So, you've elected a conspiracy theorist

I’ve not written about this election believing the flaws of the Republican candidate were pretty obvious; further litigating his failures as a candidate is now moot, he is now the president-elect of the United States. However, it is worth discussing what this administration will now bring given what we know about how conspiracy theorists behave and I believe our experience with conspiracy theorists and denialists gives some insight into what we can expect from a conspiracy theorist (CT) politician. There are some questions that may be answered and may help the scientific community develop strategies to respond to unique challenges of the leadership of our country now being dominated by those who reject the scientific method and the advice of scientific efforts in the fields of medicine, biology, and climate. After all, we now have a president and vice president elect who have conspiratorial views on vaccines, evolution and climate change, rejecting, effectively, the most important public health intervention of all time, the underpinning of all modern biology, and arguably the greatest threat to human survival on earth. So, what can we expect from a CT administration? Have there been previous examples that can guide us on what to expect? What type of impact will this have on funding for various agencies, both scientific and regulatory, that study and implement such policies? How will they operate their administration? What types of mistakes will they make? How can we mitigate, and possibly litigate for the advantage of the sciences and scientific progress?

The most important thing to realize about CTs is that they project their worst impulses onto others. Over the years studying denialists and CTs the pattern that emerges over and over is that they routinely commit the wrongs do what they accuse others of doing. The way the CT believes the world works, and how power is wielded, is how they would wield power if they were in control. Take, for example, Mike Adams, regarded by some skeptics as the internet’s number one crank for his work at Natural News. Adams routinely accuses medical doctors and scientists of crimes against humanity, selling medications which do not work and only make us sicker etc. However, a brief foray into his activities show that he is the one who recommends obviously useless medical therapies for profit and incites violence. After studying CTs for years, one sees this behavior replicated again and again, the projection of the CTs own worst behaviors onto others. Need more examples? Look no further than Mike’s competition for number one internet crank Alex Jones, who shouts to the heavens over unending lying by politicians and the media while peddling in an unending torrent of false stories and lies, including Sandy Hook truthism, 9/11 truth, chemtrails, and whatever other conspiratorial nonsense he can find. No national tragedy can occur without Alex Jones instantly inventing a CT narrative from whole cloth, with no evidence, yet everyone else is the liar. His list of beliefs reads like a Hieronymus Bosch painting, and there is ample evidence our president-elect goes to him for news.

So far the empirical evidence assembled by journalists like Kurt Eichenwald suggest the president-elect is no different. Almost every single thing he has claimed about his opponent more accurately described how he ran his business and his life, including crooked business deals, a self-enriching charity, mass deletion of emails in violation of court orders, and an astounding record assembled by fact checkers this year of unending lies for political gain. His opponent’s crimes were actually his crimes. We should not be surprised. The fact that he is conspiracy theorist told us everything we needed to know. It told us he would be promiscuous in his beliefs, unskilled or unwilling to distinguish between fact and fiction, and willing to believe and promote any falsehood if consistent with his ideological bent. That his prevailing ideology seems to only be “I am great” makes me wonder if the secret to his support is just to stroke his ego, and he’ll promote whatever nonsense you like.

What will this mean for the incoming administration? Like most CTs he will be unwilling to tolerate dissent, yet will tolerate almost any kind of madness from those individuals that agree with him. This will be no “Team of Rivals”, this will be a true basket of deplorables. What will be assembled is an administration of similarly factually-deranged crank sycophants who will harbor any number of absurd beliefs consistent with crank magnetism, but who will otherwise be tolerated by their boss no matter what they do, as long as they maintain loyalty to, and stroke the ego of, the president. Evidence suggests this is already happening as he has named a climate denialist to head his EPA transition team from the ideologically deranged Conservative Enterprise Institute – CEI being a bogus “think tank” that presents ideological anti-science as some kind of academic endeavor. These people are the classic example of the fake expert – an agent who has no actual expertise in science or policy but who does share your ideology and a semblance of academic legitimacy with which they can give your BS a patina of truthiness.

