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The invasion of well-meaning quacks into West Africa continues apace, part three

quackinvasion

I hope my U.S. readers have all had a happy Thanksgiving. Today has been known at least since the mid-1970s as Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. Whether it’s still true or not, given the relentless proliferation, progression, and metastasis—yes, the use of terms related to cancer is intentional—of holiday sales right up until Christmas, I don’t know. I do know that I plan on going nowhere near any store bigger than a convenience store until next week if I can possibly help it. I’m also sitting back and congratulating myself on one of the smartest decisions I’ve made in a very long time, namely to take this whole week off as a “staycation.” True, I did go to Skepticon to give a talk last weekend, but instead of the usual situation I find myself in after arriving home on a Sunday after such jaunts of having to dive straight back into work, I just chilled out for three days, with three more days after Thanksgiving to recover.

Consequently, I hope you will forgive me if this is simply be an update of a story I’ve been following for a while, namely the story of the hapless and ridiculous homeopaths who claim they can cure Ebola using homeopathy. The reason I can’t resist is that the day before Thanksgiving there appeared an article that is the most detailed and comprehensive description of the antics of these homeopaths that I’ve yet come across. Some of it confirms what I’ve discussed before based on previous news reports from the UK. Some of it gives more of an insight into what happened. For instance, there’s this bit, which suggests that the homeopaths who went to West Africa (most of whom were also physicians, to the eternal shame of the profession) were—shall we say?—less than honest about their intent. The trip was organized by the Liga Medicorum Homeopathica Internationalis, a major institution for homeopathy advocacy, and a German group Freundes Liberias, whose purpose is to promote cooperation between Germany and Liberia. Apparently, Freundes Liberias raised funds for the trip without any mention that the doctors it was planning to send were also homeopaths:

Freundes Liberias raised donations for the trip with ​this campaign. The page talks about a “team of 20 international doctors,” but makes no mention of the fact that they will be operating only as homeopaths. This squares with the fact that the Liberian medical authorities backed the trip when they thought it was a “team of doctors,” and were then shocked to learn about the homeopathy.

The explanations coming from the two organizations are conflicting:

When asked for comment, Thomas Köppig, head of Freundes Liberias, was emphatic:

“When LMHI first contacted Freunde Liberias asking if the association would be willing to support a trip, I received the four CVs and confirmation that all members of the group were physicians and obviously experienced in working in disaster areas. Furthermore, LMHI confirmed that the doctors would work as regular doctors and only secondarily as homeopaths.”

The response from LMHI is rather less clear, claiming that the doctors “were not able to treat Ebola patients do [ sic] [to] some diplomatic problems… We are not asking for donations for the Ebola relief action any more because the situation changed.”

The homeopaths, however, had other ideas. They were definitely planning on going to Africa to treat Ebola with homeopathy:

When this story broke, Karen Allen of Homeopaths Without Borders deleted​this message from Dr. Ortrud Lindemann, one of the homeopaths in Liberia, from her Facebook page. Homeopath Dr. Edouard Broussalian also deleted ​a post from his own site that claimed the mission would ensure “the makers of experimental vaccines will have to pack their bags.” In fact, there was a real flurry of deleted pages regarding the mission from people connected to LMHI, which is never a particularly good sign.

Dr. Hiltner himself is very open: “This was a golden opportunity to treat something that conventional medicine couldn’t,” he says. “Not only to help the people, but to show homeopathy works… There’s got to be that day that conventional medicine will respect homeopathy—both have their strengths, both have their weaknesses; they need to stop calling each other names.”

Apparently, to homeopaths pointing out that homeopathy is pseudoscience based on prescientific ideas of vitalism and a pre-germ theory understanding of human physiology and disease is “calling them names. The author of this Vice piece seems rather taken with Dr. Richard Hiltner, noting that he’s a nice guy who’s been in practice for 44 years and that he volunteered his own time and money (he paid for his own flight) to head to Brussels, where the international team of homeopaths was assembled to fly to Monrovia. Oh, sure, the article says, Hiltner is into some “wacky shit,” like iridology and medical astrology, in addition to the homeopathy but is characterized thusly, “Essentially, his heart is in the right place, even if it’s making him do some very silly stuff.”

I reject this explanation. Hiltner’s heart might be in the right place, but what we know thus far suggests that he was either complicit in the deception (i.e., he knew that the trip was being advertised and sold as a bunch of doctors coming over to help, with no mention of homeopathy) or he was a dupe who had no idea that he wouldn’t be allowed to practice homeopathy once he arrived in Liberia. Take your pick. In the meantime, what this whole sorry incident tells me is just how deluded homeopaths are.

As the article concludes, “sneaking a PR stunt for homeopathy into an epidemic under the cover of sending medical help is really pretty tawdry.” No doubt, but why is anyone surprised? It’s not as though homeopaths haven’t done this sort of thing before in past disasters. The difference here is that the danger level is much higher, because they’re now trying to treat a deadly infectious disease with their magic water.

