Genome healing strikes back

Well, screwed up transition to WordPress or not, I think it’s time to get back to the business of doing what Orac does best: Laying down the Insolence, Respectful and Not-So-Respectful. While the remaining bugs are being ironed out, I’ll work on trying to get the blog’s appearance back to the way I like it as I harass the Seed/NatGeo overlords to fix things up for the benefit of you, my readers. (Well, it’s also to my benefit, too. Using WordPress the way it’s configured now is a real PITA, if you know what I mean.) I thought about wandering over to that despicable den of antivaccine iniquity (yes, I’m referring to Age of Autism) but everything there now bored me. There’s also always Mike Adam’s even loonier multipurpose crazy pit. There was nothing truly exciting there, either, at least not to me and not right now.

So what’s been going on while I was basically forced to remain away from the blog, other than complaining in the comments about the transition, stamping out all the comment spam that’s been coming through, and in general seeing what my readers think of the new digs? It has, after all, been two days since I did a real Orac post. I’m not sure if this will qualify as an Orac gem or not (after all, it might take a couple of days for me to get back into the swing of things), but it will christen the new blog, so to speak. And what better way to christen the new blog than to take note of criticism and provide a calm, reasoned, respectful rebuttal?

Or Orac could do what he does best and provide the miscreant a heapin’ helpin’ of (not-so-)Respectful Insolence. That would be a an even more fitting way to inaugurate the new blog. After all, after the last couple of days, I’m in the mood.

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I resurrected Your Friday Dose of Woo in order to have a little fun with a particularly amusing bit of woo in which a man who goes by the moniker “Phaelosopher Adam Abraham” was advertising something he called the Genome Healing Workshop. Not only was this conference promising “genome healing,” but it was promising DNA/stem cell healing based on the principles of quantum physics! It’s not for nothing that I called this lovely bit of mystical pseudoscience the “Holy Trinity of Woo.”

Amazingly enough the “Phaelosopher” took notice. Yes, Abraham was apparently not as amused as one would have hoped at my having a bit of fun at his expense. Even better, he decided to write a post about it with what he no doubt considers to be an amusing title, A $cientist Cries ‘Woo’… How predictable. The pharma shill gambit embedded in the title with the simple move of changing the “s” in “scientist” to a dollar sign. For someone who is as able to produce psychedelic far out bits of woo in which he touts two Russians claiming to be able to “heal your genome” (or not, given their use of one of the most blatant quack Miranda warnings ever), he sure lacks imagination in other areas of his life.

In any case, our friend Abraham takes my little bit of not-so-Respectful Insolence directed at him as evidence that he must be on the right track:

As if I needed confirmation that we’re on to something. This is like the FDA’s declaration that MMS is, when used as directed, “a powerful bleach.” They’ve spent millions of taxpayer dollars attempting to make a case against the perception and actual truth that MMS has been a far greater help to many, willing to make a criminal out of Daniel Smith. But this too won’t hold up to the light of truth. There’s something far greater than MMS… and that’s the Healer Within each of us, to which Orac emphatically cries “woo!”

I must admit, I was a bit confused here. What I wrote had nothing to do with MMS or Daniel Smith. In fact, I didn’t even know who Daniel Smith is or what MMS is. So I did what I always do when confronted with these situations. I Googled, and I found this. MMS stands for “miracle mineral solution.” What it is, apparently, is 28% sodium chlorite in distilled water. Yes, this is basically equivalent to industrial strength bleach. However, the way MMS is used is in diluted form. Basically the sodium chlorite is diluted in either water or a food acid, such as lemon juice. These sorts of solutions have been used in municipal water systems for many years, and, disingenuously, it is that very fact that some MMS promoters use as evidence of its safety. Of course, at the level of dilution recommended, there’s not enough bleach left to do much of anything

It was originally sold by a man named Jim Humble, who claims that MMS can be used to successfully treat AIDS, hepatitis A,B and C, malaria, herpes, TB, most cancer and many more of mankind’s worse diseases. He even goes so far as to claim that 5,000,000 people have used MMS and that “hundreds of thousands” of lives have been saved. Unfortunately, it appears that for this function Jim Humble uses more concentrated MMS—a lot more concentrated. More horrifically, Humble bestows his “blessings” on poor people in Third World countries like Haiti, treating them like this:

We gotta give him just enough [industrial bleaching agent] that he don’t get sick but he’s on the edge of getting sick! So we’ve got to keep him just on the very edge and therefore it’s pretty intense for cancer, he needs to take it 4/5 times a day, small amounts instead of a big batch.

In fact, MMS is actually really nasty stuff, with some of its users suffering serious complications. Humble also teaches his disciples his quackery:

When people leave here they really know how to use MMS for all things, skin diseases of all kinds, colon problems, how to regenerate the liver, how to treat brain cancers, how to treat babies and pregnant women, and how to treat animals from mice to elephants. You will be personally taking MMS while here, spraying your skin with powerful solutions of MMS (but won’t hurt you), spraying others’ skin and hair. You will learn to use sprays, baths, IV solutions, MMS gas, soak the feet, and most importantly, the new protocols that in the country of Malawi have cured more than 800 people of HIV plus 40 cancer cases, 50 of feet and leg numbness, 3 heart disease cases, 13 diabetes cases, and many other diseases and problems.

