Articles

Pseudoscience In Medical News at the Huffington Post

As many have pointed out, we are in the midst of a transformation in the way news is created, distributed, and monetized – all brought on by the internet. Access to information has dramatically increased, while the traditional news outlets are fading away. The new internet-based outlets that are cropping up are often hybrids that do not fit into any existing definition. Science-based medicine itself is such an outlet – it’s primarily a group professional blog, but we have editors and take submissions. We also plan to expand the type of resources available on SBM. We’re experimenting.

Others, like Plos ONE, are experimenting with open-access peer-reviewed journals. And there are online newspapers that are part blog, part news feed, part something else.

While we are in this phase of experimentation it is important to monitor quality control, as the old institutions lose their grip on the flow of information. Health information in particular, now the most common type of information on the internet, suffers from poor quality control, leading the average consumer with too much information of too low quality.

The Huffington Post, which bills itself as “The Internet Newspaper: News Blogs Video Community” is a hybrid news outlet. While it contains traditional news articles, as one would expect from any newspaper, it also has developed a reputation for publishing consistently anti-scientific blogs and articles, particularly in the area of medicine. Some of these articles would make a Weekly World News editor blush.

From one point of view, these are just personal blogs, and therefore they are the opinions of an individual published without any filter. But they are packaged as part of something that calls itself a newspaper, and this raises the question of editorial responsibility. What is the responsibility of the Huffington Post when they publish gross health misinformation on their site?

Two recent posts illustrate the problem. But to first put them into context, the Huffington Post has long been a home to anti-vaccinationists such as David Kirby and RFK Jr. It has also been an outlet for Deepak Chopra to promote his unscientific medical claims. In fact it does not seem that the problem is a lack of a quality filter for health informtion, but that there is a specific editorial policy at the Huffington Post to promote anything that goes against the scientific medical mainstream.

Antibiotics Cause Cancer?

Perhaps the single worst article I have ever read on the Huffington Post, which is saying something, is a recent article by Kim Evans in which she claims that antibiotics cause cancer.

She starts off with some reasonable premises, that antibiotics are being over-used – a problem recognized by mainstream medicine, although she is sloppy in her use of terminology. For example, she refers to the normal friendly bacteria that colonize our bodies as “probiotics”. Actually, probiotics refers to products that include live bacteria that are meant to support the normal bacterial flora in our bodies – not the bacteria themselves. This is a small point, but reflects the intellectual laziness that Evans brought to this post.

Then she launches into her ridiculous claims:

These healthy bacteria, which should be in abundance in our guts, dine on unhealthy bacteria and yeasts in our bodies, serving to keep these problems in check for us.

Actually, these healthy bacteria form the basis of our immune system — or they did until we took antibiotics because antibiotics regularly kill our healthy bacteria. And that can set you up for numerous problems down the road — including some very serious problems.

This is factually wrong, and betrays a level of ignorance of basic human biology that should preclude Evans from writing about any medical topic. Healthy bacteria do not form the basis of our immune system. Specialized human tissue and cells form the basis of our immune system. Our skin also provides an important barrier and can be considered part of our immunity.

Healthy bacteria are not part of our immune system. It is true that they play a role resisting infection because they form a stable ecosystem of bacteria and they crowd out harmful bacteria or fungus. It is also true, however, that under physiological stress healthy bacteria can become infectious.

Also, healthy bacteria do not “eat” other bacteria or fungus – again, their function is simply to crowd out infections organisms.

While overuse of antibiotics is a problem because of the rise of resistant bacteria, antibiotic use has not altered the role healthy bacteria play for our digestion and resistance to infection. Most people still have healthy bacterial ecosystems. It is true that broad-spectrum antibiotic used to treat serious infections can also kill off some of the healthy bacteria, and this can result in certain bacteria or funguses growing out of control and creating an infection. These infections can then be treated themselves, and the bacterial flora will eventually recover to normal.

There may also be a role for probiotics if taken early enough, but the effects are modest and symptomatic only. Probiotics do not restore a healthy bacterial ecosystem, and are not needed for maintenance. (Mark Crislip wrote an excellent review of this topic here.)

