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The “no compassion” gambit

As usual, I was impressed with Mark Crislip’s post on Friday in which he discussed the boundaries between science-based medicine and what we sometimes refer to as woo or what Mark often refers to as sCAM. It got me to thinking a bit, which is always a dangerous thing, particularly when such thinking leads to my writing something for my not-so-super-secret other blog (NSSSOB). Of course, this is not my NSSSOB, but that doesn’t make it that much less dangerous. Be that as it may, I started thinking about a gambit I started noticing a few years ago being directed at me by the targets of my logorrheic deconstructions. Actually, I noticed it from the very beginning, when I first started blogging about SBM versus quackery way back in 2004 and even before, back when I was one of a doughty band of pro-science types who waded into the Wild West of online forums known as Usenet, in particular the misc.health.alternative newsgroup.

I happen to be in Washington, DC as I write this. In fact, as I write this I’m here to attend the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the better to soak in all that cancer science goodness and (hopefully) be pumped up to go back and keep trying to do good science and, hopefully, manage to get my lab funded. Of course, the latter task is a really daunting these days, a truly depressing thing to contemplate, given that the current payline for the National Cancer Institute is around the 7th percentile, which makes me worry about how much longer my lab will be open. My self pity aside, Mark got me to thinking about the characteristics of purveyors of non-science-based medicine (i.e., quackery and quackademic medicine) compared to SBM. More precisely, I started thinking about a difference that what Mark calls sCAMmers try to pin on those of us who try to defend SBM against the forces of pseudoscience. To introduce this concept, I think it’s worth going back a few years to a comment I got a long, long time ago on a blog far, far away (i.e., my NSSSOB):

When it comes to autism, you seem to have lost something that I think every physician is well-served to have in abundance: compassion.


This is such a common attack on me and any other physician who would argue against what we consider to be unscientific medicine and/or quackery that it is worth answering. The charge of being uncompassionate isn’t just a favorite gambit of antivaccinationists who believe that vaccines cause autism either, which is where that charge was first aimed at me. Indeed, it goes far beyond that. Does anyone remember the cases of Starchild Abraham Cherrix and Katie Wernecke, two teens who, along with their parents, chose quackery rather than conventional therapy such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy to fight their lymphomas? The same charges were thrown at me whenever I discussed these cases on my NSSSOB. Remember the case of the teen Jehovah’s Witness who died for want of a blood transfusion, all because of a bizarre and literal-minded interpretation of a single passage from Leviticus? Same thing, along with charges of religious intolerance. Then there was another case, namely Madeline Neumann, the 12 year old girl from Wisconsin who died because her parents thought that prayer would save her from diabetic ketoacidoses, when I supported taking the parents’ remaining children away from them and prosecuting them for their negligence? That’s right; it was the same. And don’t even get me started on the number of times I was attacked for not caring about the desperate patients with cancer who were sold a bill of goods by Stanislaw Burzynski.

Still, at least in my experience, from nowhere else is the charge of meanness, cold-heartedness, and lack of compassion shouted quite as vociferously and with as much venom as from antivaccinationists who believe that their children were made autistic by vaccines. Any criticism of their belief that either mercury from vaccines or vaccines themselves caused their children’s autism is viewed not as reasonable criticism, but as a direct and vicious attack on them personally. The person making the scientific criticisms or undertaking skeptical analysis of their claims is not just someone who disagrees with them, but an enemy to be destroyed. It doesn’t matter if the criticism is respectful or polite. It doesn’t matter if the criticism is nasty. The reaction tends to be the same, differing only somewhat in degree: Counterattack! The reason is obvious. Many of them honestly and deeply believe that vaccines “poisoned” their children and that their interventions are in the process of “curing” their children, one particularly famous antivaccinationist mother even to the point where she believes that she could make her son autistic again if she were to let up, feed him the wrong foods, or–God forbid!–vaccinate him. Attacks on their beliefs are viewed as direct attacks on them, whether they are or not. The same applies to many in the thrall of so-called “alternative” medicine. It also applies to those who have fallen for dubious cancer treatments, such as Stanislaw Burzynski’s unproven “antineoplaston” therapy, incompetently administered “personalized gene-targeted cancer therapy,” or his disingenuous and opportunistic co-optation of an orphan drug with at best modest and at worse no promise as an off-label prodrug for his antineoplaston therapy.

