Articles

Nosodes Redux: “I hate those meeces to pieces!”

Life and medicine generate facts and experiences that require conceptual frameworks that aid in understanding.  It is no good have a pile of facts if they cannot be understood within a broader understanding.

The practice of Infectious Diseases, while certainly aided by understanding anatomy, physiology, microbiology, chemistry and the other sciences that form the core of medicine (referred to in Medical School as the basic sciences), gains a broader  appreciation from the concepts of evolution.  Infectious Diseases, at its most fundamental level, is applied evolution, and understanding evolution often adds greater insight into infectious diseases.  Me find bug, me kill bug, me go home may be my motto, but it is meant in jest.

There have been papers or books that have added conceptual frameworks to my understanding of the natural world and medicine.  Besides evolution, there was Observations on Spiraling Empiricism a classic that all health care providers should read, as it outlines the cognitive errors we all make in prescribing medications; I have discussed this article before.

There is  The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow.  So often the explanation of why something  happens is a shrug of the shoulders; feces occurs. The book formalized my understanding that much of what happens is random and without cause.  The challenge in medicine is trying  find a pattern in the randomness of life upon which to base a diagnosis. It is equally important to recognize when patterns are not there. All too often what is seen as a pattern is our imposing structure on what are random events.  Or maybe that really is a bunny in the clouds.  Clinical study results often occur by chance and having a significant ‘P’ value may still be due to randomness if the study is measuring nonsense.

Recently, Why Most Published Research Findings Are False,  by John P. A. Ioannidis has added to my understanding of the old saw that half of everything you learn in medical school will be proven false after you graduate, the problem is that they do not tell you which half.

Ioannidis has 6 rules for evaluating studies that stem from his evaluation of the literature:

Corollary 1: The smaller the studies conducted in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.
Corollary 2: The smaller the effect sizes in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.
Corollary 3: The greater the number and the lesser the selection of tested relationships in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.
Corollary 4: The greater the flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.
Corollary 5: The greater the financial and other interests and prejudices in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.
Corollary 6: The hotter a scientific field (with more scientific teams involved), the less likely the research findings are to be true.

It is why much of medicine and science is tentative and emphasizes the importance, as best as can be determined at a given time, of considering all the information.  I tell the residents that a big part of becoming a Doctor is learning to be comfortable with incomplete and changing information.  Being a specialist is being ignorant with style.

What matters is the totality of the evidence… instead of chasing statistical significance, we should improve our understanding of the range of R values—the pre-study odds—where research efforts operate. Before running an experiment, investigators should consider what they believe the chances are that they are testing a true rather than a non-true relationship.

It is where the Cochrane reviews fail, and fail so spectacularly, on topics as diverse as the efficacy of influenza vaccine to the efficacy of homeopathy.  Failure to consider all the information casts doubt on the former and suggests legitimacy of the former.  In the world of clinical medicine, when considering an intervention, I have to take into consideration as much of the literature as I can, from basic plausibility to the always messy clinical trials.

What separates a proponent of science based medicine from practitioners of SCAM’s is that those in SBM are aware of the all too numerous foibles and errors to which humans are prone,  distorting a true understanding of the natural world.  What makes a good skeptic, and a good doctor, is an understanding of the multitudinous ways we fool ourselves and others.

Which brings us back to nosodes and the reference  Do homeopathic nosodes protect against infection? An experimental test by WB Jonas.

Just on the basis of the first five corollaries of Ioannidis, the odds are the study is wrong, not to mention that the pretest probability, the R,  that this study, if positive, will be will be testing a true relationship is, lets see.  Exactly zero.  There is zero pretest probability that any positive result of a homeopathic invention represents an effect from the homeopathic nostrum.

Dr. Jonas, the sole author, is a former director of National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, so, while the study was done at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Corollary 5 jumps to mind as perhaps more important than where the study is done.

Lets look at the quality of the study.