Evans then builds her case with this falsehood:

First, an estimated 90 percent of the population has a problem with candida overgrowth, although most don’t know it. And second, candida overgrowth can be the root cause of literally hundreds of different problems in the body.

Wrong. Candida does colonize about 90% of the population, but as part of the normal ecosystem. Most people do not have a problem with candida overgrowth. There is also no evidence that candida causes hundreds of health problems. This is a pseudoscientific claim that is not uncommon among sectarian practitioners. Candida overgrowth is a popular “fake” diagnosis that fits the common pattern – claims that it causes common non-specific symptoms and hundreds of real health problems, so that it can be diagnosed in anybody.

While candida can cause real infections, it can be treated with antifungals and usually presents only an acute illness that can be cured. Some people do have problems with recurrent infections. But there is no evidence that chronic candidiasis is an epidemic or can cause many disparate conditions. This concept of candidiasis is used as a “theory of everything”, popular among medical pseudosciences.

Evan then brings it home with this astounding claim:

It’s also fascinating that an oncologist in Rome, Dr. Tullio Simoncini, says that cancer is a fungus and actually an advanced form of candida overgrowth. You can read more in his book, Cancer is a Fungus, in which he scientifically explains that the cause of cancer “is always and only candida.” Because Dr. Simoncini is having a great deal of success eliminating cancer in the body very quickly, I believe he’s one to listen to.

Dr. Simoncini is a notorious cancer quack with bizarre claims that have not been demonstrated scientifically. In fact, they are demonstrably false. That is what Evans was leading us too with her sloppy journalism and medical falsehoods – the promotion of a typical cure for all cancers scam.

Intuitive Scanning

Next up is Margaret Ruth who recently informed Huffington Post readers about medical intuitives.  She writes:

Just as an X-ray machine scans a body in order to gain specific medical details, an intuitive scan works to provide an energetic portrait of the client. The premise is that the physical body has an energy blueprint and so the intuitive scan will look for energy blockages and areas of stress. Good health is, in general, considered to be clear flows of energy between all the chakras and easy, free functioning of all organs and body systems. Because this is an intuitive technique, scans can be done in person or from a distance with equal accuracy.

This is pure magical thinking.  A couple centuries of biological science has failed to either discover a human”energy blueprint” nor the need for any such hypothesis. The vitalists (those who believe in a life force) lost the scientific battle in the 19th century. No one who currently claims to be able to detect or manipulate vague human energy fields has been able to demonstrate that they can do so.

Yet Ruth writes about medical intuitives as if they were as established as X-rays.  She doesn’t even try to achieve the “false balance” typical of the journalistic approach to controversial scientific topics. Most journalists at least know they should cover both sides of an issue. This becomes problematic when they balance an issue that is inherently asymetrical. For example, they may give equal weight to a lone crank as they do the the solid scientific consensus of opinion.

Ruth is not even doing that – she writes as if there is no controversy at all, let alone that the scientific evidence is heavily against any notion of human energy fields or intuitive diagnosis. There is no attempt to put these claims into any scientific context – Ruth’s article is pure promotion.

She follows with an interview of two nurses who claim to be medical intuitives  – without asking any inconvenient questions about science or evidence, of course. I am curious as to why Ruth only gave their first names, without any comment. This betrays a lack of transparency necessary to good journalism and good science.

Conclusion

Evans article was nothing more than a thinly veiled promotion of her book on “cleansing”, devoid of anything that can be considered journalism or even basic scientific knowledge. Ruth’s article was a promotion of a dubious pseudoscientific medical claim. The readers of the Huffington Post were not well-served by either article. Readers were not given enough information to make an informed decision about the claims that were being promoted, nor even of the controversial status of the claims. They were also fed demonstrable medical falsehoods and misinformation.

This is now what I expect from the Huffington Post, which is also one of the main outlets of the anti-vaccination movement. This fatally compromises the credibility of the Huffington Post in my opinion, and raises the bigger question of what we can expect from the new breed of online blog/news hybrids.

Posted in: Science and the Media

Leave a Comment (55) ↓

55 thoughts on “Pseudoscience In Medical News at the Huffington Post

  1. Tim Kreider says:

    Appalling. I sent an email to the editors telling them that Huffington Post doesn’t have much credibility to complain about the so-called Republican War on Science when they routinely publish articles that defy medical science.

