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Quantum Snake Oil – A Primer

Let’s conduct a little thought experiment. First, for the sake of this thought experiment let’s assume that you have no morals, ethics, or conscience. You are comfortable lying to people, even if they are sick, and even if it will harm their health.

Your task is to get as many people as possible to believe that small bits of plastic can improve their health and treat their symptoms. This is not as difficult as it may at first appear, and the payout can be huge. Small plastic stickers can be mass produced for pennies. The primary investment will be creating and maintaining a website. Then, if you can get people to believe that the plastic stickers are magical, the money will come rolling in.

What claims should we make for the stickers? Let’s stay away from anything that has an objective outcome, so we won’t claim that they can be used as an antibiotic to treat pneumonia, or as a way to treat heart attacks. I also understand that in the US and other countries, they take a close look at claims made to treat specific diseases, but you can make vague “structure function” claims with abandon, so let’s go with those. We can always imply that they are effective for diseases, even serious ones like cancer.

These types of claims can include weight loss, improved energy and mental clarity, improved sleep (but be careful not to use disease terms like “insomnia”), and relief from common cold symptoms and everyday aches and pains. These health claims have the additional advantage of being very common, so our potential market will be huge.

For subjective improvement in common complaints we can rely upon a couple of factors. First there are placebo effects – all of the various things that conspire to convince people that useless treatments are effective. Also, the symptoms we will claim to help are often variable or self-limiting – so they will often get better on their own, and we can reap the credit.

So we have a solid business plan in place – now all we have to do is convince people of the impossible. This may seem like the most challenging part of our task, but there is a tried and true formula. Just pick from among the following strategies. Pick a few, and it doesn’t matter which ones. Don’t worry about compatibility, we’ll just sprinkle these claims on our website like fairy dust and watch the magic happen.

  • Ancient wisdom: Anything that was used thousands of years ago must work.
  • Cutting edge knowledge: This is a win-win. People are still impressed with science, even when they don’t understand it. The newer the science we reference the better – it will seem cutting edge, and it will still be mysterious to most of the public. Don’t worry, the science does not have to make actual sense. Here are some terms you can use pretty much at random: quantum, nano, vibration, frequency, cellular, energy, field, electromagnetic.
  • All natural: Whatever else we claim, we’ll sell our magical stickers as “all natural.” People have been primed to prefer everything “natural.” We don’t have to worry about how to define the term, it’s not regulated. And to boost this effect we can scare monger about drugs and chemicals. We can tell people they don’t want chemicals in their bodies, even though they are made of chemicals – trust me, this will work.
  • Clinically tested: Of course our products will all be “clinically tested” (the competition will certainly make this claim so we have to). We can just make the claim and leave it at that, but if you want to do a little extra work, you can link to “studies” for support. Don’t worry – you can link to anything. Most people won’t actually follow the links or read the papers, they will just be impressed by the list itself. They will naively assume that we can’t lie. You can link to our own promotional material, or to published studies that have nothing to do with our products or even claims, but that simply mention something that superficially relates to our claims. Another great source of studies is the alternative literature. This is full of scientifically-worthless studies that show amazing results – it really is a gold mine. Worst case scenario – we’ll pay a company to rig up a study to show whatever we want.
  • Endorsements: There are a few strategies we can use here. We can make some performance claims for our product, then give them to sports stars to use and pay them to promote our products. Athletes are notoriously superstitious, so we can easily find some athletes who will believe our stickers work (especially if we pay them to believe it).

    Or we can find some celebrity endorsements. For some reason the public will listen to celebrities, even when they have absolutely no training or background relevant to their endorsement. In fact – they are famous for being successful in an industry based upon fantasy and pretending. Don’t try to make sense of it – just know that it works.

    We could also get a doctor or scientist to endorse our product. We may need to cut them in on the action, but it will be worth it because we can have a picture of them in their white coat on our website.

  • Testimonials: People are more likely to believe other people than scientific data. This one is not optional – we need to have plenty of testimonials with “real” people saying how wonderful our product is.
  • Conspiracy: Some people may wonder that if our product is so fantastic, why don’t doctors use it? This is any easy one – we just refer (again, this can be very vague) to Big Pharma, or imply that doctors don’t want you to know this secret, or that the “medical industrial complex” will suppress our product, or something similar. A little fear of big government, corporations, or institutions is easy to instill, and will work wonders.
  • Parlor tricks: People love demonstrations, and this is a great way to convince them that something real is happening. It’s like a magic trick, except we will convince them the magic is real. There are plenty to choose from. You could test balance, strength, or flexibility, with and without the stickers. It will always work, as long as the subject knows whether or not they have the sticker. Be sure to avoid any truly blinded testing. Of course, in our promotional videos we can make anything happen. With live demonstrations just make sure the showpeople are experienced enough to fend off the occasional pesky skeptic.
  • For the advanced purveyor of snake oil, there is a synergy between several of these strategies. We can make vague claims that our product supports some function, then have our doctor endorsement claim that they use our product, and combine this with testimonials with people saying they used our product to treat their cancer, or whatever. You see the brilliance in this – we are not claiming that our product can cure cancer, but people will infer from the three claims above that our product cures cancer.

