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Why You Can’t Depend On The Press For Science Reporting

I admit that the title of this post is a little inflammatory, but it’s frustrating when reporters call for input and then proceed to write unbalanced accounts of pseudoscientific practices. A case in point – my last post described a conversation I had with a reporter about energy medicine. My interviewee was very nice and seemed to “track” with me on what I was saying. I did my level best to be compelling, empathic, and fair – but in the final analysis, not a single word of what I said made it into her article. For fun, I thought you’d like to compare what I said, with the final product.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Disease has always been with us, but modern, Western medicine is only a few hundred years old.

Before germ theory and pharmaceutical research, the human race devised countless strategies to relieve pain, banish illness and prolong life. Southern Marylanders are keeping a few of these ancient disciplines alive, insisting they have much to teach us, even in a scientific age.

The rest of the piece is full of the usual pseudoscientific arguments: anecdotal evidence, mistrust of scientific methods, a call to “open-mindedness,” an emphasis on “natural” as being synonymous with “safe and effective,” and an “everybody’s doing it, even academic medical centers” rationale for adoption. There was no dissenting opinion – just an unquestioning acceptance of energy medicine.

Now to be fair, the reporter told me that she had included a quote from me in her submission, but that the newspaper editors had cut it out of the online version.

Nonetheless, my take home message from the experience is that blogs like Science Based Medicine seem to offer the only guarantee of unedited rational thought on matters of health and medicine. Thank goodness we’re no longer beholden to mainstream media for all our health news and commentary. It is a shame that most consumers get their news from TV and other outlets that don’t seem to maintain a journalistic quality filter.

This is why our work here is so important… because without scientists and healthcare professionals providing a counterpoint to the endless onslaught of superficial and misleading information, our patients won’t stand a chance of discerning the truth. We need more critical thinkers to join the cause, and I hope that more of us will step up to the plate and contribute to outlets like SBM or Better Health. Waiting for reporters to include us in the discourse could take a very long time…

Posted in: Energy Medicine, Science and the Media

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346 thoughts on “Why You Can’t Depend On The Press For Science Reporting

  1. Hanan Cohen says:

    The problem is with all reporters, not just science reporters.

    Dave Winer of RSS and blogging fame has a no-interview policy.

    http://www.scripting.com/stories/2009/01/29/newPolicyOnInterviews.html

    Previously he wrote that he wants to be interviewed by writing in his blog

    http://www.scripting.com/2006/08/11.html#interviewRequest

  2. Versus says:

    Health News Review, http://www.healthnewsreview.org., critiques news stories about health care and gives advice to journalists on science reporting. The editor may limit the site to print stories now, having decided that broadcast news stories were so consistently bad that it wasn’t worth the effort.

  3. mikerattlesnake says:

    Reading an article like that, one might wonder why we bothered to invent western medicine (Ask your neigborhood pharmacist about Western Medicine!) at all.

  4. Zoe237 says:

    I have to agree with the first commenter; it’s not just science reporting. It’s all reporting. I’ve taken to getting news from sources outside the United States since even NPR and the NYT seems to have sold out. Thank FSM for the internet.

  5. Fifi says:

    Um, this isn’t really science reporting and I doubt the editor or writer considers it to be science journalism or about science really. It’s a puff piece that’s probably in the lifestyle section and he’s a staff writer and clearly not a science journalist. It’s worthy of contempt and critique – and they definitely wasted your time and are presenting a very biased and uncritical view of woo – but that’s pretty par for the course for puff pieces in the lifestyle section. (At least that’s what it looked like to me from what I could tell online.)

    It’s a shame that they didn’t give you and science even a token nod and wasted your time. You’ve got to wonder why they even made the pretense of actually doing investigative or fact-based journalism but people do like to fool themselves. Add in the sad fact is that a lot of the people who still have jobs in journalism are the cynical and the credulous. The cynical believe people are stupid and it’s only about selling advertising, the credulous are employed by the cynical because they’re easy to manipulate and don’t think critically or ask questions. And some people are just desperately clinging to the dying corpse of professional journalism trying to pay their rent.

    Of course, you do have beacons of hope vis a vis science journalism (MSM has always been somewhat problematic for a wide variety of reasons, you really need competing newspapers in a city and people buying them for good journalism to thrive). There are magazines like SEED (privately funded) which supports these blogs, and there are writers like Ben Goldacre and sometimes you get good science writing in some of the bigger newspapers (and often really crappy science writing).

    There are two strategies that could be employed here. One would be to get a letter writing campaign underway by local skeptics and the medical/science community (addressing the editor and/or publisher, not the actual writer). The other is to offer to write an editorial or article for a competing newspaper if there is one – or to approach a sympathetic journalist to do so. However, this kind of lifestyle article is like the kinds done on makeup (or cars or technology) where they’re really intended to be puff pieces that won’t offend readers or advertisers (and actually support advertisers’ products). I’d guess that this writer’s articles about anything are equally fluffy.

    So, yes, thank goodness for the blogosphere – it spits up all kinds of idiocy as well as genius, of course. This is why it’s important to be consistent in maintaining integrity and being ethical and transparent if one wants to establish and maintain a reputation as being trustworthy. Because, let’s be honest, there’s just as many people writing blogs who lack integrity as there are journalists, which is why learning how to think critically is so important. That said – go blogosphere! :-)

  6. windriven says:

    Not all science reporting in popular media is dreck. Today’s Wall Street Journal offers a well-presented article that examines controversy over routine use of low dose aspirin for the prevention of heart attack.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704511304575075701363436686.html?mod=WSJ_hp_mostpop_read

  7. I agree with the observation that blogging and such are wonderful avenues to get an awesome discussion going on health topics. Of course, it is all open, and so is not vettted, but if people only had a decent science educaiton and a critical mind, the degree and level of education on various topics that can be gleaned in an afternoon are awesome.

    Here, for example, various people chip in with side issues, emerging info, etc., and you just almost cannot get that elsewhere -maybe at a research conference seminar.

    A journal is too static. Colleagues often have their own research or clinical specialty, so they are not quite your “community.” Listserves can be good.

    Maybe an improvement over the blog would be a journal that posted peer-reviewed articles, then set up a discussion forum relative to the article. A “sign-up” deal, such as WordPress login, could cut riff-raff a bit, and some moderator could remove or consor at will to control ad hominem, profanity, etc. — Amazon does that on their discussion boards, and it all seems to go pretty well.

    Don’t get me wrong! Keep the blog going! I just think it is a shame that journalism cannot convey health ansd science stories well.