Groups of 4 to 6 mice (Corollary 1) received either ethanol (70%) or a varying dilutions of pureed leptospira infected mouse lung/liver/spleen  in 70% alcohol. Some of the nosodes  had measurable proteins in it. The author measured the amount of proteins in the nostrums using the Lowry procedure,  a semiquantitative measurement of proteins, which I remember using as a fellow.  It is less accurate when there is a host of other organic materials in the mix, as one might expect from a melange of liver, lung and spleen.

For me, ingestion of 70% alcohol leads to amnesia,  so how 70% alcohol can ‘remember’ the initial material better than water is not mentioned in the study.  Is a study with 70% alcohol meaningful for ‘classic’ water based homeopathy?  Are serial dilutions of 70% alcohol applicable to homeopathy as practiced?  Stupid questions, since homeopathy has nothing to do with reality.  Must. Remember. This. Is. Tooth. Fairy. Science.

Mice received about 16 doses of a nosode or placebo before infection challenge and about 40 doses after the infectious challenge with leptospirosis.

Compared to alcohol (which is not a placebo, since alcohol does have a variety of immunomodulatory effects, one example from where you find others,) over all the nosode group died after 18.6 hours and the control after 13.7  hours with a  P of .002.  Overall mortality was 75% in the control, 53 % in the nosode.  Standard vaccination was, of course, vastly superior to alcohol or nosode,  with 100% protection. There was no dose dependent result, which would be a surprise if a real medication were being used, but not, perhaps, an antigen.

If you expose an animal to a pathogen, say Candida, and then shortly thereafter infect the animal with, say, Listeria, the animals that had the prior exposure to Candida will have decreased mortality compared to those that were not exposed.  The immune response is primed for subsequent infectious challenge.

One telling aside in the study is that one mixture had no effect, and that was a 1000C nosode prepared by a commercial pharmacy.  The author postulates “perhaps handling while in transit or differences in preparation of the commercial nosode affected the 1000C level.”  He also worries that the mechanical succussion does not have the same effect as hand succussion, which in the real world is akin to worrying that Tooth Fairies exchanged the real nosode for mere alcohol while he slept.  Of course, Tooth Fairies only concern themselves with teeth, so a bad example.

I suspect, having been involved in bench research back in the day isolating and measuring proteins, that the author did a bad job at making his dilutions (but not the commercial pharmacy) and the nosodes were more contaminated with puree of infected mouse innards than he suspected. The result is the typical mild protective effect you get from prior exposure to antigens.  Alternatively, it is just the usual random results you see in small studies combined, perhaps, with yet another example of seeing N-Rays.

Overall not impressive and a low quality study and of little applicability to ‘classic’ homeopathy.    And, like many studies in the SCAM literature, not repeated with a better methodology. The author states at the end, “Attempts to replicate these experiments under more controlled conditions (eg with complete blinding (!!) and using aerosol methods for more uniform dosing) are underway.”  That was 11 years ago. I wonder what happened to the results.  Follow up with improved methodologies is not the strong suite of researchers in the SCAM field. Squirrel!

There must be a less expensive and less cruel way to kill off  142 mice.  D-Con is cheaper and spring loaded traps are quicker.  Given that homeopathy is divorced from reality, this is more needless cruelty to animals than a reasonable scientific study.

My colleagues use the terms  like ‘highly unlikely’, or ‘highly implausible’ to describe the precepts of homeopathy.  I guess I am not a true skeptic.  Some things are, as the world is currently understood, impossible.  Perpetual motion machines are impossible, accelerating past the speed of light is impossible.  There are few SCAM’s I would classify as impossible out of hand.  Stick needles in people, or pop their neck, and you will get some sort of effect, perhaps not the effect intended (infection and stroke).  There is always the possibility that the SCAM is doing something, perhaps not in ways envisioned by the practitioner.  Even something as goofy as iridology or live blood analysis has the opportunity, albeit very rare,  to make a real diagnosis.  Only homeopathy has the honor of being the only SCAM based totally on fantasy.