That’s more than enough to get us started. Don’t be afraid to have fun with it – be a little creative.

Now all we need is to brand our product line. Choose something sexy that reflects whichever of the strategies above you want to emphasize.

In the end we will actually get people to spend incredible amounts of money on small bits of plastic that cost just pennies to make and are completely worthless. And we can do this all without breaking the law – amazing.

An example

Still not convinced? Or perhaps you’re not sure how to bring this all together. There are plenty of examples to illustrate the above principles of a successful snake-oil business. Here’s one – Quantum Health. See, they have the word “quantum” right in their name. They made it part of their branding.

All the features are there – vague claims, ancient wisdom combined with new science, and all natural and fear mongering about chemicals. Take a look at their list of supporting studies. Most are not even studies, just certificates. There is even an article written by Dr. Oz – nice way to get an implied endorsement. They also make excellent use of fringe alternative journals.

Conclusion

With just a little bit of poking around the internet you will find countless examples of how effective these strategies can be. I think I can declare our little thought experiment a success – it is possible to sell bits of plastic with health claims.

Posted in: Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (80) ↓

80 thoughts on “Quantum Snake Oil – A Primer

  1. graywood says:

    Eh… nice diatribe… interesting imagery, good grammar, and decent writing skills.

    But in all the time it took to write this, where was the productive contribution to the direction that real medicine should be taking?

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      The blog is consumer-level, mainly. The productive contribution is in helping consumers recognize the fallacies and illegitimate marketing techniques used by SCAM peddlers.

      Feel free to start your own blog aimed at making productive contributions to the direction that real medicine should be taking, you’ll make a lot more impact than you would making snide remarks here.

    2. David Gorski says:

      If graywood thinks that Steve wasted his time writing this, I can’t help but ask: How much more did graywood waste his time in writing a response dismissing as a waste of time a post that he considers to have been worthless and thus a waste of time? :-)

      I could also further ask: Where was the productive contribution to constructive criticism of Steve’s article? Oh, wait, there wasn’t any.

  2. Thetentman says:

    It just so happens that I have created a plastic bracelet embedded with a hologram, wrapped in copper and tuned to a specific astrological sign that will improve your balance, well being, happiness, and allow you to visualize your own happiness and will make your wildest dreams come true if you only believe. Looking for a partner.

    1. thetentman says:

      Deluxe Version will have magnets.

      1. jkbtulsa says:

        I want 10 of them!

  3. graywood – your question is a non-sequitur. It assumes that advancing medicine is our only mission, but this is not true. Health consumer protection is also a major mission of SBM, and this particular article was aimed at that goal.

  4. Joanna says:

    You know what, I think this is the first article on SBM that might actually have a positive effect on one of my friends who is into woo. Showing her where she is being “played” might help her see all of the woo that she reads in a different light. I’ll be forwarding this on.

  5. Andrey Pavlov says:

    It was Phil Plait who commented (a couple years ago, I think) that if we skeptics ditched our “morals” and “ethics” we could make an absolute killing selling completely useless garbage.

    Perhaps you’d be interested in this rock that keeps tigers away?

    1. irenegoodnight says:

      Nice pic Andrey–or is that just an avatar of some other handsome young doctor? :-)

      I can’t figure out how to post a pic here as I am terrified of signing out–it took me two weeks to finally get signed in when the new site got going.

      1. Andrey Pavlov says:

        GNI:

        Well, thank you for the flattery. I figured out how to sign in with my google account as I am currently trying to let google control every single facet of my life (I need to learn Chinese so I’ll be prepared for the future and be able to speak to my google overlords) and apparently that is the picture that is my google profile. So I did not actually add the picture intentionally. Though now that I realize it is a google thing, perhaps I can change my avatar to something more recent. That photo was taken some 5 year ago. A more recent one can be found at my last post here on SBM about DMAA. My picture (from two years ago) and brief bio are there for anyone interested. As a side note, my surest sign of “making it” in geekdom is that my DMAA article is cited in the wiki article on DMAA (scroll to the bottom). Slowly but surely we seem to be making inroads to provide accurate information on medical topics.

      2. Andrey Pavlov says:

        I just realized your ‘nym has become IGN… my apologies!

    2. David Gorski says:

      It was Phil Plait who commented (a couple years ago, I think) that if we skeptics ditched our “morals” and “ethics” we could make an absolute killing selling completely useless garbage.

      Oh, trust me, I’ve thought of that. It’s only my commitment to ethical medicine and morals that keeps me from being the next Dr. Oz. Well, that, and the problem that I’m not very telegenic and lack the backing of Oprah. Maybe I could become the next Joe Mercola, all the more convincing to the rubes because, unlike him, I have both an MD and a PhD, as well as a track record of doing science and clinical care.

      Fortunately, for the world, my adherence to medical ethics prevents me from doing that…

      1. Sawyer says:

        Forget about morality and ethics; the sheer amount of nonsense you would have to endure on a daily basis to be a con artist would simply be to much to bear. Imagine how much bad research and poor decisions one already has to put up with to be a good scientist or doctor, and multiply that by 10. That’s what you’d have to deal with every single day of your life. Whether it’s free energy scams or diet pills, the world of real science is slowly cut off to you. Even if you didn’t care about honesty and serving the public, your intellectual curiosity about the world would get slowly chipped away with nothing to fill the void. What a miserable way to live.

