Hello again everyone, welcome to the second blog post in a week. I am going to come right out and warn you this is going to be a long one.
This week I was engaged in no less than 3 online debates on the value of homeopathy, the link between vaccines and autism, and the conspiracy of big pharmaceutical manufacturers and doctors. (real doctors, not the naturalists, homeopaths, etc. masquerading as doctors.)
The long and short of it is I have been accused of being an unintelligent sucker who has either been fundamentally and greatly deceived into “believing in science” or I am a co-conspirator. I actually find this very offensive because I am actually rather intelligent and I take great pains not to use my intellect to take advantage of people. I also give rather freely my knowledge (which came at great cost to me) and time in the effort to help people.
So, without further adieu, I will state: Naturopathy, homeopathy, and the idea vaccines cause autism is utterly bullshit; 100% unequivocal, without controversy or doubt. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you or taking advantage of your gullibility.
The reasons people actually seek out and pay these charlatans all comes down to 2 things. 1. The need for reassuring explanation for things they don’t understand 2. Desperation.
Creationists use the argument that “nobody really knows how the universe is created” and that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, their position is reasonable. After all, logically if there is no evidence, then everyone who studies evolution could be wrong. They go on to subscribe the idea there is a controversy and as such, people should be taught and accept it as fact.
This is the exact same technique of homeopaths, vaccine deniers, naturopaths, etc. (henceforth referred to here as charlatans.) They use what is known as “pseudoscience.” Briefly described, the scientific method is a system. By presenting their case in the form of science by manipulation, they attempt to give an air of credibility. Like all con artists, they are very believable. You can almost hear people say “they seem like such nice people who care…” The exact same thing you hear from the victims of economic con artists. In fact, their active communication skills are top notch. They will listen to you for hours, repeat what you have said to show they are listening; they will empathize with you, and even support your concerns or delusions.
Some of them even buy their own bullshit, which is sort of like a drug dealer who abuses the drug they sell. I have argued with them at length, even before this week. Like any psychopath, they cannot be convinced or even acknowledge they might not have the actual answers they think they do. The only people I have come across who can be more manipulative are psychiatric patients.
It might be because they are basically psychopaths who are tricking people into supporting their delusions. They prey on the vulnerable, those without education in medicine. Those who are afraid from numerous things such as terminal diseases, to the vastness of knowledge of the modern era, to the depressed, hypochondriacs, and even those just not happy with themselves.
The whole of homeopathy is based with the idea that “like cures like.” This is based largely on 18th century symptomatology. They profess that an excessively diluted poison, will cure the poison (disease) that is causing your ills. Which at some level does sound almost like vaccination science. If I give you “a little” it can cure you of a lot. By this theory, if you have say…HIV, by giving you a smaller dose of HIV, you will get better; the same with all the other “diseases.” So by that logic it is like suggesting the way to cure your atherosclerosis is by diluting a Big Mac in water, until there is no molecular trace of Big Mac Left, and then selling this “tonic” for you to drink. When confronted with the absurdity of this argument, they double down on the idea that water has “memory.” One of their best arguments is “nobody knows the true shape of water.” Except that we do. You see we know life on Earth exists because of water. It has many unique properties other molecules do not. It bonds at an off-set angel. It constantly donates and absorbs it’s hydrogen atoms, and a few others I am too tired to look up and verify. The idea of water having “memory” would mean that it is not in this state of constant flux. I should probably point out great minds, other than my own, have figured out that the holy grail of homeopathic remedy is basically an atom diluted in a volume equal to our entire solar system. Nothing like a curative bottle of water priced like medicine. At least the snake oil salesman of old had the courtesy to mix together a foul flavored concoction to make you think it was beneficial. (Because we all know medicine tastes bad right?) You must understand, if they actually had an “active ingredient” in their prescriptions, they would be regulated like other medicines, including the need for rigorous scientific review of efficacy. They also very cleverly skirt the legal aspects of practicing medicine. You see like a very underhanded lawyer, they will not diagnose or prescribe to you, they will give you an elaborate explanation of what “might” help and the means of presentation leads you to “your own” conclusion that it is beneficial. Of course the story is so heavily weighted, you would consider yourself a fool if you didn’t reach the answer they dangle in front of you.
Which brings me to “naturopaths”, those who claim that man-made medicines are not as beneficial as naturally occurring ones. Unlike homeopaths, I am not sure these charlatans actually believe their bullshit. However, they will be happy to sell you some. According to them, we should not be deceived that the primary purposes behind formulated medications are things like reducing side effects, having a uniformly measured dose, are free from contamination, and actually get to the part of the body they need to go to. One of their favorite prescriptions are things containing “vitamins.” You see, vitamins are really safe bet. You will urinate out any excess of water soluble vitamin harmlessly, and you need a prescription from a real doctor to get an active fat soluble one (because you can overdose and die on those). Which of course would make them responsible.