Is there any upside to this? Or is this all bad news? What is the upside to hiring criminally-incompetent non-scientists into positions of power? Well for one thing, the spoils system does not change the fundamental institutional structure of these agencies, the hard-working people and scientists who work for the EPA or NIH or NSF will not simply turn around on a dime and accept this nonsense, they will buck against incompetent leadership and still try to accomplish their mission. The bureaucracy is not so easy to replace and only a minority of positions at the top of agencies tend to be political appointments. Second, the people he appoints will truly be criminally-incompetent. I have little doubt that we will find his administration immediately trying to abuse power, criminally, almost the instant they take over. If we are vigilant, and anticipate the type of abuses which will be typical to such actors we should be able to use the institutions of government designed to prevent abuse to limit their damage. I fully expect the same type of self-dealing, self-enriching and fraudulent behavior that have typified his business career to extend directly into the white house. This is the hysterical error that those that want people with “business experience” to run government make. You doom yourself to incompetent leadership because government is not a business and it can’t realistically be turned into one. It is a fool’s errand, and all they will do is run afoul of the built-in protections of our institutions that are designed to prevent people from behaving like petty tyrants.

After all we do have one example in our history of a CT-lead government and that was Richard Nixon. He, however, lived in a time where the loud proclamation of his anti-Semitic conspiratorial beliefs about Jews and the media would actually result in some kind of backlash, while the current candidate ended his campaign with an ad directly alluding to a Jewish banking conspiracy. Instead we know about Nixons behavior from recordings at the time which captured his paranoia and despicable beliefs. Similarly Nixon surrounded himself with loyalists who adhered to the same ideology, and whatever other foibles they had were then forgiven. It was Nixon, after all, who in recordings could be heard suggesting “why don’t we just use the bomb on north Vietnam” and had to be talked down by then secretary of state Kissinger. Conspiracy theorists are not the type of people you want running government. They are quite mad, and dangerous. But they also tend to commit the very crimes they are always accusing others of committing, and indeed, Nixon was ultimately caught in a criminal conspiracy (there’s a difference!) to undermine his political opponents.

So, a piece of advice from another Mark so long ago applies, and we should enter the next 4 years with it in mind at all times. Follow the money.

P.S. It looks like its time for me to start writing more consistently. More to come.

Conspiracy Theorists are Just Like the Westboro Baptists

And Alex Jones and Mike Adams are their Fred Phelps. It’s a wonder that Anonymous doesn’t retaliate against these ghouls as well as against Westboro who are planning to picket the Boston Marathon funerals.

Why are the the same thing? Because they’re all ghouls, and they all use any tragic event to bolster their warped, abhorrent world view no matter what the facts are, and no matter how offensive to the victims.

Within minutes, with no one knowing any facts, Jones claims this is a false flag attack. The only appropriate response to an event like this, within the first minutes and hours, is to hope the first responders and emergency personnel can get to and rescue as many as possible. But to the ghoul, every event such as this is another chance to push their agenda of hate. For the Westboro Baptists, similarly not knowing anything, they think this is further evidence that God hates America because we tolerate homosexuality. For the conspiracy theorist, all traumatic events instantly become incorporated into their evidence that the government/FBI/CIA whatever is faking them/planning them to increase their control over us. No matter what the evidence is, or will be, it will just be further sealed into this fixed, false belief. Avicenna at FtB has a good post (warning for graphic images) of examples of how despicable this behavior can be. I think one of the most grotesque acts yet was one of the CTs asking the governor of Massachusetts if this was a false flag. How stupid and awful a person do you have to be to ask that question in the wake of such a tragedy? Here is the governor, trying to address a crisis, and some scumbag is basically asking (1) is the US government randomly murdering innocent US citizens (2) is he in on it? To the governor’s immense credit, he didn’t immediately jump into the crowd and start strangling the questioner. CTs were so awful as to accuse the victims of just being actors, of the whole thing being staged, or the whole thing actually being performed by government (read your fellow US citizens), including Mike Adams’ immediate blaming of the event on government agencies. What is their evidence? They have no evidence. They just hate without reason.

These conspiracy theorists are just another type of hatemonger. This event is just the latest proof. No matter what the reality is, what the facts are, every event just becomes further proof of their warped and hateful world view. Never mind that it casts civil servants and law enforcement as the murderers, the victims as liars, and the rest of us as fools, that’s what they believe. We shouldn’t continue to tolerate this as just fringe wackiness. This is hate mongering, and the worst kind. It’s hate mongering in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, designed to make us hate and fear our fellow citizens, those trying to help us, and those who were hurt the most. It’s hate and divisiveness when we should be pulling together rather than apart. It’s no different from what the Westboro Baptists church does. And Alex Jones and Mike Adams are just like Fred Phelps.

