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Swift
Written by James Randi   

Readers will know that I've been expressing my objections to National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute [NIH/NCI] suggestions that acupuncture can/may/might offer relief of cancer treatment side-effects. I'll begin this entry by providing some explanatory background. I'm personally involved because I'm well into the process of chemotherapy, a "clean-up" procedure following a successful operation to remove a tumor. I prepared myself by reading up on the literature, and I must say that I'm doing very well - due to very recent improvements in the process, and new medications. I've experienced none of the possible nausea, though I'm weakened physically due to a decrease in red blood cells, and I have to avoid possible infection because of a lessened resistance. This, I hope, explains my considerable reaction to the irresponsible NIH/NCI comments on the efficacy of acupuncture for the relief of chemotherapy. A typical entry in the published literature on this subject reads:

Cancer-related fatigue is a substantial problem for cancer patients and their caregivers, but no effective treatment exists. Acupuncture has been suggested to improve cancer-related fatigue, but no randomized clinical trials have been conducted. We hypothesized that true acupuncture, compared with sham acupuncture, would reduce cancer-related fatigue in cancer patients receiving external radiation therapy. The aim of this study was to determine effect size and feasibility. A modified, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was conducted. The subject, clinical staff, and assessor were blinded, but the acupuncturist was not. Subjects received acupuncture once to twice per week during the 6-week course of radiation therapy. Data were collected at baseline, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, and 10 weeks, which was 4 weeks after that last radiation session. Twenty-seven subjects enrolled, and 23 completed the last data collection. Both true and sham acupuncture groups had improved fatigue, fatigue distress, quality of life, and depression from baseline to 10 weeks, but the differences between the groups were not statistically significant. The true acupuncture group improved 5.50 (SE, +/-1.4 points on the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Fatigue Subscale (FACIT-F), whereas the sham acupuncture group improved by 3.73 (SE +/-1.92) points. This difference was not statistically significant (p=.37). All subjects guessed that they were in the true acupuncture group. Our study was underpowered to find a statistically significant difference. To demonstrate a statistically significant improvement between true and sham acupuncture would require 75 subjects per group in a future study. Owing to poor recruitment, the feasibility of a larger trial using the same methodology is low. Despite being underpowered, it appears that subjects receiving true acupuncture may benefit more than subjects receiving sham acupuncture. In the discussion section, we review our experience with using a sham-needle controlled study.

The 308 references published are astonishing. It would be difficult, I believe, to find a more scattered, undefined, unsatisfactory collection of scientific papers. We find references to "acupressure" - not acupuncture - "points," and even "acupoint stimulating points," all borrowing on the thoroughly tarnished history of this variety of quackery, and yet hinting at new and exciting varieties of the notion.  Modifiers such as "inconclusive," "possibly," "suggestive," "provides some support," "warrants further investigation," and of course "might" and "may," stick up as warnings to the careful reader, and there are frequent appeals to the need for "more research," more funding, and larger databases.

However, the more obvious failing in these 308 examples is that a large percentage of them don't deal with acupuncture at all! They ramble on about "laser acupuncture" and "electro-acupuncture," which are not in any way related to the original medieval mythology, in any respect. The former involves no needle insertion - the very basic technique of the notion - and the latter deals with a modality that consists of passing pulsating low voltage between two areas of the skin surface, which results in validated reduction of discomfort in that area - but with the distinct danger of bringing about permanent loss of sensation in that area. But these are not acupuncture!

Several persons have reported to me that they first learned of acupuncture - for whatever exotic application - from pamphlets and booklets they found in hospital lobbies and physicians' waiting rooms, the assumption being that they were approved by the agencies in which they were found. I, myself, have found large stacks of such material dropped inside the doorways of both physicians and other medical agencies with which I've been in contact. In one case, I stopped an attendant at Broward General Hospital here in Florida from distributing piles of propaganda from the Jehovah Witnesses sect - who distinctly preach against any medical treatment of any sort - and from a quack clinic that offered various "vibrations" and "aura readings." To my dismay, I later discovered that the clinic - the Imperial Point Medical Center very near our office - offered $20 sessions of sitting near a glowing halite crystal to "balance human auras"... That crystal, the attendant proudly told me, was of "natural" sodium chloride mined in Romania - the glow was from a 14-watt bulb in the base of the device. He acknowledged that he knew it was common rock salt, but it sounded better to refer to it as halite...

