Radio Freethinker

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Posts Tagged ‘Alternative Medicine’

More than tradition medicine

Posted by Don McLenaghen on May 11, 2012

As you know we don’t have a high opinion of “alternative medicine”. That often includes things that are classified as “natural” or “traditional” medicine. We tend to deride them as unproven claptrap. In the famous quote “When traditional medical claims are shown to be effective, they become simply medicine”. Traditional Medicine is simply wannabe treatment at best and outright dangerous, at worse.

Well, in an odd confluence of aims, Australia has added proof to the dangers of ‘traditional Chinese medicine” although I would not limit this to Chinese but any ‘traditional or natural’ medicine. In an effort to show the power and efficacy of a new DNA reading technique, a team of scientists tested samples of traditional Chinese medicine to find out what was really in them.

The technique itself is well tested, what the researchers were trying to do was show the cost effectiveness of using this method compared to other methods. The actual results were both secondary and illuminating.

Now if you are a devotee of traditional Chinese medicine you may find this interesting and… perhaps disturbing. What they saw I must confess did not surprise me. A number of the ‘concoctions’ included endangered or threatened species such as the “Asiatic black bear” and the “Black Rhino” .

This is not surprising because a major tenant of Chinese or any traditional medicine is based on the pre-civilized idea of sympathetic magic. That is if your junk’s in a funk, you ingest the essence…be it the genitalia or heart…of a powerful creature…like a rhino, bear or lion…you will absorb that creature’s power. Forgive my bluntness, but that is stupid thinking. IF you believe this I remind you that plutonium is the most powerful of elements, ingest some and tell me if you theory works.

Okay, back to the traditional medicine. As I said, it is sad but not unexpected that some simple minded people will kill or exterminate a species based upon such ‘bad thinking’ however there was more to this story than what we as ‘good’ skeptics often harp upon.

It turns out that those who create such concoctions are not the most ethical people in the world. DNA testing showed that pure “Saiga antelope” also contained goat and sheep parts. Some items included, but not listed on the ‘ingredient’ label were things like cow DNA or pork….for those of a religious bent; it seems you may have inadvertently bought a one-way ticket to purgatory. That is, a number of religions prohibit ingestion of cow or pork or what have you…yet it seems some of these compounds have them in stealth mode. As a Dawkian Antitheist though, I really don’t care about this part.

What is more important to everyone is some of the ingredients are toxic. For example Ephedra has been banned in Canada for almost a decade because it can cause heart attacks; these among other toxins were found to be contained in this traditional medicine.

Cure ya or kill ya, I guess.

So, what is our takeaway?

Well, first, as we have mentioned Ad nauseam, if it’s not MEDICINE, don’t take. You have no idea what it may “really be” or its efficacy….which is likely placebo strength. Even if you “believe” in the woo, this should show you that those who ‘dispense’ these cures don’t really believe…to them you’re just a bundle of dollars.

Grab some skepticism and stop being their patsy; if you feel the need to some woo, grab a bottle of water and remember that almost every animal on earth has had that molecule in its body at some point…if you think power can be transferred via ‘woo’ let that be your connection. It’s better for conservation, safer for you and will not make you feel like a fool when you buy the elk penis and find outs its only pig ear.

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Radio Freethinker Episode 158 – Citing Canada Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on March 20, 2012

This week  Selling Canadian Science, NASA sued by ‘Intelligent’ Design, St. Patrick’s day and Don’s interview with Tony Sobrado – Part 2(of 3), conspiracy theories as political ideology.

Download the episode here!

Topics:

Harper Government plan to make NRC more business friendly!

Two part talk, first it turns out in raw science Canada punched well above its weight class. Although only producing about 1/10 the papers in science as the USA or UK, our papers are cited more. We have the most influential scientist in the world based on citations…and that is everything in the world of academia.
On this topic, word has come out from Ottawa about an ongoing effort to transform the National Research Council’s directions. The NRC is a government agency that funds the majority of research in Canada. The Harper government would like to see the agency focus less on “blue sky” projects and develop a ‘concierge’ or “1-800 number” service for businesses. We take a short and balance look at how this could affect our place in the science community.