        I’ve tried ignoring my moral values and ethical obligations before, but that damn reality-based worldview is just too hard to shake.

        1. Frederick says:

          Yeah agree, seriously, my head will explode, the other day i watch yogi cameron and Wizard of OZ, man, at first you laugh, but after a while you wanted to bang you head of the tv to put some sense in those peoples!

          And i’m also a honest guy, you know the kind of guy who tell the lady at the groceries store she forgot to charge my box the 24 beer :-).

      2. Andrey Pavlov says:

        I may only have my MD, but I did post-grad research in anti-aging pharmacognosy. And my test herb showed significant promise. Really legitimate stuff. In flies. Which is still cool, but was flies. And my PI was a woman who was voted top 20 most influential women of wait for it…. Orange County, CA. And it is all natural – comes from an herb used in…. yep, you guessed it Traditional Chinese Medicine! And of course not only did it prolong my flies lives (by a lot!) it seemed to have no deleterious side effects, did not affect the fecundity or viability of offspring, but we tested a number of different versions from different production facilities around the world and determined that a particular stock from a company in… Sweden! was significantly better than all the rest. And it works through a pathway that is not antioxidant dependent (that is what my assay was designed to test).

        How much money do you think I could make off of that? I’m seriously not making any of that up – that is really what I did post-grad for a year. If you decide to break bad, Dr. Gorski, give me a holler. I’ve got student loans to pay off!

        ;-)

        1. qetzal says:

          Yeah, but is it quantum? Does it boost the immune system? Has Big Pharma refused to develop it because it can’t be patented? Do “They” not want you to know about it?

          And what about testimonials? I guess you could say:

          “Prolonged my life (by a lot!)” – D. Ros. Ophilia

          1. Sawyer says:

            That’s Dr. Osop Hilia to you pal! (Makes it sound more credible)

          2. Andrey Pavlov says:

            Well of course since it doesn’t work through antioxidant pathways to prevent aging it must have some sort of quantum effect! And clearly, it boosted the immune system since my flies were healthy and old. And obviously since it is an herbal extract it can’t be patented and it would heal you so well that if everyone took it, Big Pharma would be out of business! Which is why “they” don’t want you to know about it. Oh yes, and it is, of course, an adaptogen.

            Testimonials? Check!

            And yes, Dr. Osop HIlia absolutely recommends it.

            1. qetzal says:

              Shut up and take my money already!

          3. Quantum Telomere Therapy… amirite?

            :-P

        2. MadisonMD says:

          How much money do you think I could make off of that?

          $millions if only flies had money to spend.

          1. Andrey Pavlov says:

            Oh Madison! You’re so silly! This is for humans, of course, because it is used for humans in TCM and my research on flies shows it works! (well, and lots of other research, not just mine. Mine just proved it wasn’t via antioxidant mechanisms so… quantum baby!)

        3. CHotel says:

          Coworkers and I have joked about this before. We could start a company as Pharmacists who are “sick of the influence of Big Pharma” and want to use our pharmacology knowledge to bring the “natural products that are all we need” to light. One guy even has a degree in botany too for all the plant based wonder cures we sell! On qualifications and made up garbage alone we could convince people to buy everything we have, don’t even have to bother with irrelevant fly-based data or TCM use!

  6. CHotel says:

    Why bother even making an actual product when you can just claim you magic cure can be downloaded from the internet? That’s how quantum things work, right? RIGHT?

    (I wish I was kidding)

    http://www.quantummansite.com/catalog/

    1. David Gorski says:

      Indeed:

      http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/01/08/a-bit-of-quantumman-quackery-at-the-international-consumer-electronics-show-2013/

      I forgot to check whether QuantumMAN™ made a return appearance to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas after having appeared last year.

      1. Frederick says:

        That is probably the most ridiculous thing that ever existed, Quantum computers?? the “medicine” is a green spiral on you screen… 75$.. wow talk about, best production cost/revenue ration ever. Even homeopathy can’t beat that, At least they have the make serious a build “labs” and clean production line.
        That guy is a GENIUS! and a real Douche probably too.

    2. MadisonMD says:

      Here’s another:

      It is so dang tedious doing all these serial dilutions for our homeopathic prep. How could we speed up manufacturing?

      Ah, use the magnetic/mechanical method in which it’s sufficient just to put create the “magnetic waveguide” of any substance and pass it into the pill.

      Now we can buy boxes of sugar pills, jiggle a kitchen magnet over these boxes just so and ship ‘em! So much more efficient… homeopathy of the 21st century. GMP, kosher, and certified organic.

      [Also avoids pesky FDA oversight since we are not using homeopathic pharmacopoeia and hence qualify as supplements, although sadly "we cannot call a product that works great for Allergies, Acute Allergy Attack."]

    3. Frederick says:

      Must be quantum entanglement!