I would classify the basic precepts of succussion and dilution to increase potency as impossible, not implausible.   I’m sorry, not dilution, potentiation, or as it is more appropriately called in fantasy fiction, casting a spell.  Homeopathy is 100% nonsense, and, like its nostrums, uncontaminated by reality. Sometimes it is argued that in the lower concentrations of spells,  there may be a molecule or two of an agent that could have an effect, to which I call shenanigans.   I subscribe to the concept of dose-effect of agents and there is a concentration below which molecules will have no effect.  The alleged toxins in vaccines are not toxic because the concentrations are inconsequential; the effects of homeopathic nostrums at initial spell castings are as equally unable to have an effect as the later spell castings.

If homeopaths were to say the act of serial dilution and succussion slowly transformed the water into Unicorn tears,  a universal curative, it would not make the underlying concepts less rational or divorced from the natural law.  I may not be doing a very good job of suppressing my total lack of respect for the  underlying fictions of homeopathy.

At one time, as an example, we did not know how aspirin worked, only that it was effective.  But the science of chemistry, pharmacology, etc. eventually lead to the understanding that aspirin results in  irreversible inactivation of the cyclooxygenase enzyme, which prevents the production of prostaglandin and thromboxane.  As you increase the dose of aspirin, the receptors are filled until all the receptors are used up and then there is no more effect by giving more aspirin.   Elucidating the action of aspirin did not require a completely new understanding of the basic sciences.  If homeopathy did indeed work, then all we know of the natural world is wrong.  Which is more likely: all of the basic sciences are correct or homeopathy is correct. And maybe homeopathy does give us a deeper insight in to the natural world, since science as we know it as about to be overturned.

In the end, I wonder at times if  SBM and medical journals are the correct forum for discussions of the validity of the underlying precepts of homeopathy.  What is the proper forum for the discussion of magic?  The fantasy fiction section, not the science section, of the library.  Or perhaps homeopathy is the purview of the anthropologist and psychologist as a cultural delusion.

Delusions are irrational beliefs, held with a high level of conviction, that are highly resistant to change even when the delusional person is exposed to forms of proof that contradict the belief. Non-bizarre delusions are considered to be plausible; that is, there is a possibility that what the person believes to be true could actually occur a small proportion of the time. Conversely, bizarre delusions focus on matters that would be impossible in reality. For example, a non-bizarre delusion might be the belief that one’s activities are constantly under observation by federal law enforcement or intelligence agencies, which actually does occur for a small number of people. By contrast, a man who believes”  that the fundamental precepts of homeopathy  are true “holds a belief that could never come to pass in reality.

In medicine we determine that a behavior is pathologic when it starts to have negative consequences for the patient or others.  Alcohol is the classic example where use blends from fun to pathologic as harm accrues in the patient and his environment.  Homeopathy would appear to be another.  I look forward to the inevitable ‘when you point a finger you have three pointing back at yourself’ reply.

When I was first in practice, I saw a patient in clinic for ‘parasites.’  The room reeked of garlic as he was continually chewing on raw garlic cloves as he said it suppressed the parasite.
In discussing his symptoms he told me that the air was full of these parasites, and they would land on his skin and burrow in.

Probably Delusions of Parasitism, I thought, as no parasite has this life cycle. But it is not unusual for patients to mis-attribute symptoms to an erroneous cause, so I had to make sure he did not have some illness he was mistakenly attributing to parasites.

“How do you know they are parasites?”
“I collect them.” he said, holding up a large brown jar that rattled dryly as he shook it.
“Can I see them?  And where do you get them?”
“From my nose,” he replied as he dumped three cups of dried boogers on the exam table.

To my credit I neither screamed nor vomited, although I could not eat garlic for over a year.

I see no conceptual difference between that jar of ‘parasites’ and a jar of homeopathic nostrums, save the former, to my knowledge, never killed a child.

Posted in: Homeopathy, Humor

Leave a Comment (46) ↓

46 thoughts on “Nosodes Redux: “I hate those meeces to pieces!”

  1. Scott says:

    Only homeopathy has the honor of being the only SCAM based totally on fantasy.

    Reiki, Theraputic (non-)Touch, etc. also qualify. Though at least they don’t make even a pretense of being anything other than magic.

  2. Dr Benway says:

    Only homeopathy has the honor of being the only SCAM based totally on fantasy.