Find out more:

CFI newly “Elected” board of directors

We review the new members and the slow but steady move towards democratic governance and CFI.

Find out more:

NASA Sued by “Intelligent” Design

NASA is facing a lawsuit by David Coppedge. Coppedge claims religious discrimination and wrongful dismissal when he was laid off during recent NASA budget cuts. We examine his claim and its implications for NASA, the work place and the possibility of legally imposing ‘intelligent’ design.

Find out more:

St. Patrick’s Day Debate?

We have an interesting discussion about the origins of St. Patrick’s Day and should we as atheist celebrate a Catholic Feast Day? Ethan also questions if the holiday as we now have perpetuating ‘racist’ stereotypes of the Irish.

 

Find out more:

Tony Sobrado interview Part 2 – Conspiracy theory as political ideology

This week we start a three part series with Tony Sobrado. Tony Sabrado Tony is a research analyst and social scientist currently based in London. Author of the soon to be published book “Who rules the world: An analysis to conspiracy theory”. He also contributes to the Huffington Post.

Part 2 – We define what a conspiracy is, the sociological history of conspiracy theory and the frame-work Tony has developed to help analyse conspiracy theories from a social/political science perspective.

Learn more about Tony Sobrado:

Skeptical Highlights:

It’s Wrong to Wreck the World: Climate Change and the Moral Obligation to the Future

Kathleen Dean Moore, co-founder of the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word and professor of Philosophy at Oregon State University, will talk on the importance of viewing climate change as a moral crisis and taking a moral response towards the issue.
<From the poster>
“In our generation, as Thomas Berry writes, we have done to the Earth what no previous generation has done, because they lacked the technological power, and what no future generation will be able to do, because the planet will never again be so beautiful or abundant. In the process, we have degraded, and perhaps changed forever, the great systems that sustain our lives. This is a scientific and technological crisis, assuredly.  But it is fundamentally a moral crisis, and it calls for a moral response. Why has climate-change science elicited such stunning indifference?  What calls us to act? How can we respond to the crisis in ways that honor duties of compassion, justice, and respect for human rights?  How can we discuss these values across differences?  How do we live, when we truly understand that we live in complete dependence on an Earth that is interconnected, interdependent, finite, resilient, and heart-breakingly beautiful?”

When: Wed. Mar. 21, 7pm,
Location: Alma VanDusen Room, Vancouver Public Library
Cost: Free
SFU Continuing Studies in Science and Environment Lecture Series

Seeing the Strings: Capitalism and You

Our aim is to initiate meaningful deliberation in Vancouver around how capitalism operates, and its reliance on both visible and invisible forms of domination and exploitation in order to function.

Each event will be split into three equally important components that will work to build both personal and community-wide understanding of the topics.
First, a discussion will explore the themes of the event within a historical and theoretical context. This will create a system-wide explanation or “big picture,” demonstrating not only what the specific form of oppression addressed is, but also how it operates within capitalism.
Then, a second speaker will explore the topic in a historically present context, using examples from living communities to reveal the connections between past and present, theory and practice.
The third component of the night will be a participatory workshop, with strong facilitation, involving all attendees. There will be small group discussions with small or large group movement activities that will enable individuals to explore how the topic at hand functions in their own life, to learn about the experiences of others, and to see that oppression functions systemically, affecting everyone in different ways.

When: Fri. Mar. 23, 7pm,
Location: Alma VanDusen Room, Vancouver Public Library
Cost: By donation, no one turned away for lack of funds
Vancouver Media Co-op

University of Lethbridge new chair in Alt-Med

It was recently announced that the University of Lethbridge has received funds and is creating a chair of Complementary and Alternative Health Care.

This is more of a low-light than highlight but something to keep our eyes on. Recent moves in Canada, Australian and the USA by proponents of Alt-Med are intended to bring legitimacy by association where actually achieving scientific success as failed them.

