Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Field Guide to Quackery and Pseudoscience – Part Four

Psychics:

Psychics are an interesting breed, especially since it is clear that they are either consciously deceiving their “clients” or are frankly delusional. Their claims to “see” the future, to “see” into other people’s minds or to “see” hidden objects or events are not simple misinterpretations of the data before them, as is the case with most “well-meaning” pseudoscientists and quacks.

People claiming to be psychics either do or do not “see” what they claim to see. If they do not, then they are simply charlatans making a buck off of a gullible populace, no better or worse than thousands of other frauds. If, on the other hand, they do “see” what they claim, then they need to explain their extremely low accuracy. Given an accuracy of less than one “correct” prediction per thousand “wrong” predictions, a rational person would conclude that they are no better than guesses. A psychic who truly believes that their one “hit” among thousands of “misses” constitutes a unique ability is either incapable or unwilling to face reality.

Psychic “abilities” come in three general types:

[a] The ability to see what is hidden in the future.
[b] The ability to see what is hidden in the present or past.
[c] The ability to cause physical actions by direct action of the mind (i.e. not through the action of muscles).

The last of these – “c” – is the basis of claims like Uri Geller’s – who claims to be able to deform silverware with his mind – as well as those who claim to be able to heal with mind power (e.g. “Therapeutic Touch”, “Thought-field therapy”, etc.). Those who claim to do “psychic healing” - in any of its incarnations – may be simply misinterpreting data before them, as many quacks do (see below). The rest of the psychics are either deluded or lying.

Among the dozens of people claiming to have psychokinetic abilities, few have submitted their claims to rigorous testing. Those that have submitted their “powers” to legitimate testing have all failed, although they usually claim that “skeptical vibrations” (or other similar maladies) have interfered with their powers. The James Randi million dollar prize remains unclaimed – the best proof that psychokinesis is bunk.

But back to the predictive arm of “psychic abilities”. These range from predicting the future to “remote viewing” to finding abducted children and missing objects – all of which are eagerly promoted by a largely uncritical mass media. Witness the burgeoning number of television programs featuring “psychic detectives” – all evidence of our collective fascination with the idea of “mind powers”.

Left out of most of the media frenzy over “mind powers” are those mind powers that we know exist, one of which gives us the ability – if we use it – to see that “psychic abilities” are baloney. I refer, of course, to our rational intellect.

“Predictive” psychics are basically detectives. Using purely normal (i.e. not “paranormal”) powers of observation – powers possessed by most, if not all, humans, they assess their “target” and make some purely normal (vide supra) predictions about them. For the fraudulent variety of psychic, these observations may be “augmented” by more deliberate detective work, even something as simple as having a “chat” with the target prior to the “reading” – just to “put them at ease”, of course. Details uncovered during these investigations will then be put to use “proving” the psychic’s abilities.

It is a bit ironic that psychics universally begin their “routine”, not by revealing what we don’t know, but by “revealing” what we do. By this I mean the sometimes casual “dropping” of personal details that the target thought the psychic did not know. Once they have convinced their target that they truly have “psychic abilities”, they are then free to employ their imagination to tell the target what they want to hear.

The detective game that psychics play is amazing to watch. The best way to see it is to view an uncut videotape of a session – something most psychics absolutely refuse to allow, usually claiming that it “disrupts the ether”, “introduces skeptic energy”, blah, blah, blah. What it really does is provide unimpeachable documentation of their inability to get the right answers from their “psychic abilities”.

If you dispassionately watch a psychic at work, you will see the strategies they use. They usually begin with general statements, which are voiced as questions but phrased as statements, to get “hits” and fool the target into giving them more information. These will be broad, ambiguous characteristics that could apply to a number of people.

For example, if the target is interested in contacting someone who is “no longer with us”, the psychic might start out with, “I get the sense that your loved one died without completing something important.” (who doesn’t?), to which the target is supposed to reply (and usually does), “Oh yes! Fred always wanted to learn to play the piano, but he died before he got the chance.” Believe it or not, this will be counted as a “hit” by the psychic and their supporters.

Now, the psychic knows the name of the person the target wants to “contact” and some details about him. The probing will continue in a general fashion for a while; “I sense that Fred was a happy man, who loved children.” – and the target may reply, “Well, he loved to tease children, and he was happy doing that, so I suppose that’s right.” Another “hit”.

This will go on for a period of time, with “hits” being followed up and “misses” being explained away; “When I said that Fred loved the sea, I meant that he loved your Aunt May, who was lost at sea.” Once the psychic gets the sense that the target (and other members of the audience, if there is one) are convinced of their “powers”, then the baloney gets sliced a lot thicker. “Fred says that he’s sorry about teasing all of you as kids and wants you to know that he’s happy where he is.” Of course, it is extremely unlikely that Fred will be contradicting the psychic, unless “where he is” happens to be Pennsylvania.

The key to making it as a psychic is to emphasize the “hits” and explain away (or, better yet, ignore) the “misses”. The big-time psychics are the ones who have mastered this art. Sylvia Brown(e), for instance, was not the slightest bit ruffled when the coal miners she had confidently predicted to be alive (just hours after all major news outlets had announced the same news, by the way) turned out to be dead (she was right about one of the twelve, so that should count as 1/12th of a “hit”). Her other predictions have been no more accurate than that one.

Now, psychics and their defenders will often claim that any “inaccuracies” (like predicting someone will have a long and successful career the week before they die) are due to the inherent difficulties of translating their “visions” into concrete predictions. Or, they might claim that an event was of insufficient gravitas to create a psychic “impression”. All of which fail to explain why no psychic was able to predict the terrorist attacks of 11 September, 2001. Of course, several of them later claimed to have “felt” it coming, but you don’t have to be a psychic to predict the past.

The same process of emphasizing “hits” and minimizing (or ignoring) “misses” is at work when psychics descend on a crime scene or appear during the search for a missing person. No psychic has ever given an unambiguous answer in a crime or missing person case. Their “information” is either dead wrong or so vague as to be useless. It is little help to say that a missing person (or body) is “near a lake” in rural Minnesota (“Land of 10,000 Lakes!”) or “in the desert” in Nevada, but that’s the sort of “clues” psychics will claim as “hits”.