    Sorry the news person wanted to write a good-sounding story, versus a relevant, accurate story. So it goes.

  8. Regarding the Southern Maryland story: this woman reported using vodka, and there is a decent evidence base that a drink or two a day is good for the heart. !Salud!

  9. Dacks says:

    Wow, you sure got sucker punched with that one! At least she didn’t make any attempt to sound unbiased. It might have been even worse if she threw in a quote from you as a sort of sour-grapes perspective.

    I hope you continue to do these kinds of interviews, even if it does raise your blood pressure. we who have to read that sort of dreck in our newspapers are thrilled when a little reality breaks in.

    One thing I noticed from the article: it seemed as though the author met with her naturopaths and spent quite a bit of time with them, whereas she only spoke to you briefly on the phone. I think their charming personalities and lovely accoutrements may have had more to do with the tone of the final story than anything else.

  10. mckenzievmd says:

    It is reallly frustrating that the media so often handles science so badly. And while it is critical that rational, skeptical scientists talk to the media, otherwise our perspective won’t be represented at all, it is hard to force oneself to do so knowing one’s perspective will be minimized or misrepresented.

    I was recently asked to speak on a Sirius network radio call-in show run by a “holistic” veterinarian. I declined because I felt it was likely to be an ambush, and he seemed to be looking for a sacrificial skeptic to carve up. His subsequent blog trashing of me confirmed my suspicions, but several people have still chastised me for not making the effort to use whatever platform offerred, even a hostile one, to try and combat medical nonsense. *sigh* I suppose even quixotic battles are sometimes worth fighting.

  11. weing says:

    “Regarding the Southern Maryland story: this woman reported using vodka, and there is a decent evidence base that a drink or two a day is good for the heart.”

    For men, yes. For women, there appears to be an increased risk of breast cancer.

  12. FreeSpeaker says:

    How can you tell a good reporter from a bad one? Simple, if the woo-meisters like them, they are bad reporters. For example, J.B. Handley of GenerationRescue, routinely trashes McNeill from the NY Times. McNeill’s crime? Writing about the lack of a connection between vaccines and autism. Likewise for Trine Tsouderous (hope I got the spelling right), who exposed Boyd Haley’s quackery with OSR, and industrial chelator. Sharyl Atkinsson of CBS is virulently anti-vaccination and does drive-by trashings of Paul Offit. There are more, but SBM readers are well aware of that.

    Recently, I wrote an article at Age of Ignorance, http://age-of-ignorance.blogspot.com/2010/01/experts-used-by-4th-estate-should-be.html where I demonstrated the credulosity of reporters when they are told that a doctor is some sort of expert.

    The bottom line is, you have to know your reporters, and do you own background checks. Never take anything at face value.

    Please post any Wakefield Sightings at http://wakefieldwatch.blogspot.com/ . We must keep track of this dangerous person.

  13. TimonT says:

    I hope someone from SBM will analyze this OpEd by Nicholas Kristof in today’s New York Times: “Do Toxins Cause Autism?”

  14. clgood says:

    As other commenters have said, it’s not just science reporting. My experience with “journalists” (who are, as a group, the dregs who can just barely make it through college) is that what they don’t get wrong through malice or bias they get wrong through incompetence.

    I was interviewed by Millimeter for a puff piece about an animated film. The writer rearranged some words I had actually said, added a few of his own, and generated a sentence that made me sound like an incoherent illiterate. And that’s a magazine with a good rep. By the time you get down to Newsweek territory, you just can’t expect much.

    I wish everybody could have the experience that you and I have had, that of being interviewed and then made to look stupid in print. It would make sure that nobody believes anything a reporter writes – at least not without a lot of corroboration.

  15. Pingback: Anonymous
  16. Reporting in general often isn’t that hot. I’ve had several experiences with situations covered by either print or television reporters, and the story you see is often close to what happened in general, but short of accurate in details.

    TV reports will often include interviews with people that are interesting to put on camera, even if they didn’t see or know as much about the story as other people that were interviewed or on scene.

    We had a bomb go off in our parking garage last year (very interesting story), and the news reports did an interesting job of misquoting the people interviewed, mis-attributing the people quoted, and getting job titles completely wrong.

  17. lizkat says:

    There isn’t a lot of evidence for energy healing, but this is partly because it has not been studied scientifically until recently. As skeptics, I think we are obliged to consider the evidence, whatever our feelings about it. It doesn’t matter if we understand how energy healing works or not — there are many types of therapies that are accepted, even if no one is sure how they work.

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/169354.php

    “In a detailed review of 66 clinical studies looking at biofield therapies in different patient populations with a range of ailments, Jain and Mills examine the strength of the evidence for the efficacy of these complementary therapies”

    “they find strong evidence that biofield therapies reduce pain intensity in free-living populations, and moderate evidence that they are effective at lowering pain in hospitalized patients as well as in patients with cancer.”

    “There is also moderate evidence that these therapies ease agitated behaviors in dementia and moderate evidence that they reduce anxiety in hospitalized patients. ”

    “The authors conclude that there is a strong need for further high-quality studies and suggest specific areas for further research.”

  18. Danio says:

    there are many types of therapies that are accepted, even if no one is sure how they work.

    [citation needed]

  19. Composer99 says:

    A bass in my choir used to be the Chief Medical Officer of Health for the City of Ottawa. He complained many a time of being misrepresented by the press. What really got his goat is that he understood any attempt to criticize the press for their misdeeds would be political/public relations suicide.

  20. weing says:

    “There isn’t a lot of evidence for energy healing, but this is partly because it has not been studied scientifically until recently. As skeptics, I think we are obliged to consider the evidence, whatever our feelings about it. It doesn’t matter if we understand how energy healing works or not — there are many types of therapies that are accepted, even if no one is sure how they work.”

    No plausibility. This is gullibility pure and simple. This stuff is about as real as facilitated communication. Wasn’t there a 12 year old girl a few years ago that checked this scientifically? I’m pretty sure I read it in JAMA.

  21. Fifi says:

    Of course, the irony of the writer starting the story going on about how “western” medicine is only a few hundred years old is that Reiki is less than “a few hundred years old”, having been invented in Japan in the 1920s, and it’s pretty clear that anything with “Quantum” in it is an even more recent invention. Ah, the land of make believe….

  22. BillyJoe says:

    lizkat said:
    “There isn’t a lot of evidence for energy healing, but this is partly because it has not been studied scientifically until recently. As skeptics, I think we are obliged to consider the evidence, whatever our feelings about it. It doesn’t matter if we understand how energy healing works or not — there are many types of therapies that are accepted, even if no one is sure how they work.”