Conspiracy belief prevalence, according to Public Policy Polling is as high as 51%

And it may even be more when one considers that there is likely non-overlap between many of these conspiracies. It really is unfortunate that their isn’t more social pushback against those that express conspiratorial views. Given both the historical and modern tendency of some conspiracy theories being used direct hate towards one group or another (scratch a 9/11 truther and guess what’s underneath), and that they’re basically an admission of one’s own defective reasoning, why is it socially acceptable to espouse conspiracy theories? They add nothing to discussion, and instead hijack legitimate debate because one contributor has abandoned all pretense of using actual evidence. Conspiracy theories are used to explain a belief in the absence of real evidence. Worse, they are so often just a vehicle to direct vitriol and hate. We need less hate and partisanship. We should be able to disagree with a president without saying that he’s part of an agenda21/commoncore/obamacare/nazi/fascist/communist/North Korean conspiracy to make American citizens 3rd world slaves (not an exaggeration). We should be able to disagree with a corporation’s policies without asserting their objective is mass-murder. What is the benefit of this rhetoric? It’s just designed to poison our discourse, and inspire greater partisanship, divisiveness and incivility. Conspiracy theories are often used as a more subtle way to mask vile invective towards whichever group you hate. As you look underneath these theories you see it’s really just irrational hatred for somebody- liberals, conservatives, homosexuals, different races or religions, governments, or even certain professions. This is because at the root of the need for conspiratorial thinking is some irrational, overvalued idea, and often the open expression of the belief would result in social scorn.

I’ve found in my experience, almost everyone carries one really cranky belief that they can’t seem to shake, no matter how evidence-based their other positions are (probably because we are all capable of carrying some overvalued ideas). But it’s worth peering through PPP’s full results to see the nature of some of these associations.

For one, some of these associations I think are spurious, poorly questioned, or just reflect misinformation, rather than conspiracy. For instance:

44% of voters believe the Bush administration intentionally misled the public about weapons of mass destruction to promote the Iraq War, while 45% disagree. 72% of Democrats believed the statement while 73% of Republicans did not. 22% of Democrats, 33% of Republicans and 28% of independents believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Many have questioned the inclusion of this question because, in reality, there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. So the question of whether we were “misled” or “intentionally-misled” puts us in the murky position at having to guess at the motivations of individuals like Bush and Cheney. Mind-reading is a dubious activity, and I tend to ascribe to the Napoleonic belief that you shouldn’t ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence (also known as Hanlon’s razor). Is it conspiratorial to think maybe they were more malicious than incompetent? While I think that administration really were “true believers”, of course I don’t really know for sure, and I don’t think it’s fair to describe such as conspiratorial reasoning. Instead it’s just the dubious but common practice of guessing at the intentions of others. The generally-similar numbers on the Saddam Hussein/9/11 connection, I believe, just suggests ignorance, rather than necessitating active belief in a conspiratorial framework (keeping in mind the margin of error is about 3% these aren’t huge partisan differences like over WMD).

One of the most disappointing numbers was on belief in a conspiracy behind JFK’s assassination:

51% of Americans believe there was a larger conspiracy at work in the JFK assassination, while 25% think Lee Harvey Oswald
acted alone.

That’s 51% conspiratorial belief, 24% probably showing ignorance of one of the most important events of the last century, and 25% actually informed. This is pretty sad. The movements of Oswald were so thoroughly-investigated and known, the hard evidence for his planning and involvement are so clear, the conspirators so unlikely (the mob/CIA/LBJ/KGB hiring crackpot loser communists for assassinations?), and the fabrications of the conspiracists so plain (asserting the shots couldn’t be made despite it being easily replicated by everyone from the Warren Commission to the Discovery Channel and even improved on, the disparaging of his marksmanship when LHO was a marine sharpshooter, altering the positions of the occupants of the car to make the bullet path from JFK to Connelly appear unlikely, etc.) it’s sad that so many have bought into this nonsense. The historically-bogus picture JFK, by Oliver Stone, may also play a large part in this, and is an example why Oliver Stone is really a terrible person. People that misrepresent history are the worst. If anyone wants to read a good book about the actual evidence that of what happened that day, as well as destroys the conspiracy position, Reclaiming History by Vincent Bugliosi is my favorite, as well as the most thorough.