One final note about psychic predictions. Any claim to be able to “see the future” has to address the issues of quantum physics, chaos theory and foreordination. The quantum physics problem is that certain events – such as radioactive decay – are purely random, an idea that even Einstein struggled with. Now, while quantum randomness is usually “smoothed out” at the macroscopic level (where we live), chaos theory tells us that there are certain physical phenomena – the weather, for instance – that are exquisitely sensitive to the starting conditions and may be affected significantly by quantum randomness.This means that psychic “predictions” – if they are real – should get less accurate the further they project into the future, just like weather predictions. In fact, we find that psychic “predictions” are just as inaccurate for tomorrow as they are for a decade from now – which is to say, very inaccurate.

The foreordination question, however, is the thorniest for the psychic “future-tellers”. Simply stated, if psychics were able to predict the future, that would imply that the future is already – to at least some extent – already fixed. To some extent, the future of most matter is foreordained, since it is primarily under the control of gravity. However, in the realm of human events – which is where the psychics concentrate – there is a great deal of randomness and unpredictability introduced by human “free will”. So, if the psychics are right and they can predict the future – however dimly – that would imply that human free will is an illusion and that we are “fated” to do whatever we do.

And if we are unable to alter our actions, if the future has already been set, then what is the purpose of having a psychic “predict” the future? We couldn’t alter it. We couldn’t even prepare ourselves for it because whatever we did – even going to a psychic – was already foreordained. If the future is set, then there is no reason to predict it.


Quacks:

Quacks come in a dizzying variety, almost too many to count. And they are certainly propagating too quickly to count. So, rather than give an exhaustive (and exhausting) list of the types and varieties of quack, I will try to acquaint you with the Family of Quack.

The major division in the Quack Family is between deliberate and inattentive quacks. Deliberate quacks are aware that they are peddling nonsense and don’t care – inattentive quacks think that their remedies actually work and don’t care to find out the truth. As a result, this division is largely a cosmetic one, since the effects and actions of the two groups are largely the same. It can therefor be nearly impossible to differentiate between the two groups in the field, since the distinguishing characteristic is intent, rather than action.

Curiously, both groups react similarly when presented with incontrovertible evidence that their remedies are useless. Both respond with vigorous denial and claims of bias, corruption and incompetence against those who would attempt to introduce facts into their fantasy-based world.

This brings us to one of the key features of the Quack Family – fantasy. Real medicine, like real science, aspires to base its practices on data and rational analysis. And like real science, real medicine often falls short of perfection in this goal. However, quackery never truly aspires to be reality-based, since its founding principles are purely fantasy-oriented:

[1] It is possible to know the “truth” without testing the hypotheses.
[2] All evidence contrary to the “truth” is the result of lies or incompetence.
[3] The Quack practitioner is the recipient of “special” knowledge, powers or intellectual abilities.
[4] All “cures” are solely due to the skill of the Quack practitioner.
[5] All failures are solely the fault of the Patient.

You will notice that [1] and [2] form a logical tautology of sorts: the “truth” is knowable without data and any data contradicting the “truth” is – by definition – false. This logical loop forms the core of most large-scale quackeries, one of the latest being the “mercury-causes-autism” tautology. This fantasy loop was launched by the assertion that children with autism are the result of mercury poisoning from vaccines. Since about 95 – 99% of children in the US prior to 2000 had received at least one mercury-containing vaccine, it was predictable that almost all autistic children would have, as well.

Continuing the loop, data showing that some of the features of mercury poisoning are described using the same words as some of the features of autism was taken as further “proof” – data that the major features of mercury poisoning and autism were completely different was ignored. Highly inaccurate “epidemiological” data from education and social service departments was used to show autism prevalence rising, while the fact that the amount of mercury-containing vaccinations had been steady for years (decades, in the UK and Denmark) during that rise was ignored or denounced as heretical (“biased”, “corrupted”, “flawed”).

Similar scenarios have played out in other quackeries – only the names change.

Continuing in the fantasy-based mode, many sub-types of the Quack Family have taken to accusing their detractors – who are often practitioners of real medicine – of having base, commercial motives. In short, they claim that real medicine is only interested in keeping people sick, in giving them expensive medicines, etc. etc… and that quackeries are an economic threat to real medicine.

On a purely commercial basis, quackeries are a boon to real medicine. People who take their imaginary ailments to quack practitioners are doing doctors a favor – all the real medicine practitioners I have spoken to have no interest in trying to cure the “worried well”, as they call these people. And people who take real ailments to practitioners of imaginary medicine will either get better on their own or will eventually show up to be treated by practitioners of real medicine – in the office, the emergency room or the morgue. With real, non-self-limited ailments, you can either see the doctor now or you can see them later. Either way, you end up getting real medicine eventually. If you are lucky, it won’t be too late.

So why do so many doctors (MD/DO) practice quackery, encourage it or condone it? The reasons are varied and complex. Those who practice quackery have often found that it is less stressful than real medicine. Quackery isn’t covered by insurance plans (or most government health programs), so the paperwork and reimbursement hassles associated with insurance disappear. And quackery is generally a more restful, non-confrontational practice than real medicine. People who visit the quack are generally more motivated to try what the doctor recommends – no matter how silly it may seem. Finally, quackery is a way for an otherwise undistinguished doctor – perhaps one who just isn’t that good at diagnosis and treatment – to find a niche where they can make a name for themselves and not have to bother with the tedium of actually finding out what is wrong with their patients.