    OMG, where do I start.
    Unfortunately this is the wrong thread.

    weing asked:
    “Wasn’t there a 12 year old girl a few years ago that checked this scientifically?”

    Linda Rosa tested “therapeutic touch” and it failed the scientific test. The plausibility factor was about zero, so it was not a surprising result. What is also not surprising is that therapeutic touch continues to be used – even, and especially by, nurses who should know better.

  23. Zoe237 says:

    I think energy healing/therapeutic touch sounds great for a placebo/ somebody cares about me effect. In a church. Where I don’t have to go.

    I have to strongly second the suggestion to address Kristof’s NYT piece today. I think he makes some good points (about lead, mercury, asbestos) and I also wonder if toxicology has moved into the medical mainstream as he claims. But I’m skeptical about his main thesis- potential autism causes and phthalates. Thanks!

  24. lizkat says:

    >No plausibility. This is gullibility pure and simple. This stuff is about >as real as facilitated communication. Wasn’t there a 12 year old girl >a few years ago that checked this scientifically? I’m pretty sure I >read it in JAMA.

    weing, as skeptics we should not allow ourselves to ignore evidence we don’t like, or to only consider evidence we do like. Anyone who does that is a believer, not a scientific skeptic.

    There was a review of 66 studies, published in a mainstream journal, showing some effectiveness. Versus one negative study.

    Remember that plausibility is in the mind of the believer. Energy, and how it is related to biological processes, is not well understood.

  25. weing says:

    How many times do we have to prove Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are not real?

  26. micheleinmichigan says:

    weing on 26 Feb 2010 at 8:52 am

    “How many times do we have to prove Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are not real?”

  27. micheleinmichigan says:

    weing

    “How many times do we have to prove Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are not real?”

    You know that guy, Sisyphus? With the boulders and hills and all?

  28. micheleinmichigan says:

    I am glad that at least we got to read your comments here, Dr. J.

  29. weing says:

    micheleinmichigan,

    That was in Hades, the Greek equivalent of hell. I don’t think we should be put in the Sisyphian hell by these believers who have placed themselves into the hell of Tantalus.

  30. micheleinmichigan says:

    Damn, I was going for the Camus, Myth of Sisyphus reference and now I have to look up Tantalus. Serve’s me right.

    Okay, standing in a pool of water, grapes above, but can’t reach out to eat or drink.

    Good one.

  31. lizkat says:

    “How many times do we have to prove Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are not real?”

    You can refuse to acknowledge scientific evidence if that makes you feel good. But that means renouncing your skeptic status.

  32. weing says:

    I used to tell my kids that Santa Claus was real and they found lots of scientific evidence to prove it. I, myself, nearly drove off the highway when I found out Santa was not real. I had been skeptical about the non-existence of Santa up to that point. Then, I became a believer.

  33. Harriet Hall says:

    Energy medicine is a perfect example of what I have called Tooth Fairy Science. They are studying clinical applications of something that has not been shown to exist. If there is a human energy field that involves real (not imaginary) energy, advocates should be able to demonstrate that energy to physicists (and quantify it) and practitioners should be able to demonstrate that they can detect it under double blind conditions.

    The existence of Santa Claus can be “proven” by the appearance of gifts on Christmas morning. There is an alternate explanation. There is also an alternate explanation for the positive results of energy medicine studies. It involves poor research methodology, psychological factors, and self-deception.

  34. LizKat,

    1) You’re quoting a press release.

    2) The press release doesn’t refer to randomized prospective double-blinded studies. For all we know, the studies are all surveys of the type, “I just manipulated your aura. Do you feel better now?” We know there were no good studies included because the authors of the paper say so.

    3) It’s plausible that receiving an aura manipulation in addition to standard therapy would be soothing for people who like that kind of thing. That doesn’t necessarily mean that aura manipulation exists. It could mean that visualisation exercises and the company of a relaxed person are beneficial to people in pain.

    4) See Harriet Hall on Tooth Fairy Science. http://skepticstoolbox.org/hall/
    “If you don’t consider prior probability, you can end up doing what I call Tooth Fairy Science. You can study whether leaving the tooth in a baggie generates more Tooth Fairy money than leaving it wrapped in Kleenex. You can study the average money left for the first tooth versus the last tooth. You can correlate Tooth Fairy proceeds with parental income. You can get reliable data that are reproducible, consistent, and statistically significant. You think you have learned something about the Tooth Fairy. But you haven’t. Your data has another explanation, parental behavior, that you haven’t even considered. You have deceived yourself by trying to do research on something that doesn’t exist.” The prior probability of a person being able to manipulate something undetectable (undetectable both by objective methods and to themselves, as Emily Rosa demonstrated) is close to zero. There is currently no reason to think that studies on “energy healing” have anything to do with “biofields.”

    5) You’re asking people to believe in the existence of something that nobody can detect and accusing them of being unskeptical when they don’t.

    6) On the other hand, there are other, simpler explanations of why “energy healing” might make some people feel better. You don’t accept these simpler explanations that fully account for the observations, so you aren’t skeptical of energy healing. You consider yourself skeptical, but skepticism is general: it applies to everything. If you are not skeptical of energy healing, you simply aren’t skeptical.

    7) It’s not that energy healing can’t exist, it’s just that we have no reason to think it does. My ex used to cite as proof of ghosts the fact that once when she was taking a bath her coffee mug appeared on the edge of the bathtub when she had put it on the floor. I pointed out that there was another, simpler, possible explanation (that she was smoking a lot of dope in that period of her life, that she was stoned at the time of the coffee-mug-and-bathtub incident, and that she herself had put the coffee mug on the edge of the bathtub and had simply had a memory lapse and forgotten). It’s not that ghosts can’t exist; it’s that the coffee-mug-and-bathtub incident isn’t a reason to think they do.

  35. oderb says:

    I’m with lizkat. I don’t bow down to your gods of plausibility.

    What’s implausible today often becomes conventional wisdom a decade or a generation from now.

    Is anyone willing to actually carefully examine the study and critique it on its merits rather than simply saying or implying that it can’t be valid so no need to pay any attention to it?

    Here’s the link to the full study:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2816237/

  36. Harriet Hall says:

    I don’t reject energy medicine because it is implausible. I reject it because there is no evidence that the alleged human energy fields exist. I reject the kind of evidence in the cited review because it is all Tooth Fairy Science that attempts to study the use of something that has not been shown to exist. Tooth Fairy studies are almost guaranteed to show some positive results due to the pitfalls of scientific research, but the conclusions don’t prove the existence of the Tooth Fairy.