OK, I think I’ve beat this topic to death. Next week, I’ll be back at blogging my usual topics with a vengeance. Remember, I’m rapidly approaching my tenth anniversary of starting this blog; it’s only two weeks away now. I feel so old.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

154 replies on “The invasion of well-meaning quacks into West Africa continues apace, part three”

Congratulations on ten years (in case I miss it)!

As an always tired, old before my time person, I love the days after Thanksgiving. I can direct Mr Woo and my ravenous son to the leftovers and skip cooking for a bit.

Should we be too surprised to learn this? I have come to suspect that one aspect of true-believerism is the constant anticipation of the day when the magic will be proven, and their faith vindicated, that last, big, “So there!”

I stay away from the stores this weekend, too.

There is plenty of leftover food for the sons to enjoy. One just fixed himself a breakfast of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy!

But, I may have to brave at least one store to get some parts to fix my wife’s computer 🙁

I have never braved a Black Friday crowd except for a few unfortunate years working retail. If I could get by with not shopping anywhere but the closest town (2500 people), I would do it. As it is, I don’t expect to go to the bigger town more than once or twice.

Orac, you’re not old- you’re SEASONED**.

-btw- you appear to be remarkably well-preserved*** which ( as I know only too well due to intense observation of myself and various cohorts and relatives) is either a mark of purity of intention or sun avoidance. Possibly both.

** insert mandatory reference to appropriate herb/spice
*** insert obligatory reference to formaldehyde etc

I’m surprised I didn’t think to look for this predictable passenger on the EVD bandwagon earlier: CBD Protective Against Ebola Virus.

Because cannabis is so very safe especially under doctor supervision, I believe it is crucial for the medical community to start human trials on survivability of Ebola infected patients regardless of the political restraints.

“Essentially, his heart is in the right place, even if it’s making him do some very silly stuff.”

I’m not sure “being friendly” is the top quality any expert should have. What about actual competence?
There is an old saying about being better to have a smart enemy than a silly friend.

@ Denice

Orac, you’re not old- you’re SEASONED

That brings back memories. I once purchased a packaged meal of seasoned chicken.
The package was annotated in both English and French. The French translation was, as you would guess, something like “poulet vétéran”.

The author of this Vice piece seems rather taken with Dr. Richard Hiltner

Not so much with accurate details, though:

“The Ebola virus kills you by essentially dissolving the walls of your veins, making you bleed to death from the inside in a massive internal hemorrhage.”

@ Helianthus:

Ha! I really appreciate translations of that sort- believe it or not, I’m on my way to the Japanese mall which is rife with them.
I have a great need of food court-made Japanese soup.

Dave, have a look at this:

http://transgallaxys.com/~kanzlerzwo/index.php?topic=8275.msg19303#msg19303

Already in August 2014 (or even earlier) the WHO rejected homeopathy and other “alternative” nonsense because such quackery had led ebola infections to cross the border of guinea and caused the outbreak in Sierra Leone!

The mechanism of quackery to spread the disease already at that time was known, and warnings were made just because of that.

To go to Africa to spread homeopathy is nothing else but to go there and spread ebola. No one involved can push aside the guilt. No one!

Further: The people in Africa suffer from a disastrous shortage of medicaments and medical personnel. The LMHI and other homeopaths’ organizations and persons involved do know that, and they aggressively exploit the emergency situation of the Africans.

The Africans grab for the last straw. They MUST keep a smiling face despite knowing that they are defrauded. The Africans die. To abuse and exploit dying people is one of the worst crimes ever.

This crime is committed by leading German homeopaths. They do know what they do. And they WILLFULLY do it. And they go on doing it. They already prepare a second “expedition” to Africa.

Homeopathy is murder.

As already is pointed out: The whole intent of the homeopaths was to “prove” homeopathy works, and then boast with their “success”. They wanted to commit a fait accompli, like they did in Haiti. Edouard Broussalian, now one of the four, was in Haiti in 2011, extra, with other homeopaths, to apply homeopathy to the cholera-stricken patients. Later he boasted with a grand success. But fact is: he defrauded.

Broussalian wrote an article about the Haiti incident. This is the translation to English (there also is one to German, hosted on an esoteric sales web-site), saying:

[*quote*]
———————————————-
“at the end of our stay, we were no longer providing new patients with an
infusion, but immediately gave them the phosphorus spray.”
———————————————-
[*/quote*]
more:
http://ariplex.com/folia/archives/833.htm

The standard claim of homeopaths is do be “complementary”, “in addition” to “school medicine”. But one can see here that this claim is a lie. The standard treatment is willfully denied, and instead a homeopathic “spray” is used. I never before read of such a thing as a homeopathic spray.

It is a good idea to delve into the previous “heroic deeds” of Broussalian, Durge, Hiltner and Lindemann.

Broussalian already messed up in Haiti.
Hiltner messes up with astrology to choose homeopathic remedies.
Lindemann is an antivaxxer, and Broussalian also hates vaccines.

Number 4 of the gang is a special case: a “doctor of homeopathic medicine and surgery” – or something else of the sort. But no REAL medical doctor.