They misunderstand, of course.

I have nothing but the most enormous respect for parents who manage the incredible daily task of raising an autistic child–or any special needs child, for that matter–day in, day out, often with inadequate finances and difficulty obtaining insurance coverage, or even with no insurance coverage at all. It’s a huge challenge that I don’t necessarily know that I could meet were it to fall on me. No one knows if they can handle the job until they are thrust into that situation. Still, my compassion for the difficulties such parents face should not–must not–give them a free pass to spout antivaccinationist misinformation uncountered. The threat to public health is too great, and some of them count on that sympathy for them that reasonable people have in order to stay or blunt any criticism, sometimes seemingly waving it like a talisman in front of them to chase off evil skeptics like me.

Similarly, I feel nothing but sympathy and respect for parents (like, for instance, the parents of Amelia Saunders) dealing with a young child with an inoperable and almost certainly terminal cancer. Anyone who can’t understand why such parents, no matter how intelligent, skeptical, or savvy, might fall for the blandishments of someone like Burzynski doesn’t understand human nature. Anyone who tells himself that he wouldn’t be tempted to do the same thing that the Saunders did if they ever found themselves in the same situation as the Saunders family is fooling himself. I say it fairly frequently, and some people think it’s BS when I say it, but I assure you that it’s not. I don’t know how I would react if I found myself in the same situation as, for example, Hannah Bradley. Burzynski might start to sound tempting. Or, at least, he might have tempted a few years ago, back before I paid much attention to him and didn’t know the full depths of his abuse of clinical trials, patients, and clinical science.

So why am I so passionate against antivaccinationism and other forms of quackery, particularly cancer quackery?

It’s compassion for the victims, which far outweighs my feelings about the parents. Think about it. In the case of cancer quackery, even patients who can’t be saved by conventional medicine become victims. Patients who, for example, are seduced by the blandishments of quacks to undergo the Gonzalez protocol, with its coffee enemas and hundreds of supplement pills a day, often do so at the expense of foregoing effective palliative care in order to undergo a harsh regimen that robs them of what little quality of life they might achieve in the time they have left. Children and teens who choose quackery such as the Hoxsey therapy or high dose vitamin C instead of effective chemotherapy, children like Abraham Cherrix and Katie Wernecke, give up a reasonable chance of a cure and living to a ripe old age. Children whose parents believe that prayer is more effective than medicine in treating life-threatening diseases die when they could have been saved. Children of HIV-infected mothers who don’t believe that HIV causes AIDS die of AIDS-related complications when combination antiretroviral therapy could have prevented their deaths, as do potentially millions of people in Africa. Autistic children whose parents believe that they were made autistic by vaccines are subjected to injections, restrictive diets, hyperbaric oxygen, blood draws, and even chemical castration. Children are subjected to unethical and scientifically worthless “clinical trials” in the service of pseudoscience. Some even die because of these nostrums. Many more will die if antivaccinationists get their way and vaccination rates fall to the point where herd immunity is no longer operative. Indeed, we see a disturbing glimpse of what might be in the resurgence of measles and mumps in the U.K. due to Andrew Wakefield’s litigation-driven pseudoscience.

Don’t all these people deserve compassion, too?

I say yes! It is my compassion for them that drives me and my disgust at how they are taken advantage of by promises that no human can keep. As I have argued here and elsewhere many times, science- and evidence-based medicine are the best methods that we have to determine what causes disease and how to treat it. Whatever its faults (and there are many), science- and evidence-based medicine are at least constrained by law, ethics, and, of course, science itself to restrain the natural human impulse to promise more than can be delivered. When the shortcomings of SBM are revealed, I assure you, it’s almost never pseudoscientists and “brave maverick” doctors who think that they know better than scientific medicine who bring such shortcomings and ethical lapses to light. It’s medical scientists, ethicists, and, yes, sometimes reporters, who shine the light of reason, ethics, and science into the darkness. It’s often forgotten because of his brilliant investigations into antivaccine guru Andrew Wakefield’s research wrongdoings that Brian Deer, for instance, turned his formidable skills on big pharma before he became interested in Wakefield and beyond.