  37. Bowing down to the gods of plausibility?

    If I have to question everything all the time, I wouldn’t be able to function. What if pink snakes are going to come out of my nose if I drink that coffee? What if the next metro is going to take me to the moon? What if breathing doesn’t actually help oxygenate my hemoglobin after all? What if the woman in the next cubicle is controlling my thoughts? My beloved had a vasectomy, but what if I’m a disguised hammerhead shark and can still reproduce asexually? What if there’s a an undetectable teapot orbiting the sun?

    You might be able to construct an imaginary universe in which these things could be true, but there is no reason to think that any of them might be. And there’s no reason to think that energy healing might be true either. It’s a nice idea, but there’s no more reason to think it has effects beyond placebo than there is to imagine that I’m a billionnaire — also a nice idea.

  38. Mark Crislip says:

    I looked at the energy therapy reference above and it contained the phase

    “Gaseous Discharge Visualization”

    Some things write themselves.

  39. wales says:

    The subject of energetic healing is interesting. I like to keep an open mind about it. When I see the often reflexive dismissal of it by bloggers here I always think a more thoughtful commentary is due.

    Whenever I encounter too much certainty on the part of some individuals regarding the nonvalidity of hypothetical types of energy I revert to physics, that most fundamental of the sciences. There are some strange goings on in the world of physics (Einstein dubbed nonlocal quantum interactions “spooky”) which highlight just how much physicists do not know. I certainly don’t understand everything about physics, but what is so refreshing about most physicists is their willingness to admit that neither do they. The trend of physics professors writing high level books for the lay person is a welcome one for me.

    Take, for example, virtual particles. The Berkeley Lab site’s interactive “The Particle Adventure” states “The virtual particles exist for such a short time that they can never be observed.” Yet “Most particle processes are mediated by virtual-carrier particles.” In other words, virtual particles have measureable effects, yet the virtual particles themselves are not observable.
    http://www.particleadventure.org/virtual.html

    So are virtual particles “real” or not? This article says they are http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=are-virtual-particles-rea

    This from the Stanford Linear Accelerator site: http://www2.slac.stanford.edu/vvc/theory/model.html#Higgs Physics

    “In the Standard Model, there is at least one additional type of interaction beyond the four known forces (weak, strong, electromagnetic, and gravitational). This force is needed to explain how all the fundamental particle masses are generated. This part of the theory is the least tested experimentally, so there are a number of different competing ideas on how it may work.” A fifth unknown force, interesting.

    This hypothetical fifth force, combined with the queer fact of nonlocality or quantum entanglement, and the hypothesized multiple dimensions and branes of M theory lead me to believe we are ignorant of much of workings of physical reality. Many nobel-laureate physicists have contemplated the strangeness of physical reality, whether or not it is “real” and what role is played by human consciousness. Rather than “tooth fairy” science I prefer some less derogatory label for virtual or unmeasureable forces and masses. Theoretical physics is the fascinating cutting edge of these studies. For concepts like energy healing it might be more scientifically accurate to state that “scientific experiments and instruments have not yet been able to observe and measure a force or energy facilitating healing effects”.

    For anyone interested in reading more on physics I highly recommend two books written at a high level by physicists for the lay public: (these are not “woo” books by any stretch of the imagination and the Quantum Enigma authors explicitly state so).

    Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions by Lisa Randall (2006) (Lisa is a Harvard theoretical physicist, one of the few prominent women in this field)

    Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner (2008)

  40. Geekoid says:

    The rule of newspapers:
    If they write about something you know, they are not to be trusted; when writing about something you don’t know, they are the absolute truth.

    I see this, and fall prey to it, too often.

    A weird sort of cognitive dissonance seem to happen to people when they read the paper, or watch the news.

  41. vexorian says:

    As skeptics, I think we are obliged to consider the evidence, whatever our feelings about it. It doesn’t matter if we understand how energy healing works or not — there are many types of therapies that are accepted, even if no one is sure how they work.

    Please turn in your skeptic card.

  42. vexorian says:

    If you are really, really trying to be a “skeptic” in these regards, then you must really go through all the slides of Dr. Hall’s “Tooth Fairy Science and Other Pitfalls: Applying Rigorous Science to Messy Medicine” such link has already been posted to you, but just in case you have skipped it… :

    http://skepticstoolbox.org/hall/

  43. wales says:

    To further clarify, one might be justified in describing the concept of energetic healing as a speculative one, but it is unnecessary to denigrate speculation as “tooth fairy” science, unless you’re willing to apply that label to theoretical physics as well.

    A link to the Quantum Enigma website where the authors carefully discuss the misuse of physics theories to support pseudoscience. They discuss the difference between legitimate hyberole and hype, while they “succinctly expose the mystery physics has encountered, admit the limits of our understanding, and identify as speculation whatever goes beyond those limits”

    http://quantumenigma.com/nutshell/notable-quotes-on-quantum-physics/

    I think the skeptics here would appreciate this book, as the authors describe the mysteries or physics’ “skeleton in the closet” as they phrase it, but they assiduously avoid unwarranted speculation.

  44. Yaaay! Quantum physics!

  45. wales says:

    You’ve posted my second comment, which makes no sense without the first comment, still held up in moderation.

  46. lizkat says:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2816237/

    “Inclusion criteria for studies were as follows: (1) published in a peer-review journal in English language, (2) use of a proximally practiced (i.e., practitioner and client in same room) biofield-based modality, and (3) quantitative (biological and/or psychological) endpoints. RCTs are included in this review, as well as within-subject designs that incorporated appropriate pre- and postmeasures and/or historical control groups.”

    “five of seven placebo-controlled trials with pain patients reported reductions in pain for biofield vs placebo controls”

    It’s hard to understand why Harriet Hall won’t take any of this seriously. She accepts the usefulness of antiretroviral drugs for AIDS on much, much weaker evidence.

  47. weing says:

    I suppose the international journal of quackery is considered peer-reviewed if the peers are quacks. In my spare time I’ve been trying to study a little quantum physics. I still don’t know enough about it. So far I’ve learned that if it doesn’t make you angry, then you don’t understand it. But I’m angry because I don’t understand it.

  48. micheleinmichigan says:

    Quantum Medicine. It behaves differently depending upon how it’s observed. I’m NOT up for being the first test subject in that study.

  49. wales says:

    Weing said on quantum physics “So far I’ve learned that if it doesn’t make you angry, then you don’t understand it. But I’m angry because I don’t understand it.” Weing this worthy of Yogi Berra (meant as a compliment).