Check out her professional (?) education (?). she was on a college in India which produces bachelors, but not medical doctors. Here someone has done some footwork:

“Indian PM appoints Minister for Genocide”
http://ariplex.com/folia/archives/851.htm

The catch is: these homeopaths have no education in pharmacy, only in homeopathy. So Medha Durge neither is a qualified medical doctor nor is any of the 4 qualified with having experience with handling epidemics. They just DO NOT HAVE a qualification for the task.

As a comparison: two member of the Universitätsklinikums Bonn (Germany) will go to West Africa to do some research there. Look at THEIR expertise:

http://transgallaxys.com/~kanzlerzwo/index.php?topic=8375.msg19305#msg19305

THAT is a big difference, I dare say.

The Daily Mail has two articles online about the Ganta incident, with the second one showing a photo the house front of Durge’s “medical office”. It looks more like a shabby peddler’s hut than a medical office.

So we have 4 homeopaths, not being qualified for the task, willed to do homeopathy, supported by unknowing donors who were cheated into believing that a) the group members were fully qualified medical doctors who b) would do sound medical work.

This leaves a broad range of questions to ask the people in the background:

the LMHI
the “Freunde Liberias”
the Honorary Consul of Liberia in Leipzig, Michael Kölsch,
leading members of the Deutscher Zentralverein homöopathischer Ärzte (DZVhAe)
the head office of the United Methodist Church in the USA
the mission office of the United methodist Church in Liberia
the administration of the hospital of the United methodist Church in Ganta

Who pulled the wires between the LMHI and the DZVhAe? Who enabled the whole thing in Ganta?

Look: The idea was created in some places AND THEN escalated in the LMHI and the DZVhAe. AND THEN the homeopaths knocked on whose door? On the door of the Honorary Consul, because he is married with the treasurer of the DZVhAe, who not only is doing homeopathy. No! Monika Kölsch offers “Telehomöopathie”, something which I consider in essence to be nothing but the (of course) forbidden distant healing (my dictionary does not know an English expression for that).

Putting together the puzzle you can follow the first discussions and talks in web forums, then calls for support and money, even newspaper articles in German newspapers, asking for donations. AND in the background things are routed via the Leipzig connection to Ganta. Why Ganta? Because Michael Kölsch has connections.

If you dig deeper you will find a Siegfried Ziegler mentioned, who is a retired hospital manager in Chemnitz. Bingo! Ziegler was in that very hospital in Ganta from 1974-197 as CEO. So it is he who had the FIRST contact, it is he who has since then had the strong contacts with politicians in Liberia.

If someone retires in 2012, short over 60, how old was he in 1974? How do all these pieces fit together? Very simple: Siegfried Ziegler is a member of the Methodist Church.

The whole affair is a combination of a church reaching from the USA to Liberia, and of homeopaths having contacts all around the globe, from USA and India deep into the heart of Europe, BOTH GROUPS being trained in fiddling behind the curtains AND in cheating with language AND in covering up.

See the reactions now: nothing but a try to cover up. Their fait accompli was crushed the very moment some receivers of the LMHI emails published the email by Ortrud Lindemann, laying open the real intentions, and showing not only the names of the four, but also the names of the background eminences.

Look at Michael Kölsch’s description how he went to Liberia in 2012:

“Bericht über eine Unternehmerreise nach Liberia im März 2012”
http://www.liberia.michaelkoelsch.de/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Bericht_ueber_eine_Unternehmerreise1.pdf

The important part:

[*QUOTE*]
—————————————————–
In der Gerlib Klinik treffe ich mit fast 30 minütiger Verspätung ein, was mir Leid tut. Man erwartet mich am Eingang und begleitet mich zu Frau Gieraths-Nimene, der Gründerin und Eigentümerin der Klinik. Ich treffe eine sehr beeindruckende Deutsche, die mich herzlich begrüßt und mir gerne Ihre Klinik präsentiert. Ich sehe wartende Kranke in einem neu gebauten Gebäudekomplex, eine verletzte Frau, die soeben einen Autounfall hatte, in einem anderen Raum ist eine junge Frau dabei ,Zwillingen das Leben zu schenken, in wieder einem anderen Behandlungsraum liegen Malariapatienten. Zwei wichtige medizinische Geräte sind defekt was problematisch ist, da es noch keinen medizinischen Wartungsdienst in Monrovia gibt und eine Reparatur in Deutschland zeitaufwändig und teuer ist. Frau Gieraths-Nimene hat die Klinik vor dem Krieg zusammen mit ihrem Liberianischen Ehemann gegründet. Nach dem Tod ihres Mannes führt sie das Haus alleine. Es freut mich, dass sie der Homöopathie sehr aufgeschlossen gegenüber steht.

Sie teilt meine Auffassung, dass die Homöopathie eine geeignete Heilmethode sei, um damit das Gesundheitswesen in Liberia zu ergänzen. Sie ist preiswert und die Offenheit der Liberianischen Bevölkerung für alternative, sanfte Heilmethoden darf unterstellt werden. Wenige Tage nach meiner Abreise werden die „Homöopathen ohne Grenzen“ aus Deutschland zusammen mit Frau Gieraths-Nimene Liberianischen Ärzten in Monrovia die Homöopathie vorstellen
—————————————————–
[*/QUOTE*]

In short:
A native German woman married a Liberian and both founded a clinic in Monrovia, which after the husbands death is run by the woman alone.
Some few days after Michael Kölsch’s leave there the “Homöopathen ohne Grenzen” (the German branch of the “homeopaths without borders”) will present homeopathy to Liberian doctors in Monrovia.