The final question, and one that the quacks often use in their own defense, is “Why do people keep going to quacks if the treatments don’t work?” This is really quite simple. People go to quacks because they have “lost faith” in real medicine. It may be that real medicine doesn’t have a good treatment for their ailment – which is especially true if that ailment isn’t real. Or it may be that the available treatments are unpleasant, uncomfortable, or frightening. Or they may be one of the “worried well” who are convinced that the aches and pains of mortal life are signs of some dread ailment. And, in many cases, the quackeries appear to “work” for the following reasons:

[1] The natural course of the disease: Fully 95% of the ailments for which people seek medical attention are self-limited – meaning that they will get better without treatment. The classic example is the “common cold”, for which there have been quack remedies since the dawn of human history. Left untreated, the average “cold” will resolve in about seven days. Vigorously treated by either quack remedies or real medicine (antibiotics, steroids, etc.), the average “cold” will resolve in about a week.

Also, some disorders are more severe at the outset than they are later - a good example being stroke. Quack practitioners have been making a living for years by treating recent stroke victims with vitamins, herbs, hyperbaric oxygen and the like and then taking credit for their improvement. Of course, even if you don't do anything, most stroke victims are much better a month or two after their stroke than they are the day it happens. The same is true of certain childhood developmental disorders, where quacks eagerly take credit for the natural progression of the disorder as the child gets older.

It's a wonder that someone hasn't promoted giving typical kids mega-vitamins, minerals or chelation in order to improve their verbal skills, coordination and social interaction. After all, if you give high-dose vitamin B6 to one year-olds, they'll have better language, social and physical skills when they're five. Of course, so will the kids that don't get the treatment. It's the natural progression of childhood - even in developmentally delayed children. Developmental delay does not mean developmental stasis.

[2] Regression to the mean: Most chronic or long-term ailments have a cyclic or fluctuating course – getting worse and then getting better and then repeating the cycle. Generally, people will seek medical attention for these ailments when they are at or near their worst. As a result, any treatment given – even an ineffective one – will usually be followed by improvement as the natural course of the disease takes it toward milder symptoms, potentially fooling the patient into believing that the remedy “worked”.

[3] Self-fulfilling Prophesy: Often called the “placebo effect”, which is a gross misnomer. The placebo is not having an effect – it is, in fact, completely inert. What is happening is that the patient, having been examined, given a diagnosis and prescribed a treatment, is expecting to get better. This expectation will cause them to unconsciously emphasize any feeling that their symptoms are improving and ignore or minimize any feeling that the symptoms are staying the same or worsening. In fact, since worry and feeling helpless have repeatedly been shown to increase pain, it is not surprising that a sense of hope – even false hope – will improve bothersome symptoms.

[4] Sense of Empowerment: The one thing that quackeries do that real medicine would do well to emulate is the way they involve the patient in the treatment. Modern medicine has largely tried to cut the patient “out of the loop” as much as possible – with implanted devices, long-acting medications, transdermal patches, etc. – because patient compliance is a huge variable in any treatment regimen. By eliminating this variable as much as possible, real medicine manages to attain more predictable and uniform results. This is all well and good, but it has the undesired effect of making the patient feel like a passive recipient of treatment, rather than an active participant. By giving the patient complex, arcane rituals to perform, the quack gives their patient a sense of control over this aspect of their life.


Well, that’s all for now. Next time: Quantum Noise


Prometheus.

54 Comments:

Blogger Bronze Dog said...

Nicely done. Hopefully, Fore Sam/John Best/whoever will actually read it and understand all our objections.

31 January, 2006 08:35  
Blogger clone3g said...

I predict he won't. I knew I would say that.

31 January, 2006 10:56  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

I can always hope.


...Can't I?


...Please?

Anyway, he's just going to hand-wave it away without reading the actual arguments, and once again try to change the subject to the arguers, hoping that the fence-sitters won't notice the evasion.

31 January, 2006 14:30  
Blogger Gina said...

The why do people continue to go question: I think it's also that, not only may a patient be at a place where treatment has been utilized and maxed out to the point that there is a realization that nothing more can be done, with that said, there is nothing to be lost by trying these alternative, what ever you want to call it. And - for those that may not be in a life or death situation, I think there is something to be gained for the seeker by merely rubbing shoulders with someone they believe to be a chosen one. This psychic is receiving special information and healing just for me, there for I am special too. This person should realistically try and carve out their own nitch in life that makes them feel special, rather then depending on someone else.

Very good point with the free will explanation. What is sad is that the physic client is letting go of the real control that they have. There is a certain amount of control that a person has at creating the future they want, by their goals, actions and choices. What a distraction these predictions are from the valuable time that the person could be using to make what they want happen, to really happen (or going further, letting some one dictate to them what is important - where is the sense of self here). While we can't control many of the physical laws of the universe, we can choose if we stay with so, and look for a job in such and such etc.

31 January, 2006 15:57  
Anonymous Skeptyk said...

"at a place where treatment has been utilized and maxed out to the point that there is a realization that nothing more can be done"

I have been thinking about this oft-cited hypothetical situation. This point of "you're-dying-what-have-you-got-to-lose". Folks seeem to assume it is common, but I wonder if it really is. For one thing, folks' general ways of coping with the world usually do not change during illness. (That personchanging revelation-by-cancer is a plot device common in movies.)

Palliative care (which often includes surgery, chemo, steroids...you know, medicine) is medical care, nursing care. It is not defeatism, it is medicine. The tales in our culture, the ubiquitous tales of "the doctors gave up on him" are so often so third-hand or FOAFy. Have you ever actually met an oncologist who just washes her hands of her patients? Where are these vague docs who abandon "hopeless" patients? In stories, that's where.

Orac, et al, what damage does this mythical characterization do, to people on both sides of the scalpel?

31 January, 2006 19:16  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

I tend to see "what have you got to lose" as a very dangerous phrase.

31 January, 2006 19:25  
Anonymous HCN said...

I'm sorry, the comment on "what is the harm" made my brain kind of skid along... huh?

One thing I can think of is the harm done to the family. False hope can be crushed when reality sets in... a psychic can not predict anything worthwhile to a dying patient, while a good hospice center can do wonders. Even if involves bringing a harpist during their last moments.

More to the subject of quackery... today it was announced that Coretta King died today in what is possibly a quack hospital. See Coretta Scott King put her last hope for recovery in a Mexican alternative-medicine clinic .