  50. lizkat says:

    No one understands quantum physics, not even quantum physicists. So don’t feel bad.

  51. lizkat says:

    “You’ve posted my second comment, which makes no sense without the first comment, still held up in moderation.”

    Screening anything that doesn’t fit well with the anti-CAM ideology. Oh yes, very skeptical and scientific.

  52. micheleinmichigan says:

    # lizkat

    “You’ve posted my second comment, which makes no sense without the first comment, still held up in moderation.”

    Screening anything that doesn’t fit well with the anti-CAM ideology. Oh yes, very skeptical and scientific.”

    I’m pretty sure this is an automated system, I’ve often had very mundane (non-controversial) posts get caught up in moderation. I figure all you can do, if you need to make a second post that is based on a first, is to leave the second one in the edit box and then hit submit after the first one leaves moderation. Clumsy, but better than telegraphing I suppose.

  53. wales says:

    Here’s another fascinating article from Stanford’s site about some recent surprising discoveries about the structure of water “suggesting that molecular models that went out of fashion decades ago may be in fact more accurate than recent ones”. I would like to highlight the comment at the end which sums up the complexities of making new physics discoveries and how experimentation and theorizing work hand in hand: “I think of this type of research as a relay race: The experimentalists run for a while until they can’t explain something they’ve seen, and then the theorists run for a while until they can’t go any farther without more data, and then it’s back to the experimentalists,” he said. “So, this time, we’re saying that it’s time for the theorists to run their leg.”

    http://today.slac.stanford.edu/feature/2010/water-structure.asp

  54. wales says:

    To those speculating here about the moderation process and comments getting hung up in moderation. I have at times suspected that there was an intentional delay in posting a comment such that it will be buried behind subsequent comments and not noticed by readers following only the most recent comments in a thread. I could be wrong of course.

    1. David Gorski says:

      I have at times suspected that there was an intentional delay in posting a comment such that it will be buried behind subsequent comments and not noticed by readers following only the most recent comments in a thread. I could be wrong of course.

      There’s no “could be” about it. You are wrong. We have day jobs, you know, and other things going. I do most of the checking of the spam filters, and it’s not as though I sit there waiting for your scintillating wit and wisdom to appear so that I can release it as soon as possible. Sometimes it’s several hours. Sometimes it’s overnight. I do sleep sometimes, you know.

  55. weing says:

    “Screening anything that doesn’t fit well with the anti-CAM ideology. Oh yes, very skeptical and scientific.”

    You are not skeptical of this claim?

  56. weing says:

    “I do sleep sometimes, you know.”

    You expect us to believe that?

  57. wales says:

    Thanks for clarification DG, we all need some shut eye occasionally.

  58. Zoe237 says:

    Here’s another example of science journalism from this week’s “Time.” The Autism Vaccine Debate:

    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1967796,00.html

  59. micheleinmichigan says:

    # oderb

    “I’m with lizkat. I don’t bow down to your gods of plausibility. ”

    But I have to point out if a bunch of SBM practitioners were in a garage band that would be a great name.

    “Gods of Plausibility” or if you don’t want to seem egotistical* “Sons of Plausibility” or Daughters. Sorry you can’t have both men and women, the name is too long.

    If it ever happens, please call me to do the flyer.

    *unusual in a garage band…

  60. Fifi says:

    Dr Gorski & Wales – We all tend to take things personally, even things that have nothing to do with us (which is most things really). Our brains are, to put it unscientifically, meaning machines and evolved to give us a sense of “me” (we’ve even got a sense of a meta “me” in the super ego or watching consciousness, probably just a weird evolutionary by-product but it does make life interesting…personally I suspect we share this with some other mammals, much as we like to think we’re super special not-animals ;-) )

    I’d say that one of the first things it’s important to recognize in both considering science and skepticism is that it just isn’t really all about us…not as individuals, not as a species, not even as a planet or solar system. Yes, it can cause some existential angst to realize this for some people (hence the need for gods and to make the universe revolve around us, or at least one of the reasons we make up big sky mommies and daddies). But, hey, reality just is. The scientific method is the best we’ve got for trying to see what is from an objective perspective.

    And about journalism. I think it’s good to take science journalists to task and I appreciate Dr Jones’ sharing her experience with crappy journalism. Anecdotes are always interesting, it’s why they’re so often used in human interest stories like the one being critiqued (which is all anecdote and narrative and certainly doesn’t let facts get in the way of a “good story”). On the other hand, it’s a bit like complaining that water is wet. Many people seem to be very naive about how the media functions so have unrealistic expectations and get disappointed when the reality proves to be different than what they’d like it to be. Why not help people understand the nature of MSM media and how to think critically and deconstruct media – or point them to sites that do just this and good sources of science journalism – rather than simply complaining that water is wet?

    The other thing is that most people below a certain age don’t even read newspapers or watch much TV, they get most of their information and entertainment online. It’s pretty easy to point to a rotting corpse and to proclaim it stinks. It’s much dirtier and harder to do the forensic work of dissecting that corpse and seeing what killed it so as to keep the next generation healthy and maybe even help out those still on life support. I mean, all the bloggers here obviously think it’s important to communicate with the general public about science (barring the recently departed), how do we make it better? How do we inoculate the general public against memes that make them woozy? I’m pretty sure Rupert Murdoch is impervious to anything but money and there’s no cure for avarice (but his offspring seem less impervious to public opinion). That said, a robust media environment from science (and skeptical or reality-based thinking) can start with strengthening scientific communication at the source too.

  61. Fifi says:

    or rather….”That said, a robust media environment FOR science (and skeptical or reality-based thinking) can start with strengthening scientific communication at the source too.”

  62. weing says:

    oderb,

    Who knows? In a few years we may accept it as common knowledge that Santa really exists or that 2=1.

  63. weing says:

    It’s very interesting how the reporters apply a double standard to these daughters of woo. If a physician had ties with big pharma like the woman in the referenced article, he would be denounced with ad hominems as a pharma shill.

  64. weing says:

    “Daughters of Woo” sounds like a great name for a rock band.

  65. weing says:

    Damn it. There is a rock band named The Sons & Daughters of Woo already. The WSJ was right. It is getting harder and harder to patent an original name for a rock band.

  66. wales says:

    There is more than one way to look foolish. Lord Kelvin famously said in 1894 that there were no new physics discoveries to be made. Thank goodness scientists paid no attention to him, or we’d have no transistors, lasers or MRIs (and a host of other discoveries that haven’t yet been put to practical use). Retrospective foolishness can be accompanied by an excess of imagination or scarcity of it.

