Apparently, Mike Adams thinks he can replace PubMed

Mike Adams (a.k.a. the “Health Ranger”) has been a regular blog topic for several years now. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that, among supporters of quackery, no one quite brings the crazy home the way Mike Adams does, be it writing antivaccine rap songs, abusing dead celebrities by claiming they would have survived if only they had used whatever quackery Adams supported at the time or painting them as victims of big pharma, or conspiracy mongering on a level that make Alex Jones blush. Truly, Mikey has a special talent among woo-meisters. Joe Mercola might have the most popular “natural health” website out there, but Mike Adams, as number two, clearly tries harder.

Of late, not satisfied with promoting quackery and anti-pharma conspiracy mongering, Adams has been branching out. Now, he hates genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In particular, he continues to hate psychiatric medications, and took full advantage of the Sandy Hook shootings last December to blame big pharma and psychiatric medications for making Adam Lanza kill all those children. He remains antivaccine to the core, of course. However, these days, he’s joined the looniest of the loony right wing/Libertarian fringe. He’s posted multiple rants over the last six months or of the “Obama’s comin’ to take your guns with the help of the U.N.” variety. Just last week, he pounced on President Obama’s speech about Trayvon Martin, decrying it as “racism theater” while at the same time ironically spewing not an insubstantial amount of racism himself. In particular, he refers to the “myth of systematic oppression of blacks in America,” referring to such oppression as “ancient history” Why? Because the President and Attorney General are black and “most of the highest-paid athletes and sports figures are black, the highest-paid entertainers are black, and black people hold key positions as mayors, governors, senators and members of Congress.”

So what’s left for Mike Adams? Having plumbed the depths of quackery and the worst type of political paranoia, where is he going from here? Well, apparently Adams thinks he can be a substitute for PubMed, as an e-mail announcement I received yesterday boldly announced:

Today I’m pleased to announce the launch of SCIENCE.naturalnews.com, a powerful new portal into the wealth of scientific literature that documents nutritional cures, toxic chemicals (including heavy metals), benefits of holistic therapies, the dangers of prescription medications and much more.

In development for well over a year, SCIENCE.naturalnews.com is a FREE online resource that allows you to easily research answers to questions like:

  • Does chlorella fight cancer?
  • Has aspartame been scientifically studied for side effects?
  • Does curcumin treat arthritis?
  • Is the Mediterranean Diet supported by science?
  • Are statin drugs dangerous?
  • What is the link between vaccines and autism?
  • What are the side effects of arsenic exposure?
  • What are the side effects of drinking processed milk?
  • Are food ingredients safe?
  • What scientific literature supports the benefits of superfoods?
  • How dangerous is chemotherapy?

All these questions — and many more — can be easily answered at SCIENCE.naturalnews.com.

Yes, truly Mike Adams’ arrogance of ignorance knows no bounds. As a colleague fo mine quipped, Adams should call it “SCIENCE”.naturalnews.com. Or maybe PSEUDOSCIENCE.naturalnews.com. Actually, after having played around with it a bit, I’m not sure what the excitement is. You can type terms into a search box and get lists of studies back. I tried typing “vaccine” into the search box (of course!), expecting to see a plethora of antivaccine tripe cascading down the page. What came up wasn’t so much scientific studies, but a lot of NaturalNews.com articles, and, as we all know, no one misinterprets studies, latches onto bad studies, or exaggerates the findings of studies quite the way Mike Adams does.

So I tried typing “homeopathy” into the search box, mainly because if there’s one form of quackery that Adams doesn’t seem to show a huge amount of in, it’s homeopathy. So surely searching on “homeopathy” should reveal articles outside of NaturalNews.com, right? Wrong. All that pops up (at least as of when I wrote this) was one page listing a few NaturalNews.com articles. It’s also highly incestuous. For instance, the first link that pops up on the homeopathy search is a link to cough studies and to articles with titles like Homeopathic prevention and treatment for whooping cough – 7 common remedies that work, advice that could kill children.

After spending a little time fruitlessly running searches and clicking on categories, I became curious over just how this database worked. Fortunately for me (I think) Adams is only too happy to boast about his creation:

So beginning in the spring of 2012, I embarked on an effort to index and categorize the entire PubMed library of science provided by the National Institutes of Health and funded by taxpayer money. This data set currently encompasses more than 21 million studies, with approximately 3,000 new studies appearing each weekday.

While PubMed currently makes all these studies available to the public, they are hidden behind a convoluted interface that makes it all but impossible for the public to easily find the most relevant studies they’re interested in — especially if those studies involve two things such as “green tea” and “breast cancer.”