Yes, you read it right. Jim Humble likes to go down to Haiti and the Dominican Republic and subject the poor there to industrial bleach. And, if you scroll down this page, you’ll see something very interesting indeed. It’s Adam Abraham himself in the Dominican Republic interviewing a woman named Tammy, who is described as working “at the only dedicated MMS help desk.” No wonder Abraham likes Daniel Smith. No wonder he likes him a lot. In fact, Abraham likes him so much that he can’t resist throwing in the Nazi extermination of Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals in castigating the government for prosecuting Smith and touts anecdotes of healing of brain cancers as proof that MMS works. It’s all very tiresome and predictable, in particular the rants against the FDA and the utter lack of scientific evidence supporting either the efficacy (or even the plausibility) of using “detoxified chlorine dioxide.”

The FDA, predictably, takes a dim view of Smith’s and Humble’s activities, as well it should. In particular, it has tried to stop Smith from selling and promoting MMS.

So what we have here is a man supporting the use of what is in essence industrial strength bleach lecturing me on what is scientific and what is not. Abraham notes that I became aware of the Genome Healing Conference through a flyer I saw when i was in Scottsdale attending the annual meeting of the American Society of Breast Surgeons. To bolster his pharma shill attack, he notes that some of the companies there sell things like a “Personalized Breast Cancer Genomic Profile,” prosthetics for breast reconstruction, the OncoType DX assay (which I’ve written about before; just type it in the search box above), and others. Based on this, Abraham mocks breast surgeons in general and me in particular while denying that’s what he’s doing:

This is by no means an attempt to mock breast surgeons, or attack the profession. It does, however, give you a glimpse into the training and mindset of Orac, and why the notion of Genome Healing, in the absence of any actual research on his own (which would put him at odds to his profession and its conventions of thinking), is viewed with such skepticism and derision.

I always find it amusing how quackery supporters like Abraham seem to think that it’s not possible to recognize that something like Genome Healing is utterly ridiculous without doing detailed research. Let’s just put it this way: Any second year college biology student or first year medical student would recognize, based on the general knowledge of genetics that they’ve been taught, that “Genome Healing” is pretty much as ridiculous as homeopathy. The reason “Genome Healing” is “at odds with my profession and its conventions of thinking” is not because my profession is dogmatic, but because from a scientific standpoint Genome Healing is the purest quackery. It has no basis in science, no scientific or clinical studies to show that it is even feasible, and no clinical evidence to show that it works. He believes it because…well, he believes it. Yet he has the chutzpah to label me as being the passive mark, believing whatever the powers that be in medicine tell me to be true. Pot, kettle, black, anyone?

And, of course, if you believe Abraham, we skeptics are so close-minded that we won’t even consider the possibility that he might be on to something:

What I find fascinating is the literal aversion that Orac and many of his readers appear to have against even considering the possibility that such a level and form of healing is indeed possible. There is no harm involved in activating one’s own healing abilities and using Nature’s systems. There’s great harm in castration and breast mutilation. There’s great harm in standard oncological treatment. Yet these practices go unquestioned and unchallenged. The surgeons step in to make the patient feel that they have an acceptable replacement for that “bad” and misbehaving body part that you didn’t need anymore.

I’m willing to bet that there are very likely no doctors who have had a radical mastectomy. Most likely because the vast majority are males, and any women doctors who have had a radical mastectomy would likely not wish such an ordeal on anyone.

Of course, Abraham is “radically” behind the times. Radical mastectomies haven’t been standard of care for 30 or 40 years. These days we do lumpectomies (also known as partial mastectomies) and we no longer remove all the lymph nodes on most women. In fact, we don’t do that many mastectomies anymore (at least I don’t), so much so that I noticed it when I had to do a couple of mastectomies in a row during the last couple of weeks. Be that as it may, I actually have considered the possibility that “such a level and form of healing” is possible. I then considered what we know about cell biology, genetics, biochemistry, and physics and decided that, while “such a level and form of healing” might be possible, it is so incredibly improbable that its plausibility can be approximated by the word “impossible.” Show me sufficiently compelling evidence of quality and quantity in the same order of magnitude as the massive quantities of evidence that lead to the conclusion that “genome healing” of the sort espoused by the “miracle Russians” and Abraham is impossible, and I will start to change my mind.

I won’t hold my breath waiting for that evidence.

Abraham then winds up with a classic appeal to ignorance, followed by an appeal to openmindedness to the point of one’s brain’s falling out, concluding with sales pitch:

I also don’t know that restoration of The Norm of the Creator is not possible. Neither does Orac or his posse. If restoration of The Norm is really possible, and we can re-instruct our DNA, reactivate Stem Cells (if they haven’t been decimated by chemotherapy), and lengthen telomeres, we owe it to ourselves to figure out how, and to KNOW for ourselves whether it is true. A real scientist will be open to the possibility, and willing to see the evidence or experience it for himself. The price of $3,000 for this course also pales against a medical education that easily costs over $100,000, and is costing millions of lives from standard treatments each year.

Actually, my medical education cost maybe $50,000, but then I went to a state school in the 1980s.

Get a load of Abraham’s classic appeal to ignorance. To him, we don’t know whether genome healing is not possible; therefore it must be possible to re-instruct our DNA, reactivate stem cells, lengthen telomeres, etc. And, of course, Abraham is more than happy to instruct you for the low, low bargain price of $3,000, which, by the way, is cheap next to going to medical school. I find that last bit in particular to be quite hilarious, implicit in it is the assumption that his woo is equivalent to what is taught in medical school.

The sad thing is, with the rise of quackademic medicine, it might be today. At this rate, some day we might see Professor Adam Abraham teaching genome healing in a medical school near you.