But there is one redeeming feature of conspiracy about the JFK assassination. For the most part, conspiratorial ideas on the subject aren’t due to some dark part in people’s souls, as for many other conspiracies, but rather the very human need to ascribe more to such earth-shattering events as the assassination of a president than just the madness of a pitiable loser. The imbalance between the magnitude of the event, and the banal crank that accomplished it, is simply too much. There’s no way that a 24-year-old, violent, wife-beating, Marxist roustabout could be responsible for the death of a man like JFK right? Sadly no. The evidence shows even a man that pathetic can destroy the life of a much greater man with a cheap rifle and a simple plan.

The conspiracy theories embedded within this poll that really disturb me because I think they demonstrate the effect of irrational hate are ones such as for whether President Obama is the antichrist (although is that even really a conspiracy?). 13% of respondents believed this, 5% of those that voted for him still answered this question in the affirmative (really? you voted for the antichrist) as opposed to 22% of those that voted for Romney. Do we really need to elevate political disagreement to the level of labeling people the antichrist? Around 9% thought government adds fluoride for “sinister” reasons, and 11% believe in the LIHOP 9/11 conspiracy theory. They clearly think very little of their fellow Americans, and believe some really demonic things about our government. Our government is neither competent enough, or evil enough, to engage in then successfully cover up either of these things. Our top spy couldn’t even hide a tawdry affair.

Other conspiracy theories seem to indicate their is a baseline number of people, at about 15%, who will believe in just about anything from the moon landing being hoaxed to bigfoot. I would have actually pegged this number higher, given my pessimism about rational thought, but that seems to be what we can read from this. However, without being able to see whether or not it was the same people answering yes to each individual absurd conspiracy from reptilians to “government adds secret mind-controlling technology to television broadcast signals”, it’s possible this number is actually much larger. I would be curious to see the data on the overlap between these questions, as the phenomenon of crank magnetism is well known.

Ultimately, I read this data as saying that Americans have a big problem with conspiracy theories entering our political discourse. We should be embarrassed that as many as 37% of us believe that global warming is a “hoax”. That requires a belief is a grand conspiracy of scientists, policy-makers, journals, editors, etc., all acting together to somehow fabricate data for a single objective – often described as world-government control conspiracy to cede our sovereignty to the UN. Somehow, every single national scientific body, all those national academies, all those journals, and all those scientists, all those governments, all working in perfect secrecy according to some master plan (which I’m often accused of being a part of but I’m sure I’m missing the memo), and this is plausible how? The answer is, it’s not, unless you remain steadfastly ignorant of how science actually works and progresses.

Everyone, of any political persuasion, should be embarrassed by the conspiracy-theorists in their ranks. This isn’t healthy thinking, it isn’t rational discourse, and it only serves to divide us and make us hate. Enough of this already.

Natural News' Mike Adams Adds Global Warming Denialism to HIV/AIDS denial, Anti-vax, Altie-med, Anti-GMO, Birther Crankery

I still think that list is pretty incomplete, the RationalWiki has more, but it’s interesting to see a potential internal ideological conflict as Adams sides with big business and the fossil fuel industry to suggest CO2 is the best gas ever. While he doesn’t appear to directly deny CO2 is a greenhouse gas, he’s managed to merge his anti-government conspiratorial tendencies with his overriding naturalistic fantasy to decide the government (and Al Gore) are conspiring to destroy our power infrastructure with carbon taxes, and deny the world the benefit of 1000ppm CO2 in the atmosphere. His solution? Pump coal power exhaust into greenhouses growing food. I’m not kidding:

This brings up an obvious answer for what to do with all the CO2 produced by power plants, office buildings and even fitness centers where people exhale vast quantities of CO2. The answer is to build adjacent greenhouses and pump the CO2 into the greenhouses.

Every coal-fired power plant, in other words, should have a vast array of greenhouses surrounding it. Most of what you see emitted from power plant smokestacks is water vapor and CO2, both essential nutrients for rapid growth of food crops. By diverting carbon dioxide and water into greenhouses, the problem of emissions is instantly solved because the plants update the CO2 and use it for photosynthesis, thus “sequestering” the CO2 while rapidly growing food crops. It also happens to produce oxygen as a “waste product” which can be released into the atmosphere, (slightly) upping the oxygen level of the air we breathe.