Going to the Imperial Point website - http://www.browardhealth.org/?id=831&sid=4 I discovered that this center was surging ahead into the 14th century in regard to the latest in medical techniques. They report:

We are constantly expanding our therapeutic options to include additional techniques such as acupuncture, auricular therapy and craniosacral therapy.

Really? Well, let's look at what Wikipedia has to say about these breakthroughs in medical science. First, we know the value of acupuncture. The others:

Auriculotherapy, or auricular therapy, or ear acupuncture, or auriculoacupuncture is a form of alternative medicine based on the idea that the ear is a microsystem with the entire body represented on the auricle, the outer portion of the ear. Ailments of the entire body are assumed to be treatable by stimulation of the surface of the ear exclusively. Similar mappings are used in reflexology and iridology. These mappings are not based on or supported by any medical or scientific evidence.

In other words, a variety of acupuncture, pure quackery. Next:

Craniosacral therapy (also called CST, cranial osteopathy, also spelled CranioSacral bodywork or therapy) is a method of Complementary and alternative medicine used by physical therapists, massage therapists, naturopaths, chiropractors and osteopaths. A craniosacral therapy session involves the therapist placing their hands on the patient, which they say allows them to tune into what they call the craniosacral system. By gently working with the spine, the skull and its cranial sutures, diaphragms, and fascia, the restrictions of nerve passages are said to be eased, the movement of cerebrospinal fluid through the spinal cord can be optimized, and misaligned bones are said to be restored to their proper position. Craniosacral therapists use the therapy to treat mental stress, neck and back pain, migraines, TMJ Syndrome, and for chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia. There is no scientific support for major elements of the underlying model, there is little scientific evidence to support the therapy, and research methods that could conclusively evaluate the therapy's effectiveness have not been applied.

There's much more. Everything from applied kinesiology, Bach flower therapy, biomagnetic therapy, chiropractic "techniques," reflexology, to "vibrational medicine" is offered here.

To close this rant, I quote from one Chinese report on acupuncture which found barely significant results. They ended it with:

But more randomized, double blind, controlled trials with good designs are needed to confirm this result.

This is a totally wrong approach. The scientific approach would have read:

But more randomized, double blind, controlled trials with good designs are needed to provide enough data to confirm or deny this result.

The difference between the two statements? A scientist doesn't announce his conclusions in advance of examining a sufficiently large database, that's all! No scientist sets out to prove an opinion, a theory, or a conjecture; he sets out to examine whether or not an opinion, a theory, or a conjecture is, or is not, correct.

That's Science 101 - if not earlier...

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Upset
written by StudentLeung, August 06, 2009
The heart complications and now this, smilies/shocked.gif
So sorry to hear about this.

I've been checking around this site for years and years but this is the first time I've ever commented - just feel I have to with this post.

Throughout most of my high school career, I had done business and economics. I'm now finishing a 4 yr HnsB degree in Economics but have taken a special interest in the sciences, acquiring a minor. I used to take the faith healing ideas seriously but have since abandoned such thoughts. Having done so, I've taken on an interest in acquiring an MD to possibly work in the field of 'real' healthcare and have since reached rank 1 in this past molecular biology course I had to take this summer as MD pre-req as well as rank 1 many times over in economics, including advanced statistics (I very much wish people understood statistics). I'm definitely no genius, though I believe James Randi is. With whatever meaningless, miniscule level I might have academically, I am still idiotic enough to play the fool with regards to all sorts of failures in critical thinking. However, I am hopefully less prone to such having utilized many of the ideas you speak of. I think I might be one of the few to have gone through the entire YouTube video gallery (the old gallery before most of it was removed) as many times as I did.

Mr. Randi, if you're reading this, you've had a strong impact on the structure of thought I bring to every idea and on the future career path I consider.