  67. weing says:

    No, it’s “The Sons & Daughters of Woody Guthrie.” I guess I’m still safe, then.

  68. lizkat says:

    “it’s not as though I sit there waiting for your scintillating wit and wisdom to appear so that I can release it as soon as possible”

    Oh, shucks, I thought all you did 24/7 was wait for our wit and wisdom!

  69. weing says:

    “Retrospective foolishness can be accompanied by an excess of imagination or scarcity of it.”

    Fortunately, reality is not hampered by the constraints of imagination.

  70. weing says:

    Ok, my last comment is awaiting moderation. It must be a real doozy. Not!

  71. wales says:

    And just how is it that physicists are confident that dark energy makes up 70% of the energy in the universe yet they cannot describe it or observe it? I love those physicists, they are not afraid to go out on a limb based upon mathematical calculations. “informed” speculation if you will.

  72. weing says:

    If their calculations have been trustworthy thus far in explaining the observable universe, then they must be correct when they indicate the existence of dark energy and matter. If they are wrong, we will learn something new.

  73. wales says:

    Weing I couldn’t have said it better.

  74. weing says:

    Well, I think Grouch Marx once said “Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?”

  75. pmoran says:

    Lizkat: “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2816237/

    “Inclusion criteria for studies were as follows: (1) published in a peer-review journal in English language, (2) use of a proximally practiced (i.e., practitioner and client in same room) biofield-based modality, and (3) quantitative (biological and/or psychological) endpoints. RCTs are included in this review, as well as within-subject designs that incorporated appropriate pre- and postmeasures and/or historical control groups.”

    “five of seven placebo-controlled trials with pain patients reported reductions in pain for biofield vs placebo controls”

    It’s hard to understand why Harriet Hall won’t take any of this seriously. She accepts the usefulness of antiretroviral drugs for AIDS on much, much weaker evidence.”
    ===============================
    Harriet may have missed this comment.

    It is very difficult to achieve complete patient blinding in such studies, especially so as to to prevent conscious or unconscious cueing of patients by therapists as to whether they are getting “real” treatment or not. Simply saying to a few patients “you will feel better now” could warp the results into statistical significance.

    So this is weak evidence that such treatments do anything — that is, beyond the enforced “time out”, the well-meaning human interaction and other placebo influences.

    We have come to even EXPECT such results when enthusiasts for theatrical difficult-to-blind kinds of treatment start seeking vindication in clinical studies.

    The nature and strength of the beneficial responses reported are also suspiciously close to those expected of placebo medical interactions, there being no demonstrable effects of TT or Reiki upon any disease or physiological activity.

    In contrast there is powerful objective evidence that HIV patients are living healthier and longer when using modern drugs. There are other objective effects of treatment such as reduced viral load and higher CD4 counts after treatment is commenced.

    Our position is not that “bioenergy” treatments are of no value at all to the recipients. We just cannot, on present evidence, take the theory behind it seriously. It is not needed to explain the observed facts.

  76. Harriet Hall says:

    pmoran said, “Harriet may have missed this comment.”

    No, I didn’t miss it. I just thought it was useless to respond to someone who has said she believes the evidence shows that anti-retroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS does more harm than good.

    If she had read all of my posts and http://skepticstoolbox.org/hall/ she would have had an opportunity to understand why I take antiretroviral drugs seriously and don’t take energy medicine seriously. I say “would have had an opportunity” rather than “would have understood” because I have so often seen preconceived ideas interfere with reading comprehension.

  77. micheleinmichigan says:

    #
    # waleson 27 Feb 2010 at 12:04 pm

    “And just how is it that physicists are confident that dark energy makes up 70% of the energy in the universe yet they cannot describe it or observe it? I love those physicists, they are not afraid to go out on a limb based upon mathematical calculations. “informed” speculation if you will.”

    Oh well, the concept of gravity is based on mathematical calculations, informed speculation. But I will trust it enough to avoid wandering off a cliff edge.

    By which I mean I believe many of the theories of physics are based on observation of our enviroment. My physics is pathetic, but I thought that the theory of dark energy was based on observations of elements in space around the proposed dark matter. Also in calculating the mass of light matter (the matter we can see) it fell short of the mass in a given area. Therefore there is mass we can not see (dark matter). Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. This is not entirely abstract mathmatical calculations. There is observation. But I believe it is very hard to test.

    We form theories as a foundation for additional theories. Sometimes a new idea disproves another one. Science is not static, but that does not mean we must sit idle because something maybe wrong.

    This is how I do artwork. I do not expect every mark to be correct and solid in it’s own right. I move forward with each mark based on the previous ones and erase or paint over the previous ones as needed, constantly reassessing if elements make sense together.

    The difference, I imagine, is the canvas of science will never be complete. (groan, that was excruciatingly trite, but I have to go cook dinner.)

  78. There isn’t a lot of evidence for energy healing, but this is partly because it has not been studied scientifically until recently.

    NO!!! Sorry, I hadn’t noticed this thread until now, but this is exactly the kind of misinformation that Larry Dossey and other advocates of psychokinesis (‘energy healing’) have managed to foist upon the academic medical world. There has been more than enough scientific effort squandered on psi for decades, and it has long been time to “close the books” on it.

  79. lizkat says:

    “someone who has said she believes the evidence shows that anti-retroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS does more harm than good.”

    I believe I actually said that the evidence is confusing and not very convincing. Correlational studies show AIDS mortality going down once AR treatment began. But at the same time there was also an increase in diagnosis. We know that correlations do not necessarily imply causation.

    Controlled experiments only used placebo controls at the beginning, before AZT was approved. Once AZT was approved, it was considered unethical to deprive patients of the accepted treatment. But AZT was never shown to be effective in studies lasting more than 3 years.

    Later experiments compared newer drugs to older drugs. So there is no good solid evidence for AR drugs.

    I can understand being skeptical of energy healing, and I am skeptical of it also. But if you say all energy healing is wishful thinking, and all the research is defective, then you should apply the same standards to AR treatments.

  80. lizkat says:

    http://www.aras.ab.ca/azt-ineffectiveness.html

    “Among patients who did not receive zidovudine, the death rate was approximately constant for the first 5 years after AIDS diagnosis. For patients treated with zidovudine, the death rate within the first year since starting zidovudine was markedly lower than for untreated patients who had developed AIDS at the same time (relative rate, 0.47; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.42 to 0.51). For longer times since starting zidovudine, the association with reduced mortality rate was diminished, and for patients surviving more than 2 years since starting zidovudine, the death rate was greater than for untreated patients who had developed AIDS at the same time (relative rate, 1.35; 95% CI, 1.15 to 1.58). Adjustment for other prognostic factors failed to substantially affect this observation.”

