therefore did not have to make this choice.”

    Well, maybe just one small qualifier then: chiropractic, defined as a realignment of subluxed vertebra as opposed to a good massage, is useless for the treatment of back pain.

  85. BillyJoe says:

    Fifi,

    “BillyJoe – I don’t find Singh’s writing or approach to skepticism to be anything like Dr Tuteur’s, are you generally familiar with his work? And had you read the whole article or were you just familiar with the phrase that the libel suit was hung on?”

    I wasn’t comparing Dr. Tuteur to Simon Singh and, yes, I have read the whole article.

    Simon Singh uses both techniques.
    In the article he said “not a jot of evidence”
    Elsewhere he has actually evaluated the evidence that chiropractic helps asthma and other non spinal conditions.

  86. Fifi says:

    BillyJoe – The main point is that making unqualified statements isn’t SBM writing and it’s the kind of thing SBM bloggers call out both science journalists and CAM promoters for all the time. This isn’t opinion-based medicine or ideology-based medicine….um, isn’t that the big black hole of endarkenment that we’re all trying to prevent science and medicine being sucked into? Isn’t that what CAM is and aren’t we all interested in trying to help people understand that science is about evidence and dealing with reality and not just about personal opinions and cherry picking evidence to promote an emotion-based opinion or ideology? For me at least, science is about learning what objective reality really is (despite how it may seem) and not just promoting a subjective perception of reality. Seeing really isn’t believing and common sense is just as often misleading as it is accurate (and is subjective at best, highly biased at worst). That’s why we developed the scientific method and the tools we have, to get past the limitations of our own senses and kluge of a brain.

    Sensationalism, being overly simplistic, relying upon “common sense” over actual evidence, making assertions with no context or recontextualising something so it appears other than it is and making broad generalizations are all the trademarks of tabloid journalism and woo. Blogging can be many things, it can be a personal journal, it can be a soapbox to share opinions with the world or it can be a very credible extension and form of journalism (either editorial or investigative). SBM has established itself as being on the journalism spectrum with both editorial and investigative/analytical aspects. Because science journalists and media, and other researchers, are critiqued here, it’s just a matter of basic integrity to live up to the standards one sets for others. Otherwise you’re back to being just like what you’re critiquing, which makes any soapbox a pretty slippery place to stand when push comes to shove. And, if you’re going to take on ideologues and true believers, and people with commercial interests or a lot to lose if reality is exposed, there is going to be pushing and shoving. (And, let’s be honest, some of the SBM bloggers here aren’t above at least poking – quite deservedly – some of the more ridiculous offenders with a stick…they generally just make sure it’s an evidence stick and not just the pointy end of their ego.)

    The other thing worth mentioning is that communication plays a key role in shaping public perception of both CAM and SBM, which is why I personally think it’s a big deal not to use CAM/propaganda/advertising methodology which isn’t about promoting critical or reality-based thinking. If you want to educate people about how to critically read media, how to deconstruct an argument for themselves and how not to get sucked into sensationalist or bogus “common sense” assertions, you can’t use dodgy methods yourself and claim they’re legitimate or critical thinking when you use them but dodgy when others do. It’s entirely possible to be entertaining, provocative and to explain complex ideas in lay terms without resorting to dodgy techniques. A lot of it is about providing context, that’s why the context of who someone is in terms of their actions becomes relevant (and why SBM bloggers bring up things like how someone has spoken at a CAM conference as being relevant to their integrity level, or whether they get funding from drug companies and how they make a living and so on…these things are relevant in medical science in terms of determining integrity and potential biases).

  87. Pat says:

    I admit to not reading all of the comments.

    If you’re interested in the past, check out Weston Price, in the present, Gary Taubes. If you’re interested in the future, do a search for “The World According to Monsanto” on Youtube.

    The dramatic improvement in longevity must, to a great extent, be attributed to improvement in diet, improvement in employment conditions, social benefits and other benefits not related in medical intervention. There is a downside to the changes in food supply. There is an outrageous increase in obesity and other problems that are a product of “modern society” and the modern diet, especially in the US. Mercifully, I live in Europe.

    If Ancel Keys has the majority of his work retracted by journals at the behest of the rulers of this blog I might take this blog seriously. Long live saturated and cholesterol – and those who eat them. Now, to get back to my moose liver fried in coconut oil.

  88. EricG says:

    I liked Dr. T’s contributions,

    but I’m glad she’s gone if only for the fact that I won’t have to come back a week later to see what discussion developed in my blissful absence from internet distractions only to sift through 400+ posts containing mostly mind vomit.

    i’ve had facebook conversations about facebook conversations with more direction.

  89. dkleinst says:

    I enjoyed Amy’s takes. I’ll miss her insight. The Amazon sales are a bit hypocritical, but I understand it well. I haven’t ever given in to the dark side of selling nutritional supplements or vitamins, but after hours of work, tons of dictations left, and a whole lot of wasted breath, I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t just sell the damn things. I can tell people that there isn’t a shred of evidence for many of these “remedies” only to see them back weeks later, carrying those and others. If I sold them at less of a profit then the huckster they are seeing, wouldn’t I be doing us both a favor?…..(naw, then I would just be a low level huckster and I think we should always be our best)…..ok I will just get back to my endless dictations, for my ridiculously low pay and wonder if I shouldn’t be the next vitamin guru

    This sight seems to help preserve some semblence of sanity. Thanks SBM bloggers!

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