Do note:

“Sie teilt meine Auffassung, dass die Homöopathie eine geeignete Heilmethode sei, um damit das Gesundheitswesen in Liberia zu ergänzen.”
(“She shares my opinion that homeopathy is a suitable medical treatment to complement the health care system in Liberia.”)

So Michael Kölsch is an active proponent for homeopathy, pushing homeopathy. And it can be guessed about his role in paving the way for the homeopaths without borders.

Is it possible that in 2014 a Honorary Consul for Liberia is NOT aware of the ebola epidemics in Liberia? Oh, he is aware of it. He organizes help.

Now, if someone has these strong connections that he has, and is so well connected with people in medicine and politics, does this man NOT know about the WHO ruling out homeopathy?

There are pants on fire in Leipzig, this we can be sure of…

There’s got to be that day that conventional medicine will respect homeopathy—both have their strengths, both have their weaknesses; they need to stop calling each other names.”

This “we’re-all-part-of-the-identity-smorgasburg” schtick is very old and very annoying. Medicine is being treated like different ways of making turkey stuffing. I like cornbread, you don’t. “No right, no wrong; just different. Why can’t our critics see that?”

Because you’re making objective claims of fact, not expressing personal preferences, that’s why. But this Identity Smorgasbord framework and its easy appeals to tolerance and “respect” plays well for people who want to duck accountability.

When one of my kiddos was about 15yo, he described some very woo-y acquaintances thusly ” their hearts are in the right place but their heads are up their arse.”

It’s true that most proponents of alternative medicine have “their hearts in the right place.” They mean well and genuinely want to help themselves and others ‘heal.’

But there’s a dark side to that. Because they place so much emphasis on good intentions leading to discoveries of truth they are wont to assume that those who don’t agree with them don’t have good intentions. Skeptics are skeptical because “their hearts are not in the right place.” Thus they equate our criticisms with “name-calling.”

Sastra, what you say is precisely true in regards to the anti-vaccine movement: they go as far to say that those who disagree with them are agents of malfeasance, paid shills and deserve to be behind bars.

The package was annotated in both English and French. The French translation was, as you would guess, something like “poulet vétéran”.

Reminds me of a high school french class where the students were supposed to look up words for weather and write them on the blackboard.

Several of us had puzzled looks for a bit after one student wrote ‘salut’ on the board… before realizing that ‘salut’ does in fact mean ‘hail’, but in the sense of greeting someone. Somebody obviously hadn’t bothered to do the reverse lookup to make sure that their translation was actually using the proper of the multiple definitions of the word.

… Why do I still waste brain cells remembering events like this thirty years later?

OT but are anti-vaxxers trying to drum up responses any way they can EVER truly OT @ RI- esp on a slow newsday?
I should think not.

At any rate, the editor/s haul out an old and tired article by John about their numero uno *bete noire* and *voila!* the commenters come crawling out of the woodwork seething.

Narad @6 — What is “EVD”?

Ebola virus disease. The longer I look at this, the more incoherent it seems. The seeming breakdown in David R. Allen’s command of the English language toward the end doesn’t help much. If anyone can convert the VEGF bit into something resembling coherent thought, I’d be fascinated.

It was actually at this point that I resorted to verification of his license, which is fine. And he went to UCLA, which makes his Web site all the more pathetic. Check this out:

“Our bodies contain a natural magnetic field, created by the flow of electrically-charged ions in and out of our cells and by the transmission of electrical impulses through the membranes of our cells.

A deficiency of electromagnetic force in our bodies creates a situation similar to running out of oxygen….

“With almost 90% of the earth’s electromagnetic field having been lost, … it is no wonder that many people’s bodies have become highly toxic and are functioning well below optimal capacity [sic].

Narad @22 — Thanks for the clarification.

Unfortunately, I have to ask for another — what is the rest of your post referring to? Who is David Allen? What is VEGF?

I feel like I just arrived from Mars sometimes, which maybe I did, in which case I’d be what a brilliant but highly dyslexic colleague of mine used to refer (in writing) as a “Marshan”.

What is VEGF?

Vascular epithelial growth factor. It might be most straightforward to refer to the original item.

The best I can figure on this front is that he’s, ah, free-associating from something he wandered across involving rheumatoid arthritis and got firmly but horribly wrong.

‘“With almost 90% of the earth’s electromagnetic field having been lost, … it is no wonder that many people’s bodies have become highly toxic and are functioning well below optimal capacity [sic].’

HA! Wouldn’t that result in rather more serious problems than people being “toxic” and “functioning well below optimal capacity”? Like, y’know, losing our upper atmosphere and all the consequences of that?

“This was a golden opportunity to treat something that conventional medicine couldn’t,” he says. “Not only to help the people, but to show homeopathy works…”
Correct me if I am wrong, but I was under the impression that there are still people dying in Europe of conditions which conventional medicine can’t treat. Cancers, Alzheimers syndrome, ALS, CF. Wouldn’t it be easier, Dr Hiltner, to show that homeopathy works by curing people at home?