    So mortality was GREATER for patients treated with AZT, after 2 years.

  81. weing says:

    If the studies on HIV treatment were as crappy as the studies in the review you referenced, we would all be skeptical of it.

  82. micheleinmichigan says:

    weing on 27 Feb 2010 at 11:32 am

    “Daughters of Woo” sounds like a great name for a rock band.

    I like “Daughters of Woo” I’m thinking either a Grrl group or…

    or if you’re looking for something in the alternative realm like Wheezer or Hole, it could just be Woo, but that has to be taken.

    Generally, I’d guess if you look to science for your band names you may find a great many copyright free. I’m partial to the idea of a thrash band named after an intestinal parasite.

  83. micheleinmichigan says:

    Oh no, not HIV again? Could you just number your arguments?

    Lizcat: In regard to HIV see 1
    1st commentor: oh yeah, well 5
    2nd commentor: don’t forget about 10!
    Lizcat: well what you haven’t considered is 26
    1st commentor: there is no need to make personal attacks!
    3st commentor: if you had read 10 you wouldn’t be suggesting 26
    1st commentor: umm, ultimately you are just in denial about 9

    Because really aren’t we all just in denial about 9?

    Think of all the scrolling we’d save. :)

  84. micheleinmichigan says:

    No sorry, I’m not really suggesting that. I just got caught up in the concept.

  85. micheleinmichigan says:

    weing on 27 Feb 2010 at 11:59 am

    “Fortunately, reality is not hampered by the constraints of imagination.”

    Yes. It is also fortunate that imagination is not hampered by reality. Some discovers are an inspired leap from “reality” as we know it.

  86. BillyJoe says:

    lizkat,

    “No one understands quantum physics, not even quantum physicists.”

    I am quite prepared to accept that you understand absolutely nothing about quantum physics. Quantum physicists, however understand a whole lot more than that. ;)

    weing,

    “I still don’t know enough about it. So far I’ve learned that if it doesn’t make you angry, then you don’t understand it. But I’m angry because I don’t understand it.”

    The energy freaks, on the other hand, think they know all about quantum physics and they are completely happy in their utter ignorance of the fact that they don’t even know that they don’t know.

  87. BillyJoe says:

    “Some discovers are an inspired leap from “reality” as we know it.”

    Oh well, “reality as we know it” (yes, sorry, your scare quotes were a little off) is quite a different animal from “reality as she really truely, you know, “in actual reality”, exists”.

  88. BillyJoe says:

    …sorry, I think I might have got the punctuation a little wrong.

  89. So there is no good solid evidence for AR drugs.

    The evidence for HAART is abundant and overwhelming, and does not require prospective, placebo-controlled RCTs. It consists of numerous studies of diverse populations unanimously showing abrupt, marked improvements in survival curves beginning in 1996 (when multi-drug HAART regimens became available), other studies showing unanimous worsening of survival among those who subsequently stopped HAART, and more. See here and related articles.

  90. squirrelelite says:

    Lizkat,

    We went through all this with you extensively on Dr Amy Tuteur’s post on Reflexive Doubt:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=3638#comments

    For a more scientifically based assessment of the usefulness of HAART in treating HIV/AIDS, I suggested the following article by Nancy Wongvipat, M.P.H.

    http://www.thebody.com/content/treat/art4826.html

    She comments:

    “HAART stands for Highly Active AntiRetroviral (anti-HIV) Therapy. The first HAART treatments, in 1996, included a protease inhibitor along with two nucleoside analog drugs to fight HIV. Now HAART means any potent combination of three or more anti-HIV drugs.”

    —————-

    Lizkat, you then cited the following reference:

    From AIDS Truth: http://www.aidstruth.org/science/arvs

    In particular, you don’t understand that in mathematics and logic, when you show that B is better than A and you show that C is better than B, you can deduce that C is better than A.

    Or, as your own source described it:

    “Benefits of antiretroviral drugs: Evidence that the benefits of HAART outweigh its risks

    Numerous clinical trials as well as observational data (i.e. studies from clinical practice) have demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that the benefits of antiretroviral treatment for people with HIV/AIDS far outweigh their risks. ”

    and the following:

    “Jordan et al. (2002) Systematic review and meta-analysis of evidence for increasing numbers of drugs in antiretroviral combination therapy. BMJ 2002;324:757. This meta-analysis of 54 antiretroviral clinical trials has demonstrated that:

    * Using one antiretroviral reduced progression to AIDS or death by 30% against placebo.
    * Using two antiretrovirals reduced progression to AIDS or death by 40% against one antiretroviral
    * Using three antiretrovirals reduced progression to AIDS or death by 40% against two antiretrovirals”

    HAART is not a panacaea or a cure. But, it is far better than the alternative.

    And, the “follow-up” has been going on for 15 years.

    Your response on 31 Jan 2010 at 8:11 pm was:

    “* Using one antiretroviral reduced progression to AIDS or death by 30% against placebo.

    * Using two antiretrovirals reduced progression to AIDS or death by 40% against one antiretroviral

    * Using three antiretrovirals reduced progression to AIDS or death by 40% against two antiretrovirals”

    The drug vs placebo trials used AZT, which is now known to be ineffective. Subsequent trials compared newer drugs to AZT, not to placebo.

    We’ve been through all this already.

    Yes, lizkat, we have been through all this already.

    And, I don’t plan to beat it to death any further on this thread.

    But, I would like to note a couple of things before I end this comment.

    1. As I recall from my reading up on it a few weeks ago, current HAART combinations still include AZT but at a reduced dose to minimize side effects.

    2. Simple multiplication shows that the combination of three antiretrovirals reduces progression to death by 155% with a moderately increased statistical uncertainty from using the three trial comparison instead of a direct A-B trial.

  91. squirrelelite says:

    @michelleinmichigan,

    I think you hit the nail on the head.

    I have a longer comment for lizkat in moderation as of 10:30 pm EST.

  92. micheleinmichigan says:

    Lizcat (I think) ” There isn’t a lot of evidence for energy healing, but this is partly because it has not been studied scientifically until recently.”

    Kimball Atwood responded “NO!!! Sorry, I hadn’t noticed this thread until now, but this is exactly the kind of misinformation that Larry Dossey and other advocates of psychokinesis (’energy healing’) have managed to foist upon the academic medical world. There has been more than enough scientific effort squandered on psi for decades, and it has long been time to “close the books” on it.”