I so sincerely hope for your wellbeing.
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to the amazing
written by Alex Ruiz, August 06, 2009
i was so bump out when i heard about your health
you are my greatest hero
you have made such and impact in my world and how i think

i wish for your wellbeing too
keep it up Amazing
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Best wishes
written by TK2009, August 06, 2009
I echo the above comments, and hope your health returns to normal as quickly as possible.

In your post, you have said

This, I hope, explains my considerable reaction to the irresponsible NIH/NCI comments on the efficacy of acupuncture for the relief of chemotherapy.


No explanation is needed for your righteous indignation, which I fully share (along with many others, no doubt)! At the very least, I am happy that you are able to turn something good out of this by drawing attention to an issue about which I was completely unaware, which deserves as much negative publicity as possible.
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written by The stoned philosopher, August 06, 2009
The difference between the two statements? A scientist doesn't announce his conclusions in advance of examining a sufficiently large database, that's all! No scientist sets out to prove an opinion, a theory, or a conjecture; he sets out to examine whether or not an opinion, a theory, or a conjecture is, or is not, correct.
I'm afraid that's an ideal few scientists actually live up to.
If you read up on the sociology/history/anthropology of science you'll see that most scientists do set out to confirm whatever conjecture they have. And if an experiment fails to produce the desired result, the initial instinct is often to find fault with the experimental setup (such as too few participants in the trial). This is not necessarily a bad thing, because sometimes the setup of the experiment is to blame, and dogged persistence will help a scientist find this out.
What sets scientists apart from pseudo-scientists is that they don't persist indefinitely; once some threshold of evidence is passed they will revise their ideas. But even if they don't, science is not at risk, because it's not a solo sport. For every scientist that is out to prove X there is another one all too happy to prove him wrong; to dissect his work with a toothpick to expose all the flaws. Science doesn't overly rely on individual scientists being rational, it relies on the whole being more rational than its parts.
It is a shame, though, that scientists don't publish their negative results more often. They are under-reported, which causes bad ideas to linger far longer than they should. It has been suggested, for example, that all medical trials should be registered, so you can find out how much goes unpublished.
And there are a number of such biases; for example the first studies in an area are usually more positive than the consensus that is eventually reached.
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Libertarian Medicine?
written by Michael K Gray, August 06, 2009
It is my (anecdotal) experience that the levels of woo-for-hire on offer at hospitals in various countries is in strict inverse correlation to the level of socialised medicine on offer.
[rant]
Here, in Australia for example, health-care can be obtained at no cost, as it can be in many civilized societies. (The various Scandinavian countries spring to mind).
There seems to me to be almost zero woo on offer when basic heath-care can be obtained at no cost.

Alas, 'libertarian' Yanks shy away from socialised medicine.
This attitude MOST CERTAINLY flies in the face of all available evidence, and in my mind constitutes a form of religion in itself.
I place Michael Shermer firmly in this sack.
It seems to be one of the elements of woo that he has not yet shaken-off.
He has become (otherwise) rational, yet appears to ignore the abundant evidence on this topic.

Once again: antipathy to socialised medicine flies against evidence, practice and outcomes.
It bloody-well works.
Not perfectly, but that is used as a straw-man to denounce it.
[/rant]
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written by MadScientist, August 07, 2009
Craniosacral therapy? That's literally for people who can't tell which end is which ... head, butt - what's the difference?
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Sorry to hear your news
written by RobbieD, August 07, 2009
Do hope it all goes well for you. I had my own run in with cancer in 1982, and following surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy I am now 27 years in remission. The medicine does work, I am living proof of that, but it does make you feel awfully ill when receiving it. Here's to many more years yet Randi.
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Useful Placebo Effect
written by GusGus, August 07, 2009

Randi, I hate to disagree with you because you are actually right in a logical, scientific sense. However, for those folks who believe in woo, the placebo effects of acupuncture, et.al. can be useful during chemotherapy to help relieve their discomfort. Who are we to tell them not to use it?