He seems to have forgotten about all the mercury, lead, cadmium, volatile organics, sulfur etc., emitted by burning coal. I wonder how these different crank theories somehow manage to occupy the same brain, as his mercury paranoia appears temporarily overwhelmed by his anti-government conspiracism. I mean, he’s defending burning coal. It boggles the mind. I’m not exactly the biggest food purity buff, but even I find the idea of growing food in coal-fire exhaust somewhat, well, insane? Mad? Totally bonkers? What’s the right word for it? Maybe we need to create a new word for this level of craziness? Maybe we should name it after Adams, and call it Adamsian. You could say “Adamsian nuttery” to really refer to a truly bizarre level of crankery. Unless it’s an April Fools day prank, but then it was published on the 31st…nope, I think he’s just that nuts.

Did I call this or What? Mike Adams blames medicine for school shooting.

Crazy Luddite Libertarian Mike Adams is following his usual script, ghoulishly using the school shooting in Newton to pillory his usual bogeymen he blames for anything. True to form he is blaming psychiatry and medications for the school shooting. What was it I said yesterday?

At some point it is likely he’ll find a way to blame his other favorite bogeymen, GMOs, pharmaceuticals, doctors (especially psychiatrists), and scientists.

Did I call this or what?

What is really stunning is how the cranks have continuously, and incorrectly flogged the IOM’s “to err is human” study for the last decade. Depending on the crank, they claim the study shows that either doctors or drugs are responsible for 100k deaths a year, but I’m pretty sure no one has actually ever read it. The study actually suggests that medical mistakes may have contributed to between 44-98k deaths a year (they always cite the high end), but, you have to actually look at what the mistakes are. Drug related mistakes or “adverse drug events” were estimated by the IOM to be responsible for 10% of these preventable errors. A large portion of the errors are the failure to intervene or failure in timely diagnosis. Which means, the IOM on review of a hospitalization felt that a death may have been caused by a failure to intervene. In other words, it’s very strange that the cranks use a study to call doctors a killer, when the study actually shows one of the most common medical errors was the failure to medically intervene. For example, such a mistake may be not recognizing a stroke and providing the appropriate medication in time.

The IOM study was meant to show how doctors could do better, that we could implement systems to prevent mistakes that were too common in medical practice. But the cranks wave it around to say, “medicine doesn’t work!” when the study frequently blames the failure to provide an appropriate medical intervention for the deaths. Anyone else see the problem with their logic?

Doctors just can’t win with these people, but that’s ok. We’ll be fine. We have the medications and technology that actually work, and as studies like the IOM’s show, we’re also willing to admit we can do better.

Mike Adams couldn't go 6 hours without promoting an insane conspiracy theory about this school shooting

As anyone who reads my blog or Orac’s knows, Mike Adams, the “health ranger”, is a deranged individual who denies HIV causes AIDS, promotes some of the most absurd quackery in the world, and also is such an all around crank you can rely on him to wax conspiratorial about almost any dramatic news story. He’s done it again, already alleging a conspiracy and coverup in this most recent school shooting, and citing his bizarre conspiracy theories about Aurora as further evidence of these shootings being “staged” by the US government. I wouldn’t suggest clicking the link unless you want to lose several IQ points, and I am not interested in a full repetition of Adams claims here.

Aside from the ghoulish nature of using events such as these to promote one’s bizarre anti-government conspiracy theories, I think this is a case-study on the formation of new conspiracy theories. It is true, in the early attempts at understanding what was happening many different accounts were offered. Watching these horrible events unfold I noticed how at first the media was confused but gradually began to report a more consistent, and terrible picture.

To a sane person, one sees this as the general confusion that results from a “fog of war”. We know that the press is desperately seeking any information that adds to this story, because people are desperate to know what happened? How many were hurt? Is the suspect loose or apprehended? Is this going to keep happening? Will this be the event that finally convinces people to do something about this problem? They also are relying on eye witness reports of individuals who probably only experience a narrow portion of the same events. Eventually the pieces are stitched together, an investigation takes information from all the witnesses and tries to make all the differing accounts mesh. And we know when people are frightened, anything out of the ordinary can and should be reported to make sure every possible lead is followed to its conclusion.