    I don’t know anything about Reiki or any of the research that has been done, but a quick reading of the link up thread indicates that it is a review of research regarding Reiki and it’s use to decrease pain in cancer, anxiety in hospitalization and negative behavior in patients with Alemizers.

    I don’t think “healing” is the topic here. It is not healing in the sense of “look! the wound is healed.”

    On the other hand, when used to manage pain, reduce anxiety or negative behavior, I think it would be much more likely that the Reiki or TT could be acting in a way similar to Cognitive Behavior Therapy, no need to assume that PSI is at work.

    I don’t even know that the research analysis in the link intended to look at Reiki or TT as anything beyond a cognitive training process, since the study is done by authors from:

    “1UCLA Division of Cancer Prevention and Control Research, Los Angeles, USA
    2Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, USA
    3Symptom Control Group, Moores Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, San Diego, USA”

    Harriet mentioned the blinding issue. How do researcher’s blind CBT techniques?

    Perhaps there are Reiki techniques that are more effective than placebo for helping patients reframe their pain experience, distract from ruminating about pain or lower anxiety, better than the typical placebo effect. Perhaps there is something there that CBT can add to it’s expanding toolbox.

    But that discussion doesn’t have anything to do with some mysterious energy that can heal physiological disease.

  93. micheleinmichigan says:

    Oh and I haven’t been caught in moderation once this session. But I have been posting in lower traffic times. I’m guessing during higher traffic times the server software gets a backlog on the comment/moderation functions. Just a thought if someone is trying to predict when their comments are less or more likely to get caught in moderation.

  94. micheleinmichigan says:

    I meant – Perhaps there are Reiki techniques that are more effective than placebo for helping patients reframe their pain experience, distract from ruminating about pain or lower anxiety.

    got distract in the midst of rephrasing.

  95. micheleinmichigan says:

    #
    # BillyJoeon 27 Feb 2010 at 9:56 pm

    “Some discovers are an inspired leap from “reality” as we know it.”

    Oh well, “reality as we know it” (yes, sorry, your scare quotes were a little off) is quite a different animal from “reality as she really truely, you know, “in actual reality”, exists”.

    No worries on the quote correction.

    I agree. I was afraid it was going to sound like I was contradicting weing, and I’m now I see I did.

    I was only trying to say that imagination or inspiration plays an important role in new discoveries of “actual reality”. A thought that that weing’s post sparked in me. This is a pet thought of mine. How science is a creative endeavor.

    A bit to tangential to say so briefly.

  96. Fifi says:

    michele – “On the other hand, when used to manage pain, reduce anxiety or negative behavior, I think it would be much more likely that the Reiki or TT could be acting in a way similar to Cognitive Behavior Therapy, no need to assume that PSI is at work.”

    I’m not someone who dismisses things out of hand, I like to investigate for myself and I’ve found that if you want to understand what something is in any real way, you need to do some real research and not just rely upon anecdotes. Being a level one Reiki “master” – hey, I’m curious, open to new experiences and the opportunity came up to see what Reiki was actually about so I took it – and having worked with people on developing their ability to use mindfulness techniques to help manage chronic pain, I’m pretty confident in saying that CBT and reiki are actually very different from each other. Reiki is also very different from mindfulness techniques and meditation (which have a plausible mechanism). There’s no plausible mechanism for reiki. CBT is about becoming aware of one’s thoughts and feelings and how they’re connect, and how they’re connected to actions. In very simple terms, it’s coming to understand cause and effect and learning how to modify thoughts and actions to change how one reacts in a situation. It is all about self awareness and living in reality (sometimes a reality one has been avoiding). On the other hand, reiki is entirely passive and about indulging in make believe (not necessarily a bad thing if you’re clear on the difference between reality and make believe, potentially harmful for people who have a mental illness that already causes confusion about what is real and what is imaginary). Reiki is based on the idea of imaginary energy flowing into the person to heal them and cleanse their energy. There’s lots also a fortune telling/free association kind of aspect that involves relating images that arise in the reiki practitioner’s head (not the actual person getting the reiki treatment, the practitioner, and often involving past lives and so on). No doubt there’s a social placebo effect from simply paying attention to someone and being soothing, most of us can use more gentleness and loving touch in our lives. The more traumatizes or stressed we fell, the more us apes need to be groomed and touched. However, you generally can’t charge someone oodles of money just to be kind to them and you don’t get to pretend you’ve got magical powers and are a special, spiritually superior healer if you’re just compassionate and kind with others. It’s a symptom of how we tend to devalue kindness and compassion in our culture unless it’s a grandiose act that props up the narcissistic image of the person who’s trying to create a public image of themselves as kind and compassionate.

  97. Fifi says:

    Sorry for veering off topic into pain management but since it’s been brought up it seems worth discussing with a bit more depth. North American culture tends to have somewhat stoic and/or puritanical cultural beliefs around pain (and expressing certain emotions). How we cope with and experience pain isn’t only biological, it’s also defined by our family culture (which can be very influenced by our ethnic culture) and the larger culture we live within. Also, there’s often an aspect related to being male or female since most cultures have different rules around pain for each gender. Since we all have the subjective experience of pain – and there are no biological/objective measurements for pain – we all have a tendency to project our experience onto others (which is why it can be hard for people who’ve never experienced chronic pain to understand what it’s like and why people can’t “just get over it”). When someone is experiencing unrelenting suffering, a little bit of kindness and compassion can go a very long way. I hesitate to classify this as a placebo effect in and of itself in some ways, though obviously being kind and compassionate can create a placebo effect.

  98. lizkat says:

    * Using one antiretroviral reduced progression to AIDS or death by 30% against placebo.

    * Using two antiretrovirals reduced progression to AIDS or death by 40% against one antiretroviral

    * Using three antiretrovirals reduced progression to AIDS or death by 40% against two antiretrovirals”

    If the first claim is not accurate, then the next two don’t mean what you think. The meta-analysis cited by AIDS Truth says AZT only showed a benefit it studies lasting under 3 years, and showed no benefit in studies lasting 3 years or more. So there was no demonstration of long-term benefit of AZT, compared against placebo.

    The laster studies compared newer drugs and combinations against AZT, and were shown to be better than AZT. But if AZT was never shown to have any long term benefit over placebo, then what do we really know about the newer drugs and combinations?

    We do know that AZT is toxic and that some of its adverse effects can lead to death. So it’s possible the newer drugs perform better than AZT at least partly because they are less toxic.

    AIDS Truth wants to promote HAART, yet this was the best evidence it could show for the effectiveness of AR drugs.

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