Besides, if we’re going to play the compassion game, I’ll match my compassion with those of the practitioners who inflict this quackery on desperate patients and parents. How much do Mark and David Geier charge for administering Lupron to autistic children? You can be sure it’s not cheap. What about Dr. Roy Kerry, whose quackery and incompetence killed a five year old child several years ago? You can bet he didn’t do it for free, and let’s not forget the horror of the description of that child’s final hours, as he was held down and stuck multiple times to get an IV going, having been subjected to unnecessary IV infusions many times before. Then there’s Dr. Rashid Buttar, who charged dying cancer patients tens of thousands of dollars while leaving their care primarily in the hands of a nurse-practitioner, with himself rarely to be found. He even tried to collect money from the estates of his deceased patients, thus surpassing even Stanislaw Burzynski.

I could also ask: What about compassion towards the victim of Dr. Roy Kerry’s quackery, for example? Here’s an example in which a woman named Jan responded to the observation that chelation therapy killed Tariq Nadama:

We shall wait and see, and if it did, it happens, as with all procedures.

Imagine, if you will (apologies to Rod Serling) if I tried to defend an iatrogenic complication or death that occurred while a patient was undergoing “conventional therapy” with such a blasé riposte.  You can bet that Jan, and others like her, would be outraged. Now compare Jan’s reaction to Tariq’s death with her reaction to the death of Jesse Gelsinger, the 18 year old who died from complications due to the administration of an adenoviral vector while participating in a gene therapy trial in 1999:

Isn’t that most strange,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

This health fraud that KILLED a volunteering, caring, loving teenager, helping mankind, and the doctor who KILLED him who committed, FRUAD, COVER UPS, FALSE AND MISLEADING *REPEATED* AND *DELIBERATE* VIOLATIONS,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, ,,,,remains on staff.

I detest either outcome: Death from quackery or death due to a clinical trial design that wasn’t as safe as its subjects were led to believe in the informed consent discussions. That’s why the efforts of pseudoscientists to get their trials approved by dubious IRBs packed with cronies and friends outrage me so. If they can get away with it, then big pharma can get away with it too. Think of Stanislaw Burzynski again. He portrays himself as being “compassionate” and caring, but how compassionate and caring is he really? He charges his patients tens of thousands of dollars to enroll in trials for his unproven chemotherapy drug, which he calls “antineoplastons.” Yes, he doesn’t actually charge for the antineoplastons, but his “case management” fee is often several thousand dollars a month.

The “lack of compassion” gambit is nothing more than a variant of the “mean skeptic” gambit. It’s a gambit that’s frequently used against scientists who argue against other forms of non-medical pseudoscience, such as “intelligent design” creationism, but it is a particularly potent gambit in medicine, because there is virtually always a suffering patient at the receiving end of the pseudoscience who thinks (or whose relatives or parents think) it will really, really help. Attacks on the pseudoscience can thus lead to the perception that the skeptic wants patients to suffer and does not want them to be “healed.” (Never mind that, as far as science can tell, no one is actually being “healed.”) In reality, what the “compassion gambit” is really designed to do is to neuter any criticism. Skeptics hesitate because they do not want to be perceived as ganging up or being unduly harsh on people who may be truly suffering and/or desperate, who may truly believe that the woo under criticism is the only chance for them or their children. Even though I try to reserve my harshest attacks and sarcasm for people who have demonstrated time and time again that they support pseudoscience and quackery and that they are virtually uneducable, I can’t always parry that attack. It’s a “heads I win, tails you lose” game. If as a skeptic I hold my fire or give undue respect to ideas that do not deserve it out of fear of being perceived as being too harsh on patients who pursue dubious treatments or even outright quackery, pseudoscience is granted an undeserved patina of respectability, as though it really is a viable alternative to scientific medicine. If as a skeptic I am too harsh, I am accused of having “no compassion” for the suffering who turn to woo.

The way out I have chosen, which may or may not be the best way out, is not to play the game. I may not always match the vociferousness of my attack perfectly to the level of the offense against science and reason, and hopefully I will usually recognize when or if I have “gone too far.” Either way, I will not allow the charge of not being sufficiently compassionate (in reality, not showing what supporters of alternative medicine deem to be sufficient deference to pseudoscience) stop me. The victims of quackery deserve no less, and the quacks themselves deserve no such deference.