Good luck with your chemo. We're all pulling for you.
.
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study power
written by Haller, August 07, 2009
I wonder how far the first study cited went toward standardizing the behavior of the acupucnturist. The acupuncturist wasn't blind, and really couldn't be. He or she was probably happier working on the "true" group, could easily have spent more time with them, greeted them more warmly, listened more intently, and generally behaved unconsciously in any number of ways that improved feelings of warmth/well being and nudged scores up for that group. Did they standardize time spent with each group? Standardize dialog for the acupuncturist (or simply do the acupuncture silently)? Even if they did, it's easy to imagine something of the familiarity and confidence of working with the "true" group coming through to patients. The blanket statement that all believed they received real acupuncture doesn't cover shades of difference that could contribute to uncontrolled variance.

Despite some potential confounds, the insignificantly higher score for the true group is interpreted as evidence of low numbers (lack of power). Sheesh.
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@GusGus - Ethics of Placebo
written by Todd W., August 07, 2009
I don't think the indictment is against individuals who choose to use CAM, but rather against individuals promoting it and lending it legitimacy. Medical treatments should have proper science-based evidence to support their safety and efficacy.

While the placebo effect may be useful, there are all kinds of ethical issues surrounding it. When is it okay to lie to the patient? What effect does such lying have on the public image and acceptance of placebo treatments, like acupuncture? And so on.
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This will have to do
written by paiute, August 07, 2009
AR, you should avoid germy real people as much as possible, so here is a virtual hug to help you get through:

( )

smilies/grin.gif
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Correcting comment about Jehovah's Witnesses
written by Defaithed, August 07, 2009
James, I wish you a ridiculously speedy full recovery. Your work is amazing, important, and makes the world better. (And you seem to make it all so *fun* too!)

I'm going to leave one small correction: "Jehovah Witnesses... distinctly preach against any medical treatment of any sort." That just isn't so. I'm an ex-JW, and their signature medical belief is complete abstinence from blood, including blood transfusions of any sort. (Sadly, this is based on a particularly inane interpretation of very flimsy scriptural injunction.) Other than the idiotic blood thing, though, I've never heard of any legitimate medical treatment that they have trouble with. They may be wacky, but they're not "prayer over medicine" wacky. (Or maybe there's some unorthodox, unsanctioned breakaway fringe group in your area; who knows.)

Anyway, may legitimate scientific medicine quickly do for you what prayers and pins and potions can't. Be well!
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...
written by GeekGoddess, August 07, 2009
Happy Birthday....
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written by Brownian, August 07, 2009
They may be wacky, but they're not "prayer over medicine" wacky.


Indeed. JWs will accept modern medicine, though none with blood or blood products.

All the best, Mr. Randi.
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written by ZeroDivide, August 07, 2009
HAppy Birthday!
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and yet more . . .
written by Oldhand, August 07, 2009
I can greatly sympathize with your experience with medical establishments either actively or unwittingly promoting woo-woo practices that fly in the face of medical knowledge. I received a newsletter in the mail from a local medical clinic that offered front page space for "Your Guide to Complementary and Alternative Medicine," seen online here - http://www.dreyermed.com/image...mmer09.pdf. This incensed me enough to write to the management of the clinic; not that I think it will do anything to dissuade this kind of marketing, but to at least raise one voice of reason. It's the least that any of us can do when we come across such nonsense espoused by what should be knowledgeable sources.
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... if there wasn't a market for it
written by icepick, August 07, 2009
It really is all about education. The predators will be there, it
is tragically important to educate consumers about the frauds in
medicine out there. Since the government is limited in its ability
to confront all the woo, I'm glad the JREF is here.

