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ChOPRAH PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

34i1y0jSigh. This is ugly. Really really ugly. The Huffington Post has been getting bashed by skeptics lately for being credulous at best and downright silly at worst. And now I can see why.

Most of you know that Oprah was called to task in Newsweek recently. I was going to mention it in Swift, but I  stopped myself for two reasons: 1) everyone else mentioned it, and 2) it lauded Dr. Mehmet Oz as a voice of reason on Oprah's show. He's not, and it doesn't take much research to see that.

Anyway, today, Deepak ChOPRAH weighed in on Oprah's side. Yes, I'm going to spell his name like that. Deal with it.

So here's the article. Please read it if you can. I won't blame you if you can't. I'm going to go through it here anyway.

ChOPRAH says:

The (Newsweek) story failed to gain traction for obvious reasons. Oprah has aired innumerable shows on health, of which the controversial ones are a tiny minority. Her intention to improve women's lives on all fronts is so obvious as to be almost above criticism. The credibility for women's well-being and welfare she has earned day after day over the past two decades will not be undone with a story that cherry-picks the guests who can be made easy targets of ridicule by the medical establishment. And the fact that she has celebrity guests who have causes and crusades in the area of health, such as Jenny McCarthy or Suzanne Somers, is not the same as Oprah herself endorsing what they say.

Ok, please. Deepak, spare us your manipulative rhetoric. The piece failed to gain traction? I don't see it stuck in the snow anywhere... it was all over the place, and got enough "traction" for you to respond to it. As for her intention to "improve women's lives," consider that she's a billionaire. She earned it, I have no qualms about that, but she earned it the old fashioned way: her intention was to make as much money as possible.  And to say that Oprah doesn't endorse Jenny McCarthy is simply dishonest. She gave her a show!

Here's another howler from ChOPRAH: "The criticism the medical establishment is directing at Oprah through this article only exposes their own frustration in having squandered their credibility with the public." So, criticizing Oprah is tantamount to squandering credibility? Please. When he has a heart attack, I want to see where he ends up... if it's not an emergency room filled with "allopathic" medicine, I'll wear Kinoki pads for a week. And when he emerges from the hospital, who will he thank? It won't be the highly trained (and paid) surgeons who saved his life, I'm sure.

See, that is the truth here folks... "mainstream medicine" is indeed a for profit venture, but the best way to make money is to do what works. Sadly, some scam artists think they can call on "ancient wisdom" to sell things that don't work... and they call it "alternative medicine." There is no alternative medicine. There is just medicine. But of course YOU know this already...

There's so much to comment on here, that I have to skip to important parts. In the middle of the article, ChOPRAH cites some figures about alternative medicine. They are laughable. Here's some info, study by study:

Regarding the Seattle study, more than one study has shown that fake acupuncture is just as effective as real acupuncture. Clearly, it's not the acupuncture that's making the difference here.

Iatrogenic disease... yes, doctors make mistakes. People die left and right from alternative medicine too. Check Tim Farley's whatstheharm.net for more info on that. To suggest that alternative medicine is harmless is to lie through teeth.

81% of doctors take vitamins. Well, guess what? So do I. I take vitamin D daily. Why? My "allopathic" doctor prescribed it for me because I live in a state with very little sunlight in the winter and I stay indoors nearly all the time. Am I practicing alternative medicine? No! I'm doing something proven to stave off the disease rickets. That is medicine, no adjective needed.

He agrees that heart bypass grafts and balloon angioplasty relieve symptoms. And your point is? Tell you what, if I can live 10 years with pain or 10 years without, I'm going to take the risk. You do what you want.

ChOPRAH demonstrates the power of science when he talks about breast cancer. "In the past, such common procedures as hysterectomies and radical mastectomies were widely performed without testing their efficacy. Not until European results revealed that lumpectomies were often just as effective did American surgeons question the staunch support of mastectomies." Guess what? That's what science does! It learns, and improves, unlike "ancient wisdom" which persists despite new evidence.

And then he says that we spend too much on medicine. In this we agree. However, we spend way too much more on "alternative medicine." You call "big pharma" greedy? Check out these guys, and I'll show you real greed.

Ok, I'm going to stop here, as I'm getting angrier than I should. So, tell you what, why don't you take a look at the article, and post a comment on some of the idiocy that I missed. And while you're at it, take a look at the comments on the article itself on Huffington Post. I fear for our future.

I often say that skepticism isn't a holy war, but damn, on this issue, I wish it was. The public is being lied to by people who should know better, and folks are suffering and dying because of it. If that's not something to be angry about, I don't know what is.

Thanks to e^n from the skepticsrock chatroom for the image.