A conspiracist, however, sees this confusion, and rather than seeing a general pattern of natural disorder surrounding such events, sees the hand of whatever bogeyman they truly fear. In this case, Adams pins this on the government, because hey, we all know the government is in control of everything, is completely competent at keeping all secrets, and is apparently is full of people that secretly train madmen to shoot schoolchildren. At some point it is likely he’ll find a way to blame his other favorite bogeymen, GMOs, pharmaceuticals, doctors (especially psychiatrists), and scientists.

I hate writing about events like these before we know all the details, but I also can’t stand just how repugnant a person Mike Adams is, and how objectionable his conspiracy theories are. His hatred of government is so extreme that within hours of any tragedy he’s there, pinning the blame on those who likely are trying to work the hardest to provide aid, help the victims, and identify the culprit. Our government isn’t perfect, but the idea that there’s some agency (Adams suggests it’s the FBI) that routinely, and with no leaks or evidence of its activities, is planning mass murders of American citizens is simply a revolting accusation to pin without overwhelming evidence. And what’s his evidence? The pretty ordinary and expected confusion surrounding a mass shooting. With that, he accuses the government of staging this mass murder. Maybe a second gunman will be found, maybe the witnesses were right, but what evidence would that be that the FBI kills schoolchildren? Plenty of these school shootings in the pasts have been committed with accomplices, and plenty have been done by solo nutjobs.

It’s amazing that anyone reads his site, but then, there will never be a shortage of defective brains that will happily consume Adams’ writing, and give no thought to the total absurdity of the accusations, or the frankly despicable nature of someone who would level them without evidence. Government is not perfect, we shouldn’t really love it, or hate it. Government in the end is just people, just other Americans like us. I have many family members and friends that work in government, many that are part of agencies conspiracy theorists have accused of this and that, and it amazes me that they think that their fellow citizens so frequently, even routinely, kill, poison, or otherwise harm other Americans. That events like these could be staged, and the secrets behind all of our government’s machinations against us kept so perfectly secret is absurd. Our top spy couldn’t even keep where he put his penis a secret, and people think that government can just go around shooting schoolchildren without someone objecting, someone telling the press, someone coming out against it?

I think if anything these interpretations events say a lot more about the people making them than they do about the events themselves. Conspiracy is often, if not exclusively, an expression of hatred, and throughout history we’ve seen them used to direct hate towards one group or another (a lot of them have been directed at one group of people in particular). I suspect it’s actually the conspiracists that are capable of anything, any crime, any despicable act, and their routinely unethical behavior in pushing their nonsense is just the beginning of it. For one, the conspiracist is clearly consumed with hate, so much so, that every event is viewed through the blinders of their rage. No party can be at fault except whoever is the object of their hatred. And maybe, just maybe, if they were in charge this is how they would use their power. This is how they think the world works. This is how they think others think and act. And this is why they are so scary.

Irony meters just exploded all over the world – Natural News has article on how to spot a scam guru

Mike Adams, HIV/AIDS denialist, anti-vaccine crusader, germ theory denialist, and most recently, promoter of a child-protective services vaccine/sex trade conspiracy, actually has a contributor-submitted article on how to spot a scam guru.

The advice in the article isn’t terrible. Don’t believe inflated claims. Don’t believe people who say “anyone can do it” or create fake organizations to legitimize themselves. I just can’t figure out what it’s doing at Natural News. It also is missing some other signs you are being scammed by a false guru such as:

  1. You are at Natural News
  2. You are listening to Mike Adams
  3. You listen to people referred to as “gurus”

Any other ironies I’m missing here?

The latest scummy tactic of altie med – blaming medicine for celebrity deaths.

A fellow medical student once asked me why I thought people become hostile to science-based medicine. Certainly our own failures contribute. When we have no treatments for a disease, or if the treatments themselves may also incur significant morbidity, it is understandable that patients will become disillusioned with what doctors have to offer.

However there is another cause for this hostility towards medicine, and it isn’t the occasional crank scibling with an axe to grind against MDs. It’s the constant anti-science propaganda being spouted out by the hawkers of alternative medicine.

Orac and others have despaired over the infiltration of woo into mainstream medicine under a banner of tolerance and the noble goal of avoiding confrontation with patients over deeply-held beliefs. However this has proved more and more a tactical error as we’ve seen that CAM and altie medicine do not seek detente but is at war with legitimate medicine and science itself. Besides the fact that there is no good reason to water down medical school with unproven nonsense and the latest placebo fad being sold by crooks, alternative medicine should not be taught because doing so is not just a failing to meet the barbarians at the gate, but is actively inviting them in to destroy everything we’ve worked for.