Do these people who prey on the sick deserve any respect?

Especially when they post on blogs pushing their wares:
Chelation Spammers like Sanoviv

This also includes those who prey on the caretakers of disabled folk... or folks who are just different.

Also, John Best posting as Fore Sam will not read and understand. He has his preconceived notions that will not be swayed with any kind of science or logic. Even when presented with actual evidence that there was autism in China in the 1980's he still persists with the myth that it did not exist there until 1999. Not even a blink or a flicker that he may have been misled by the Yahoo group he got the misinformation from in the first place.

31 January, 2006 21:42  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

Yeah, HCN. I did see one response of his on Respectful Insolence, though: He's trying to hand-wave the China stuff away as a few isolated cases of autism. Of course, he still hasn't provided sources for his scare numbers, or at least none that I've seen.

31 January, 2006 22:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fix up your header or I will never visit you again. "As someone who has spent... their life". If you are a he it is "his life". If you are a she it is "her life". If there are two of you, then it is not "someone".

01 February, 2006 04:14  
Blogger Kev said...

You can't reason with John - its simply not possible as he is incapable. Everytime you point out the many flaws in his logic he simply moves on to the next point. Foil him again and again he moves. Eventually you end up back at the same point you started with and you realise you just wasted several online hours in a battle of wits with an unarmed person.

For example. John believes that autism was invented in the 1930's by Eli Lily in the form of thiomersal. Documented proof of autistics from Victorian Britian fail to sway him.

John also claims his son is improving in areas such as head-banging, control over his legs, counting. Unfortunately he fails to indicate where on the diagnostic criteria for autism these things appear. We know they don't and hence we know he's irrelvancy personified.

You can't argue with John, all you can do is try not to legitamise his points by treating them as worthy of a response.

I ended up having to ban John from my blog as he simply grew more and more abusive - in the end he was just ranting. I was surprised that a man like John could say even less than he already was, but he was.

01 February, 2006 06:14  
Blogger Prometheus said...

To Anonymous:

Re "...their life..."

[1] To paraphrase from "Star Trek" (the original version), "I'm a biologist, not an English professor, dammit!"

[2] Another use - albeit one not yet enshrined in many of the usage and style books - of "their" as a singular pronoun is when the gender is unknown or when the phrase may refer to a singular person of either gender.

[3] Thank you for your input - I'll miss not having you stop by anymore.


Prometheus

01 February, 2006 07:29  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

Sometimes, I'm a real grammar nazi, but I still use "their" a lot. We really need a neuter pronoun for persons.

01 February, 2006 08:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Privacy is more important than pronouns.

01 February, 2006 08:58  
Blogger Prometheus said...

Kev,

Thanks for your perspective on Mr. Best - the man of many pseudonyms. I suspect that his persistence in an unsupported hypothesis and his unwillingness to accept the possibility that an alternate explanation might exist - let alone be of greater validity than his own - is not a hindrance in his chosen profession.


Prometheus

01 February, 2006 16:22  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

Anyway, since I feel like a topic change, I'll start bashing psychics.

I find it interesting, and I'm sure a number of you already agree, that Sylvia Browne was accepting the test protocols for the Randi Challenge on September 3rd, 2001. I wonder if Randi's eeeee-ville skeptic vibes coming over the satellite transmission was possibly interfering with something the spirits were desperately trying to communicate.

01 February, 2006 18:17  
Blogger Kev said...

P - you could well be right. My take on his rabid insistence in his belief system is that he's terrified he might be wrong. I think he thinks that if he can convert just one person then that'll validate his beliefs.

02 February, 2006 02:41  
Anonymous John Best said...

Kev;
Let's clarify something here. Asking questions that you can't answer is not being abusive. Disagreeing with you is not abuse. You threw me off your blog because you could not defend your position. At least Prometheus has the guts to disagree with me head on while you hide behind the "delete" button like a scared little jackrabbit.
If you had any knowledge of autism, you would know there are many specific behaviors that are not mentioned by the pseudoscience of psychology or psychiatry or whoever conjured up the criteria in DSM. You will jump at any chance to knock those of us who help our kids with chelation because you are terrified we are right which would confirm you as a child abuser for refusing to help your daughter and allowing her to rot in the abyss of autism. The next time you want to talk about me, why don't you try standing up and doing it like a man?

02 February, 2006 14:38  
Anonymous Gray Falcon said...

Fore Sam, it's true, deleting your posts was probably not the most appropriate response. However, I am fairly certain saber duels are illegal in this day and age.

02 February, 2006 14:50  
Anonymous Gray Falcon said...

Just so you know, I'm not advocating violent response against someone like John Best. I'm just saying that grossly abusive langauge is not a good way to convince people of one's stand.

02 February, 2006 14:55  
Blogger notmercury said...

I'm not afraid to admit when I am wrong. There was a time when I was pretty sure autism was caused by vaccines. I was wrong. It's that simple.

Whether Mr. Best is wrong or right, only a fool says he is 100% certain about anything.

02 February, 2006 19:08  
Anonymous Fore Sam said...

Notmercury;
You've been hornswaggled by sophists. Look at the evidence again. Look at the alleged science with a jaundiced eye and follow the money.

02 February, 2006 20:36  
Blogger Prometheus said...

Fore Sam,

Sophists were a school of philosophy that would argue both sides of an argument just to show off their debating skills. To accuse someone of sophistry is to say that they don't believe their argument and that they are arguing simply for the verbal exercise. That doesn't apply to me and I suspect that nobody else here in this forum is likely to "switch sides" and try arguing from the opposite point of view.

I would suggest that the same caveat, "Look at the alleged science with a jaundiced eye and follow the money." could be equally applied to your "side" of the argument - and with greater impact.

The sheer number of people who would have to be "in" on the sort of conspiracy you are alleging boggles the mind. On the other hand, only a relatively small number of conspirators would be required to conceal any guilty knowledge that chelation is useless for treating autism.