      I saw this Add here in Quebec, on a free add site called kijiji.ca, a women was offering psychic reading and energy healing on the phones and even with only a picture in the mail. what a lazy person :-)

  7. Skeptico says:

    From Gemma Arrowsmith, how staring at a tub of felt tipped pens can cure anything.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDuFKv0Z7EU&list=TLGD1tr6s-pt0CvYVZ8iqf8oyRgn_HmAgH

    As effective as homeopathy! all the CAM tropes are there. Hilarious.

  8. Tony says:

    The disclaimer at the Quantum Health site is more than enough proof that they are very aware that they are scamming people.

  9. Harmonic Energy Orbs? For watering plants? When they lie about helping plants (instead of people), they have gone too far. Maybe the USDA will step in.

    And nice typos all over the home page in large type:

    “I don’t want don’y want drugs and chemicals…”

    “Weight Controll Guaranteed”

  10. Nick says:

    Love the article and will share it. An interesting follow up could be all the different logical fallacies people use to accept the woo. Argument to authority, argument ad populum, etc.

  11. Carl says:

    The reason a lot of personal energy/balance devices don’t work is because they are manufactured with cheap chemical processes which create random grain sizes and inconsistent fields. Much like celery, your body actually expends all of the energy just trying to sort it all out, and the net effect is zilch.

    I switched to PolyBalance, which uses a special equal-length polymer formula to enhance and focus my essential balance without creating the scattered energy fields you get from other products (which have even been banned in some countries for that reason).

  12. Carl says:

    I should have included this in my earlier review, but here is a scientific paper explaining the evidence for how energy fields are scattered by random mediums. This has been known at least since 1981 and isn’t even controversial any more, and yet PolyBalance is the first product ever to implement this knowledge into a wellness product available to consumers.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/RS016i003p00303/abstract
    Tsang, L., and J. A. Kong (1981), Scattering of electromagnetic waves from random media with strong permittivity fluctuations, Radio Sci., 16(3), 303–320, doi:10.1029/RS016i003p00303.

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      “enhance and focus my essential balance without creating the scattered energy fields you get from other products”
      What does this even mean?
      Why do you think the study you cited has any implications for human health?

      1. TBruce says:

        Poe?

        1. Carl says:

          I thought we were supposed to be doing that today.

  13. David Gorski says:

    Personally, my two favorite examples of what Steve’s talking about are:

    1. Bill Nelson’s EPFX/QXCI Quantum Xrroid Consciousness Interface. http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/12/14/the-mysterious-search-for-the-amazing-quantum-healing/

    2. DNA activation. http://dnaperfection.com

    The user interface for Nelson’s EPFX/QXCI will give you headaches. Really. It looks like someone barfed psychedelic paints all over the interface.

    The hilarious part about DNA activation is the claim that your DNA doesn’t have just two strands, but in reality it has twelve strands. Two are physical; ten are “etheric.” If you activate the etheric strands, it is claimed, you can become in essence a superman or superwoman, never suffer from disease, reverse aging, the usual stuff. It sounds rather like what happened to Connor MacLeod at the end of Highlander, when he beheaded The Kurgen and claimed The Prize, minus the the bit about losing his immortality in order to gain enlightenment and oneness with all things.

    Oh, and did you know that Jesus had all 12 of his DNA strands activated?

    1. RobRN says:

      “Oh, and did you know that Jesus had all 12 of his DNA strands activated?”

      Is that how Jesus gained the super-power to become historically invisible? :-)

    2. MadisonMD says:

      I learned about the 12-strands in DNA from Richard Dawkins. Apparently we all had them in Atlantis, but then forgot who we were so now most people only have 2.

      I find it amusing to watch Dawkins trying to keep polite while listening to this mumbo-jumbo.

  14. ingrid says:

    As a child, I got to see behind the curtain of a lot of magic tricks. My father was in advertising: the business of creating demand where there is none for the supply that you have. Snake oil salesmen are basically advertisers that are selling something they have by creating a demand for their supply. Only, there is a lot more sophistication attached to such advertising. Like a magician, they obfuscate by creating complex diversions that most people will not take time to decipher or learn about (such as false claims or pseudo science etc). Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof but of the quantifiable and measurable kind. This is a great article to wake people up: if it’s too good to be true….it probably is a hoax. If your medical practitioner can’t heal you with science, what makes you think some quack can heal you with a bracelet or any other hoky poky nonesence. We live in the most informative age with great technology at our disposal. It is our responsibility to learn to decipher between a hoax and substantive knowledge.

  15. Mark Hanna says:

    “They will naively assume that we can’t lie”

    This, I think, is perhaps the most important point of the article. Over the past year I’ve had a lot of experience with having misleading health advertisements removed in New Zealand through our Advertising Standards Authority.

    People generally know that advertising is regulated, and therefore automatically assume that the regulation is effective and, as Steve said, naively assume that it can’t be false. The problem, of course, is that regulation often isn’t effective. In the case of New Zealand, for example, advertisements will not be regulated until a member of the public (or a competitor) lays a complaint, and this is unfortunately rare.