    Uhh… *cough* energy medicine *cough*

  3. Dr Benway says:

    D’oh! scott, you beat me!

  4. daedalus2u says:

    I like your (absolutely correct) characterization of the making of homeopathic preparations as the casting of a magic spell. All CAM practices that could be characterized as magic spells, should be characterized as magic spells, so that people not versed in SBM can understand that the prior plausibility is based entirely on magical thinking and not something from the reality based community.

    The new Harry Potter movie is out this weekend, providing the appropriate backdrop for raising awareness of magical thinking in all its forms.

  5. papu says:

    How many folks recognize the “I hate those meeces to pieces” as attibutable to Jinx the cat from the Pixie and Dixie cartoons? I’m feeling old.

  6. Dawn says:

    Aw, papu. I was feeling so good that I recognized the line. Now I’m feeling old, too. (wanders off to sulk)

  7. TsuDhoNimh says:

    The Lowry test? That’s on the same reliability of the urine dipsticks for protein (may be the same reactions). You have a bit, a bunch, a lot or OMG quantities or protein.

  8. TsuDhoNimh says:

    I also notice that they ALL DIED unless they were vaccinated.

    So homeopathic preparations prolong your death agony, without actually saving your life?

  9. LovleAnjel says:

    papu & Dawn – how old is old? I recognized the line too.

  10. Todd W. says:

    @Mark Crislip

    Minor quibble, but I would argue that using ethanol is part of homeopathic practice. In fact, homeopathic preparations are exempt from alcohol content limitations by FDA regulations. This stems, I think, from the patent medicine days when tinctures using alcohol as a base were quite common, where the alcohol was responsible for any perceived alleviation of symptoms, rather than anything added to it.

    That said, homeopathy is a load o’ crap, as you point out so well.

  11. Mark Crislip says:

    Is there a reason from basic sciences that the human body could not generate an energy field of some sort, like an electric eel.

    It doesn’t, but from first principals can you say it can’t?

  12. Dawn says:

    @LovieAnjel: can’t speak for papu, but I was born in the very early 1960′s. My kids, being that we used to watch old cartoons, might recognize the line too, but I am not sure.

  13. Calli Arcale says:

    Mark Crislip:

    No, there is no reason from basic sciences why the human body could not generate an energy field of some sort — in fact, it *does*. Even one like the electric eel. What the eel does is actually not fundamentally different from what the human body does; it’s just one more immensely clever evolutionary trick, co-opting an existing feature to do something entirely different.

    The human body uses electrical impulses to transmit information down nerves and also to trigger muscle contraction. This will inevitably induce a field, and that fact is exploited by devices such as the electrocardiogram. It’s not something that can be easily manipulated, except by extremely crude means such as overloading it with far more electricity than it normally handles. (Which brings us back to the electric eel; this is how it stuns its prey.)

    This field is not really useful for much of anything, at least, not useful to *us*. Some predators find it very useful, such as the hammerhead shark. (Actually, most sharks, but the hammerhead is one of the more interesting examples.) That oddly shaped head is covered with electroreceptors, which the juveniles at least use to find prey. (It’s less clear what the adults use it for.)

    The human body can also carry a static electrical charge, but that’s true of basically anything ungrounded and isn’t too meaningful.

  14. David Gorski says:

    Only homeopathy has the honor of being the only SCAM based totally on fantasy.

    I disagree. Reiki claims that its practitioners can channel the energy from a “universal source” into the patient and heal them. It is nothing more than faith healing substituting Eastern mysticism for Christianity as its basis.

  15. rork says:

    “Exactly zero. ”
    “If homeopathy did indeed work, then all we know of the natural world is wrong.”

    Overstatement doesn’t really help (and is unnecessary if you are right).

  16. Mark Crislip says:

    an r of a negative bazillion kazillion

    and

    If true would cause a universe with new physucal laws to spring into existance, replacing the current one.

    THAT would be overstatement.

    otherwise I think I am precise in those statements

  17. Josie says:

    It seems I am being hit over the head with homeopathy these days…hmm, I guess that shouldn’t hurt

    Anyway, I work in Torrey Pines, the heart of the Biotech industry in San Diego, a center of enlightenment and home of the Venerable Scripps Institute. I have many colleagues that practice medicine, do their post-docs and make a living as scientists at Scripps.