Adding to the report of this Turkey day event, my day usually starts with a strange genomic mixed bag concoction known as trp2Fam. A substantial deride projects toward me from all sorts of internet experts Googling the latest and greatest “education” on oils, crystals, toxins, anti-vaccinoidiocy, and the like. I guess hundreds of thousands of dollars in lab work and peer review science, of course, is boring as hell to hear about, so I hit the scotch and check out the bell curves, smiling along.

So, thinking of the annual trp2Fam expression, my dad is an awesome family-based chef, can smoke three turkeys and hams for our gathering of dozens (I think one year we had 60+, typical though is about 40). Anyway, he had a cough one day. I figured some viral upper respiratory, he’s mobile so it should self-resolve. I gave a listen to the lung sounds after some days later and have one of those finger pulse-oxs (I kinda like all the wifi medical gadgets that come out — give me a 12 lead smart-phone app and that will be my kitten in the milk happy face — I.T. advancement is a big part of medicine, I feel). He was satting in the tank 🙁 …. So, we got him to the Primary and started a course of abx and ordered some at home O2. I actually had to explain pneumonia (which is really not a joke) in these terms for oxygen therapy:

“A deficiency of electromagnetic force in our bodies creates a situation similar to running out of oxygen….’With almost 90% of the earth’s electromagnetic field having been lost, … it is no wonder that many people’s bodies have become highly toxic and are functioning well below optimal capacity.'”

Either that, or the Lord wasn’t being prayed to in the right fashion (is it ever?).. Anyway, I saw the ‘magical force’ in the previous comment and got a chuckle out of it. Not that the oxygen therapy and abx were giving him a much needed bump back to health, at all. And, after the requisite days on abx, the infection cleared up and he was satting in the upper nineties again.

So, Thanksgiving, a day of it really isn’t so bad…..as I cringe saying so. For the life of me, I just can’t get into Breaking Bad. I’ll try a few more episodes, but I’m skeptical.

Our bodies contain a natural magnetic field, created by the flow of electrically-charged ions in and out of our cells and by the transmission of electrical impulses through the membranes of our cells.

Oh great, another case of not-even-wrong physics from a physician. It’s true that moving electrical charges will produce a magnetic field, but let’s look at orders of magnitude. Even if these things are consistently moving in the same direction (unlikely), you are talking about something on the order of a microampere per square meter. (That would be about 60 ions per second moving through a spherical cell 1 μm in radius.) Per Ampere’s law, that gives you a magnetic field of around 1 microtesla, but arranged in a loop around the current, so it doesn’t amount to much (especially once you average out the currents, which in a healthy body almost certainly average out to near zero). The Earth’s magnetic field is about 30 microtesla at the magnetic equator, and twice that at the poles, but it is a much larger scale phenomenon. Add the fact that the sorts of fluids you find in a body are highly collisional (i.e., an individual particle doesn’t get very far without interacting with another particle), which means that the frequencies with which those ions collide are much larger than any frequencies associated with that magnetic field. I’d say you can neglect the effects of any bodily magnetic field, at least under normal circumstances.

I don’t know enough about paleomagnetism to judge his claim that the Earth has lost 90% of its magnetic field, but I would take that claim with a large grain of salt.

@ MarkN:

” For the life of me, I just can’t get into Breaking Bad”

Yours truly as well. I heard raves from someone with reasonably good taste who started watching the tapes because of a recommendation from someone totally without discrimination or much sense who was and remains addicted to the show.
I watched a few times and wasn’t impressed although the lead actor was very good.

I’m sure that many stage 4 cancer patients run around becoming [email protected] drug lords .

@ Eric Lund:

Then I imagine that you are not an advocate of the idea that ‘all human interactions are an ENERGY exchange’-
e.g. learning from a teacher, interactions between parent and child as well as sexual attraction. Or so they tell me.

@ama
While I don’t entirely disagree with the general gist of your comment, I take offense to your tone about Africa. We are not a bunch of primitives. It’s that kind of fallacious assumptions that underlie faulty critical thinking. (Forgive me if my reaction is out of line. I read less than a quarter of your comment, since I am wary of obsessive ranting comments that are longer than the articles to which they refer.)

I went trawling through the Interwebs to try to find some info regarding the claim that the Earth has lost 90% of its geomagnetic field. I found a whole lotta nonsense, from 2012 stuff (oops!) to young-Earth creationist hooey.

It turns out that the Earth’s magnetic field is weaking to a certain extent, which might mean that a N-S reversal will happen soon. (Soon in geological time – these things typically take on the order of a few thousand years to complete.) Decent info here, as far as I can tell.

Magnets: we know how they work. Just don’t tell ICP.

[email protected] — Searching around a bit I found that Prothero, who wrote the paleomagnetism article you linked to, has a book called Reality Check that takes up causes near and dear to many readers of this blog. As it so happens, the geomagnetic field is his own specialty, so he writes with particular authority.

