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Integrative medicine and spoon bending at the University of Alberta and "Bigfoot skepticism"

After over 11 years at this blogging thing, I periodically start to fear that I’m becoming jaded. In particular, after following the infiltration of quackery in the form of “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), now more commonly known as “integrative medicine,” because it integrates CAM with evidence-based medicine. Of course, in reality, what “integrative medicine” really does is to integrate prescientific, pseudoscientific, and antiscientific quackery with real medicine, and that’s what I mean. I thought I had seen it all in academic medical centers and medical schools: the faith healing that is reiki at National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer centers, acupuncture at more universities than I can recall, functional medicine and traditional Chinese medicine at at the Cleveland Clinic; naturopathy and therefore, whether the MDs in the integrative medicine departments know it or not, The One Quackery To Rule Them All, homeopathy, which is an integral part of naturopathy; and even Rudolf Steiner’s ultimate woo, anthroposophic medicine at my damned alma mater!

Yes, I thought I had seen it all, until I came across this Tweet by Tim Caulfield, an outspoken critic of CAM from our neighbors up north:



And:

Yes, you read that right. It’s a flier for Pediatric Integrative Medicine Rounds at the University of Alberta’s CARE Program for Integrative Health and Healing advertising a spoon bending workshop. No wonder most people thought it was a joke or some sort of satire. It wasn’t; it even showed up on the CBC News website:

The workshop is to be presented on June 28 by Anastasia Kutt, an Edmonton “energy healing therapist” and “registered reiki master,” according to her website.

“This experiential workshop will teach a guided meditation/energy transfer technique which will have most participants bending cutlery using the power of their minds,” the workshop description says.

“This will not be a scientific evaluation of the process,” the poster notes.

It won’t be a scientific evaluation of the process? Imagine my relief. Particularly hilarious is the part about typically “75% of workshop participants can bend the spoon.” Only 75%?

Naturally, I wandered over to Anastasia Kutt’s website, Luminous Tranquility, where I learned:

Anastasia Kutt (click here for bio) is an energy healing therapist and workshop facilitator in Edmonton, Alberta. She is a Registered Reiki Master Teacher with the Canadian Reiki Association, and offers Reiki workshops at Healing Connections Wellness Center. She is one of 20 certified Trilotherapists in Canada, and also has extensive training in the Yuen Method of Energy Clearing. Please see Workshops for upcoming events and Treatments for information about treatments.

Kutt appears not to be actually treating anyone, but rather making her living doing workshops on reiki and “energy medicine,” including spoon bending workshops, and selling a guided meditation CD. So, obviously, someone at the Pediatric Integrative Medicine program at the University of Alberta must have hired Kutt to do this workshop. Just let that sink in. Whoever runs the Pediatric Integrative Medicine Rounds thought that it was a good idea to invite an “energy healer” to demonstrate how to use the “power of the mind” to bend a spoon! Ultimately, it was reported that the event was canceled, which just goes to show that shining the light of day on these excesses of quackademic medicine is the best disinfectant for

At this point, it would be very easy to go on a fun (and hopefully funny) rant about just how bad things have gotten in quackademic medicine that anyone at an actual medical school would take the claims of spoon bending at face value. Very easy indeed. It would have been a hell of a lot of fun, too, which made it difficult for me to restrain myself. However, as I read over this sad story of credulity, I was reminded of something that happened a mere two weeks ago at the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism (NECSS), when Scientific American journalist John Horgan gave a talk with the intentionally inflammatory title, Dear “Skeptics,” Bash Homeopathy and Bigfoot Less, Mammograms and War More: A science journalist takes a skeptical look at capital-S Skepticism, which he later posted on his Scientific American blog. It provoked a lot of reactions because it was so fractally wrong, including two responses from Steve Novella, Daniel Loxton, Jerry Coyne, and, of course, yours truly.

Basically, Horgan’s criticism of skepticism boiled down to an accusation that we don’t take on the “hard” targets, preferring instead to go after “easy” targets like Bigfoot, homeopathy, astrology, and the like. While there is a grain of truth in that characterization, overall Horgan’s whine came across as the fallacy of relative privation or, as I like to put it, “You should stop caring about what you care about and care about what I care about instead because it’s so much more important than what you care about.” Part of that characterization was to disparage “bigfoot skeptics.” Do you see where I’m going with this?