    Then, just after the time change I went for a run down the main road. It was just getting dark so lights in the buildings were more noticeable. And then I saw it: The Scripps Clinic….and a neon green sign in the window spelling out “HOMEOPATHY”.

    I stopped. I stood there and stared at it for about 10 seconds trying to understand. As it turns out I was looking at the window for the “Arcana Pharmacy” part of the Scripps Integrative Medicine Center

    http://www.scripps.org/services/integrative-medicine

    They offer homeopathy and healing touch among other things.

    This came on the heels of my mother, who has Hashimodo’s disease, telling me she is now going to a doctor who staffs her clinic with Naturopaths –also offering homeopathy. Mom says she would never consider taking homeopathy…but then why go to a doc that advocates it?

    I talk about the invalidity of SCAMS a lot, but it really undermines my arguments when bastions of scientific investigation such as the Scripps offer this shite.

  18. Calli Arcale says:

    I’m inclined to agree. It puts me in mind of a Douglas Adams quote, from “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe”:

    “There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

    There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”

  19. JMB says:

    @David Gorski

    Reiki claims that its practitioners can channel the energy from a “universal source” into the patient and heal them.

    All energy emanates from the Big Bang (maybe we’re getting some holographic interference from the 2 dimensional edge of the universe and the 4 dimensional universe). We have to expend some energy in helping a patient. So all healthcare providers are channeling some energy from a universal source into helping the patient. That’s still not reason to believe in Reiki.

  20. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Echoing TsuDhoNimhon. The only reasonable take-home message to be found in this study is that vaccination should be used in favour of homeopathy in all cases.

  21. 1000C! Holy dulution Batman!

    Given that there are only 1E80 fundamental particles in the visible universe, one would expect to need a sample size of 1E1920 universes worth of particles of solution/solute to have one single molecule/particle of “cure” present. I hope you’re thirsty.

  22. CORRECTION OF MY PREVIOUS COMMENT:

    Given that there are only 1E80 fundamental particles in the visible universe, one would expect to need a sample size of 1E1920 universes worth of particles of solution/SOLVENT to have one single molecule/particle of “cure” present. I hope you’re thirsty.

  23. Dr Benway says:

    Is there a reason from basic sciences that the human body could not generate an energy field of some sort, like an electric eel.

    It doesn’t, but from first principals can you say it can’t?

    From NCCAM:

    Practices based on putative energy fields (also called biofields) generally reflect the concept that human beings are infused with subtle forms of energy; qi gong, Reiki. A therapy in which practitioners seek to transmit a universal energy to a person, either from a distance or by placing their hands on or near that person. The intent is to heal the spirit and thus the body., and healing touch are examples of such practices.

    The “energy” proposed apparently does not come with associated physical units. So not so much like an eel, methinks.

    I’m not sure where the gap in the standard model might be for this rather significant and amazing source of “energy.”

    But yeah, homeopathy is easier to refute because it makes concrete claims about real substances we can measure. A naive audience who doesn’t understand the parsimony principle and the “dox or GTFO” principle might find faith healing plausible.

  24. LovleAnjel says:

    “I’m not sure where the gap in the standard model might be for this rather significant and amazing source of “energy.””

    Eureka! It’s dark energy! Dark energy can’t be detected or measured and yet mathematically must exist in the Universe. Or something.

    But practitioners would never claim to heal using “dark” anything.

  25. Joe says:

    @LovleAnjel on 19 Nov 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Oh jeez, now you have given them a new idea. They already have quantum theory, next the will co-opt dark energy and string ‘theory’ (oops, I suggested another one to exploit).

    You also wrote “But practitioners would never claim to heal using “dark” anything.

    I don’t think you can rule out anything.

  26. papu says:

    papu & Dawn – how old is old? I recognized the line too.

    I’m 57. Dawn will have to speak for herself.