Here's to a speedy and complete recovery, Randi!
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@Michael K Gray
written by JimQPublic, August 07, 2009
That's a very unfortunate opinion, Mr. Gray. I sincerely hope that no one thinks expanding the power of government and limiting the individual's freedom of choice is the solution to the scourge that is alternative medicine. You may label my commitment to liberty and personal responsibility "a form of religion," if you wish, but I can sleep at night knowing that I don't share your cynical view of the human race. Are we all so stupid, so vulnerable, so weak and helpless that we need the government to step in and stop us from handing our hard-earned money to these snake oil salesmen? Really!!?? And as if that wouldn't be enough, you propose the solution is to give the government that money, because it's not as if a government would ever spend on anything stupid or unnecessary. No thanks, I'll keep that money and send it to a greedy private insurance company to pay for my medical expenses. I don't think it's too much to ask for a human being to decide based on their own capability for critical thought, and maybe a little help from the Amazing Randi here and there, what constitutes medicine and what doesn't. Alternative medicine peddlers aren't predators if the people they prey on use their own cognitive abilities. They just won't exist at all.
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written by Zetetic, August 07, 2009
Yep - The Jehovah's Witness organization prohibits treatment with blood. I worked in a hospital blood bank years ago and this was sometimes loosely interpreted. Some will refuse blood transfusions but accept other blood derived products or treatments. However, I'm not sure if this was out of ignorance about the true content of the products!

Christian "Scientists" avoid medical treatments completely.
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written by daveg703, August 07, 2009
Re: Randi
I stopped an attendant at Broward General Hospital here in Florida from distributing piles of propaganda from the Jehovah Witnesses sect - who distinctly preach against any medical treatment of any sort


This is from the Jehovah's Witnesses' own website:


Because they respect life and value good health, Jehovah's Witnesses accept the vast majority of medical treatments available. (Luke 5:31) Many Witnesses work in the health-care field. Like anyone else, when they are sick, they seek medical care. They do not believe in faith healing.

Randi, this is in direct contradiction to your statement about their preaching.
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JimQPublic
written by Michael K Gray, August 07, 2009
You totally mischaracterise Australia's socialised medicine to the point of absurdity.
The free care is entirely optional, in no way compulsory.
Many choose to give their money to private insurance companies for wht they judge as potential benefits.
You have the situation here TOTALLY WRONG.
Completely and utterly.


The rest of your diatribe most definitely rings of a fire and brimstone sermon, in that it is based on a totally incorrect view of the facts.
But I thank you for providing yet another example of this new religion, one that uses all the same tactics of logical fallacies, ignorance of facts, misdirection, creation of straw-men etc that are the Discovery Institute's stock-in-trade.

If you are really a skeptic, you will learn some more about the facts before you respond.
If you choose to stick to your stance without further study of reality, then you deserve to be in the same sack as homeopaths.
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Birthday Gift ... just needling you!
written by jimgerrish, August 07, 2009
So I guess my birthday gift to you of acupuncture needles for the "Do-it-yourselfer" will go unused. I even got you the extra large size for senior citizens. Happy Birthday, and don't shuffle off this planet until you are good and ready.
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Acupuncture Anecdote....
written by LASkepticGuy, August 07, 2009
I'm eager to get input from everyone here at JREF on my acupuncture experience. First, some background. I am 42 years old, a complete skeptic, fan of Randi, with a degree in Chemistry from Cornell University. I hate con artists and quacks. I am well-aware of Randi's position on acupuncture. That being said....

I've suffered from chronic lateral epicondylitis (Tennis elbow) for several years as a result of too much computer typing/mouse-clicking (I"m a writer). 3 orthopedic surgeons all said they wanted to operate. I didn't want surgery. I wanted pain relief beyond 1200MG of Advil every day, which wasn't doing the trick.

What the heck, I thought, I'll give acupuncture a try. I'm completely skeptical but insurance covers it so there's no downside. The Center for East-West Medicine at UCLA referred me to a practitioner and I made an appointment. A Chinese man, licensed in CA for acupuncture, treated me. All he did was ask where the pain was, what my doctor said, found the specific points of pain, and that was it. He didn't recite any magic Chinese incantations. He didn't say, "Now this will heal you. Just believe". He didn't say anything else. The whole time all I thought was, "No way this is going to work". I watched as the needles were inserted along certain "Meridians". He attached a few wires that delivered low-level electrical pulses, turned on some meditative music, and left me for about 30 minutes.

Still, I"m thinking, "this is ridiculous".

So the treatment is finished and, sure enough, no pain. None. At all. First relief I've had in years. This lasts for about 60 hours, then the pain returns. I go for two more treatments, with both results being the same.