    As for Evan’s claim about “basis of the immune system”: it would be reasonable to say that normal flora in the gut interacts with the immune system in important ways, aside from simply crowding out pathogens. But it makes no sense to say bacteria form the “basis”.

  2. Peter Lipson says:

    HuffPo is so clearly an infomercial service when it comes to medical reporting, its health posts should be labeled as such.

    I’ve emailed them at info@huffingtonpost.com to suggest that they label their health posts as ads.

  3. David Gorski says:

    I noticed the antivaccine slant a mere three weeks after HuffPo started in 2005, unfortunately.

    By the way, Jim Carrey has joined the merry band of antivaccinationists at HuffPo:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-carrey/the-judgment-on-vaccines_b_189777.html

  4. Peter Lipson says:

    …and i’ve commented on his post. No comment i’ve ever made on huffpo has ever been published.

  5. Paul F says:

    David – You beat me to it.

    Jim Carrey’s article is front and center on the main page. Ugh.

  6. tmac57 says:

    Dr. Gorski-”By the way, Jim Carrey has joined the merry band of antivaccinationists at HuffPo:”
    Thanks for the link. I just don’t understand why news outlets continue to promote this nonsense. Don’t they realize that there are serious public health consequences at stake when immunization rates fall below herd immunity levels?
    I was glad to see that there were many comments criticizing Carrey’s article , so I guess they aren’t wholesale editing out dissenting opinions.

  7. Peter Lipson says:

    I think at this point it’s safe to say that HuffPo has become a threat to public health—between their infectious disease promotion and their medical informercials, and their reach….

  8. weing says:

    I would say medical misinfomercials.

  9. Versus says:

    Good news/ bad news:

    First, the good news: Someone is trying to do something about the sorry state of health journalism — http://www.healthnewsreview.org.

    Next, the bad news: The anti-vaccine crowd, lead by a chiropractor, is pushing its agenda in the Florida legislature, and may succeed. http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/article994157.ece#comments
    Fortuantely, the Florida Republicans are so busy decimating education and other public programs in this state that they may not have time to vote on this bill before the session ends. If you are so inclined, please add your comment to the St. Petersburg Times article cited above. Better yet, write the Florida Legislature, especially if you are a Florida citizen or are unfortunate enough to own vacation property in this state (and therefore pay taxes here). Go to http://www.myflorida.gov.

  10. Skeptic says:

    “# Peter Lipsonon 22 Apr 2009 at 8:06 am
    …and i’ve commented on his post. No comment i’ve ever made on huffpo has ever been published.”

    I’d wondered about that. Given the recent blog postings about Kim Evans appallingly counterfactual article I would have expected a number of expert critical responses in the comment section, yet there are only a few critical comments there, and certainly none as well informed as yours no doubt was. The Huff Po is, ironically, very intolerant of dissent. As someone who is generally, though not always, liberal, I’m appalled by the HuffPo’s insular policies, and anti-science credulity when it comes to heath care.

  11. weing says:

    It appears neither liberals nor conservatives have a monopoly on ignorance, pseudoscience, and intolerance.

  12. pec says:

    “The vitalists (those who believe in a life force) lost the scientific battle in the 19th century.”

    Yes they lost the political battle to the materialists. But if we are scientific, why should we care about who wins a political battle? Where are all the controlled blinded scientific experiments showing materialism is correct and vitalism is wrong? They certainly were not done in the 19th century.

    “No one who currently claims to be able to detect or manipulate vague human energy fields has been able to demonstrate that they can do so.”

    That is NOT true; lots of energy healing experiments have demonstrated this. Your only defense is the Rosa experiment. Since when do we accept something as fact based on one experiment, when many others had a different result?

    You are trying to spread materialist myths, trying to win political battles. You want online publications to be put under the control of materialist medical authorities. You think the public is a horde of idiots and you want to control what we think and read. Because you and your organizations know the truth.

  13. pec says:

    We won’t let the materialists control online health information! It will never be allowed to happen!