    Another example of ineffective regulation, again in New Zealand, is that we have an act (the Medicines Act 1981) that effectively prohibits the use of any sort of health testimonials in advertisements (subclause 58(1)(c)(iii)). Does this stop them from being used, or even result in them being removed when advertisers confronted or the government agency that is the enforcer of the act is informed? No, it doesn’t -_-

    1. Sawyer says:

      I’m slowly coming around to the idea that media literacy is just as important as medical and scientific literacy. There seems to be a pretty narrow margin between “trust all information you hear from anyone without scrutiny” and “trust no one, ever, about anything”. The former approach will lead you to buying all sorts of useless garbage, the latter into the world of endless conspiracy theories. This dilemma seems doubly apt when talking about government regulations. People assume that a regulation either guarantees safety/honesty/quality, or otherwise it is completely useless.

      Despite scientists frustration with the middle ground fallacy, it’s usually a good rule of thumb when dealing with advertisements and journalism.

  16. Pliny the in Between says:

    This was my take on the quantum woo problem.

    http://pictoraltheology.blogspot.com/2013/11/dr-woo-and-mj-theory.html

    As you’ve defined, as long as it’s lucrative and they stay out of jail, somebody will exploit it.

  17. Lytrigian says:

    Imprinted with a pattern specially designed according to ancient Ayurvedic principles to resonate with the vibrational frequency of your body’s main harmonic on the quantum level, to strengthen the immune system, promote rapid healing and recovery, increase energy and mental focus, rid the body of the environmental toxins we’re exposed to every day in the modern world, and cure ills of the spirit brought on both by our own harmful thoughts and the hostility of others.

    Printed on 100% recycled materials with vegetable-based ink.

  18. Frederick says:

    WOW Steven, we gonna be RICH!!! Some kind of Quantum effect field, the electromagnetic pulse in the sticker ( or device), realigned the pattern of your nervous impulse, you know. AT THE QUANTUM LEVEL! you just have to stick two of those behind your ear, you need 2 of course, because of balance and stuff.

    Man it like writing a really bad sci-fi movies with stupid science in it!

    1. Frederick says:

      Oh yeah I saw Cameron Diaz today at the Wizard of OZ, she was giving beauty and health advice, I’m sure she will dig that. Or maybe that yogi Cameron dude, he seem to like himself a lot, but i guess he can be into that.

  19. Jack says:

    Wonderful Article. As someone who at one time studied quantum mechanics, the idea of quantum medicine is non-sensical. Not to mention I try to describe to people that in order to prove some of the claims that are made, it would require tests, or knowing something that our technology couldnt possibly test for or know.

    Unfortunately I have a friend who probably is not my friend any more because he spreads the “medical message” of Joe Mercola and another quack and graduate of columbia pacific university,

    My friend, a otherwise very good guy, spouts off this non-sense and has quite a following. At first I thought it was amusing then I suddenly thought, he is telling people that these things cure cancer and autism. I explained to him that Mr Marshall is not a real doctor, that Columbia Pacific is a non-accredited correspondence school, and he has no scientific background whatsoever. Any advice as to how I can reach him? Thanks

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      @jack:

      Unfortunately not much. The best thing to do is to patiently question said individual over time. Essentially continually shift the burden of proof where it belongs. Make him explain why things are the way he thinks they are and push him to the limits of his knowledge. When he gets to the point where he says “I don’t know” then just say, “OK, look it up and get back to me.” If he says something that is simple and purely factually incorrect, point that out (the key here is it must be simple – “acid causes cancer and we must alkalinize the blood” type stuff because you can show that blood pH must be regulated very tightly).

      Chances are it still won’t work, but it is, to the best of my knowledge, the approach with the highest chance of success. In most cases, it simply isn’t worth it. I managed to get one creationist to question it and begin to believe in evolution but it took me over a year and over 100 pages of typed argumentation. So the first question to ask yourself is – do I want this person as my friend as is? If yes, then just accept it and ignore the BS and move on. You can drop small things along the way as part of the long game. If not, then you ask – is this person worth my time and effort to try and change his mind? If no, then just move on.

  20. Jack says:

    whoops… my link didnt show up

  21. Bruce says:

    re “Clinically Tested”,

    I would go eveen further and add making completely useless “scientific” statements that could very well be true but tell you nothing by themselves. It always makes me chuckle when a well known probiotic producer claims that it is “scientifically proven to reach the gut alive!” on a TV advertisment. Oh wow… and then what?

    On a slightly related note, I recently overheard a workplace discussion where someone was claiming they were taking Vitamin C and Echinacea but she still had a stinking cold. She was then told to stop taking them for a while and then start later if she was still sick as it doesn’t work if you take it for long periods of time .

    So their logic was:

    Take it when you get sick
    If you get better then it was because of it
    If you don’t get better it is because you took it for too long, so stop taking it
    If you still dont get better start taking it again

    I said something about regression to the mean and I was completely ignored.

  22. Richard Hall says:

    But Steve, they managed to find a prominent immunotoxicologist to publish some “double-blind, placebo controlled randomised studies” in his “legitimate journal” Link

    It’s so totally legitimate!!!