Droog gift establishes Chair in alternative health care

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Right to mislead

Posted by Don McLenaghen on March 7, 2012

Rogers uses charter claim to fight truth-in-advertising law. Rogers Communications Inc. is asking an Ontario court to strike down part of a federal law requiring a company to have “adequate and proper” tests of a product’s performance before advertising claims about the product — on the grounds that it violates its freedom of expression.

In addition to taking on the performance claim provision of the Competition Act, the telecom giant is arguing before the Ontario Superior Court the hefty financial penalties that can be imposed on a company for making a false or misleading claim are also unconstitutional.

The legal battle with Rogers began in November 2010, when the bureau went to court to levy a $10-million penalty for a “misleading advertising” campaign involving the company’s Chatr! discount cellphone service. The bureau is also asking the court to order Rogers to pay restitution to affected customers and refrain from engaging in similar campaigns for the next decade.

In their advertising Rogers’ Chatr! claimed to have fewer dropped calls than any other competitor and that its customers had “no worries about dropped calls”. A study of the drop rates between Rogers’ Chatr! and the competition showed no difference in drop rates.

The ruling in question and the Competitions law states that before a company can make an advertised claim it must have a test in hand. Rogers is claiming this violates its charter right to free speech because, you may want to sit down for this one…IF what it had said was true but when they said it they did not have proof but later they could provide proof then the test would be a violation because it would prevent them from saying a true thing because they did not know it was true at the time“.

Make sense? No, not to me neither. First the case at hand showed they issued a false and misleading statement. Second, they are saying if there is no proof to the contrary they can claim anything and to prevent them from doing so is a violation of their charter rights (not that I think corporations have charter rights in the first place, but that’s another show!).

This became a more important issue for Rogers because in 2010, the penalty for this infraction went from a paltry $250,000 to $10 million for first offence, and $15 million for each thereafter.

Now, you may ask why is Rogers pursuing this aspect of the case, when it’s Chatr! claim was false? They want a precedent. Even if they lose this case on fact, the precedent will be established so that in the future they do not have to have proof of a claim when they make said claim.

If they get their precedent, in the future they will be able to make claims in their advertisements without actually knowing if those claims are true or not.

I think there is an important aspect here for the skeptical community above and beyond one’s views on corporations. We have often railed against the false or unsubstantiated claims of neuropathy – “this herb will boost your immune system”, chiropractic – “our treatments will reduce asthma”, classic WooWoo medicine – “our treatment will cure cancer” and other pseudo-scientific flim-flam – “our bracelet re-aligns and negates radiation from your phone”. If Rogers succeeds in its challenge, there is a likely unintended ramification that this precedent will be used to promote quack science.

Keep your eyes open on this and let Rogers know you don’t agree with its selfish attempts to reinterpret charter rights in such a way that could harm or even kill people by those who would benefit from their court case.

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Oz Universities Defend Alternative-Medicine Teaching

Posted by Don McLenaghen on February 17, 2012

Friends of Science in Medicine — a recently formed group that includes more than 400 prominent scientists, doctors, academics and consumer advocates from Australia and overseas — wrote to the vice chancellors of Australian universities last month. They outlined their concerns about what they called the “diminishing of the standards applied to the teaching of science in our universities” and “the increased teaching of pseudo-science.

“Such courses involve so-called ‘complementary or alternative medicine’ masquerading as, and sitting side-by-side with, evidence-based health-related science courses,” the letter said.

In response to this, the Universities have pushed back. Nick Klomp, Dean of the Science faculty at Charles Stuart University, agreeing with some points of the letter continued to state that the degree offered at his university, a Bachelor of Health Science (complementary medicine) for example, was based on science.

He said the course was designed to impart evidence-based science to people who already had a qualification, like a diploma, in alternative health care. The course includes such subjects as biology and physiology.