 

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written by kaivulagi, June 09, 2009
Kudos Jeff.

p.s. I really dig that morphed image.
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written by daveg703, June 09, 2009
Empathy is running high here. Ignorance by itself is no crime. Insistence on remaining ignorant in defiance of solid evidence is deplorable and stupid, but deliberate dissemination of ignorance to 40 million people really is a crime- in the moral if not the legal sense.
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written by MadScientist, June 09, 2009
Were you expecting anything other than nonsense from Deepak "Master Woo Peddler" Chopra?
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written by Basscadet, June 09, 2009
I wonder if Deepak's quantum anti-aging methods become problematic when dealing with state authorities as he will claim to be 250 years old and look like 50.

Solid evidence? Average life expectancy has soared in this age and time because of ancient woo woo practices or modern medicine? All around us is pure chemistry, physics, mathematics, and as jeff says when the time comes all those alternative hacks either die from neglect expecting miracle cures or hurriedly enter normal hospitals.

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written by mazyloron, June 10, 2009
Yes, I'm going to spell his name like that. Deal with it.

Ha! Best line of the whole article.
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More accurately...
written by BillyJoe, June 10, 2009
There is no alternative medicine. There is just medicine
More accurately, there is Evidence Based Medicine (EBM). Or Science Based Medicine (SBM) which is EBM + plausibility. "Conventional Medicine" also some problems with evidence (see below).

fake acupuncture is just as effective as real acupuncture

fake acupuncture is just as effective as real acupuncture???smilies/grin.gif

That's like saying that a particular drug is as effective as the placebo it was tested against. Big Pharma would not get away with that. But there seems to be a different rule for AltMed.
Really, this is just a dishonest conclusion from a study which, in fact, provides evidence for the null hypothesis that acupuncture does not work. What the conclusion should have read was

"Acupuncture no better than placebo"


Not until European results revealed that lumpectomies were often just as effective did American surgeons question the staunch support of [radical] mastectomies." Guess what? That's what science does! It learns, and improves,
(I think you meant radical mastectomies)
But "conventional medicine" indeed made a terrible mistake by initially adopting this procedure before actually conducting clinical trials to see whether such a radical prodcedure was necessary. Countless women were maimed and disfigured by this failure of "conventional medicine".

regards,
BillyJoe
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written by Gord_in_Toronto, June 10, 2009
What's the matter doc? I see you are now wearing eyeglasses. Did you exercises not work?

http://www.tbyil.com/Deepak_Chopra_Eye_Exercises.htm

Did you not follow the advice in SEEING DEEPLY written by your chum Dr. Roberto Kaplan?

http://beyond2020vision.com/seeing

On which "Deepak Chopra M.D., author of Quantum Healing, comments "The Power Behind Your Eyes is and important book that can help you create new vision for your life.""

Come to think of it, you are not looking as good as some 63 year olds I know.

Doctor heal thyself. smilies/cheesy.gif
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Oprah Winfrey disgusts me
written by Michieux, June 10, 2009
I read the Newsweek article and I think they were kind to Winfrey. The damage this woman does through her billion-dollar business is incalculable.

I dropped Huffpost because of their uncritical, unreasonable stance on these issues, as I would and will any other so-called "authoritative" blog/news-site, etc.

Thank you, Jeff. I don't agree with everything you've written throughout this blog but in this instance you are spot-on, in my opinion.

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written by Rustylizard, June 10, 2009
You can also go to the oprah.com site and submit a comment. The problem is, they demand your phone number. Can you trust them with it? Well, they hardly seem trustworthy to begin with, and their privacy policy didn’t convince me otherwise. But for skeptics who don’t mind the risk of receiving marketing calls, it’s another option to voice your displeasure.
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Be Kind
written by Realitysage, June 10, 2009
After all, the colossal target audience for a claptrap afternoon show like Ms. Winfrey's seemingly have mush for brains which explains why it's such a ratings winner. Desire reason? I suggest Randi TV.....
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written by trawnajim, June 10, 2009
Someday I'd like to meet Mr. ChOPRAH's well-endowed sister, Deecup.
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Not allopathic please
written by Skeptico, June 10, 2009
Jeff, here is no such thing as an "allopathic doctor". The term allopathic was just something the homeopaths made up to distinguish themselves from real doctors.
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written by Kuroyume, June 10, 2009
You can also go to the oprah.com site and submit a comment. The problem is, they demand your phone number. Can you trust them with it? Well, they hardly seem trustworthy to begin with, and their privacy policy didn’t convince me otherwise. But for skeptics who don’t mind the risk of receiving marketing calls, it’s another option to voice your displeasure.