Posted in: Cancer, Health Fraud, Public Health, Science and the Media, Vaccines

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25 thoughts on “The “no compassion” gambit

  1. Guy Chapman says:

    As of a month ago Abraham Cherrix was apparently still alive, had a Stage IV cancer in his chest (presumably a recurrence of the one you wrote about in 2011) and was raising money for more woo: http://www.gofundme.com/1t5fdk#description. Interesting reference in the text to the cost of supplements, which appears to be a significant issue for him.

    As an aside, it is sobering to see that the lad is almost certainly going to die bankrupt. This is especially interesting to UK readers as our government is near the end of a thirty year plan to destroy our National health Service and replace it with something like the US model, which costs two and a half times as much per capita but leaves up to a sixth of people unable to get the treatment they need – and medical expenses is the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the US. It’ll be interesting to see how Obamacare influences this.

  2. elburto says:

    Bravo!

    Amelia was the first person I thought of when I started reading.

    The “think of the parents” meme dominates the field of disability too. Far too often the voices of actual disabled people are drowned out by a very vocal cohort of parents. Organisations such as ‘Autism Speaks’ are particularly guilty of this. Internet and offline resources about coping with certain disabilities tend to focus on the difficulties of parenting a child with the condition, but children themselves, and especially the adult sufferers they become, don’t have a voice.

    I have some good news to put a big smile on your face, and on the faces of science-supporters everywhere:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-22048635

    The news from my own area is grim, mumps was all over the region last year, now we’re having the same trouble. as the Welsh:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-22051379

    Let’s hope people finally start doing as you do, and focussing on the kids who’ll suffer, rather than devoting all of the attention to their parents.

  3. elburto says:

    @Guy – not to mention their determination to remove any and all support for those that are too ill to work. That number will only rise if their NHS “reforms” go the planned route.

  4. kathy says:

    “Attacks on their beliefs are viewed as direct attacks on them” … I think that’s how many people see themselves … their beliefs “are” them, so far as they’re concerned. And those who can shape their beliefs have a massive hold on them.

    Especially as changing those beliefs means digging up roots that run deep, run right through their personalities. It takes an even deeper trust before anyone will allow this, in any area of life, and they have been told many times, by those they do trust, not to trust doctors, scientists, skeptics, etc. I’m not surprised that they lash out in anger, given what they’ve been “informed” is the “real motivation” of these groups.

  5. DugganSC says:

    The linguaphile in me feels compelled to wince and ask what sacrifice was involved in this “gambit” (a gambit is a tactic involving sacrificing something to gain a greater goal. Classically, it involves sacrificing a chess piece to capture something greater. It does not just mean “tactic”).

    Outside of that, I definitely understand where you’re coming from. Coming from the pro-life side of things, I’ve often been attacked with accusations about “not caring about women” or even “wanting women to suffer for their actions”. Admittedly, we get people on our side doing the same thing, so focused on the babies that they forget about the women, but it always rankles a bit.

    I wish you luck in holding strong to your position. Or, as the meme goes, “Haters gonna hate”.

  6. geo says:

    “It takes an even deeper trust before anyone will allow this, in any area of life, and they have been told many times, by those they do trust, not to trust doctors, scientists, skeptics, etc. I’m not surprised that they lash out in anger, given what they’ve been “informed” is the “real motivation” of these groups.”

    I think that it’s likely that a culture of distrust also stems from problems with the way in which autism used to be treated. eg: I think that there has been a failure to account for the harm done by the ‘refrigerator parents’ quackery which surrounded autism. The quacks responsible for inflicting this nonsense upon those with autism and their parents have generally escaped any sort of disciplinary action, and were able to go on being treated as respectable professionals for the ‘care’ they provided. Also, that it was a parent who played such a key role in the fight back could feed in to the ‘we need to do it for ourselves’ attitude which often seems on display. Failure to account for this history could be seen as a lack of a kind of compassion. Also, I have seen examples of unreasonable hostility aimed towards the parents of those with autism from ‘sceptic’ websites, eg: if there is evidence linking parent behaviour or attributes to a risk of autism (older age pregnancies) there are often comments displaying barely hidden glee.