  14. weing says:

    I will be the first to admit that I don’t know the truth. I know a lot of things that aren’t true. Does that count?

  15. DrEvil says:

    pec, post your best example of energy healing demonstrated to have real effects.

  16. Eva-Lisa says:

    I’m a first time commenter and I’m not sure what to write.

    I’m just appalled and horrified that there is so much dangerous pseudoscience out there and that celebrities are actually promoting it. I’m so glad that there are people fighting back with reason and science. Thank you for this important, excellent blog and for doing all the hard work that it must take to run it.

  17. Peter Lipson says:

    Yes they lost the political battle to the materialists.

    i think you mean the “reality battle”

  18. pec says:

    [i think you mean the “reality battle”]

    If you are so sure that they won, maybe you would like to explain exactly why you think so. Faith in all-knowing authorities?

  19. weing says:

    Real science has allowed us to travel to the moon, send robots to other planets and gather data. Lala land science has been exploring the moon and planets in their imagination and communicating with aliens.

  20. weing says:

    Sorry, by remote viewing, not imagination.

  21. trrll says:

    Yes they lost the political battle to the materialists. But if we are scientific, why should we care about who wins a political battle? Where are all the controlled blinded scientific experiments showing materialism is correct and vitalism is wrong? They certainly were not done in the 19th century.

    No, they lost the scientific battle. How did they lose it? By failing to make scientific progress. Compare the progress made in electrical theory to the progress made in “vitalist” theory:

    In the case of electrical theory, the particles that carry the energy have been identified, characterized in terms of charge, mass, and interaction with other fields and particles. Extraordinarily sensitive measurement instruments have been developed and can be bought off the shelf, capable of producing clear, unambiguous, and highly reproducible measurements of even very weak electrical fields. The role of electrical fields in many biological processes have been understood, and it is known how biological tissues both generate and respond to electromagnetic fields. Fields and currents that were once too small to measure can not be measured reliably and with relative ease. Electromagnetic imaging provides high-resolution 3-dimensional images of the inside of the body for diagnostic purposes. Our homes are filled with devices that exploit the discoveries of electrical theory.

    And what progress has been made regarding the “energy fields” of vitalism? None in over a century. Nobody has developed a reliable instrument to measure the supposed fields. Nobody knows how the alleged force is transmitted. How it interacts with matter is unknown. How it could be generated by biological organisms is unknown There are no known biological processes that require it. Claimed phenomena are all characterized by small effect sizes of a sort that experienced scientists know to be frequently due to experimental artifacts. Nobody has figured out how to convert those small, doubtful effects into large, convincing measurements.

    In science, it is ultimately progress that determines who wins the scientific “battle.” If a particular theory or idea fails to be fertile in yielding new discoveries and greater understanding, the simplest explanation is that it is simply wrong. Who want to waste time working on an idea that has yielded no major discoveries in a century?

  22. SF Mom and Scientist says:

    I apologize, but I’m going to go a bit off-topic.

    To David Gorski – thanks for the link to the Jim Carrey opinion piece.

    Mr. Carrey states that vaccines are “the fastest growing division of the pharmaceutical industry”. Is this true? Regardless, I know this does not really mean anything, but it does not sound right to me. Does anyone out there have any more solid information on this?

  23. trrll says:

    Yes they lost the political battle to the materialists. But if we are scientific, why should we care about who wins a political battle? Where are all the controlled blinded scientific experiments showing materialism is correct and vitalism is wrong? They certainly were not done in the 19th century.

    Because they didn’t lose the “political” battle, they lost the scientific battle. Politically, there is a great deal of support for vitalism; it is something that people would like to believe–that there is something magical and ineffable about living things, and especially ourselves. It was once the dominant view, and outside of science it is still a widespread belief.

    So how did vitalism lose the scientific battle in the face of all of that political support? Because ultimately, the winner of a scientific battle is determined by scientific fertility. The winning theory is the one that leads people to new, important discoveries.