  23. Pete Weiss says:

    I just visited the Quantum Health site and I found it jaw-droppingly horrible. I can’t imagine how someone could be taken in by the mumbo-jumbo pitch. Plus, and I may be hypersensitive to this because I’m an editor, the grammar is bad and there are typos all over the place. Even one of the categories on the home page is misspelled – “Weight Controll.” And what the hell is “Sinus Allergy?” Is it some newly discovered autoimmune condition which causes people to become allergic to their own sinuses?

  24. James Rouzier says:

    Would evolution some how exploit Quantum Mechanics if it suits it need yes.
    Did Quantum Health figured out how?
    Nope however do use nice big fluffy words to sell their product.

  25. Chris Cayer says:

    Hi Steve! Minor, pedantic, point here. All celebrities are not actors and vice versa. I get that most instances of endorsements of pseudoscience are from actors. But Oprah has acted but is really a TV personality , same with Dr. Oz.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Wow, that is a minor pedantic point :)

  26. Kultakutri says:

    Being a historian and an occassional writer with some training in botany, I can offer my knowledge on traditional millenia-old quantum dried quantum plant matter. And my copywriting skillz.

  27. jkbtulsa says:

    This is my favorite: Everyone needs Aulterra Neutralizer Discs to protect themselves from Electromagnetic fields. The Aulterra Neutralizer discs are one inch in diameter and thin enough to place in the battery compartment of a cellular or cordless telephone.

    Gotta have it.

  28. NorrisL says:

    “Let’s conduct a little thought experiment. First, for the sake of this thought experiment let’s assume that you have no morals, ethics, or conscience. You are comfortable lying to people, even if they are sick, and even if it will harm their health.”

    So, Steven, that would make me a……..homeopath!!!!!!

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      NorrisL – if you took a very, very small amount of morals, ethics, and conscience and serially diluted them out whilst jumping around on a bible, then you will become the most moral, ethical, and conscientious person ever!

  29. Chris Smith says:

    There’s no need to do anything immoral yet still make a fortune from alt-med.

    Placebo:™ The miracle substance Big Vit and Big Homeo try to keep secret! 100% toxin-free! The original treatment behind homeopathy, acupuncture and every single alternative therapy, proven effective by 1,000s of clinical trials run by actual scientists wearing 100% natural white coats.

    NEW! PlaceboRED™ for more effective pain relief, tests have shown up to 100% better results.

  30. Citpeks says:

    I don’t think anyone has mentioned pyramid marketing yet. Getting the both the true believers and the equally immoral doing your marketing could help a lot and insulate you from any consequence.

  31. Jon Brewer says:

    Fun game: Every time you hear ‘quantum’, ask the speaker who Niels Bohr was. He’s someone anyone with even a basic understanding of quantum mechanics should recognize; I remember going over him in physics in middle school.

    To put it simply, I don’t understand everything about particle physics. No one does. That’s the fun of science; we’re never done. But I seriously doubt someone with a degree in magic water understands more than me.

  32. I linked Dr. Novella’s essay to my blog post, Range of Motion, today. It will be seen by about 400 therapists by tonight. Wonderfully written and perfectly true.