And the money angle is even more compelling when applied to the relatively small number of "practitioners" who are making a relatively large amount of money treating autism with chelation. Not to mention that many of the "practitioners" involved are also reaping loads of adulation and free publicity - heady stuff, for a physician of undistinguished abilities.

So, when are we going to get some hard (or even semi-soft) data about chelation for autism? You've told us about your son and pointed us to a number of testimonials. Not data, to be sure, but a good first effort.

Let me make it easy for you. If you could just find out how many kids have been treated with chelation by one practitioner - you pick the one - and what percentage of those children got better, and what measures (you know, tests like the ADOS, ADI-R, SCQ) were used to compare them before and after treatment.

Surely the doctors who are chelating these kids are performing some simple standardized tests to follow their progress, right? Otherwise, how can they tell the difference between "improvement" because the child is older (and has developed further) and improvement due to their treatment. And how else would they be able to tell that their treatment isn't actually slowing development further?

Or are they just flying blind and hoping that they're doing some good? That was good enough when it was vitamins and minerals, but current "treatments" are not only more expensive, they are also much more dangerous.

It's time to stop blaming everyone else for your lack of data and either show us the numbers or have the guts to admit that you don't really have any data.



Prometheus

02 February, 2006 21:40  
Blogger Kev said...

"Let's clarify something here. Asking questions that you can't answer is not being abusive. Disagreeing with you is not abuse. You threw me off your blog because you could not defend your position. At least Prometheus has the guts to disagree with me head on while you hide behind the "delete" button like a scared little jackrabbit."

You asked no questions that haven't been answered. I asked you several times to moderate your tone or be banned - you did't.

I threw you off because you are an abusive waste of time. You can't be argued with as you refuse to engage on any level except naked hostility.

You also recived warnings from the recent online AWARES conference about your behaviour, and even the EoH list moderator slapped you down publicly recently.

I have absolutely no qualms about taking you on - I just have to clear a path in my schedule to make room for the enormous waste of time it would be.

You're a zealot John. Your life would be much easier if you could find a way to stop hating and attacking and try to find a way to accept some responsibility and deal with the hand life dealt you.

02 February, 2006 23:23  
Blogger notmercury said...

Fore Sam said...
Notmercury;
You've been hornswaggled by sophists.


Perhaps, though I don't think I've met any sophists. Is that some sort of religious group?

To be honest, I would have to say I was somewhat "hornswaggled" by anti vaccine zealots like yourself in the past and it's highly unlikely that I will be "hornswaggled" by any group in the future.

I understand your mentality, I shared it to some degree, though I'd like to think I was better able to argue my beliefs. The fact is, there is no way to rationalize how my one child would become autistic following vaccination and my second (unvaccinated) child would follow a similar course. It makes no sense and I've chosen to speak that simple truth rather than look for scraps of pseudoscience to preserve my ego.

03 February, 2006 05:21  
Anonymous Fore Sam said...

Prometheus;
Follow the money is an interesting proposition. You claim it may be applied with greater impact to my side of the argument. Consider the dollars involved if 100,000 lawsuits were filed and won on behalf of autistic children. I think $10 million would be a small price per child considering the cost involved to care for these kids over their lifetimes, not to mention the damage incurred by the whole family who has their life disrupted by autism 24 hours a day. That's One Trillion dollars and I think it's a low estimate of what it could cost if all these people could win those lawsuits and the juries were very stingy. The real cost could be much higher. The drug companies can't possibly pay that money but they could all be put out of business in the process. So who gets stuck with the bill of caring for these kids? The politicians have taken the bribes (campaign contributions) and have essentially blocked the lawsuits. The taxpayers will be stuck with that bill for education ($70K per year for my kid) home health aides ($40K per year for my kid) and other smaller expenses plus lifetime care. A DAN doctor may charge roughly 8 to 10 thousand for everything involved. It isn't costing me anything near that number since I do it without a doctor. It'd be nice if insurance would help with my bills for chelation but I can live with it.
So, do these numbers sound reasonable to you? In whose best interest is it to spend whatever it takes lobbying to block those lawsuits?
You like the word conspiracy while I think coverup is more appropriate. What high paid government employee is going to risk their job to counter the wishes of the bribed politicians to expose the truth? What drug company scientist will risk destroying their company? How many TV networks want to lose the drug company advertising? How many newspapers want to lose drug company advertising? What doctor will incur the wrath of his colleagues by admitting that they played a role in poisoning babies? (Luckily for our kids, some have done that.) These are the questions your side won't address. You know by now I'm no scientist so I can't debate the specifics of the science. The money involved puts all of the science into question from those who deny the link. Things like Simpsonwood, the Geier's lack of access to the CDC data and Verstraeten with all of the rewrites taken together just add up to a desperate coverup.
You have an excellent point about getting some data from chelation doctors. I'd like to see that too. In the meantime, it's in my son's best interests to find whatever help is available NOW rather than waiting for the AMA to approve treatment for something that will make them look foolish.

03 February, 2006 07:17  
Anonymous Fore Sam said...

Congratulations Kevin;
Once again, you engage in your nonsense. You talk about being warned from a make believe conference that I'm sure all of your pals from AutAdvo had lots of fun at at my expense. You claim I was "slapped down" with some comments I made on a list where you must be a spy since I've never seen your comments there. Of course, you don't bother to mention subsequent comments by others who affirm what I had to say and you don'tknow what went on in private Emails relative to that comment. Good fallacious arguments, Kev.
Name calling is also one of your virtues as you prove by calling me a zealot.
You equate hating and attacking the people who poisoned my baby with their negligence with irresponsibility. That's another ploy by one who can't defend his position of refusing to help his own kid. Decent parents look out for their children's interests, Kevin. They don't sit back and take it. They don't subscribe to nonsense like neurodiversity that advocates leaving the mercury in the kids' brains to rot.

03 February, 2006 09:11  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

Fore Sam, I thought we had an implicit agreement. Running away from that?

You equate hating and attacking the people who poisoned my baby with their negligence with irresponsibility.

Once again, prove that they poisoned your kid. Repeating an unproven statement doesn't make it true.