Without the benefit of lab test like modern medicine, they have no quantitative evidence you are deficient. You may even have too much. It is convenient really. With nothing more than your story, they can analyze every part of your physiology and its complex interactions. It’s almost like having X-ray eyes that can act as a diagnostic lab too. It would be nice to be able to do that I must confess. But similar to homeopaths, in the end, they are offering you basically nothing. You see, all doctors actually understand “natural” remedies. At least they should. But I doubt you will get a prescription for opium extract, potassium cyanide, magnesium sulfate, or other natural medication. Though in some states you might be suggested to obtain some THC. Would you trust a doctor who told you the solution to your problem was opium, but because of restrictive laws you would have to break the law on your own to obtain some? Especially when they could write you a script for several legal versions? Of course “natural” medications like this will help your symptoms. It may even give the illusion of a cure. Let’s face it, if you are drunk or stoned, you will not feel the effects of whatever disease drove you to it.
Both homeopaths and naturopaths are rather fond of cancer as a disease simply because they can’t lose “treating” it. It has been reported in medical journals and texts for ages that those suffering from cancer feel betrayed by their own body. Considering that it is actually a defect of your organism trying to grow as its own similarly to a parasite, it is easy to see where this psychological effect comes from. It may even give rise to psychosomatic effects. Medical treatments for cancer can best be described as barbaric. Unfortunately, until actual gene therapy can be effected, barbaric is the best we have. What are these treatments? I would describe it as such: The purpose of cancer treatment is to kill the cancer cells. Of course these cells are still part of a person. They may or may not be in the form of a solid tumor. So medicine assembles the brightest minds and most determined souls in order to create the perfect way to harm people. From man’s most deadly poisons we call chemotherapy, to radiation, and even surgery (physically cutting you with a blade) the goal of cancer treatments are not to heal. They are to kill. Recently we have discovered that hormonal therapy can also be effective. But like all hormonal therapy, the side effects will be considerable. There are 2 goals of treatment, curative or palliative. While curative may be tried, it may not work. In some cases, it may not even be possible. In the practical sense, “the cure” may be more debilitating than the disease. The question then becomes suffering until a prolonged end, or prolonging the quality of life until a short one. But in the latter choice, some distilled water or natural “chemical” is not necessary to be purchased. Neither are “dietary” supplements or special diets. Though it may give what amounts to a religious icon to distract the person suffering. But a crucifix may be a cheaper one time purchase rather than a recurring bill.
So let’s talk about anti-vaccination
Upfront, we must understand that not all vaccines are 100% effective. Therefore, it is a “best chance” preventative medicine. Prevention in all respects being preferable to attempts at cures, which are very rare in medicine anyway and usually associated with cancer treatment.
Many of the anti-vaccine people I have talked to are obsessed with the delusion of a link between vaccines and autism. A fundamental question of autism is if it is actually more prevalent or just diagnosed more. After all, in the last 2 decades, there have been more advances in medical knowledge and science, than in the entire prior history of medicine combined. Logically diseases we did not know about 21 years ago might be diagnosed and possibly treated today. But as always, before I continue I would like to share with you a story.
My daughter was born in the second semester of my third year of medical school. I was terrified. Not of the idea of having to take care of people. I had been taking care of people at that point for nearly 2 decades. I wasn’t worried about being a poor parent. All parents make mistakes and I simply resolved to do my best; learning from each mistake as I had in other areas of my life. Another experience that served me well is in those same decades, the need for me to make hard decisions based on imperfect information was refined to an art form, and my success in career and life meant mastering that art.
What did scare the crap out me was knowing all the potential things that could go wrong with a pregnancy and human development. From rare congenital defects to in utero development defects, I was being tested on all of them at the time. They were forefront in my mind. I knew any mental defects would likely only show up around the age of 2-3. Shortly after her birth, I took her and my wife to visit a friend of mine who is a pediatrician. Not as our doctor, but as somebody who was a doctor who also had kids and could tell me all the things I couldn’t read in medical books. I confessed to her my fears. She smiled told me that not only had she felt the exact same way, but she was afraid of having any more kids because of no other reason than the fear of what might go wrong. She also asked me about growing up as a boy, because as a lady, she had no first-hand experience of growing up as a boy. Certainly she could have asked her husband, but she trusted I would give her the straight answers.
In medical school I was taught how to diagnose the various genetic and developmental diseases and syndromes. The how’s when’s, etc. I also learned that while we could name them, there was usually no way to “fix” them. That our treatments may simply be giving the best life we can, whether it be reconstructing a heart or hormonal therapy to make Turner’s syndrome kids look like girls.
We were told that the parents would be just as much patients as the children. That they would go through the standard phases of grief. (while the phases are defined as standard, they don’t follow a predictable pattern, and they are not linear, people can go from one to any other and even back a few times) We were told that referring the parents to a specialist geneticist would help them. I spoke with a respected geneticist because I was curious as to what they actually do than other pediatricians can’t. I was told they knew the best way to explain things to the parents. I was also given some knowledge on what exactly those “things” are. One of which was preserving the relationship of the parents when inevitably they turned to blaming the other for defective genes, not eating healthy, or other failings of living the ideal life in pregnancy.