  27. pmoran says:

    Interesting thing — placebo performed much better than the homeopathic preparation in this study (P = 0.008; Effect Size = 0.52). This increases the likelihood that the other positive findings are due to all the noises within the clinical trial process.

    It does not change my point that such studies cannot fully demonstrate or refute the existence of clinically significant “true” placebo reactions.

    Every clinician will know how simple reassurance is enough to terminate some bothersome complaints.

  28. pmoran says:

    Sorry, wrong thread.

  29. Gregory Goldmacher says:

    @Joe
    “next the[Y] will co-opt dark energy and string ‘theory’”

    They already do. They mention it quite often. Those strings have “vibrations” you see. And “vibrations” are right next to “energy” in the pile of vague concepts used to “explain” a whole lot of BS.

  30. LovleAnjel says:

    papu & Dawn – feel a wee bit better. I just turned 32.

  31. I feel the folks that talk about real science vs “magic” are kinda missing the point. If one has only a basic education is science, say high school science then a bachelors or master’s in a field such as business, communication, the arts, possibly liberal arts or computer science, then there is a good chance that you do not understand much of what is going on in SBM pharmaceutical therapies.

    I am currently taking three prescription medications for allergies. I know basically what they do. I have no idea how they do it. My lord, maybe it’s magic.

    My point is, I don’t think plausibility is that strong of an argument for people without a strong science background. I find the credibility of the source, the strength of the study and the clarity of the results more understandable and compelling arguments when comparing SBM to Homeopathy.

    This is not to say that I don’t appreciate the explanation of why it’s not scientifically plausible, only that from a layman’s common sense angle homeopathy actually seems more plausibly like a medication than, say reiki, which actually seems like a magic show.

  32. DTR says:

    @micheleinmichigan,
    Excellent point. The layman who wants to be able to tell the difference between pseudo-science and real science needs other tools. This is where appeal to authority, the lone-maverick battling corporate interests, and other such tools come in.

  33. Chris says:

    Gregory Goldmacher:

    They already do. They mention it quite often. Those strings have “vibrations” you see. And “vibrations” are right next to “energy” in the pile of vague concepts used to “explain” a whole lot of BS.

    I used to be a structural dynamics and loads engineer (nonlinear second order differential equations were my bread and butter, until I got side tracked with a disabled child). I really ought to put that background to good use if I encounter someone telling me about “vibrations” and “natural frequencies” (which have specific meanings to me). I think I shall ask for the eigenvalues, eigenvectors, and if they have done a Fourier transform between the time/frequency domains. Perhaps how the amplitude is affected by energy input/output. Perhaps what the decay from forced vibration to steady state it.

    I could also mix it up, and truly baffle with bull excrement.

    (it might help if I read Brian Green’s book The Elegant Universe, which is sitting nearby, to add to my vocabulary)

  34. BillyJoe says:

    “(it might help if I read Brian Green’s book The Elegant Universe, which is sitting nearby, to add to my vocabulary)”

    My copy sits on a shelf about a metre above my head together with a selection of other science books written for the layman, and a copy of “The Kite Runner” – hey, how did that get there?.

    …worse still, there’s a book on the philosophy of physics which I’ve had for about ten years and never gotten around to reading.

  35. BillyJoe and Chris – you should start a procrastinator’s book club, where you sit around and talk about the books you are going to read. ;)

  36. Chris says:

    My problem is that I check out books from the library, and need to read them before they are due back. So I don’t get to the books I own (or in the case of the book in question, find in my son’s room after he moved out). Today I plan to finish a book I own, really!

  37. DTR says:

    Everyone wants to have read the great books, but no one wants to read them. I’ve still got Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations sitting on my shelf from my undergraduate econ days, and I’ve still only read the section about making nails.

  38. Chris says:

    Hence the popularity of Cliff Notes. Are they still around?

  39. Dawn says:

    @Chris, yes, Cliff and Sparks and various others are out. Have to admit I only used Cliff back in the day to help me keep the names in “Crime and Punishment” straight (Why the heck do the Russians have to use 16 different names for the same person???) I didn’t have too many books back then that I didn’t want to read.