Those behind the letter said “For many of us, we’ve been concerned for a long time that in this most scientific of all ages, pseudoscience seems to be flourishing,”

David Colquhoun, a Professor of Pharmacology at University College London has called for the ending of alternative-medicine programs in Britain, a member of the Australian group had some of the harshest words in the article I read when he said “Courses in alternative medicine are dishonest, they teach things that aren’t true, and things that are dangerous to patients in some cases,”

Logical does not mean rational

Now, I don’t think I have to take a survey of RadioFreeThinker to know we support the Friends of Science and would be glad to see all CAM programs ended in higher institutions with the caveat, made by the Friends group as well, that research into CAM, if warranted should not stop. That said, one thing Klomp said made me pause.

“I could ignore them or I could train them better,” Mr. Klomp said, adding that a majority of the university’s students were already practicing. “We actually create graduates who are much better health care providers. It’s all about evidence based, science based.

So, that argument is, I think, is even if you think that CAM is all fake, there is here an aspect of harm reduction. That these people would be practicing their pseudo-science regardless, this way they at least have an understanding of what real medicine is and the ethics attached to it. We often say that many CAM practitioners are not frauds but misinformed, this seems one way to at least reduce the potential harm they could do to their patients accidentally via ignorance.

Thoughts?

———————

References:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/06/world/asia/australian-universities-defend-alternative-medicine-teaching.html?_r=4&hpw

http://www.aims.ubc.ca/

http://www.students.ubc.ca/livewelllearnwell/learn-about-wellness/other-health-topics/alternative-complementary-medicine/

http://summaries.cochrane.org/search/site/?f%5B0%5D=im_field_terms_cochrane_library%3A44450

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Saturday Stub: Iridology on Dragons Den

Posted by Ethan Clow on September 17, 2011

Welcome to another edition of Saturday Stub where I share a story I came across that warrants a bit of skeptical thinking on a Saturday. Just a bit though, it is Saturday after all.

This week, I came across a bit of pseudo-science on the popular CBC show Dragon’s Den. You can see the offending segment here, the part I’m referring to occurs at the 9:41 point in the video (you’ll have to sit through a view ads unfortunately)

For those that don’t know, Dragon’s Den is a show on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (the CBC) which is a Canadian version of the UK show of the same name. Folks come on to the show to pitch products and ideas to some wealthy investors (the dragons) who either invest in the idea or don’t (after usually insulting the person) Actually the show isn’t all that bad. I personally find it rather interesting at times and I’ve seen a fair number of really interested products over the years on it. Occasionally however some practitioner of pseud0-science will come on the show to sell thing. One time a man came on the show attempting to sell magic water that could cure virtually any aliment. The Dragons, demonstrating some healthy skepticism, eviscerated his pitch and sent him packing.

However, in the most recent episode, a woman came on the show advocating iridology. The woman, Becky Thomas, was pitching her “Thomas Compact Herbal First-Aid Kit” Go ahead, watch the video if you haven’t already. I’ll wait.

Welcome back. So as you can see, she’s selling first aid kits made up of “natural” products to heal everyday injuries. Then she states that she does iridology to help diagnosis people’s problems. What’s iridology?

Iridology is a pseudo-science that claims to be able to assess health problems by examining the iris of the eye. According to the Skeptic’s Dictionary:

“Iridology is based on the questionable assumption that every organ in the human body has a corresponding location within the iris and that one can determine whether an organ is healthy or diseased by examining the iris rather than the organ itself. “

Iridology has failed several different controlled scientific experiments (see the article on Quackwatch which discusses the experiments)

On the show, Thomas conducts an examination of one of the Dragons. She claimed that Kevin O’Leary had “fecal matter” in pockets in his eyes…or something. She also told one of them that they had worms or parasites. The Dragons chuckled along with this and made some jokes but I was still surprised by how they responded to Thomas. Instead, they actually encouraged her, suggestion that a first aid kit of herbal remedies is a good idea.

It’s not.