As examples of the despicable attacks on medicine from altie-med practitioners, I say we start with that aggregator of woo-practitioners Natural News. A site started by HIV/AIDS denialist Mike Adams, he features writing from various alties ranging from reiki therapists to naturopaths to chiropractors. What unifies them is their contempt for science-based medicine. Take for instance their attack on science based medicine for the death of former White House Spokesperson Tony Snow and more recently Bernie Mac .

Former White House press secretary Tony Snow died in July 2008 at the age of 53, following a series of chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer. In 2005, Snow had his colon removed and underwent six months of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with colon cancer. Two years later (2007), Snow underwent surgery to remove a growth in his abdominal area, near the site of the original cancer. “This is a very treatable condition,” said Dr. Allyson Ocean, a gastrointestinal oncologist at Weill Cornell Medical College. “Many patients, because of the therapies we have, are able to work and live full lives with quality while they’re being treated. Anyone who looks at this as a death sentence is wrong.” But of course we now know, Dr. Ocean was dead wrong.

The media headlines proclaimed Snow died from colon cancer, although they knew he didn’t have a colon anymore. Apparently, the malignant cancer had “returned” (from where?) and “spread” to the liver and elsewhere in his body. In actual fact, the colon surgery severely restricted his normal eliminative functions, thereby overburdening the liver and tissue fluids with toxic waste. The previous series of chemo-treatments inflamed and irreversibly damaged a large number of cells in his body, and also impaired his immune system — a perfect recipe for growing new cancers. Now unable to heal the causes of the original cancer (in addition to the newly created ones), Snow’s body developed new cancers in the liver and other parts of the body.

This is a rather stunning piece of scientific illiteracy in it’s own right, without being disgusting for the ghoulish use of this man’s death to attack those who were doing the best to keep him alive. We see of course toxin-woo (if anything there are fewer toxins in your body without your colon because the chyme is diverted earlier out into a colostomy), and a complete inability to understand the process of metastasis. The author makes the stunningly ignorant assertion that all the cancers that spread throughout his body were somehow unique and caused by the chemo, when we can use simple histopathology to determine the source of such cancers and we know that such a spread represents metastatic spread from a single source – the colon. Further we know that if cancer has already spread before surgical resection it may not be detectable and appear even after removal of the diseased organ, even if they did indeed resect Snow’s entire colon as opposed to performing a hemicolectomy. All this passage does is expose the promoters of this anti-doctor spite for their complete ignorance of even basic biology.

The author goes on to accuse doctors using chemo of committing a criminal offense:

Before committing themselves to being poisoned, cancer patients need to question their doctors and ask them to produce the research or evidence that shrinking a tumor actually translates to any increase in survival. If they tell you that chemotherapy is your best chance of surviving, you will know they are lying or are simply misinformed. As Abel’s research clearly demonstrated, there is no such evidence anywhere to be found in the medical literature. Subjecting patients to chemotherapy robs them of a fair chance of finding or responding to a real cure and deserves criminal prosecution.

A pretty stunning statement no? Does anyone want to see some real data on what chemotherapy can do?

Continue reading “The latest scummy tactic of altie med – blaming medicine for celebrity deaths.”

GM foods cause delusions

Here at denialism blog, we’ve written a bit about so-called Morgellons syndrome. Every once in a while, when I tire of sanity, I scan the news for more Morgellons madness, and when it comes to madness, Mike Adams never disappoints.

In his latest foray into paranoid idiocy, he tries to link this non-existent illness to genetically modified (GM) foods. And what abuses of logic does he use to create this connection?

He starts with the classic “begging the question“. The entire first section of his article simply assumes that Morgellons exists as some sort of unique pathology. On what does he base his assumption? On two things: anecdotal reports, and the fact that it is being studied by the CDC (at the urging of “interest groups”). The CDC study has not been completed, and there is still no reason to think that Morgellons is anything other than delusions of parasitosis in a shiny new polyester suit. That doesn’t stop him from creating broad, unsupported connections.

He quotes a noted fake expert, Randy Wymore, who has spent a great deal of time studying Morgellons—at least, he says he has. He hasn’t really published anything to support his claims. Then he quotes many un-notable people who have supposedly analyzed Morgellons “fibers”—-this has never been done systematically and published. All that exists is anecdotal reports of individual “researchers”. According to some of these folks, they have found Agrobacterium DNA in these fibers.