If your phones are on the so-called National Do Not Call Registry you should be safe. Though that doesn't prevent them from using email/mail marketing or door-to-door sales.
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written by stacyhead, June 10, 2009
"Does the most brilliant researcher in the world know why cancer sometimes spontaneously disappears? "-Huffington Post
Yes, cancer does sometimes spontaneously disappear. It's called surgical excision.
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written by BillyJoe, June 10, 2009
Jeff, here is no such thing as an "allopathic doctor".
Hmmm, yes, I missed that one.
Let's first take the splinters out of our own eyes.

EDITED BY JEFFWAGG: There's a reason the word is in quotes. smilies/smiley.gif
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Normative Empirical Conflation
written by Liveliest Crib, June 10, 2009
Her intention to improve women's lives on all fronts is so obvious as to be almost above criticism.

Riiiiiiiiiiggggggghhhhhhttttt! Because it's the intention that makes one above criticism in this realm. No, no, I loved my baby. That's why I fed him laundry detergent, because I heard from celebrities I trust that doing so makes relieves the pain of baby headaches. My intentions are good. I am beyond above criticism!

It's common, in my experience, for advocates of woo to be unable to distinguish between moral intentions and empirical reality. Why, for instance, do they insist on using homeopathy over medicine? Because the big pharmaceutical companies are evil, and just want to make money off of our potential addictions. Homeopaths are caring nurturers.

If there are political and economic problems with our distribution of scientific medicine, it is reason to reform our political and economic systems, not abandon the science. Good intentions do not make woo woo real, and certainly does not make its purveyors like Oprah beyond criticism.
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Woo Woo Hoo Hoo
written by DKrap, June 10, 2009
I read through most of the Newsweek article. I do not watch the Oprah Winfrey show as I have always found it to be, well, not real. Now, I would suggest that a new category of fake science be created to honor Ms. Winfrey for her contributions to the continued ignorance of her viewers - she should be in the category of "woo woo hoo hoo!" Recently, there was an MSNBC article that highlighed the finding that many vitamins and supplements were not actually pure or did not contain what was on the label, either in ingredients, dose or purity. Does Suzanee Somers even know if the synthetic hormones she buys (for big bucks I'm sure) are actually hormones? For all she kows, she is getting some purified (if she is lucky) water that has inert ingredients added to make the concoction seem real. It's too bad there is not some significantly popular and rich personality behind true science and medicine. This sordid affair is a testament to the gullibility of the masses.
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Woo woo No no
written by Michael K Gray, June 10, 2009
Oprah does way too much actual harm to bestow such an amusingly trivial title in her name as: "Woo Woo Hoo Hoo".
Any new category should reflect the actual massive and serious harm to people and infants that she is indirectly manifesting.
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written by BillyJoe, June 10, 2009
EDITED BY JEFFWAGG: There's a reason the word is in quotes. smilies/smiley.gif
Yes, I was responding to Sceptico, so i blame him for the false steer.

And now I remember why I didn't add it to my list of three "not quite totally correct bits" in your article. smilies/cool.gif

BJ
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written by bosshog, June 11, 2009
If the major portion of humanity wasn't gullible there would not be skeptics' sites like this one for the minority.
The human race may be slowly shedding itself of religion but it still flocks after priests (and priestesses).
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Do what works?
written by Paolo, June 11, 2009
You said: " See, that is the truth here folks... "mainstream medicine" is indeed a for profit venture, but the best way to make money is to do what works.

Really? Mainstream medicine's best way to make money is to do what works? I guess that includes fraud and endangering the public health, that makes money. That would be "mainstream medicine" committing fraud and endangering the public health as a for profit motive.
See http://www.lawyersandsettlemen...-data.html for just one example.

NO ONE has all the answers and "mainstream medicine" is hardly free of quackery and outright BS because of its "for profit venture" nature---where one cannot easily tell if the "for profit" comes before the "what works" part as long as the "what works" part is defined as public health and not more profit. If "mainstream medicine" could be trusted to be really for the people ABOVE for profit, it would be much harder for any "alternative medicine" to be credible.
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Can I Call 'Em?
written by Liveliest Crib, June 11, 2009
Like I said, there is rampant empirical and normative conflation.

To wit, Paolo said,

NO ONE has all the answers
Of course not. But such does not justify simply trying out some purported alternative to scientific medicine. Any profferred remedy can be subjected to scientific scrutiny to determine whether it works. It's roots in some ancient culture or supposedly "natural" origins are irrelevant. It has either been demonstrated to work under controlled conditions, or it has not. So, while no one has "all the answers," only science has a method for finding the answers to empirical claims like "eating this will cause your pain to subside."

and "mainstream medicine" is hardly free of quackery and outright BS because of its "for profit venture" nature---where one cannot easily tell if the "for profit" comes before the "what works" part as long as the "what works" part is defined as public health and not more profit.
It's not that medicine is "mainstream" or "alternative." Those terms are not applicable here. Whether a remedy works is independent from the motives of those who proffer it.