You can see where parents wishing to blame genetic/developmental disorders can find an alternative like vaccines. The symptoms appear around the time of vaccination, like most foods and drugs, there is a label that has some very hard to pronounce, much less understand, words. Some sound down right scary. It helps maintain the relationship of the adults, and focuses blame. Some even go so far as to crusade against perceived personal slights by proxy like the use of the word “retarded.” The anti-vaccine crowd also like to believe they are “saving” others from a similar fate. I suspect at some level this coping mechanism can be therapeutic, but unfortunately, it poses a real danger to others.
Charlatans adapt over time, just like when you constantly beat somebody at a game, they start to identify and take steps against what caused previous defeats. Pseudoscience is the latest adaptation. By creating neutral sounding organizations, rather than biased names like “the anti-vaccination club” and creating professional quality websites, they give the impression of legitimacy. They also create “studies” using the template of the scientific method. To an educated and professional scientist, this fraud is obvious. One of the tricks they use is to state an actual fact unrelated to autism or vaccinations and cite a source which verifies the fact. They then draw a conclusion in no way related, but the visualization of the citation will fool a nonscientist. It looks like legitimate science. A scientist will look up the citation and read what it says. But most uninitiated will not. Even if they do, it is unlikely they will understand what they are reading, IF they actually don’t have to pay for access to the study. (which they most certainly will not likely do)Another of their favorite tricks is to “create” a study, where they comment on quotes out of context on an actual scientific study, liberally cited. But one thing you will not see is data. You will not see it, because there is none. Historically some have falsified data and have been stripped of their medical credentials for fraud. They have even been expelled from the scientific community and with a title that means nothing; they can only pander to gullible for money. They especially like to write their title everywhere for an illusion of credibility. Their final tactic is to hone in on some insignificant detail, like a chemical name. When presented with studies showing no harm or benefit, they begin citing the fake papers they created even more emphatically; dissecting the language of actual scientific studies and not challenging the data. One argument I have heard is an anti-vaccer claim that all of the scientific studies show no acute damage, but there exists the potential for chronic illness. If it were the case that low level exposure to a toxin caused chronic illness, wouldn’t more people be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum disorders later rather than sooner?
When all of these charlatans are exposed, they resort to the only tactics left to those whose argument is completely discredited. They retreat to their group, where the cult leaders who manipulate them and their “peers” reassure their delusions that it is us educated doctors and scientists who cannot see the light; that we are too stupid or too blind. But what really sets me off is being told I am bought off. It makes me particularly angry because not only have I not received a cheque (not to be confused with a check), but because I have spent my teenage years and most of my adult life, including weekends, holidays, and special moments relentlessly learning and refining how to help people, often for little or no remuneration. That is far different from the homeopaths, naturopaths, and anti-vaccers, and nutrition gurus of the world who seem to be sponsored quite well. These charlatans are never around for the death. They never have to answer “why” or deal with the grief related to the deceased. They don’t have to worry about being held criminally or civilly liable for damages for their “advice.” Their misinformation certainly doesn’t cost them their livelihood.
I am not stupid, I am not bought off, and I am not blind to nonexistent conspiracies. Just because another doesn’t understand science, the scientific method, or medicine does not mean that I do not. I am also real good at picking out fakes. I find it strangely amazing there is a federal criminal law against “stolen valor” by those claiming military service, but there is no law, public shaming website, or legal crackdown on those putting lives at risk and sometimes being responsible for deaths. As I said, I am not amazed people fall for this quackery, because it is really easy to take advantage of the vulnerable. Once one is in a cult, it is really difficult to leave the abusive relationship; especially when it feeds ones delusions.
If you have money to waste on essential oils, “natural” supplements , semiprecious gems, and distilled water, why not send a few dollars to a charity that funds research? Why not buy some things for a hospital or school who supports and teaches those with diseases? Why not just take the money and go on the vacation of your life? Why not buy yourself something you always wanted? Something for somebody else? That will make you feel better. If you want to treat autism or cancer, why not go to school and learn how to do it from people who dedicate their lives to it? Go to church if that is your thing. But please. STOP HURTING OTHER PEOPLE TO MAKE YOURSELF FEEL BETTER! If you want to drink snake oil or place blame for genetic and developmental defects beyond your knowledge or control, fine, we have no quarrel. When you start trying to convince others with fraud and lies, I am going to take issue with that.
If you want information on medicine, do not go to charlatans. Go and see the people trusted for thousands of years the world over for the benefit of humanity and individuals. Go to a Medical Doctor. If you don’t get answers, go to another. There is more than one and they are not all the same or equal.
If you don’t want me to tell you how utterly stupid, insignificant, and incapable you are. Don’t do it to me, and certainly don’t accuse me of getting money for taking advantage of people.