Seriously? PubMed is too difficult for NaturalNews.com readers? Apparently so, and apparently typing “green tea breast cancer” into the search box for PubMed is too difficult. So instead Adams has to create a system that will find for them what he thinks they want to find. What I don’t understand what the big deal is about indexing PubMed with two keywords. Maybe some of my computer programming readers can dissect the described algorithm in detail. Basically, from what I can gather, Adams uses some sort of algorithm to determine which sets of two key words are most closely associated with each other. In other words, all he does is to search how often certain sets of keywords appear together. One example described by Adams is milk. According to him, the page on “milk” will tell you that the most frequently associated result of milk is “allergies.” Then if you click on “allergies” on the milk page, you will get a page listing all the studies that cover both milk and allergies.

Just for yucks, I did click on the page for milk. According to Adams’ algorithm, the most commonly associated terms with “milk” include: allergies, bipolar disorder, celiac disease, constipation, cough, diabetes, diarrhea, depression, eczema, flu, hepatitis, high cholesterol, HPV, hypertension, lactose intolerance, liver cancer, lupus, overweight, pain, pregnancy, prostate cancer, Raynaud’s phenomenon, and smoking. While some of these (such as “allergies” and “lactose intolerance” seem reasonable as keywords that go with each other in PubMed, a lot of them seem a bit odd. In fact, they don’t see like keywords at all. PubMed has a very distinct, defined system for assigning keywords to articles. If you don’t believe me, take a look at a reference in PubMed and under “Display settings,” check MEDLINE to see the reference in MEDLINE format, which shows all the fields. For instance, clicking “milk” and “bipolar disorder” only brings up one article. “Milk” and “celiac disease” only brings up three articles. By comparison, searching “milk” and “bipolar disorder” on PubMed brings up 28 articles, 26 in English. Clearly, there is some culling of articles going on here. At first, I thought it was because the terms “milk” or “bipolar disorder” didn’t appear in every article and the algorithm was only listing articles with both terms in their MeSH headings, but that’s not the case. It’s easy to see that using this algorithm in a case in which there are few matches. As for “milk” and “celiac disease,” a PubMed search brings up 428 entries.

It would be very interesting to know exactly how Adams is determining which articles are the most “relevant” to the point where 428 PubMed entries get whittled down to three articles in Adams’ search engine. Not being a computer programmer or search engine expert, I could be completely wrong about this, but something smells fishy to me. Again, I will be asking you, my readers, who have expertise in this area to comment and tell me if I’m on the right or wrong track. In particular, I’d like to know if Adams’ algorithm sounds the least bit reasonable or could function as a “signal detection” system that can “discover hidden relationships in large data sets, then present those relationships to the user through a series of easy-to-navigate web pages.” Actually, I already know to some extent, particularly after reading this claim:

The underlying technology I’ve developed for this also has the theoretical ability to perform original human psyche research, such as sensing shifts in human emotions, outbreaks of pandemics, “fear factor” scores for economic collapse (which translates into trust factors for the highly-leveraged banking system) and so on. It has not yet been applied to those projects, but I’m always looking for new ways to expand human knowledge.

In essence, we now have a universal “signal detection” technology that has now been applied to one particular data set (PubMed). This same technology could also be applied to many other data sets in order to tease out other relationships that represent psychosociological trends, mass media reporting trends and so on.

For example, I believe this technology will be able to accurately predict the coming global banking collapse. We now have the technology to do this, and if time permits, we may pursue this project in the near future.

Wow! That’s a mighty massive claim to make for a simple two keyword algorithm, don’t you think? I get the feeling that what Adams is doing is nothing more than a little bit of computer prestidigitation that sounds impressive and serves up links to PubMed entries linked to NaturalNews.com articles about the same topics, while painting it as being some sort of revolutionary bit of new programming. I mean seriously. Google Scholar does it faster and better, but it doesn’t do it woo-ier, and woo is what Adams wants.

In fact, I rather suspect I know what Adams is about, and it’s not about “a shortcut to knowledge that allows you to instantly discover relationships between nutrients and health, chemicals and diseases, medical therapies and side effects, and so on.” It’s about getting his raders to use his search engine rather than PubMed when looking for studies. It’s about page views and encouraging readers to click on NaturalNews.com links that come up from their searches. It’s nothing new. It’s what web developers have been doing for years. Nor will it provide knowledge that can’t be found faster and better elsewhere. It’s more about “knowledge” shaped the way Adams likes to feed into his preferred narrative in which “natural” healing is always better and big pharma is pure evil. It’s about nothing more than making more money off of Adams’ website.