    None of this justifies the quackery which some parents descend to in order to explain or ‘treat’ their child’s autism, or means that people should not speak out against such quackery. However, I think that there are parallels to be drawn with other situations, like the relationship between African-Americans and certain police forces. When systems of power and authority fail to discipline those who misuse their positions within these systems, and serve to harm the interest of those who are in already difficult situations, it is not surprising that this leads to less trust and more animosity from those affected.

  7. mousethatroared says:

    geo ” Also, that it was a parent who played such a key role in the fight back could feed in to the ‘we need to do it for ourselves’ attitude which often seems on display.”

    I would add – In the U.S. parent’s of children with autism (and other special needs) also often find themselves in conflicts with school systems over needed services. By and large it is the parent support groups that offer guidance in dealing/negotiating with the schools when there is trouble. Is it surprising that people would tend to trust the groups that seem the most helpful and knowledgable about their situation?

    As a somewhat off-topic aside – Many parent support groups of children with special needs offer wonderful support to parents with tips on navigating the school system, medical system and raising a child with a particular set of needs. This is support that often can not be found from family or friends, who lack the experience or the medical system, which lacks the time. It’s true that some groups are breeding grounds for SCAM, but there are many others that just offer practical tips to parents struggling with the particular parenting issues of their child’s needs. It may be helpful to realize, when ones focuses on the parent support groups who encourage SCAMs, there can be a form of selection bias that could create a skewed view of parent support groups overall.

  8. DevoutCatalyst says:

    The linguaphile in you should know David is right and you are wrong, right?

  9. geo says:

    MTR: “In the U.S. parent’s of children with autism (and other special needs) also often find themselves in conflicts with school systems over needed services. By and large it is the parent support groups that offer guidance in dealing/negotiating with the schools when there is trouble. Is it surprising that people would tend to trust the groups that seem the most helpful and knowledgable about their situation?”

    That is true, and an important point – it’s not as if those with autism and their parents are consistently treated well now. It could seem lacking in ‘compassion’ for people to spend their time campaigning against the claim that autism is related to vaccines, without also spending time campaigning for more resources to help those with autism. Were it the case that vaccines caused autism, I think that this would have been likely to lead to more support being given to those with autism and their parents (although we will never know if this is true).

    It could also be that some of the desire to believe that the cause of autism is a known biological mechanism (and with vaccines, one imposed by those with social power), is partially a result of a desire to get away from the blame of the past, and the blame which can often accrue when the cause of a hardship is unknown.

  10. windriven says:

    “Remember the case of the teen Jehovah’s Witness who died for want of a blood transfusion, all because of a bizarre and literal-minded interpretation of a single passage from Leviticus? Same thing, along with charges of religious intolerance.”

    Any religion that demands the life of a child in service to some 3000 year old scribblings does not deserve tolerance.

    And scientists can never win the compassion duel. The delusionals can always wail louder and shed more tears. That isn’t a duel worth fighting. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. If it then dies of dehydration, well, tough crackers. But when children are the sufferers the parents, quacks and enablers should all be prosecuted into prison stripes. Pretending that refusal to transfuse is a reasonable religious position isn’t compassion, it is aiding and abetting the commission of murder.

  11. Narad says:

    Any religion that demands the life of a child in service to some 3000 year old scribblings does not deserve tolerance.

    Actually, it’s in service of a 68-year-old scribbling by the Watch Tower Society.

  12. elburto says:

    . It could seem lacking in ‘compassion’ for people to spend their time campaigning against the claim that autism is related to vaccines, without also spending time campaigning for more resources to help those with autism.

    Strawman. There are many people who do both. Doing the former is pretty much essential to ensuring the latter. Every pound/dollar that’s pissed up the wall “proving” that vaccines cause autism is money that could have been spent more wisely.

    Then we get to professional “activist” groups like Autism Speaks who speak over, er ignore, or take legal action against people with autism, people who are trying to make concrete changes.

  13. lilady says:

    @ Geo: I’m going to challenge you about one of your statements.

    “… Also, I have seen examples of unreasonable hostility aimed towards the parents of those with autism from ‘sceptic’ websites, eg: if there is evidence linking parent behaviour or attributes to a risk of autism (older age pregnancies) there are often comments displaying barely hidden glee…”

    There are a number of studies that link parental ages at time of conception, and maternal co-morbid medical conditions (HTN), intake of certain prescribed medications (anticonvulsants), and street drugs that attribute to the risk of autism…and many other developmental disabilities.