    To get an idea of what makes for a successful theory, let’s look at electromagnetic theory. Just a couple of hundred years ago, all it had to support it were a collection of curious phenomena–sparks, odd attraction and repulsion between various materials. Many of the effect sizes were small, and tricky to measure. Where is it today? We have a well accepted and extensively tested mathematical field theory that quantitatively predicts forces and energy. The particles that carry the force have been identified, characterized as to weight and charge, and studied in accelerators. Their interactions with other forms of matter have been characterized in detail. Experimenters have learned how to measure electrical signals clearly and unambiguously, and modern instrumentation provides large effect sizes for charges, fields, and currents that were once undetectable. The role of electromagnetic interaction in biology has been elucidated. We know how cells produce and use electromagnetic fields and currents. Biological processes have been identified that are dependent upon electrical fields and currents. Devices are available that use electromagnetic fields to provide 3-D, high resolution images of the inside of the human body for diagnosis of disease. Almost everybody has in their homes sophisticated devices that exploit electromagnetic theory to achieve things that would have seemed magical even a few decades ago.

    And what progress has been made over the same period with respect to vitalistic “energy fields.” Basically none. The effects, if they exist at all, are so small that they cannot be measured reliably or reproducibly. Nobody has found any way to amplify the supposed effect into something that can be measured convincingly with off-the-shelf instrumentation. Nobody knows how the “energy” is generated, or transmitted, or what it does to cells. No biological processes have been discovered that rely upon this energy. There is not modern technology that exploits this energy. There is no mathematical theory.

    Is it any wonder that vitalism lost the scientific “battle”? The people who pursued this theory have discovered nothing of consequence. It has given rise to no new technology. If you were a young scientist, looking to choose a career, which would you choose: a field that has been a “dry hole” for centuries, or one that has been a continuous source of exciting discoveries and new technologies. Vitalism didn’t lose because of politics–it lost because of boredom.

  24. weing says:

    Sounds like Mr Carey is making a claim. Why not ask him if he has anything to back up the claim besides his word?

  25. DrEvil says:

    [If you are so sure that they won, maybe you would like to explain exactly why you think so. Faith in all-knowing authorities?]

    Maybe because science has made the world what it is today with countless advances in quality of life, technology, understanding of the world, etc etc.

    What has pseudoscience been doing in the mean time? It can’t even get past its unsubstantiated claims into any meaningful definition of plausibility or provide demonstrable evidence of it’s mere existence.

    It’s quite clear which side produces results just by looking at the world today versus how it was even a single lifetime ago. If remote viewings, touch healing, or any of the mountain of other BS claims were demonstrably true there would be enormous industries based around them. But no, their existence has yet to even be confirmed.

  26. Calli Arcale says:

    Fastest growing division?

    1) How, then, to explain the number of manufacturers who have been leaving the vaccination business due to inadequate profit margins? (They are, after all, focused on profit first. I am the first to acknowledge that.)

    2) Division? As in, part of a company? This is sounding suspiciously close to a conspiracy theory alleging that there is only one manufacturer, really.

  27. MKandefer says:

    Well that didn’t take long. I’ve been posting some dissent to Kim Evans and she trotted this out:

    “but because I’ve physically removed so [many toxins] from my own [body], you”ll never convince me otherwise”

    Dr. Gorski is right. It’s a cult mentality.

  28. mandydax says:

    On the reasonable side of autism research, a new foundation that will not waste time on trying to find a vaccine-autism link has been created. Dr. Offit is on the board.

    The Autism Science Foundation’s mission is premised on the following facts and principles:

    * Autism is known to have a strong genetic component. Research must aim to discover the mechanisms of action that trigger autism, as well as safe, effective and novel treatments to enhance the quality of life for children and adults currently affected.
    * Early diagnosis and early intervention are critical to helping people with autism reach their potential, but educational, vocational and support services must be applied across the lifespan. Science has a critical role to play in creating evidence-based, effective lifespan interventions.
    * Vaccines save lives; they do not cause autism. Numerous studies have failed to show a causal link between vaccines and autism. Vaccine safety research should continue to be conducted by the public health system in order to ensure vaccine safety and maintain confidence in our national vaccine program, but further investment of limited autism research dollars is not warranted at this time.

    http://www.prweb.com/releases/2009/04/prweb2333904.htm

    Thanks to Ben Goldacre at badscience.net for pointing this out on twitter.