One of the most basic issues of skepticism, one that many skeptics cut their teeth on, is Uri Geller, the man who bends spoons with the power of his mind. At least, that’s how he characterized himself in the 1970s and onward. I first heard about him when I was a teenager. Being a teenager and of not more than average skepticism, I was just as puzzled as many people were over Geller’s spoon bending. Now, spoon bending is an obvious magic trick, which is why James Randi was so easily able to duplicate it and why he was so easily able, working with Johnny Carson, to expose Geller as a fraud on national TV:

These days, it’s so well known that spoon bending is a magic trick and not evidence of a man’s ability to bend metal with his mind that a quick Google search for “How do you bend spoons?” turns up many links that tell you just how to duplicate Geller’s feat that amazed so many for so many decades, for instance:

There’s even a Wikipedia entry on spoon bending.

This sort of skepticism is exactly the sort of skepticism that Horgan so contemptuously dismissed as “Bigfoot skepticism.” After all, it’s just a con man named Uri Geller bending spoons using a magic trick that most magicians know and fooling the public into thinking that he was using the “power of his mind” to accomplish it. The skill set required to demonstrate that Geller was a fraud was straightforward and not particularly complex. That’s why the story of Uri Geller’s spoon bending con is a basic story that nearly all skeptics encounter fairly early on in their journey to becoming skeptics. It’s the very epitome of what John Horgan considers wrong with organized skepticism.

And yet…

And yet there is a major Canadian academic medical center that had at least one faculty member that doesn’t exercise skepticism about a woman who claims to be able to manipulate “life energy” from the “universal source,” which is what reiki is when you boil it down to its essence, and offers workshops on how to use the power of your mind to bend spoons. Just think about it. If the person putting together Pediatric Integrative Medicine Rounds for the University of Alberta had been inculcated with a bit of the ol’ “Bigfoot skepticism,” maybe he or she wouldn’t have agreed to let Anastasia Kutt to do a workshop there. If that person knew that spoon bending was nothing more than a simple magician’s trick, perhaps he or she wouldn’t have fallen for Kutt’s nonsense. That didn’t happen, unfortunately. Bigfoot skepticism could have prevented this, but in the world of quackademic medicine there isn’t even Bigfoot skepticism. There isn’t much, if any, skepticism at all. More’s the pity.

Then, of course, Horgan also heaped his scorn on skeptics who debunk homeopathy. As I’ve discussed many times in the past, on the surface, there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of homeopathy in academic medical centers. However, if you consider how many CAM or “integrative medicine” programs have naturopaths on faculty and offer naturopathy services, you’ll soon realize that there are a lot of academic medical centers offering homeopathy. The reason is simple. Homeopathy is such an integral part of naturopathy that you can’t have naturopathy without homeopathy.

In fact, a little bit of that “Bigfoot skepticism” could prevent atrocities against science-based medicine like the Pediatric Integrative Medicine (PIM) trial:

The Pediatric Integrative Medicine Trial (“PIM Trial”) started recruitment of hospitalized children at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta in early 2013, and the clinical intervention phase starts in the fall. While the initial focus is on children with cancer, plans to include children in other areas of the hospital are underway. Led by the CARE Program and supported by the University of Alberta, the trial will study the effects of an inpatient PIM service when added to conventional medical care.

The service consists of pediatricians and credentialed therapists in acupuncture, massage therapy, and reiki who will offer consultations and treatments for children experiencing pain, nausea/vomiting, and/or anxiety (“PNVA”). Choice of therapy is guided by each patient and family, and informed by established research on its safety and effectiveness; there are no obligations to start or continue the PIM Trial’s therapies, and there is no cost to the family or to the hospital.

The trial will assess and compare costs, length of hospital stay, safety and effectiveness of therapies (CAM and conventional), and quality of life and satisfaction with care as determined by patients, their caregivers and health care providers.