And then he stops.

Because I’m not a paranoid conspiracy theorist, I had to look this up. Apparently, Agrobacterium is a favorite bugaboo of the wackier wing of the anti-GM food movement.

This is a pretty classic piece. In trying to link two somewhat wacky ideas, a crank uses smoke and mirrors to distract from the fact that he has no logical argument. But the reason to look for logical fallacies in an argument is not to immediately invalidate an idea—it is to evaluate whether or not a particular argument is prima facie invalid. Might there be a link between this new form of delusional parasitosis and GM foods? Sure, I suppose it’s not beyond the realm of the possible. The point is that his reasoning does not support his assertion.

When reading about assertions that seem a little strange, it pays to parse the argument for logical fallacies and denialist tactics.

That is, if you are interested in the truth.

Mike Adams – Hysterical Luddite of the Natural Food Movement

Sometimes I just can’t get too angry about some particularly insane rant from a denialist. In this case, HIV/AIDS denialist, scientific medicine denialist and all-around crank Mike Adams rants about the prospect of food sterilization by irradiation:

Let’s be blunt about this: The corporations running this country (which also run the U.S. government) want the U.S. food supply to be dead. They don’t want foods to be used as medicines, and they sure don’t want the natural medicines found in foods competing with their own patented pharmaceutical medicines (that just happen to earn them a whole lot more money than any food ever did).

The FDA, for its part, has for many decades conducted its natural medicine censorship campaign, whose only purpose is to deny the People access to accurate information about the healing properties of natural medicines found in foods and herbs.

I believe we must keep our food supply fresh and alive. (Sounds kinda obvious, huh?) And if there’s a little extra bacteria on the spinach, it’s nothing that a healthy body can’t handle anyway. Take some probiotics and avoid antibiotics, and you’ll be just fine. E. Coli is really only a threat to the health of individuals who have had their immune systems (or intestinal flora) destroyed by pharmaceuticals in the first place. There’s nothing wrong with some living organisms in your milk, on your almonds or on your spinach. Wash your food, get plenty of sunlight and avoid using antibiotics.

The human body is NOT a sterile environment. To try to make our food supply sterile is insane, and anyone who supports the irradiation of the food supply is, in my opinion, supporting a policy of genocide against the American people. To destroy the vitality of the food supply is a criminal act of such immense evil that it stands alongside the worst crimes ever committed against humanity.

You see, it’s not enough for them to poison our water (fluoride), poison our children (vaccines) and lie to us about the sun (skin cancer scare stories). Now they want to destroy our foods… and thereby take away any natural medicine options that might actually keep people healthy and free. Remember: A diseased population is an enslaved population.

Now go eat your Big Mac, drink your Pepsi and don’t ask too many questions.

Wow, talk about some paranoia, conspiracism, denialism, and crankery all rolled into one! I mean we’ve got fluoride paranoia, anti-vaccination denialism, germ theory denialism, skin cancer denialism (a new one!), combined with a completely inane fear about irradiation of food.

I’ll just mention one thing that has elluded our hysterical little health ranger. Irradiation does not “kill” your food. In fact, if a cell is living a “lethal” dose of radiation doesn’t necessarily make the cell keel over and die. All it does is cause enough DNA damage so that cells can no longer reproduce. The bacteria are still there, which is different than sterilization by washing or autoclaving, they’re just incapable of reproduction, and guess what? Strawberries aren’t particularly mitotically active after they’ve grown and ripened. I have cells in my lab called feeder cells – fibroblasts irradiated so they can no longer divide – that are used to maintain embryonic stem cells in a pluripotent state that stay alive for weeks in culture. Irradiation of humans, for instance, is only lethal when cells that are susceptible to irradiation, like GI and marrow cells, are killed. Maybe too subtle a point for Adams, but I digress.

This is such a wonderful rant and I can’t get angry over it because it just demonstrates how completely insane this particular denialist is. He doesn’t understand electromagnetic radiation and even has a piece up from a colleague on the the evils of microwaving (read cooking your food). The microwave is an evil Nazi invention that is responsible for everything from obesity to erectile dysfunction! Food irradiation is the greatest crime ever committed in history! The government wants to kill us all using clean cooked food!

It’s denialism that comes pre-debunked, I love it.