I will agree with one thing -- there is indeed money to be made through fraud. While some practitioners of scientific medicine probably engage in fraudulent practices, practitioners of some "alternative" brand of medicine are fraudulent by definition.

In my home country, the U.S.A., we have enormous political and economic problems when it comes to creating new medicines and distributing health care in a fair and decent manner. Horrific problems. I know them first hand. But they're normative problems that require solutions at the political level. Whether a particular medicine actually does what its proponents say it does is a wholly separate issue -- an empirical one that will only be answered through the scientific method.

If "mainstream medicine" could be trusted to be really for the people ABOVE for profit, it would be much harder for any "alternative medicine" to be credible.
Please. People so often mistrust scientific medicine because they don't understand it -- the complexities of the human body, the rocket science that is the invention of new molecules to combat disease, the side effects of medication. So, they look for the warm, smiling face of someone who offers a simplistic alternative, one claimed to be "natural" and "free of side effects." Wish thinking and placebo effects are enough to create repeat business.

I won't argue that scientific medicine could use better PR, but the motives of its practitioners have nothing to do with whether the science behind the medicine is sound. If we want people to trust medicine based in science over superficially appealing, but lethal alternatives, we need to educate people about science.
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Call 'em in credibility
written by Paolo, June 14, 2009
My original post was specifically directed at the assertion by Jeff in the article that "the best way to make money is to do what works," where my point is that the medical establishment cannot be trusted when money is the primary motivator over the public good and/or health. This is evidenced by the link I provided to FDA and drug company fraud and endangerment of health under the guise of "established science." Here is the link again: http://www.lawyersandsettlemen...-data.html

When a lack of credibility exists and persists, as is prevalent in our society in many, many industries (financial manipulation anyone?), the stage is set to create a free-for-all of charlatans from ALL sides of the fence. Today, it sometimes seems that there are more charlatans that not, in way too many areas of life. This is not a healthy environment.

Is the "science behind the medicine" (or any other field) sound? Well, Liveliest Crib in particular, just how is the lay person supposed to know that without advanced degrees in innumerable subjects? Welcome to America, where science was selectively censored by the Bush admin and Dr. Catherine DeAngelis, editor of JAMA claims that misleading research is often published in major medical journals and doctors are lending their names to it. (http://www.reuters.com/article...7620080415).

Maybe we can use the scientific method to find out which scientific methods were done scientifically? !

You can revel in the the purity of actual science done honestly and reported correctly and clearly. It is a joy when that happens. But, that perfect case scenario does not always happen. It might even be more theoretical than actual! (perish the thought!) We need to address the lack of HONESTY and transparency of the scientific method as it is perceived/presented in our culture FIRST. Without the credibility of the "scientific method" as it is perceived/presented by the everyday person, who is getting more cynical by the minute, evidenced at the tip of the iceberg by the links I provided, you will never disprove a Chopra or Oprah or anyone like them because the system used to disprove them is not credible.

To be clear, I am not saying the scientific method is not credible. I am saying that dishonesty in the either the reporting, application, statistical methods, omission of data or somesuch contained in or derived from the scientific method, usually for financial gain, makes it extremely difficult to trust what is presented as the "scientific method" and therefore any results that go along with it, and that that issue needs to be dealt with first, rather than lamenting all the "charlatans out there."

I am not entirely stupid and I find it rather difficult to get to the bottom line of whatever the "real science" is, if I can get there at all. You are probably smarter than me, and most of the population too, and don't have this problem, but what about the rest of us? Are we just out of luck, Darwin?

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written by BillyJoe, June 15, 2009
Paolo,

You have a point, but then again you don't.

Because there is fairly widespread misuse of the scientific method does not invalidate the method. There are pharmaceutical companies paying for comment and there are medical practitioners prepared to accept the cash. There are others who are prepared to call them on this and this is happening increasingly. You named one such person yourself. To say science disqualifies itself because there are those who misuse it makes as much sense as to say that evolutionary biologist disqualify themselves from criticising creationism because some evolutionists have supported and promoted social darwinism.

As for being a layman and not being able to tell which scientific research is reliable and which is not, well, welcome to reality. On the other hand, if you are really interested, you can familiarise yourself with all the requirements of a properly conducted clinical trial, get some practise reading clincal trials to spot the methodological errors and to decide whether the conclusions reached by the authors are justified by the results they obtained. If you really want to.

But there is no easy wasy, no.
One of our PMs once famously remarked "Life was not meant to be easy". That doesn't mean you should stop trying.

regards,
BillyJoe
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written by Steel Rat, July 09, 2009
HuffPo is noted for their lack of skepticism.
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