So....I'm no dummy and I"m not a sucker. Obviously, SOMETHING happened. I want your input. Here's what I think are the possible theories:

1) It really did work. (But Randi says it doesn't)
2) Placebo effect (although I wonder how that can work if I go in totally skeptical and remain that way throughout the procedure)
3) The electrical pulses are actually what caused the pain relief (Heck, I'm not a doctor. I'm only offering theories)
4) I imagined the pain relief (But it was better! I swear!)
5) I'm lying to you. (Guess I can't prove I'm not, but you don't know me, so you have to consider it)
6) I've left out some critical piece of information (I haven't, but I'm mentioning it)
7) Subconscious suggestion (my subconscious so badly wanted it to work that it tricked my conscious mind? Really?)

As this is an educational forum, I am eager to hear opinions. Thanks!
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Temporary numbness?
written by PaulJ, August 08, 2009
LASkepticGuy,

I think the most likely answer is 3). The electrical impulses could be causing temporary damage to nerve endings, damage that takes about 60 hours to heal. (But heck, I'm not a doctor either.)
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If acupuncture worked, we'd all be using it by now --
written by mjr, August 08, 2009
Given some of the amazing claims for acupuncture, it'd be the dominant mode of medicine -- if only it worked. Of course, it doesn't. If it worked, the ancient chinese would have been outliving everyone for the last thousands of years(*) and would have taken over civilization.

Good thing they didn't use acupuncture to fix your heart, Randi. We'd have lost you.

FWIW there is a great article on http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=583 about acupuncture and its relationship to another favorite bit of woo: astrology. It turns out that that's really all acupuncture is.

(* we know this to be bullpuckey but let's assume the woo-woos point that it's "ancient chinese medicine")
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written by Skeptigirl, August 08, 2009
written by The stoned philosopher, August 06, 2009
I'm afraid that's an ideal few scientists actually live up to.
If you read up on the sociology/history/anthropology of science you'll see that most scientists do set out to confirm whatever conjecture they have. And if an experiment fails to produce the desired result, the initial instinct is often to find fault with the experimental setup (such as too few participants in the trial). ...
It is a shame, though, that scientists don't publish their negative results more often. They are under-reported, which causes bad ideas to linger far longer than they should. It has been suggested, for example, that all medical trials should be registered, so you can find out how much goes unpublished.
And there are a number of such biases; for example the first studies in an area are usually more positive than the consensus that is eventually reached.
I agree wholeheartedly with the last half of your comments, but think you underestimate the percentage of scientists who care about valid results more than they care about confirming their hypotheses.
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written by Skeptigirl, August 08, 2009
@ Michael K Gray:

You're jumping to a conclusion about why people turn to alt med. That's an example of the lack of critical thinking that is involved in people believing junk medicine works.
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written by Skeptigirl, August 08, 2009
@ GusGus:

You need to read some of the actual research looking directly at the actual placebo effect as opposed to the mythical placebo effect. The research shows the effect to be relatively minor despite what people believe. So what you are really advocating is that we not confront people with their false beliefs as if confronting them was damaging.

The amount of resources we are putting into junk medicine is not worth the value of any placebo effect we get in return. Education about alt med and improving critical thinking skills would be of much greater benefit than any placebo effects people are getting from their false beliefs and it would by far outweigh the risks of confronting those false beliefs.
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written by Skeptigirl, August 08, 2009
@LASkeptic Guy:

What surgery would relieve tennis elbow? That doesn't make any sense. The treatment is to put a band around your lower arm to redistribute the force exerted on the inflamed tendon insertion site. Also, you take anti-inflammatories around the clock (not just for pain relief) to allow the tendon to heal. In addition, someone knowledgeable in ergonomics should take a look at how your arms are aligned when you are typing since you are straining your elbow and that can be corrected. If you weren't doing these things, you shouldn't expect to heal and it can take a number of weeks or even longer to heal, especially if you cannot stop typing during that time.

As for the acupuncture, the electrical impulses sound like the TENS units we use for treating chronic back pain. I haven't reviewed the research on this treatment. I was under the impression it was effective. Perhaps you might take a look and let us know what you find.
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Happy Birthday Randi
written by Skeptigirl, August 08, 2009
Happy Birthday Randi.
You are a wonderful person who has had an impressive impact improving the collective consciousness of the human species.
Science has come a long way treating cancers of all kinds. Hopefully it has come far enough for the kind of cancer you are being treated for. The world could use many more years of your input.