Decent parents look out for their children's interests.

So, why aren't you trying to prove the existence of the poisoning? Why aren't you trying to prove chelation works? Why are you so opposed to researching chelation?

They don't subscribe to nonsense like neurodiversity that advocates leaving the mercury in the kids' brains to rot.

What mercury? How did that mercury get there? I answered your irrelevant question. Answer mine.

03 February, 2006 09:51  
Blogger Prometheus said...

Fore Sam,

So, you're saying that, apart from your impressions based on your son and the testimonials from other parents (and none, I note, from any who have seen chelation fail to improve their children), you have no data whatsoever to suport your repeated emphatic claims that chelation treatment improves autistic signs and symptoms. I think that deserves to be emphasized, so let me say it again:

You are publicly admitting that you have no data whatsoever - apart from stories told by people who believe that it "works" - to support your repeated claims that chelation treatment improves the condition of autistic children.

When you put it that way - you know, without the verbal window-dressing and distracting counter-claims - it sounds pretty foolish, doesn't it. You are advocating that parents engage in a course of treatment that has only the testimonials of those parents who have seen their children improve to support it.

What about the parents who have not seen any improvement on chelation therapy? They exist, you know. In fact, there is some evidence that they may constitute the majority of parents who have tried chelation on their autistic children.

It's almost funny - I keep asking you for data and you keep bringing back anecdotes, anger and conspiracy theories. It's like you can't understand what I'm asking for - or maybe you just keep getting distracted.

If you can come up with some data, I'll be more than happy to give it my undivided attention. If it's good data, I could be convinced to change my mind. You see, as a scientist, I expect to periodically find new information that will rearrange the way I see the world.

That's what open-mindedness is - not simply believing whatever resonates with my anger and frustration, but weighing the data and making an intelligent assessment of reality.

Oh, and FYI, the AMA - that bugaboo of "alt-med" - has only 18% of US doctors as members. The AMA doesn't "approve" or "disapprove" of any treatments - they don't have the authority or, quite frankly, the membership to do that. Your use of that particular "scare tactic" is just more evidence of the inherent poverty of your argument.

Keep trying - you'll get it eventually.


Prometheus

03 February, 2006 10:00  
Blogger clone3g said...

What's al this about rotting brains? Sounds like that would require some sort of microbial decomposition. I would think such a thing would show up on any number of radiological studies performed on autistic brains. I really don't recall seeing anything about that but please feel free to present evidence of brain rot if you are able.

Now, isn't thimerosal and mercury in general an antiseptic/antimicrobial? I think that's why it was used in the first place, to protect vaccine recipients from microbial contamination and subsequent infection. Wouldn't a brain full of such things be protected against rot?

03 February, 2006 10:02  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

They don't subscribe to nonsense like neurodiversity that advocates leaving the mercury in the kids' brains to rot.

And we have a new, apparently unsubstantiated claim: That mercury is an unremovable (except by chelation) catalyst in the poisoning, and not just a reagent.

So, anyone here know what reactions the mercury goes through to cause the damage? And Fore Sam, do you happen know how the chelation reverses those reactions?

03 February, 2006 10:05  
Anonymous Fore Sam said...

Prometheus;
We'll have the data you demand eventually. Maybe then, you will pay heed to the money. I can't help but notice you avoid comment.

03 February, 2006 10:22  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

We'll have the data you demand eventually.

Translation: You've got nothing but faith, and want us to act on that faith.. Confession of zealotry noted.

03 February, 2006 10:30  
Blogger Prometheus said...

Fore Sam,

Thank you for reminding me! The money!

Now, let's follow the money. Fore Same projects a windfall from a class-action lawsuit of about a trillion dollars. Of course, at least a third of this (plus "expenses") will go to the attorneys. But who will end up paying this money?

The U.S. Government.

That's right, you and me - our money, via the U.S. Treasury Department.

And the vaccine manufacturers? They won't pay a dime. Why? Because of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP - http://www.hrsa.gov/osp/vicp/ ). Established in 1988, the VICP essentially insures the vaccine manufacturers, paying out any claims against them.

So, explain to me just one more time why the vaccine manufacturers would want to "cover up" vaccine injury - especially in light of the fact that they don't have to pay for any claims.

In fact, about the only way that the vaccine manufacturers could be held directly liable (i.e. not be covered by the VICP) is if they deliberately (or, I suppose, negligently) concealed a problem with the vaccines. They know this, and so have exactly zero incentive to conceal a possible problem with a vaccine.

Quite to the contrary, the vaccine manufacturers have every incentive to make absolutely sure that any problems they discover with the vaccines are promptly reported.

So, how about suing the doctors? Well, as you know, anything goes in a court case, which is why it is impossible to draw any scientific conclusions from their outcome. Still, I doubt that "the government" or "Big Pharma" have much interest in joining a conspiracy to protect pediatricians and family practitioners. Hard to see the money there, except for a bunch of trial lawyers.

Here's an idea. Maybe the whole thimerosal-causes-autism idea is a conspiracy among a few groups of trial lawyers aiming to rack up a big score. From what I hear, the law firms involved have been collecting money from interested parents - not a whole lot from each family (the number I heard was $1000), but it adds up. Why not? It makes as much sense as the other conspiracy theory - in fact, it makes more sense.

So, Fore Sam, did you like following the money? No matter how you do the math, the folks on the "mercury-causes-autism" side stand to make more than the folks on the "other" side stand to gain or lose.

And I guess that's a "no" on the data, eh?



Prometheus

03 February, 2006 11:34  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

It makes as much sense as the other conspiracy theory - in fact, it makes more sense.

Especially since chelators and their lawyers don't have to silence anyone. Juries typically don't pay attention to data.

The Big Pharma conspiracy, on the other hand, requires that they silence millions of doctors, nurses, concerned citizens, scientifically minded people, burn all the chemistry books that contain the real energy of formation of thimerosal, silence all the chemists who wish to find out that energy of formation, and all the chemists who try to extract Hg++ from thimerosal.