    I post on a number of “skeptic/science” blogs, and I have never seen any poster, with the exception of “trolls”, who ever “displayed barely hidden glee.” In fact, some of the “trolls” are well known to us; Thingy is the only troll who ever posted disparaging remarks to parents of autistic/developmentally disabled parents…telling them their children are “vaccine injured”.

  14. windriven says:

    @Narad

    “Actually, it’s in service of a 68-year-old scribbling by the Watch Tower Society.”

    Thanks! I was actually referring to Leviticus 3:17 which is thought to have been written ca. 1400 BCE. But you are more correct as it is the JW reading of Leviticus that prohibits transfusions.

  15. DanaUllman says:

    Oh yeah, those CAM people that treat people with cancer have “money issues,” especially in comparison with conventional oncologists are so charitable: they almost give away their care; heck, their average salary is less than $1 million a year…and that is your AVERAGE oncologist.

    Let’s not forget Big Pharma who almost “give away” their drugs, barely making “any” profit (Marci Angel, MD, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, noted that the 10 largest of the Big Pharma companies of the Fortune 500 made MORE PROFIT in 2001 than the remaining 490 companies COMBINED!).

    Medicine is not a science; it is a business. Your site here provides good PR for the business. Big Pharma thanks you big time…and is laughing on their way to the bank.

    I’m so glad that you folks practice “ostrich science,” that is, you stick your head far enough into the sand (and mud) that you have fictionalize the world in your own make-believe worldview.

  16. lilady says:

    @ Dana Ullman:

    “Oh yeah, those CAM people that treat people with cancer have “money issues,” especially in comparison with conventional oncologists are so charitable: they almost give away their care; heck, their average salary is less than $1 million a year…and that is your AVERAGE oncologist.”

    Nope. Not even close: http://www.ehow.com/info_7995776_yearly-salary-oncologist.html

    How much money do you make each year, by providing *homeopathic treatments* over the phone and by Skype?

    http://www.homeopathic.com/

    “Did you know that our owner, Dana Ullman, MPH, provides homeopathic treatment over the phone (and Skype) as well as in our Berkeley office? He can also provide a personalized referral to a local homeopath for you.”

  17. Narad says:

    Medicine is not a science; it is a business. Your site here provides good PR for the business.

    Happily, you, Dana, reliably provide atrocious PR for the scam of homeopathy.

  18. Sastra says:

    Philosopher Stephen Law talks about “immunizing strategies.” An immunizing strategy is a popular tactic used to immunize or protect a belief against refutation. For example, one of the most obvious and common strategy is to play the “faith” card. If empirical claim X is declared part of their “faith,” then you’re not supposed to attack it. It’s immune to criticism. It’s sacred. I think what you’re calling the “no compassion” gambit would be another immunizing strategy.

    So it’s ironic that the demand for forbearance against parents who think vaccines have harmed their kids could be termed an ‘immunizing strategy.’ It’s an immunizing strategy used against criticizing critics of immunizations. Yup.

    I think the “mean skeptic” gambit is probably an offshoot of the venerable “mean atheist” gambit. Even the most rational atheistic argument is usually considered “militant:” You never, never, never try to take anyone’s faith away from them. Which makes me wonder whether the anti-vaxxers (and all the alties) are actually framing their views in terms of “faith.” Telling a mother that a Brave Maverick Doctor is unlikely to cure their child is — to them — like telling someone that God does not exist. How. Dare. You. You’re removing hope. They made a leap of faith and you fail to respect that and treat it with the deference that the sacred demands.

    Maybe. The deliberate confusion between applying skepticism to an idea and lacking compassion for a person looks the same whether you are arguing against the efficiency of alternative medicine or arguing against the existence of God. Same outrage, same accusations, same fallacies, same anti-science diatribes, same immunizing strategies. The opposition is demonized because the choice to have faith separates the sheep from the goats … and the good from the evil.

  19. Sastra says:

    DanaUllman wrote:

    Medicine is not a science; it is a business. Your site here provides good PR for the business.