As the snooty waiter says, “good choice!”.

Jerome @36 — You have to admit that writing a comment longer than an Orac post is quite an achievement. Possibly a dubious achievement, though.

palindrom @38 – I haz mad information filtering skillz. I’m no scientist myself – well, I’ve studied some linguistics. Just a Ph.D. candidate studying Russian, Ukrainian and Polish poetry. If there’s one thing academic training in any discipline gives you, though, it’s a recognition of the importance of sources and credentials. (Well, it should, anyway.)

If I don’t get a decent job in academe – no adjuncting, please! – which is a real possibility, I’ve had thoughts of starting some kind of educational program for kids/teens on just basic critical thinking and information filtering. In the Internet age, it’s more and more a necessary skill – there’s just so much nonsense out there.

ama @10,

“she was on a college in India which produces bachelors, but not medical doctors.”

Just because someone has a bachelor degree in medicine doesn’t mean they are not a medical doctor.

It may be a surprise to you, but a lot of the world produces doctors who do not have MDs.

A lot of the world, especially the British Commonwealth countries, derive their medical qualifications and practice from UK history, rather than USA history. Most produce doctors with a bachelor degree. Examples are the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and India.

The degree is usually a double bachelor in medicine and surgery (MBChB or similar). The knowledge requirements of the 5-6 year professional degree is the same as the US professional MD.

An MD from those countries is a research degree equivalent to the PhD in the USA. It means that someone with an MD from India, Australia, NZ, etc, has a higher level of attainment than someone with an MD from the USA.

In those countries with the double bachelor degree, the professional term “doctor” is awarded by the medical council (or equivalent) of the country concerned.

There is some advantage in this system: in New Zealand it is illegal for anyone to call themselves a “doctor” unless they are registered with the Medical Council. It doesn’t matter what qualifications a naturopath or chiropracter has, or where those qualifications came from, in order to legally call themselves “doctor” they have to get registered with the Medical Council. And registration with the Medical Council means they have to have a recognised degree in medicine.

Result: chiropracters have to call themselves a chiropracter, naturopaths have to call themselves a naturopath, homeopaths have to call themselves a homeopath… And if you see a “doctor”, they have to be a medical doctor.

I once purchased a packaged meal of seasoned chicken.
The package was annotated in both English and French. The French translation was, as you would guess, something like “poulet vétéran”.

For which Helianthus was nominated for the pullet surprise.

ama #10

Number 4 of the gang is a special case: a “doctor of homeopathic medicine and surgery” – or something else of the sort. But no REAL medical doctor.

Homeopathic surgery? Is that like papercuts?

JP: If you want to run that critical thinking skills program online, I’m trying to get an online class service going already (I would teach math, someone else I know from school would teach history, and we want people for other subjects too)…my gmail is the same as my screen name here, if you want to get in touch. (Actually, the same would apply to most people here, in their respective subjects of expertise.)

@Stuartg
November 29, 2014
#41

>”she was on a college in India which produces bachelors, but not medical doctors.”
>Just because someone has a bachelor degree in medicine doesn’t mean they are not a medical doctor.

Wrong. You should have read the texts of which I gave the references. That bachelor is no real medical doctor. And it is a bachelor title and not a doctor tile.

The degree is usually a double bachelor in medicine and surgery (MBChB or similar). The knowledge requirements of the 5-6 year professional degree is the same as the US professional MD.

Durge’s WankedIn profile is here (note that the claim to an [Indian] MD isn’t backed up). She attended the Chandaben Mohanbhai Patel Homeopathic Medical College, which awards the BHMS degree.* This is a 4.5 year program (PDF) with only a secondary-school prerequisite.

Perhaps it has the same scope of practice as an MBBS in India, but it sure doesn’t look to be equivalent to a USian MD/DO. It also doesn’t seem to allow entry into a surgical specialization:

[hpathy.com]/ask-homeopathy-doctors/information-about-bhms-course/

The “Introduction to Normal Psychology” section has some good bits, though:

“(c) Mesmar and his theory, Hypnotism structure of consciousness.
“(d) Fraud and his theory-Dynamics of the unconscious. Development of the Libide.”

* And note that Durge also claims an MD with seemingly no further education to back it up.

@ebrillblaiddes
November 29, 2014
#45

>>Number 4 of the gang is a special case: a “doctor of homeopathic medicine and surgery” – or something else of the sort. But no REAL medical doctor.

>Homeopathic surgery? Is that like papercuts?

Please read CAREFULLY: “doctor of homeopathic medicine and surgery”.
Please read the texts I gave the URLs of. Do read the official Indian document with the curriculum and the exams.

@ama:

Wrong. You should have read the texts of which I gave the references. That bachelor is no real medical doctor. And it is a bachelor title and not a doctor tile.

You need to demonstrate that the scope of practice is different from an MBBS, which is a real medical degree.

Shay: “Groan.”

I was amused with by “What, you guys have never heard of a full-bird colonel?” comment. But, then again, my dad only made it to Lt. Col.