03 February, 2006 11:39  
Anonymous Fore Sam said...

Prometheus;
I thought VICP was established in 1986. One error in your assessment. Most of us are beyond the 3 year statute of limitations so, after they throw our case out which cost me $150, we are free to sue the manufacturers in state courts. I haven't checked with my lawyer to see how the Senate's Christmas present to Pharma affects that. The govt. won't have to pay a dime if we win our cases through state courts. Most of the money we get will then go to care for our autistic kids. Nobody is going to get rich by winning one of these cases. That's why the vaccine manufacturers have to cover up their crime of negligence. Things like Verstraeten and Simpsonwood do demonstrate that they are intentionally continuong to poison babies to cut costs. The Christmas wording may get them around even that though. It will be interesting when China and India figure this out. Maybe one of them will just nuke DC to get even. Nah, the drug companies probably paid off their leaders too.
The doctors can't be sued because of something called "standard of practice". I learned about that when I wanted to file charges against my son's doctor. I'd rather see him go to jail than take his money but I found out that that law protects him. So, while pediatricians can escape the lawsuits, it is their reputations that may suffer damage by us winning the suits. They will come looking no better than the guys who used to give you a slug of whiskey and tell you to bite on a bullet while they cut an arrow out of you. I don't think they want that.
Does this help you understand how these suits could put all the vaccine manufacturers out of business? Maybe you can tell me if Pharma is protected by International Law in case the Asians get wise to their negligence.

03 February, 2006 14:39  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

And this massive conspiracy theory is designed to cover up something that anyone with a high school chemistry book and basic algebra could find out, if it were reasonably possible.

So, how is Big Pharma silencing all the people on Earth with those skills, Fore Sam?

03 February, 2006 15:36  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

That's why the vaccine manufacturers have to cover up their crime of negligence. Things like Verstraeten and Simpsonwood do demonstrate that they are intentionally continuong to poison babies to cut costs.

In fact, about the only way that the vaccine manufacturers could be held directly liable (i.e. not be covered by the VICP) is if they deliberately (or, I suppose, negligently) concealed a problem with the vaccines. They know this, and so have exactly zero incentive to conceal a possible problem with a vaccine.

Quite to the contrary, the vaccine manufacturers have every incentive to make absolutely sure that any problems they discover with the vaccines are promptly reported.


I think from this it should be obvious that Fore Sam never bothered to read Prometheus's post.

Additionally, I think Fore Sam is, just like that Kennedy guy, making stuff up about those documents. Show us those documents, Fore Sam, or [Stooping_to_his_level] do you have something to hide? [/Stooping]

03 February, 2006 18:05  
Anonymous Fore Sam said...

BD;
Pharma isn't silencing everybody. They aren't silencing me. They didn't silence Kirby. Their control of the media is certainly helping though.
As for your other questions BD, you'll just have to wait until you decide to answer my question.

03 February, 2006 18:44  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

I did. I'm answering again: I'm not a doctor. I don't own any stock in pharma. How many times do I have to tell you that?! You can't stop people from reading the three times I've now answered your question. No amount of denial is going to cover up the truth that is plainly visible here and on Respectful Insolence. So STOP RUNNING AWAY FROM YOUR COMMITMENTS! Stop putting up this childish stonewall of "No you didn't!"

Besides, why silence yourself? Here, you have the opportunity to prove me wrong by answering a very, very simple question. Why won't you take it? Why are you so opposed to answering such a simple question about the core of your beliefs?

03 February, 2006 18:52  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

Oh, and what control of the media? The media mindless latches onto your non-truth everytime because outrage generates ratings. Especially false outrage, since it can last forever.

03 February, 2006 18:55  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

Oh, and it seems I was right: The Simpsonwood document says nothing that you say it does.

Original text here.

03 February, 2006 19:09  
Anonymous Fore Sam said...

Prometheus;
I apologize for all the posts back and forth with Bronze Dog. This all started on Orac's blog which I have just been thrown off, I presume for my sarcastic remark to BD and a thousand posts on the same subject. His incessant baiting makes it imperative to me to determine his motivation before I can answer any more of his questions to which he won't give an honest answer. I won't bother with him again or tie up your blog with this nonsense as you seem a decent human being and have allowed me to disagree with your position with no apparent ill-will. Thank you.

03 February, 2006 20:39  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

I've answered your question over on Respectful Insolence more specifically, now that you've finally hinted that you wanted more specifivity, instead of just mindlessly saying "No you didn't!"

Asking questions about the topic of discussion is baiting? And asking about completely irrelevant things like my job and motivations isn't? I've already told you my motivation: Helping children. Why didn't you accept that answer when you first asked it? Unlike you, my actions are completely consistent with that motivation.

03 February, 2006 22:24  
Blogger Kev said...

I'm pleased to see that even with minimal goading, as ever, you can't conceal your true nature John.

"You talk about being warned from a make believe conference that I'm sure all of your pals from AutAdvo had lots of fun at at my expense."

John has decided that an online conference hosted by AWARES was set up and run by myself - the sole task was to entrap John. Somehow, I apparently managed to get David Kirby and Sallie Bernard, Darold Traffart, Eric Fombonne and many many others involved in this jape.

John, I ask this in all seriousness - are you aware how foolish this kind of rabid ego/paranoia makes you look?

"You claim I was "slapped down" with some comments I made on a list where you must be a spy since I've never seen your comments there."

I claim it because its true. And I posted there fairly frequently at one time. The Yahoo groups have a search facility, check for yourself.

"Good fallacious arguments, Kev."

I used it to demonstrate that you are universally thought of as an irritant.

"That's another ploy by one who can't defend his position of refusing to help his own kid."

You mean 'refuse to chelate my kid, right? Because as you well know, we intervene in various other non-dangerous, valid ways.

"Decent parents look out for their children's interests, Kevin. They don't sit back and take it."

To be thought of as a bad parent by you John, is indicative that I'm definitely doing something right. Thanks.

04 February, 2006 00:56  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

"Good fallacious arguments, Kev."