    My kids have used Cliff and Sparks also, sometimes to help understand a confusing story (Julie’s People), sometimes to avoid reading the book (Three cups of tea). Since not everyone loves the same books, I didn’t disallow the idea.

    Maybe I should get some Cliff and Sparks so I can at least intelligently talk about some books; I’ve never been able to get through Wealth of Nations, Dr Zhivago, Emma (and I love P&P), several others. Perhaps the notes will encourage me to read the books…

  40. Dawn “I’ve never been able to get through Wealth of Nations, Dr Zhivago, Emma (and I love P&P), several others. Perhaps the notes will encourage me to read the books…”

    I’m trying to read Tale of Two Cities. I haven’t read Dickens since I was in my twenties and my memory was more nimble. My problem is by the time I get to the end of a sentence, I’ve forgotten the first part of the sentence. It’s harder than reading David Gorski’s articles. :)

  41. Calli Arcale says:

    It’s a good book, but the trouble with Dickens is that he wasn’t really writing novels, at least not directly. He was writing serialized works for magazines, which paid him by the word.

    This is why his works contain so many words. ;-)

  42. Dawn says:

    @Calli Arcale: IIRC, once when someone asked Mickey Spillane why his heros and bad guys were such bad shots, he replied that he got paid by the word, and he wasn’t going to lose the money those extra “bang”s got him!

    @micheleinmichigan: good luck. I slogged through Oliver Twist and the Old Curiosity Shop; tried the others and gave up in despair. Sort of read Tale by skimming a lot.

  43. LovleAnjel says:

    @micheleinmichigan

    Skip to chapter 13 in Tale of Two Cities – the Resurrectionist is the best character in the whole thing.

    AP English ruined most “classics” for me. Nothing like trying to find symbolism in every sentence to kill the love of reading.

  44. Zetetic says:

    Josie…

    I’m afraid Scripps Clinic in San Diego has been on the Woo train for quite a while. Your mention of them brings me back about 15 years to when I was a quality and accreditation compliance coordinator at Scripps Memorial Hospital, a loosely affiliated neighbor across the I-5 freeway. I recall the early years of the integrative medicine center at Scripps Clinic and their promotional materials were often disseminated at Scripps Memorial. There were occasional joint nursing & quality related meetings between Scripps Clinic and Scripps Memorial and I had contact with some of the RNs from the center. This was my first awakening to the pervasive invasion of scientific medicine from the “Dark” side. I would sometimes encounter one of the center’s staff or an RN in my facility espousing the wonder of “Healing Touch” to wide-eyed young nurses. So I would question the appropriateness of practicing shamanism in a modern medical facility and, knowing of the bitter rivalry between “Healing Touch” and “Therapeutic Touch” advocates, I’d ask which one was best. They would look at me with a blank stare when I asked for things like large scale outcomes analysis for the efficacy of the practice. One of the leading advocates once said to me “You seem to have you opinions about healing touch… Opinions are like ass-holes, everybody has one. They didn’t like me much.

  45. Chris says:

    micheleinmichigan:

    BillyJoe and Chris – you should start a procrastinator’s book club, where you sit around and talk about the books you are going to read.

    This is one reason I have a large stack of books waiting to be read. This summer I did get some of the non-library backlog read and then took them to the local skeptics’ meetup where we exchange books.

  46. Scott says:

    Apologies for the slight threadomancy, but:

    Is there a reason from basic sciences that the human body could not generate an energy field of some sort, like an electric eel.
    It doesn’t, but from first principals can you say it can’t?

    AN energy field is certainly possible. A field of the type claimed by energy healers (in particular, one that is not associated with one of the four fundamental interactions yet has important effects at everyday energy scales) most certainly can be so ruled out. The idea that the four fundamental forces are all that are relevant at the energy scales of the human body is far more fundamental than anything homeopathy violates. If there were to exist a field capable of doing what is claimed for qi, then just for starters none of atoms, molecules, elements, or chemical reactions would exist.

    Those concepts all depend entirely on the proposition that electromagnetism dominates at the eV scale, and the strong force at the MeV/GeV scale. For “energy healing” to work, qi would have to dominate.

Comments are closed.