This goes back to my rant on how alternative medicine proponents have (prudently) recognized that its a bad idea to give people alt-med when they need immediate science based medicine intervention. (Like with people who go into Anaphylactic shock)

Anyway, the Dragons are more concerned she doesn’t have a business model, instead of, say a product that actually works. One of them even thought her products were effective and didn’t want to invest simply because there was no business model. At least O’Leary seemed to suspect she was a bit off her rocker.

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The Crowned Prince of Snake Oil

Posted by Ethan Clow on July 29, 2011

Is it treason to suggest that Prince Charles is a snake oil salesman? If so, and even if not, I have applaud scientist Edzard Ernst in the UK for calling Charles a snake oil salesman and comparing alternative medicine like homeopathy to the aforementioned snake oil and remarking that such dubious treatments are potentially dangerous.

Prince Charles

Ernst also said to The Guardian:

“There are no official criteria for a snake oil salesman, but if they existed, I think Charles would fulfil them.” – source

This isn’t the first time Ernst and Charles have clashed over alternative medicine. Nor is it the first time that Charles has been associated with CAM (so-called Complementary and Alternative Medicine)

As early as 1983, Charles was on the alternative medicine band wagon. He gave a speech at the 150th-anniversary dinner of the British Medical Association where he stated that despite the success of modern medicine, the whole thing was “slightly off balance” further going on to say:

”It is frightening how dependent on drugs we are all becoming and how easy it is for doctors to prescribe them as the universal panacea for our ills.” – source

Which is typical of most alternative medicine proponents, pointing out the over dependencies’ on prescription drugs that “big pharma” has us on. If we want to talk about conflict of interest however, lets discuss the Royal Family’s obsession with homeopathy which has been going on for 3 (possibly 4 generations now) Charles has an organization called “The Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health” of which its mandate was to promote alternative medicine, like homeopathy.

The organization infuriated health practitioners when it started signing up GP’s to offer a wide range of herbal and alternative treatments. Far worse was how the organization and Charles promoted the potentially dangerous treatment of coffee enemas to treat cancer. That’s right. Coffee enema’s. It’s part of a treatment known as the Gerson therapy, a widely debunked and documented harmful treatment that doesn’t work.

Quote from The Guardian:

“Today the Gerson Institute, run by Max’s 82-year-old daughter Charlotte, has an office in California but runs its main clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, because the US forbids doctors to practise it. Treatment costs $4,900 a week and usually lasts for around three weeks.” – source

In 2006, Charles addressed the World Health Assembly in Geneva and urged them to adopt alternative medicine like homeopathy into their health plans.

“I believe that the proper mix of proven complementary, traditional and modern remedies, which emphasizes the active participation of the patient, can help create a powerful healing force in the world,” he said, addressing a theme that he has promoted for two decades through the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Medicine. “Orthodox practice can learn from complementary medicine. The West can learn from the East and new from old traditions.” – source

Notice how he refers to science based medicine as “orthodox”, a term we might use to refer to a dogmatic religion. Notice also how he mistakes the nature of medicine by assuming there is a “western medicine” and a “eastern medicine.” I wonder what other “theories”  Charles thinks are geographic? Does he consider gravity a “western” or “eastern” theory?

It should be noted that as a “royal” Charles is supposed to stay out of political affairs and not weigh in on issues relating to funding, or advocacy of matters that are left to elected officials and/or professional experts. This isn’t bad advice for most people who aren’t experts in a given field. Charles’ job, as near as I can figure, is to stand around in photos, eat expensive food, live in expensive homes, take expensive trips and wave at people. He seems pretty good at that. He should stick to it and not give out worthless medical advice.

And for the record, I’m not a doctor either. However I’m not advising anyone to use a coffee enema to cure cancer. I generally defer to medical expert(s) on what sort of cancer treatment to take.

I mentioned how Ernst had tangled with Charles before. In 2008, Ernst, along with science advocate Simon Singh called on Charles to recall publications, published by his organization (one of which was produced with a £900,000 grant from the Department of Health) in which they misrepresented scientific evidence about therapies such as homoeopathy, acupuncture and reflexology.