  29. pec says:

    [And what progress has been made regarding the “energy fields” of vitalism? None in over a century.]

    Vitalism has not been popular during that time, so not much research was done. Hopefully that is starting to change.

    [Claimed phenomena are all characterized by small effect sizes of a sort that experienced scientists know to be frequently due to experimental artifacts.]

    That isn’t true. The small effect size claim is used to fight certain areas of parapsychology, but I don’t think energy healing experiments have been criticized for that. They are criticized because their results just can’t be true. They just can’t be.

  30. overshoot says:

    The Huff Po is, ironically, very intolerant of dissent. As someone who is generally, though not always, liberal, I’m appalled by the HuffPo’s insular policies, and anti-science credulity when it comes to heath care.

    The “liber” vs.”conservative” camps are dwarfed by the much larger group identification of “rulers” vs. “ruled.” HuffPo and the NeoCons may disagree on many things, but they share a common belief that political power is a good thing for them to have.

    A consequence of this is that things that limit that power — such as science and good accounting — are Bad Things. Therefore, the “logic of empire” so well described by the past administration dictates that those impediments be banished.

    Put another way, when your world is entirely artificial — laws you create, yes-men, etc. — wishful thinking is obviously better than messy constraints.

  31. overshoot says:

    I don’t think energy healing experiments have been criticized for that. They are criticized because their results just can’t be true. They just can’t be.

    No, they’re criticized because they don’t come up positive unless there’s a magnet under the table.

    When the most successful “energy medicine” practitioner on Earth is James Randi, it’s pretty much Game Over, Dude!

  32. pec says:

    The advances of modern science and technology have no relevance to the philosophical debate over vitalism vs materialism. Technology can progress regardless of whether or not scientists believe in life energy. Disbelief in life energy did not cause technology to advance, and belief in life energy would not hinder scientific or technological progress.

  33. trrll says:

    Vitalism has not been popular during that time, so not much research was done. Hopefully that is starting to change.

    You are confusing cause and effect. Vitalism lost popularity because no progress was made. And considering the results you have cited, which still show small effect sizes that are difficult to reproduce, and still no coherent, testable mathematical or particle theory of how such fields could work, there’s no signs of that changing.

    That isn’t true. The small effect size claim is used to fight certain areas of parapsychology, but I don’t think energy healing experiments have been criticized for that. They are criticized because their results just can’t be true.

    So cite me the randomized, placebo-controlled studies that show large, reproducible, effect sizes for “energy healing.”

  34. Harriet Hall says:

    pec said “They are criticized because their results just can’t be true.”

    No, they are criticized because they are poorly designed, not adequately controlled, are not replicated in other labs, and do not form a body of consistent coherent results that build on each other to make progress.

  35. trrll says:

    The advances of modern science and technology have no relevance to the philosophical debate over vitalism vs materialism. Technology can progress regardless of whether or not scientists believe in life energy. Disbelief in life energy did not cause technology to advance, and belief in life energy would not hinder scientific or technological progress.

    The advances of modern science and technology are illustrations of the sort of progress that is characteristic of a field of study that is based on a real phenomenon and a valid theory.

  36. DrEvil says:

    “That isn’t true. The small effect size claim is used to fight certain areas of parapsychology, but I don’t think energy healing experiments have been criticized for that. They are criticized because their results just can’t be true. They just can’t be.”

    What a crock. IF there was a real phenomenon that a practitioner could consistently reproduce in controlled experiments that could demonstrate a persons real ability to heal someone by touch for example, and it could be reproduced readily and obviously, it wouldn’t matter if science didn’t have an explanation for how it works at that moment, as there could be no debating that it does work. And if demonstrated unambiguously that it does work science would have no choice but to accept that something is going on, and you can bet there would be an explosion of research and interest into finding out just what the mechanism of the effect is.

    What do we get instead? Shoddily constructed studies with poor methodologies that AT BEST produce statistically insignificant benefits that are most often eliminated with tightened controls. If people could bend spoons with their mind, heal wounds with touch, talk to the dead, predict the future, etc their results would be profound and repeatable. They aren’t, and this is why science looks down on them so much.