    And yet the Science-Based Medicine blog does not seem to be selling anything.

    Unlike most alternative medicine blogs, which usually have on-site stores selling all their wares.

  20. geo says:

    @lilady re what seems to be some animosity aimed at the parents of those with autism: I did not mean to say that this was anything other than a problem with a small minority. It is possible that I had been taken in by trolls, but if so, they were being very subtle about it. I was only reporting my impression of some comments I had seen on the internet (hardly an impressive point, and I thought that I had originally phrased it more cautiously when I read you quote me – I should have done so) and they could have been based on a small number of examples that happened to stick in my mind, but I do worry that some of the hostility and anger which surrounds concern about children going un-vaccinated ends up seeping inappropriately into other areas. It could well be that this worry is unjustified, and founded upon my own misreading of the comments of trolls, but it seemed somewhat relevant to this discussion so I thought I would mention it. It is reassuring to have you disagree.

  21. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Hi Dana, I have three questions for you:

    1) Do you provide homeopathic “treatment” for free?

    2) What sort of profits does Boiron make?

    3) How much of those profits gets put into clinical trials to test those medications and ensure they do something?

    Never mind, I actually know the answer to two of those three questions, the important ones.

  22. Davdoodles says:

    “I’m so glad that you folks practice “ostrich science,” that is, you stick your head far enough into the sand (and mud) that you have fictionalize the world in your own make-believe worldview.”

    More projection than a drive-in megaplex.
    .

  23. BillyJoe7 says:

    Never mind DU, he has now become a drive-by shooter who never sticks around long enough to realise he shoots only blanks

  24. elburto says:

    @Dullman:

    Oh yeah, those CAM people that treat people with cancer have “money issues,” especially in comparison with conventional Americanoncologists are so charitable: they almost give away their care; heck, their average salary is less than $1 million a year…and that is your AVERAGE American oncologist.

    FTFY

    Oh Dullman, so myopic that you forget/are unaware of the huge world outside US borders. Obviously you’ll be aware of Mexico, and the Tijuana “clinics” set up and run by your fellow sCAMsters in order to “treat” cancer, but there’s so much more than Mexico out there.

    Excepting the fact that you attempted to peddle lies about US oncologists up there in order to smear the entire medical profession, how do you account for salaried oncologists that work in socialised/not for profit hospitals? How exactly are they in it for the money when the treatments cost the patient nothing?

    Muppet.

  25. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    Sastra in:
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/the-no-compassion-gambit/#comment-119252

    Which makes me wonder whether the anti-vaxxers (and all the alties) are actually framing their views in terms of “faith.”

    The fact that people are getting so emotional about it is, in my opinion, an indication that they are followers of some kind of guru or redeemer. The pattern in (religious) faith is often that people feel bad for some reason and then fall for someone who promises deliverance, claiming of course that he has infinite compassion. But implicitly or explicitly the price for deliverance is loyalty, often to be shown by making sacrifices. You must believe that the guru or whatever can deliver you from evil. To a large degree – I think – it is this veneration what the guru is really after, and the core of many religions is the duty of the followers to worship the Führer in charge and of course pay due respect to His representatives. (If this is true then it follows that what happens to you after you die or what Really Happened During the Big Bang is not at all what religion is about. Religion is about following leaders.)

    If people feel bad because of a health problem and visit an ordinary physician, they of course expect ‘deliverance’ too. But in my experience as a consumer (I am a doctor of mathematics, not of medicine) of medical services, physicians will avoid being venerated and they don’t demand loyalty. They’ll often stay somewhat aloof too. That is not bad, that is professional. There is a difference between sympathy and getting emotionally involved. Of course there is always a bit of ‘veneration’ for the doctor, that’s what makes the placebo effect work, but a doctor that only relies on the placebo effect is no better than a witch doctor.

    From what I have heard about the past in medical education is that it was quite common that The Professor was some kind of god whose authority was absolute and who only could be served by faithful ritual imitation and imbibing all precious drops of wisdom from His lips. There you see the same principle at work. I don’t think that is a proper scientific education.

    Of course what is here called by the alluringly alliterating appellation ‘compassion gambit’ is known also as ‘argumentum ad misericordiam’. But the fact that the sick are pitiful does not justify calling in the witch doctor.

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