For those that have read Simon Singh’s book Trick or Treatment: Alternative Medicine on Trial, will know that the book is dedicated to “HRH the Prince of Wales”.

As for Charles’ organization, The Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health, it shut down in 2010 amid fraud allegations and several members of the organization were arrested and convicted of theft. However, it re-launched recently as the College of Medicine although it is unclear if Charles is heavily involved. Not surprisingly, it has also been heavily criticized for its poor science.

Ernst was Britain’s first professor of complementary medicine, for 18 years he was in charge of a unit at Exeter University where he examined complementary medicine under scientific conditions. His criticisms over the effectiveness of so-called complementary and alternative medicine earned him the ire of Charles and the then chairman of the Foundation for Integrated Health, Sir Michael Peat. After complaints, Exeter University conducted a 13-month review of Ernst and ultimately found him innocent of any wrongdoing, however, they decided to close his department after 2010.

It’s funny ironic  clearly indicative of the intellectual honesty of someone like Sir Michael Peat that he would complain of conflicts of interest in regards to Ernst but see no problem with Charles actually selling the snake oil that he tries to have mandated into government health services. Yes, Charles owns a company called Duchy Originals which sells all manner of organic non-GM foods and tinctures.

To quote Steven Novella from his blog Neurologica:

“The con is an old one – virtually random ingredients are put into a pill, elixir, tincture, or salve and sold with incredible hype but no science. So-called snake oil marketers have a long tradition of knowing their marks and the market. Claims are designed to appeal to the broadest market, to have maximal allure, and to be just vague enough to evade any pesky regulations that may be in effect. Claims also tend to follow recent fads, using the buzz-words that are hot, and often try to wrap cutting-edge sciency terms in the cloak of ancient wisdom.” – source

He is referring to the Duchy Originals new detoxifier which claims to ” eliminate toxins and aid digestion. ” Of course, no specific toxins are mentioned and the website doesn’t offer any explanation for how such a concoction actually removes the “toxins.”

Dutchy Detoxifier

So how does it work? Why do you need it? What is the science behind its mechanism? What toxins are you removing? These questions are not answered. But aren’t they important questions? Should we not ask ourselves this before we take some tonic? Charles doesn’t seem to be much help in this. It’s almost as if he’s some un-qualified quack  trying to sell something based on his self proclaimed understanding of “medicine” that the majority of scientific experts consider bunk – but what do they know?

 

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Biomeridian Feedback

Posted by Ethan Clow on July 7, 2011

Recently, a listener wrote in with this email:

Hey Radio Freethinker,

I love your show! I’ve been listening to it for a few months now as a
podcast (since I’m in Ontario).

I’m sure you get plenty of suggestions, but I thought given your
interest in debunking so called ‘alternative health’ methods, I
couldn’t resist sending you this idea.

I’d love to hear something on Biomeridian Stress Testing. I know some
people who are very excited about this test, and suggesting it to
everyone. They found someone performing this “diagnostic” in the back
of a health food store, and started taking their claims (about
allergies, parasites etc…) very seriously (including changing their
children’s diets, and buying natural remedies (conveniently sold in
the same store)). Being a skeptic myself, I find the claims of these
devices suspect to say the least and dangerous at worst, given that
people substitute them for scientific, medically proven tests and
diagnoses. I even spoke with a naturopathic doctor, and she thought it
sounded pretty suspicious. However, they seem to be getting very
popular.

Just a thought!
Thanks for the great show!
Cathy

Thanks for the email Cathy. I started to do some digging to figure out what exactly Biomeridian testing was. It turns out, that’s easier said than done.  Fortunately I found a few sources, including a recent article written by Dr. Harriet Hall over at the blog Science Based Medicine.

From what I’ve been able to gather, Biomeridian Stress Testing, or Biomeridian treatments, or meridian treatments as they are occasionally called, is an alternative medical treatment for allergies. It involves using a form of “no touch” acupuncture to cure allergies by strengthening organs and preventing allergic reactions.