  37. JustAsItSounds says:

    Long time lurker, first time commenter here.

    Just to re-emphasis why vitalism is not considered science. As Isaac Asimov once said:

    “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I’ve found it!), but ‘That’s funny…”

    You can think of the scienitific process (what a clunky term) as:
    i) Produce new, repreducable observations that cannot be explained by current theory
    ii) Produce a valid hypothesis that explains both the new observations and the existing observations
    iii) Devise experiments that will either prove or disprove predictions made by the hypothesis.
    iv) If the new observations from experiments do not support the hypothesis go back to stage ii) otherwise you have a theory. Rinse and repeat

    As far as I know, spiritualists/vitalists/supernaturalists have not been able to demonstrate even stage (i) so far. Please prove me wrong, pec

  38. pec says:

    “Please prove me wrong, pec”

    You can prove yourself wrong by becoming familiar with the literature and history of parapsychology. Parapsychology experiments have become increasingly technologically advanced and carefully controlled. The statistical significance overall is beyond doubt. Not every single experiment succeeds but that is normal in any scientific field.

  39. Mojo says:

    If reports of these experiments exist, it should be easy enough for you to provide references for them, pec.

  40. Citizen Deux says:

    You can prove yourself wrong by becoming familiar with the literature and history of parapsychology. Parapsychology experiments have become increasingly technologically advanced and carefully controlled. The statistical significance overall is beyond doubt. Not every single experiment succeeds but that is normal in any scientific field.

    1 – Literature and history are not reproducible studies

    2 – The advent of technology is meaningless in the absence of results, even the best instrument would still measure zero.

    3 – Your second to last sentence begs a definition and source for the hyperbole

    4 – It is true that not every experiment succeeds, but the successful ones can be repeated

    Science is iterative. Positive results are reinforced and expanded upon, negative results evetually fall away, like a dying branch on a tree.

    I am a huge fan of the SciFi show Ghost Hunters and would dearly love for some of these results to be proven (or even repeated). Despite the seemingly compelling evidence there is not one event which is repeated, measured or adequately compared to some standard. Thus the show remains engaging entertainment.

  41. Dr. Skeptizmo says:

    Pec somehow has a way of hijacking any good conversation and twisting it into something that makes me want to smack her! I have no idea how this little troll keeps getting people to feed her.

    On a more relevant note- this info about the HuffPo is wonderful for med students like me to hear about so that I can work on combating it in my own tiny universe. THANK YOU SBM!

  42. pec says:

    “If reports of these experiments exist, it should be easy enough for you to provide references for them, pec.”

    If you want me to spend my nights and weekends getting a report together for you, I’m sorry but I don’t have the time. If you have access to a public or university library and an internet account you have all you need to get started. But you will not learn all there is to know about a 100-year-old field in just a couple of hours.

    It also can be helpful to read overviews by parapsychologists such as Dean Radin. It would balance what you already get from JREF.

  43. weing says:

    ““If reports of these experiments exist, it should be easy enough for you to provide references for them, pec.”

    If you want me to spend my nights and weekends getting a report together for you, I’m sorry but I don’t have the time. If you have access to a public or university library and an internet account you have all you need to get started. But you will not learn all there is to know about a 100-year-old field in just a couple of hours.”

    I guess that means they don’t exist, or their quality is such that spending nights and weekends gathering them together could be spent better doing almost anything else.

  44. Gawd. It is true, Dr. Skeptizmo!!! What is it about pec that makes her such an eminently feedable troll?

    Ok, here are some ideas–

    1. She’s not horrible, unlike many trolls. She doesn’t go off on profane name-calling jags; she just repeats the same arguments over and over. When trolls descend to abuse, they’re easy to ignore, but pec persistently argues, which makes it hard to ignore her.

    2. She’s pithy! Unlike some trolls, especially those of a certain political bent whose posts usually make me just wish they’d get their own darned blog, she keeps her posts tight and to her point.

    3. She can be so close to reasonable with the exception of her particular blind spots that it draws people into the argument. “Maybe this will make her understand! …Maybe this. Or this.”

    I dunno– am I suffering from delusional troll-sympathy?