@Narad
November 29, 2014
#48

One of the sources one must read is

“Indian PM appoints Minister for Genocide”
http://ariplex.com/folia/archives/851.htm

The whole thing is very interesting because that text deals with an article written by India’s best-known homeopath, a Dr. Batra. Batra opposes the new laws which would add a voluntary 1-years course in pharmacy – to allow the homeopaths passing that exam to apply “allopathy”.

It is explicitly described that the Indian bachelors lack a vital part of medical education. And Batra wants to keep it that way.

Have a look at the Indian document: 215 pages describing the old (!) curriculum and exams of that bachelor education.

Durge of course had the old curriculum.

One of the sources one must read is

“Indian PM appoints Minister for Genocide”

I already have. What mainly struck me was its similarity to your own writing style.

Oh, and…

The whole thing is very interesting because that text deals with an article written by India’s best-known homeopath, a Dr. Batra.

One might note that the your Batra digression has no apparent connection to the two-paragraph news item used for the your hed and lede.

For those who don’t care to bother trying to wring signal out of definitely-not-ama’s-no-really ariplex item, the issue seems to be this and, more recently, this.

^ This at least clarifies that a BHMS does not have the same scope of practice as an MBBS, which pretty much takes care of Durge’s credentials.

See? Simple.

The whole thing is very interesting because that text deals with an article written by India’s best-known homeopath, a Dr. Batra. Batra opposes the new laws which would add a voluntary 1-years course in pharmacy – to allow the homeopaths passing that exam to apply “allopathy.

I haven’t read any of this, but it seems like Batra may have a point — conventional drugs have actual effects and can do harm, esp. if administered incorrectly. Contrast this to Randi swallowing an entire bottle of homeopathic sleeping pills!

@palindrom
November 30, 2014
#63

Batra does not have a point. They key to Batra’s tirade is one tiny statement, so tiny one does not realize its REAL meaning. Batra complains that homeopathy will lose its “charm”. Batra wants to maintain the magic and the wizardry.

Look at the situation: a homeopath does nothing else but waffle day and night, and delude patients, and rip them off with usesless crap. AND THEN the homeopath ON THE OTHER HAND uses some rotten, stinky,. diabolic “alloopathic” pills, …………………………… and the patients gets REALLY well again, in short time.

THAT is Batra’s real problem: the delusions won’t work anymore because patients now can COMPARE, AND FEEL that scientific pharmaceutical medicaments do work. Homeopathy immediately would collapse.

Batra does not whine for nothing. He owns several hundred homeopathic offices in India. They will go down the drain once people realize how he defrauded them over the last four decades.

Batra even used market research company Nielsen to make a “study” to boost his sales. That is a really mean imperialistic and capitalistic westerner trick.

While flipping through a catalog from the Vermont Country Store last night (the company bills itself as offering “practical” products), I found a number of homeopathic drugs listed, including one which purports to get rid of skin tags:

http://www.vermontcountrystore.com/store/search/search_result.jsp?q=homeopathic

The company has been advised why I will not be buying any of their stuff.

*though I suppose homeopathic skin tag remover is less obnoxious than caustic “natural” solutions like bloodroot paste.

THAT is Batra’s real problem: the delusions won’t work anymore because patients now can COMPARE, AND FEEL that scientific pharmaceutical medicaments do work. Homeopathy immediately would collapse.

You misunderestimate the power of suggestion, confirmation bias, and all that. In the west, people have access to all kinds of meds, but many still gravitate to homeopathy.

Most of ’em have the kind of chronic complaints that conventional medicine tends to do poorly with, especially when doctors are overworked. Naturopaths of various persuasions tend to make a big fuss over the patient, which undoubtedly helps them feel better. Add to this the tendency for many conditions to resolve on their own, and you’ve got yourself a business model.

Though not necessarily an effectual treatment.

@ JP ( # 40) re critical thinking and spotting nonsense..

What are the easy-to-identify marks** of a true charlatan?

Travelling about in woo-topia, I’ve discovered that they need first to have their potential marks disregard standard methods of determining exactly who is an expert and whom to trust.
Thus, they need conspiracies that cast doubt on all authorities and institutions: the fact that they have no advanced degrees granted by esteemed universities and that they hold no important official positions is therefore actually a plus.

Usually, their audience follows them over a period of time so mis-information about corruption in high places is repeated frequently, e.g. what are the two worst newspapers to them? those that most people would deem the best .

In addition, they mention their own studies and work over many years which have helped countless people yet are denied by the corrupt authorities. Indeed, their innovations are a threat to the status quo.

They allow their audience to be part of a privileged insider group which is obviously ‘ahead of the curve’ and riding the tsunami of paradigm shift which is always ‘just around the corner or a few months off.

Whilst they lord it over their followers continuously, being so brilliant and all, they simultaneously stress that they are just ‘regular guys’, down-home and folksy, in fact, they’re JUST like you ( except for the genius , of course) and they, being humanitarians, want to help the poor victims of the establishment because they are also *spiritual*. They are most of all, your friends. And you need them and in the future, when all h3ll breaks loose ( another set of dystopian sagas on which they constantly harp), knowing them and what they teach will save your life.