How does it “supposedly” work? That I’m not sure about. The websites I could find for companies that offer Biomeridian testing were very vague about exactly what the process involves. (which is a huge red flag) – if a company had a treatment that worked and was effective, they would be very clear on what the process is, how it works and what it does. This is what I found on one website offering Biomeridian treatment:

“our medical office has used sublingual provocative neutralization techniques for treating patients with adverse reactions to inhalants, foods, and chemicals. This technique is described in detail elsewhere, and has been “proven” beyond any reasonable doubt by numerous double-blind studies executed by various investigators in multiple centers and reported in a number of peer-reviewed medical journals.” – source

Another website I looked at made it sound more like acupuncture but with tapping instead of needles. What they called “Energy Meridian Tapping (EMT)” which is apparently “a user-friendly version of the long established meridian tapping modality called TFT (Thought Field Therapy).”  – source

Biomeridan testing seems to involve using electronic devices to measure some vaguely described form of “energy” that apparently indicates when someone is ill or not. Some of these treatments use devices designed to measure electrical currents. A complete circuit is made by having the patient hold a metal object and applying the device to another part of the body. Once the current is made the device will ding or dials will flash about and the tester can either make up some results i.e “oh my you’ve got a conductivity of 12.4 that means you need X more treatments…” or they might have some sort of standard system they use, similar to how scientologists use e-meters.

So, if I understand this correctly, it’s some form of acupuncture that relies on a theory called radionics, the idea that illness and health can be detected by the energy emissions of the body. This theory was created by Dr. Albert Abrams in the early 1920’s and its been around in different forms ever since. When all tests failed to find either that the energy that was indicating the illness, or show that the devices that were supposed to cure these energies didn’t work as they are supposed to work or that they are simply measuring electrical resistance, proponents assert that there is a paranormal element that is “integral to radionics, noting that the radiations being measured are similar to those felt by a dowser”  and the person operating the machine must have some paranormal powers.

Looking at the different ways this biomeridian treatments are described, they appear to be creating a hodgepodge of various alternative medicines. Harriet Hall mentions this plethora of names and theories in her article on Science Based Medicine:

“The testing procedure was originally known as electroacupuncture according to Voll (EAV), but is now called by many other names including electrodermal screening (EDS), electrodermal testing (EDT), bioelectric functions diagnosis (BFD), bio resonance therapy (BRT), bio-energy regulatory technique (BER), biocybernetic medicine (BM), computerized electrodermal screening (CEDS), computerized electrodermal stress analysis (CEDSA), limbic stress analysis (LSA), meridian energy analysis (MEA), point testing, and many more.” – source

In addition, there are a lot of red flags when looking at this; the constant vagueness when describing the treatments, the use of words like quantum, energy and wellness – and never are those terms defined, they are simply thrown in as adjectives to make the treatment sound more sciencey. Not to mention the easy out these proponents have given themselves. If ever the treatment doesn’t work they can fall back on the claim that there’s something immaterial or even supernatural going on. That also doubles as an excuse as to why these treatments can’t be examined scientifically.

Cathy also mentioned the potential dangers of such a treatment. I was able to dig up a few alarming reports related to biomeridian testing. One was about some naturopaths taking this treatment to Haiti after the earthquake to help people. Despite being well intentioned, this treatment is scientifically implausible to work and could delay or prevent necessary medical treatment.

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The Homeopaths are Coming!

Posted by Ethan Clow on January 13, 2011

Yes, they will not be cowed! In light of the upcoming episode of CBC’s Marketplace which is set to air tomorrow at 8pm, the Conscious Health Natural Therapy website is encouraging its supporters to spam the Marketplace comment section immediately after it airs!

At least they’re going to wait until after it airs to reserve judgment.

Don’t let their creative use of Capitalization and disinterest in the comma fool you. They mean business.