  33. ANTI-PROVEN TO BE POISNOUS VACCINES!! says:

    This site is a big fat lie! Science based medicine…hahahahahahaha…more like PSEUDO-science (this is who they like to call the “experts”…lol). I demand you post ONE, just ONE ligitimate medical study that PROVES beyond a doubt that vaccines are safe, or better yet that administering and forcibly injecting past the body’s protective skin barrier is healthy? JUST ONEand I said LIGITIMATE! Then, in your own words, I want the moron who wrote the article on vaccines and the false claim that they are safe (LOL), and could not cause shaken baby syndrome, explain why it is police officers have come forth and quit their jobs or went on sick leave only to then be fired for exposing the TURTH, liars! Then, I want the moron to explain how it is that aluminum hydroxide & phosphate, animal tissue (foreign matter/DNA/RNA), formaldehyde (carcinogen- cancer causing material), human diploid cells (aborted fetus tissue), mercury THIMEROSAL, which was banned by the fda and is still in vaccines and “doctor’s ” are taught to lie about this FACT, MSG, which has also been banned by the fda due to the fact that it is poisonous to the body, but is still widely used in vaccines, neomycin sulfate, phenoxyethanol or better known as ANTI-FREEZE, polymyxin B , polysorbate 20 and polysorbate 80, both of which cause heart attacks and is a cancer causing agent, pig pancreas (foregin animal matter – DNA/RNA, which is NEVER GOOD WHEN MIXED with HUMAN BLOOD), residual MRC5 protein (more aborted fetus cells??? which is how you kow the mafia jews are behind it), VERO CELLS (monkey kidney cells and washed sheep red blood as prime ingredients are safe and effective in a vaccine forced thorugh your bodies protetive barrier, oh and then PROVE they actually work! Then explain why all of these ingredients including the KNOWN cancer causing agents are used, along with fecal matter, contamination that is inevitable in labs, and animal DNA that is damaging tothe body’s proteins and hormones. Then explain why the Amish who NEVER get Vaccinated NEVER get autism which IS caused by vaccines LIAR and dummy! YOu know this is nothig but a pharma-shill getting paid lots to keep the biggest scam in history going! Oh and explain why some vaccines have also been found to have been PURPOSELY contaminated with Simian Virus 40 (SV 40), and that SV 40 is casually linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma mesotheliomas in humans as well as the experimental animals! Funny how none of this was in your BOGUS and pathetic article LIARS! Explain whyit is that people develop the same disease they were being treated for! Explain why so many young girls have DIED FROM Gardasil LIAR! EXPLAIN why in the VAERS , there weree 1080 total reports of adverse reactions from hepatitis B vaccines in 1996 in teh 0-1 year age group with 47 deaths! Explain whythe UN in a closed meeting admitted a vaccine they used in Africa, and only after THE PEOPLE found out and caused a problem, would never be used again, after spreading the chicken pox it was supposed to have treated!! But most of all, please explain waht “science” you are tallking about, because there is NO REAL science that proves the safety or efficacy of vacciens LIAR! So should you not call this site PSEUDO-science based Hi-JACKED medicine! If anyone thinks vaccines and pharmaceuticals, which is what the hi-jacked “medical” field is today, is safe in any way shape or form, then you are getting too many vaccines!! This site is most definitely owned by a pharmaceutical company, it’s obvious, noone loves to spread more bullshit than the criminal pharmaceutical companies and their little worthless and pathetic shills like this site and whomever writes the BS articles to misinform the people! To the one who wrote the vaccines article sand claim they are safe and shaekn babay syndrom isn’t caused by vaccines, I’ll send the police officer your way LIAR, who admitted it and wuit his job over it, becaseu he couldn’t see the innocent parents blamed for this big FAT LIE by big-pharma and their bought, souless pukes! A warning to the masses, tell your doctor that you are jewish, and you will most definitely get a safe vaccine, why? Because the mafia jews (aka: satans children), are behid vaccines. Also don’t believe the history you have been lied to about, and is in your history books), but that is another story, or just research teh mafia jews who have infiltrated tHE US and Canada and are running our govn;t and destroying our country…America first..right now, oh and despite what you have been told the mafia fake jews and germans have been working in kahoots since hitler! Don;t beleive what the infiltrated educational system has taught you, because most of what you think you know is a big fat lie, just like these liars who say vacceins are safe…understand that some vaccines are purposely tainted wtih live virusesa dn are random, not everyone will be harmed, then there are also vaccines that allow the virus or other problems lay dormant for years, so you never know what really caused your illness that the hi-jacked medical field profits from, are they in kahootst with the pharmacy companies….YOU BET YOUR ASS THEY ARE, why do you think your “doctor” writes you a prescription everytime you are there, even when theyhaven’t any proof or REAL diagnosis as to what is worng with you. Why do youthink we so commonly hear from these white coat iditos “we dont’ know what caused it” and ” there is no cure”, yet look at cancer, often caused by vaccines, YOU CAN HEAL YOURSELF, but they dont’ want you to know that because they could not profit now could they….SODIUM BICARBONATE HEALS CANCERS PEOPLE, but at 2 bucks a pop, who benefits…..WE DO, and not the medica feild, secondly REAL FOOD, and organics HEAL teh body naturally, but the doc’s can’t tell you that because in the whole 7 + yrs it took to learn to write a prescription, they took a 45 minute lesson in nutrition! YOUR DOCTOR IS A JOKE, as is the “medical” field”, they are nothing but glorified drug dealers PERIOD! go suck on that liars at this site!

    1. Lukas Xavier says:

      >…study that PROVES beyond a doubt that vaccines are safe…

      What does that even mean?

      1. “Vaccines” is a rather diverse group. You can’t reasonably expect one single study to do what you demand.

      2. Science couldn’t possibly prove anything safe “beyond a doubt”. Evidence can be accumulated, specific effects can be studied, but it would always be possible for someone to say “but what about…”

      3. “Safe” isn’t a very precise term anyway. The safety of a vaccine is not a straight forward yes or no. It depends on what disease is being prevented, what side effects can be expected, interactions with other medications and an evaluation of the individual circumstances of the patient.

      That’s what’s wrong with PART of ONE SENTENCE of your comment. Do the math.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Science doesn’t “definitively prove” anything. If you want something “definitive”, you’ll have to go to the statements of quacks, charlatans, antivaccinationists and related pseudoscientists, who offer definitive proof every single day (in the form of bare assertions with nothing to back them up.

      Note that you throw a lot of mud on the wall, so I’ll just hit some highlights:
      - did you know that your body actually make formaldehyde as a part of natural metabolism?
      - did you know that fetal cell lines were used in developing some vaccines several decades ago, and haven’t been used to manufacture vaccines, ever?
      - did you know the Amish do get vaccinated, and also have autistic children?
      - did you know that VAERS is pure self-reported data, there is no quality control or fact checking? You can test this by claiming your vaccination caused super powers.
      - did you know that attenuated vaccines are more stable and provide more protection after a single use than killed vaccines, which is why they are used in countries with supply chain problems?
      - did you know that ibuprophen is off-patent but still generates significant profits? Off-patent compounds can be quite profitable if they work

      But your use of caps and antisemitism makes me suspect Poe. Or you’re just a lunatic. I have a hard time believing even an utterly convinced person could pack so many talking points patiently fed to them by antivaccinationists into a single message by accident.