In what way are they fallacious? Please tell us what logical fallacies he has performed.

04 February, 2006 05:02  
Anonymous John Best said...

Kevin;
You said above you have "no qualms about taking me on" yet I post one comment on your blog talking about methyl B-12 and you hid behind the delete key again. You showed your true colors again, Kevin. My comment could not have been construed as offensive in any manner but you could not defend your position and took the cowards way out.
Sallie Bernard and David Kirby were not at your sham conference. Frank Klein told me he set the whole thing up, but you knew that,Kevin. So, now you come on here and lie about it. I'm sure you all had a good laugh for yourselves but now, you have publicly shown everyone that you are a liar and a coward.
One who speaks the truth and has the guts to face any sane questioning may well be thought of as an irritant. That's fine. It just shows me I'm doing a good job. Thanks for the cudos. Maybe someday you'll have the guts to defend your position like a man. I noticed several of your associates went to the bother of attacking my position on your blog like adults but you wimped out again by deleting my thoughts because you were unable to pose any rebuttal.

04 February, 2006 05:30  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

I'm sure you all had a good laugh for yourselves but now, you have publicly shown everyone that you are a liar and a coward.

If it's public, how about showing us a link?

Thanks for the cudos. Maybe someday you'll have the guts to defend your position like a man.

This from someone who won't present his case if I don't play his game.

04 February, 2006 06:02  
Blogger clone3g said...

Cudos? Did you mean the rabid St. Bernard (Not Sallie) in the Stephen King novel and movie? That was Cujo, John.

The film was supposed to be a thriller but I guess rabid animals just don't scare me. Sure they can be vicious, but their minds just aren't working right so they are easily outfoxed.

04 February, 2006 08:21  
Blogger Kev said...

"You said above you have "no qualms about taking me on" yet I post one comment on your blog talking about methyl B-12 and you hid behind the delete key again. You showed your true colors again, Kevin. My comment could not have been construed as offensive in any manner but you could not defend your position and took the cowards way out."

You're banned John. Simple as that. You had your chance and you fouled it up. Everytimt I come across a comment by you I'll simply delete it. Of course, shoukd you decide to apologise for the abusive psts and emails you've sent me I'll be happy to reinstate your posting priveledges.

"Sallie Bernard and David Kirby were not at your sham conference. Frank Klein told me he set the whole thing up, but you knew that,Kevin. So, now you come on here and lie about it. I'm sure you all had a good laugh for yourselves but now, you have publicly shown everyone that you are a liar and a coward."

I doubt very much Frank told you anything of the sort John and if he did he was having a laugh at your expense. The AWARES conference was set up by AWARES, nobody else. Sallie Bernard and David Kirby were both invited speakers. Its amazing to me how paranoid you are. Truly amazing that you think I arranged all these people to attedn a conference with the sole intention of setting you up. There'll be another one later this year apparently. I guess that one's set up just for you too?

"One who speaks the truth and has the guts to face any sane questioning may well be thought of as an irritant."

And someone incapable of doing anything other than simply thrashing about in a pool of their own bile is definitely an irritant.

"I noticed several of your associates went to the bother of attacking my position on your blog like adults but you wimped out again by deleting my thoughts because you were unable to pose any rebuttal."

I simply can't be bothered with you John. There's absolutely zero point in trying to debate you because you don't debate you just repeat bits of your belief system and quote GR as 'proof'. You misunderstand just about all of the science done in this arena and can't grasp even simple facts such as autism existing in diagnosed form at least 60 years before thiomersal was put into vaccines.

There's nothing to defend here John, your position is both laughable and untenable. I therefore engage you solely to demonstrate what sort of person you are to others who may feel there's some merit to be had from discussing autism with you.

04 February, 2006 21:36  
Anonymous John Best said...

Kevin;
Actions speak louder than words. Having "no qualms about taking me on" means just that. You aren't man enough to live up to your words.

05 February, 2006 04:36  
Blogger ballastexistenz said...

One of the reasons patients keep returning to quacks is also the intimidation factor.

Many quacks will use certain tactics to convince you that if you don't do exactly what they say, you will die, and if the treatment causes you harm, it means you're getting better.

05 February, 2006 08:32  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

Funny, considering your sorts of actions on these blogs. You play the pointless motivation game instead of presenting any sort of case. You become abusive on Kev's blog and claim that it was your opposing opinion that made him ban you, and not your barbarism. And, just now, he's offered you a simple way to return to posting, and you ignore it, since acknowledging it would destroy your attempt at looking like a martyr.

05 February, 2006 08:33  
Blogger Bronze Dog said...

Oh, and ballast is right on the money there. Fore Sam talks of mercury staying in to "rot" the brain, even though I see no way how the mercury would stay in: It would react, form a strong bond with something and become effectively inert and/or be flushed out of the body some way or another.

It's just a specific form of the detox scares: They expect you to believe that the human body is completely incapable of damage control.

It's an easy way to keep someone coming back. Especially for people who can easily misattribute the real cause for improvement, or people who are subject to the regressive fallacy and don't know it.

05 February, 2006 08:38  
Blogger Prometheus said...

To All:

Sorry to be absent for the past few days - a recent storm took out the local phone lines and cable and we have been living in electronically primitive conditions until just recently.

To John Best/Fore Sam:

Clearly you have some personal axes to grind with Kev and Bronze Dog. How about "taking it outside", as they used to say where I grew up? I don't appreciate you using my blog to carry on a personal argument.

Further, you seem to be very hung up on the "...like a man..." concept. Are you implying that women have no moral courage and are incapable of fighting for what they believe in? If so, I direct your attention to the myriad women in history (and in the present time) who have done just that.

Let me make this perfectly clear - if your intent is to turn this blog into a bar-room brawl, I will delete your posts so fast you'll think they were never there. If, on the other hand, you argue in a rational, civilized fashion, you are welcome to stay.

I have turned on comment moderation for the time being in order to let the testosterone clear out a bit.


Prometheus.

05 February, 2006 12:21  

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