“There is a concerted effort World Wide to denounce all forms of Natural Medicine
as being worthless or dangerous.”

Okay, first, no one is saying its worthless. Second, homeopathy isn’t “natural” medicine. Third, any medicine not based on science that hasn’t been rigorously tested, proven and subjected to ruthless skeptical scrutiny is dangerous.

“Skeptics belittle Homeopathy as worthless yet the pharmaceutica giant Merck sell homeopathic products. They own Seven Seas who own the New Era brand, who do biochemic salts.  Do I need to say more??”

So according to this, skeptics aren’t in the pocket of “big pharma”, homeopathy is. Actually, that’s very apt. Since most homeopathic medicines are about 10 to 15 percent more expensive than normal drugs, many pharmaceuticals have jumped on the band wagon, producing their own homeopathic or natural medicines and charging more than their science-based medicines.

The Canadian Society of Homeopaths Board is quoted, presenting ways that supporters can counter this attack of skepticism.

“Be prepared to leave a comment on the CBC and Marketplace website immediately after the programme airs. Go to http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/blog/ and check out the comment function right now. Sign up now to create a user’s account so that there will be no delay when you are ready to send your comments. Once the programme has aired, you can leave a comment by clicking on the title, which will take you to a summary page concluding with a link “Share your comment”. This leads to a comment box, which requires that you sign in. CBC monitors and reviews all messages so you may want to read the Submission Guidelines page before planning to send your comments.”

and

“Know what you are going to say so that you can post a response without delay. Choose to focus on a single point per comment, elaborate on it, and conclude with a strong, affirming statement. Often the most effective messages are short, concise, and to the point. Send as many of these as you can.”

Hopefully some Canadian skeptics and post a few comments of their own and if I can make a suggestion, since most of the pro-homeopathy comments will be something like “I took homeopathy and it cured my cold right away and I’ve been using it ever since!” Try to stress how one data point does not equal a scientific study. There are people to have driven without a seat-belt and not gotten into an accident, but that doesn’t mean seat-belts are worthless.

Another good point to mention is how bogus treatments seem to work. Consider how when you get a flu it advances in stages. You start off getting some symptoms, they get worse, and then really bad, and then a bit better, and then they go way and you feel fine. When most of us reach the really bad phase, that’s when we take medication. What happens? We get better! My point being, we’d get better no matter what we did. You can substitute medication for homeopathy or a cheese sandwich and the result would be the same.

Of course this is one of those counter-intuitive critical thinking observations that not everyone will notice. We naturally associate the healing with what we took at that time of illness.

Since news of the upcoming episode of Marketplace broke, I’ve received a number of emails from homeopathic supporters, some well argued and very reasonable. Others, not so much.  One of the common strings running through most of them is that homeopathy worked for them. And again to that I would say one data point doesn’t make science. When dealing with cyclical conditions like the flu or vague non-permanent conditions like headaches, muscle pain, something like homeopathy is bound to look effective. Why? Because those things go away on their own! If you have a headache and eat a sandwich and your headache goes away in an hour, does that mean the sandwich cured you?

Another common theme was people trying to rationalize the Law of Similars or like cures like.

There really is no other way for me to say it except, you’re wrong. Not only is the theory of like cures like demonstrably wrong, it would require us to throw out huge swaths of proven and established sciences like chemistry, biology and physics. You simply can’t dilute a substance and make it more potent. Water, no matter how much you shake it, can’t remember a substance.

There is this notion of extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and proportioning beliefs to the evidence available. If homeopathy says that science has got it completely wrong and the fields of chemistry, biology and physics need to be rewritten so be it. But no one is going to take them seriously until they back up what they say with hard evidence. And so far, they haven’t. The evidence is firmly saying it doesn’t work.

As many skeptics know, there is a world-wide educational effort coming up to explain to the public what homeopathy is and how it doesn’t work. In Canada, the Centre for Inquiry’s Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism is co-ordinating efforts across the country with different groups and organizations.

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