      No seriously, you’ll believe anything anyone will tell you about the harms of vaccines, won’t you? Never questioning why it is they conveniently have for sale a compound to cure said harms, right there on the same webpage you’re reading through your spittle.

  34. peter s says:

    I have a serious question and perhaps it has been answered elsewhere. I have complained to state regulatory boards about actual licensed doctors who promote extremely outlandish modalities (like some of the quantum ones you satirize here), including doctors I actually saw or consulted with during a vulnerable period in my life, but they are not interested and take no action. I have been very factual and respectful in my approach, merely pointing out statements and promises on websites that cannot possibly be legitimate (e.g., I can cure autism with energized drops of water — seriously). But with one exception which resulted in some very minor changes to a website, nothing is done. Why is this?

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      I answered that question facetiously in our panel at TAM last summer: the people on medical boards don’t have any balls. Taking action is time-consuming and emotionally draining, and it’s easier to avoid the hassles. The law is loose enough to allow doctors to use their own judgment in choosing treatments, and medical board actions against doctors using irrational treatments are frequently shot down when the lawyers get involved. In one case I filed a complaint and the doctor’s lawyers wrote a letter to the board members threatening to sue them if they acted, and they immediately backed down. The laws don’t give medical boards any teeth, and the members may not understand science or have any familiarity with quackery. And I suspect that sometimes they think if they act against a doctor on the basis of unscientific treatments, they themselves might be criticized on the same basis. And empathy probably gets in the way: they can imagine what it would mean for them to lose their license and their livelihood. They acted against a doctor in my state who was not only using a bogus electrodermal diagnostic machine but was telling patients he didn’t need to use the machine anymore because he could intuit what it would say. All he got was a slap on the wrist and an order to stop using the machine. There are occasional rays of hope: the medical board in my state has acted against several doctors who were using human growth hormone inappropriately.

      Prosecutions for practicing medicine without a license are sometimes successful, but in one case the lawyers discredited my written testimony about a bogus electrodermal diagnostic machine by saying I had not used the machine so I could not be considered an expert; the woman was stopped from practicing in Washington state, but she just moved across the border to Idaho and carried on.

      The solution? Stronger laws and appointing people who understand science-based medicine, CAM, and quackery to medical boards. The probability of that happening? Don’t hold your breath!

      1. peter s says:

        Thank you for that insight. That makes sense although it is of course very discouraging, particularly as I am the parent of an autistic young adult who has seen so many truly unbelievable claims made by people with MDs, never mind those with other backgrounds, and had hoped in my own small way to do something about it. I guess the Dietrich Klinghardts of the world will carry on and people will continue to pay them exorbitant sums of money and people like me will just stay angry. (Note — I am not even a hardcore SBM type — but some of the “I can cure autism” claims are just so beyond the bounds of reason.)

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Resources. The lobbyists for many of these doctors and their groups have a fair amount (and just have to convince scientifically-illiterate politicians and bureaucrats that they are miracle workers, not the scientific community who knows better), and the people who would enforce this sort of thing (the FDA?) are under-resourced and hampered by stupid legislation (DSHEA anyone?).

  35. greeta says:

    First, for the sake of this thought experiment let’s assume that you have no morals, ethics, or conscience. You are comfortable lying to people, even if they are sick, and even if it will harm their health.

    In other words, you are a psychopath.
    Great article, I’m a little ashamed I fell for homeopathy and I was convinced it works for several years.

    1. peter s says:

      Perhaps I am too charitable, but based on lots of forays into the alt med world at a bad time in my life, I believe that at least some of these folks are well-intentioned but misguided. I really reserve my contempt for the ones who claim that their BS can cure autism, and those are the ones I have tried to report unscuccessfully to state boards. But perhaps I am too charitable in that assessment and they are all knowing fraudsters.

  36. MTTurvey says:

    Oh my lord. I clicked on the Quantum Health link. The “science behind QHT” page was pure click-bait for me. It irks me when the word quantum is used as a buzz word for something entirely unrelated, but I go positively mental when I see such appalling misuse (and apparent lack of understanding by the author) of quantum mechanical terms and possibly the most inept description of the two-slit experiment I have ever seen. (Incidentally, if you doubt whether someone knows what they’re talking about in this field, ask them what spin is. If they reply with any certainty or don’t um and ah, they probably don’t)

    So, so many inaccuracies, misuse, sorry, hijiacking of terms and sheer wrongness I wanted to cry. Although really I suppose I expected nothing less than horse apples.

    I took “quantum” offense at their BS. (Because quantum apparently means whatever you want it to – see, I can do it too).

    This, however, made me cry with laughter: “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.The products of this company are not intended
    for diagnosis, prevent, treat, heal or cure any disease or injury. For external use only”

    If it’s not intended to treat a condition (they don’t claim to treat illnesses; surprising for woo-merchants) or heal anyone, diagnose or prevent anything, what what is it intended for? Exploitation of the gullible?

    Also: “For external use only” – in case you thought the discs were to be used as some kind of suppository.

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