** I know.

palindrome @42 – That article was rad. Thanks.
ebrillblaiddes @ 45 – It’s really just a notion of a pipe dream at this point in time; I still have a dissertation to finish writing and a couple of years of funding, at least, to do it.

@Denice Walter (#67):

Yeah, you’ve got it right, for sure. In fact, quacks tend to prey in particular on people of a certain anti-authoritarian disposition. Having come of age in punk/leftie/hippie circles, I’m no stranger to the mindset myself, although I’ve gotten much more politically moderate and (I think) realistic with (a little bit of) age.

I used to regard woo among lefties as basically harmless eccentricity, until I started to see people die from it, like a friend of a friend who tried to treat her breast cancer with cannabis oil to predictable and tragic effect. Or when other friends get diagnosed with “multiple chemical sensitivity” and basically start living in a bubble. Or even when people freak out about eeevil agricultural chemicals and start to feel like they can only trust food they grow in their own yard.

But, yeah, the mistrust of authority basically creates an air-tight belief system around this stuff. Once people really get into it, it seems to be really hard to bring them back out, maybe impossible. Mistrust and general hubris and intellectual arrogance turn into a hellish feedback loop.

Given that what’s exploitable here is a basic personality trait – in a lot of people, just sheer lack of humility – I’m not entirely sure that just teaching critical thinking skills would suffice to keep people from falling for rank BS. I’m not even sure how I managed to avoid falling into it; chalk it up to a working-class upbringing, maybe. The elitism of using, say, the word “sheeple” to refer to the majority of the human race always really turned me off. Well, that and moving out to the Midwest to attend a major research university and starting to hang out with med students, engineers and other science-y types. (The whole “doctors are only interested in making money off you!” thing starts to seem like utter BS after a few late night flash-card-cum-drinking-sessions with a friend in an M.D. / Ph.D. program. That ish is hard. If someone only wanted to make money, there are much better and easier ways out there to do that.

Anyway…

@palindrom
November 30, 2014
#66

Wrong. You look from your western point of view. But India is a terribly poor country. One of the details of the articles is the remark WHY the homeopaths are pushed: because there are not enough scientific medical doctors. To fill this need politics pushes homeopaths in. The same we had some decades ago in China. Remember the barefoot-doctors? It is always the same problem: not enough doctors and not enough medicaments. To keep the people quiet politics sends out surrogates.

In China the situation bettered, and, guess what: people want scientific medicine. They would be astonished to see how the westerners want “traditional Chines medicine”. Because there is none. All that stuff was an invention by Mao.

The Chinese do want pharmaceutical efficacious medicaments. The do know the difference. In India the situation will develop the same way. Right now there is a vacuum. But once pharmaceutical efficacious medicine is available (the pills and the doctors to hand them out) people will want them.

You underestimate the high criminal energy of the homeopaths. They treat EVERYTHING only with homeopathica, including lethal infections and diseases. How about homeopathy for asthma? Is lethal. How about homeopathy for poisoning? Is lethal. And so on, and so on.

People will see the difference. One only has to GIVE them the medicine.

Of course there always will be idiots, like in the west, who rather die than get a vaccination. But India has several hundred million citizens. Idiots are expendable.

But once pharmaceutical efficacious medicine is available (the pills and the doctors to hand them out) people will want them.

I don’t doubt it. Some years ago in India I remember seeing an advertisement for a ‘fruit beer’ promising it was made with “all artificial ingredients”. The irony of people in the west wanting ‘natural’ ingredients while those in India wanted the exact opposite was not lost on me.

That said, India has no shortage of wealthy middle class worried well who are just as vulnerable to placebo effects of homeopathy as their western counterparts. Homeopathy works well for some imaginary illnesses, it’s the real ones it’s useless for.

I would add that there are those more prone to being “taken” that haven’t been listed – evangelical Christians. I don’t know if it is the ability to believe in God that makes them willing to believe “natural healing” over scientific research, but there are some marketers of woo that specifically target Christians, using Bible verses as part of their rationale for their treatments, etc. People in churches like Mr Woo’s are especially prone to believe woo presented by these types, because “Christians don’t lie.”

One of the details of the articles is the remark WHY the homeopaths are pushed: because there are not enough scientific medical doctors. To fill this need politics pushes homeopaths in.

Is anyone mandating the bridge training? (One might also wonder whether you share a “western point of view,” given the translations from German.)

In the U.S., naturopaths are enthusiastic about trying to gain prescriptive privileges, precisely because it varnishes what they crave – being respected as “real doctors.”

What you seem to be describing is the reaction of a single high homeopathic muckety-muck, Batra, to try to convince people with a BHMS not to do it. This presupposes his realization that, rather than being “pushed,” they may well be all to eager for the extra luster.

By the way, are you going to cop to the fact that the mere presence of the word “bachelor” doesn’t mean what you’ve insisting it does? The Indian equivalent of a USian MD is an MBBS: “Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.”

Given the amount of time it took for the distinction to be clarified, with no deliberate effort on your part, it seems like a useful discriminator between your actually being engaged in an exchange and your merely promoting an idée fixe.

^ “all too”, “been insisting”

I generally don’t bother wasting bandwidth to correct such typos, but this pair irritated me for some reason.

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