Hugs, love, & I'm so glad I met you. The Galapagos was such a perfect trip.
Ginger
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written by Michael K Gray, August 09, 2009
written by Skeptigirl, August 08, 2009
@ Michael K Gray:
You're jumping to a conclusion about why people turn to alt med. That's an example of the lack of critical thinking that is involved in people believing junk medicine works

Always keen to learn, I am more than somewhat puzzled by your comment.
I tend to learn best via example.
Are you able to offer an example of my jumping to a conclusion about why people turn to alt med?
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written by Skeptigirl, August 09, 2009
written by Michael K Gray, August 09, 2009
Always keen to learn, I am more than somewhat puzzled by your comment....Are you able to offer an example of my jumping to a conclusion about why people turn to alt med?

Always happy to promote critical thinking, let's look at the specifics of what you wrote.

First, a side note: If you highlight a section of text then hit the quote function on the menu bar (looks like a comic word balloon, just below the word, 'comment'), it'll make your posts easier to read.


written by Michael K Gray, August 06, 2009
It is my (anecdotal) experience that the levels of woo-for-hire on offer at hospitals in various countries is in strict inverse correlation to the level of socialised medicine on offer.
Reasonable hypothesis for a correlation. But you've only supplied one very limited example to support your hypothesis:
Here, in Australia for example, health-care can be obtained at no cost, as it can be in many civilized societies. (The various Scandinavian countries spring to mind). There seems to me to be almost zero woo on offer when basic heath-care can be obtained at no cost.
One need not look far at all to find a contradictory anecdotal example, that of homeopathy in the UK.

And, there are so many other variables that even if your anecdote were true, attributing cause of the correlation to access to science based medicine is the equivalent of picking one possible cause from a hat and claiming your hypothesis is supported.

If you want to explore the reason people believe in junk medicine, start by gathering/learning/reading broadly about all the variables before you start narrowing them down to the first thing that you think might be associated with the use of bad medicine.


And just so you know I'm not biased in my observation, I am in total agreement that Shermer is over-reaching and steps out of his skeptical skin when he promotes Libertarianism. I am firmly in Michael Moore's camp here that medicine belongs in the same category of services as police and fire. Capitalism works well for 75% of the economy, but not for certain basic pubic needs.
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@LASkeptic Guy
written by inquisitiveraven, August 10, 2009
Echoing skepticgirl, I'm going to point you to this blog post by a skeptical doc about electroacupuncture and TENS. I will admit to knowing nothing about the standard treatment for tennis elbow though.
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Effects of cancer treatment
written by tmac57, August 12, 2009
Randi,
Since my wife is also in cancer treatment (near six years now) we have also discovered one of the effects of treatment is a low tolerance for bulls**t ! I see you have been stricken with this as well smilies/wink.gif
Best of health to you from the both of us my friend.
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@inquisitiveraven
written by LASkepticGuy, August 14, 2009
Thank for that excellent link. I think the explanation is right there. "Despite that, though, it actually sometimes works, because, as TENS shows, using a weak electrical current to stimulate certain nerves can indeed relieve pain in some cases, and that's all so-called "electroacupuncture" does. "

What's interesting is that he says that it "can indeed relieve pain" and then pairs it with the phrase, "that's all it does". Well, that's why I went for acupuncture -- to relieve pain!

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...
written by pjb_spammable, September 21, 2009
@JimQPublic
Are we all so stupid, so vulnerable, so weak and helpless that we need the government to step in and stop us from handing our hard-earned money to these snake oil salesmen? Really!!??


The true, correct, and time-tested answer, unfortunately, is a resounding YES.

And then later you say...

Alternative medicine peddlers aren't predators if the people they prey on use their own cognitive abilities.


That does not in any way validate a claim toward reasoned intelligence by said users of their own cognitive abilities. Merely that they have more intelligence, than, say, a goldfish. (Sorry, goldfish.)
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