  45. pec says:

    “am I suffering from delusional troll-sympathy?”

    Just because someone has been called a troll does not mean they are an ignorant idiot who should be ignored. Sometimes “trolls” are informed and reasonable, and have been identified as a troll merely because they do not march in step with the ideology of the blog authors.

    It’s human nature to want everyone to agree and be on the same page. But this is supposed to be a scientific blog, and that means controversies should be considered healthy and constructive. But human nature usually wins over the ideals of science.

    So I am called a troll here, because I question the authority of the established mainstream (science is supposed to care about facts and reason, not authority), and I point out careless or politically motivated statements that most of the other readers don’t notice.

  46. Mojo says:

    If you want me to spend my nights and weekends getting a report together for you, I’m sorry but I don’t have the time. If you have access to a public or university library and an internet account you have all you need to get started.

    Ah, the usual “there is loads of evidence out there and it’s really easy to find, but I can’t find it for you myself.”

    I’m not asking for a detailed report, just some references to the evidence you claim exists. You are the one who can identify the sources that best support your claim, not me. Your reluctance to do so makes me suspect that you aren’t quite as confident of them than you say you are. It’s also the sort of behaviour that leads to you being labeled a troll.

  47. pec says:

    “I’m not asking for a detailed report, just some references to the evidence you claim exists.”

    I have done a lot of that in the past. It turns out that if a pseudo-skeptic can imagine the tiniest thing wrong with an experiment they will call it worthless. And if they can’t find anything at all wrong with it, they call it worthless anyway and refuse to believe it. No research can ever be perfect, and if it does seem perfect you can still find excuses for not believing it. For example, there was a disagreement over at neurologica recently because another reader brought up Dean Radin’s presentiment experiments. 2 of 4 had highly positive results and were statistically significant with very low p values. One was not significant, but in the predicted direction and near borderline significance. Another was also in the predicted direction but not near significance. When all 4 experiments were combined the significance was astronomical (but since that analysis was not planned I understand it can’t be used as hard evidence).

    Anyway, those 4 experiments must be considered suggestive of a real phenomenon, especially since other labs had similar results. However, the blog author, a fanatical pseudo-skeptic, said the results were “essentially negative.” I explained and explained that no reasonable scientist would ever call those results negative.

    Then he said the effects were so small that the signal could not be separated from the noise. I explained that the whole purpose of inferential statistics, such as T test, is to separate signal (effect) from noise (variance). If the result is statistically significant, then by definition we know that the effect was not small, relative to the variance.

    The blog author never answered or acknowledged my explanations.

    Every other time I posted legitimate research that questions materialism I got the same kind of ignorant and close-minded responses.

    If you would like to see a recent general overview of parapsychology you can read Dean Radin’s The Conscious Universe, for example. But of course you won’t believe any of it because you will say Radin is biased. Yes he is convinced of the reality of psi, after many years of research.

    There are lots of books, lots of articles. Pseudo-skeptics only need one poorly designed under-powered experiment to convince them an effect is not real. And they will ignore thousands of positive experiments, saying the results must be cheating or error. If all else fails, they will say the research is bad because it studies phenomena that are implausible or contrary to mainstream accepted theories.

  48. The Blind Watchmaker says:

    @pec

    “You can prove yourself wrong by becoming familiar with the literature and history of parapsychology. Parapsychology experiments have become increasingly technologically advanced and carefully controlled. The statistical significance overall is beyond doubt.”

    ?????????????

    Post a good randomized controlled study on parapsychology.

    The Million Dollar Challenge ends at the end of the decade.

  49. Kultakutri says:

    You can prove yourself wrong by becoming familiar with the literature and history of parapsychology. Parapsychology experiments have become increasingly technologically advanced and carefully controlled. The statistical significance overall is beyond doubt. Not every single experiment succeeds but that is normal in any scientific field.

    Alright. So, you know we’re all wrong but you don’t show any proof that it’s you who has at least a grain of truth, you only say Go to library and find yourself. In my part of the world, we call this arrogance.

  50. Kultakutri says:

    Damn formatting. The blockquote was meant for the first paragraph only as, hopefully, the readers figured.

Comments are closed.