Of course, acupuncture and reiki are the purest of vitalistic quackery, modalities that have no place in any hospital purporting to provide evidence- and science-based care to patients. “Bigfoot skepticism” is useful in identifying how reiki, at least, is quackery. Acupuncture is a little bit more difficult, given that it involves sticking actual needles into patients, but it’s not that much more difficult to demonstrate that acupuncture is a theatrical placebo. Sadly, the University of Alberta is not alone in embracing quackery. It has lots of company.

Scientific skepticism strives to separate claims that are supported by evidence and science from claims that are not. Claims like the ones made by Uri Geller over the years are clearly ridiculous, but, contrary to what Horgan seems to think, they are not at all unimportant because they are widely believed. In fact, they’re so widely believed that they have served as the basis of a workshop offered by a respected academic medical center. All it would have taken is a single skeptic applying “Bigfoot skepticism” to the claims being made by, for instance, the University of Alberta. Where was that skeptic? Nowhere, or so it would seem. It’s not as though it’s always difficult to test these sorts of implausible claims, either. Indeed, in the case of “therapeutic touch” (also called “healing touch”), a form of “energy medicine” widely taught in nursing school that posits that the person doing the therapeutic touch can sense and manipulate the patient’s “energy field” to healing effect, disproving the woo is so easy that even an 11-year-old can do it. Unfortunately, the environment at some academic medical centers has become so credulous that highly educated physicians and nurses accept this kind of nonsense. Sure, it’s possible that a lot of physicians saw the spoon-bending flyer and scoffed derisively, but the very fact that the workshop was scheduled is a symptom of a serious problem.

In fact, I’d argue that we could use some “Bigfoot skeptics” in medicine. Horgan paints efforts debunking homeopathy with the same brush, as taking on an “easy” target that isn’t worth the effort, but homeopathy is a multibillion dollar industry. We could use some in politics as well, because, for example, there is a whole category of health care pseudo-professionals called naturopaths for whom homeopathy is such an integral part of their practice that it is part of their licensing examination. In my state (Michigan), there is a bill, HB 4531, that would grant licensure and a broad scope of practice to naturopaths. If there were more “Bigfoot skeptics” in our brain dead legislature, maybe the bill wouldn’t have made it out of the House Committee on Health Policy to be considered by the whole House.

Skepticism and critical thinking are a world view that is desperately lacking in most people. Horgan seems to think that it’s not worthwhile to exercise these skills on anything less than world peace and complex questions about whether screening for cancer saves enough lives relative to the cost in money and overtreatment, but there are plenty of examples of much more straightforward questions need to be examined with science and a critical eye. Unfortunately, one of these examples is in medicine myself. If even a few physicians can be accepting enough of a claim that a common magician’s trick is in reality evidence of the power of the mind that they’re willing to schedule a workshop on spoon bending at a major medical center, we have a problem, and it’s a problem that “Bigfoot skeptics” are most suited to tackle.

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]

152 replies on “Integrative medicine and spoon bending at the University of Alberta and "Bigfoot skepticism"”

Spoon bending… Spoon bending???? F*#%IN’ SPOON BENDING??!?!?

Not gonna lie, I checked the calender to see whether it was April 1 when I saw this.

My intern year of residency at the University of Arizona School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics involves a lot of frustration over a newly introduced computer charting system in 2000. It could take 1 to 2 hours to get orders in on a patient that you could have written in a paper chart in about 5 minutes. There was a meeting with the computer people at the hospital along with a doctor who had become an IT specialist for the hospital and he said point blank to us pediatricians that they rolled out this horrible system on the pediatrics ward first because we were ” nice people”. The flip side to that was that the physicians who were surgeons and in adult medicine would not have stood for this horribly written computer software nonsense. I think to some degree this is the same tolerance by people that are being way too nice (i.e. pediatricians) when it comes to integrative medicine and even worse nonsense like spoon bending and energy healing–not that any of it is stuff that I think should be tolerated in science based medicine. At least I’m hoping that’s how it is and this would extend as well to the increasing anti-vaccination you see within Pediatrics. I’m really hoping it’s a bunch of people who know these pseudo-scientific quacks are wrong but are simply being nice people in tolerating it rather than actually believing it.

That being said, and as you know, the University of Arizona his home to a pseudo-scientific integrative medicine program that has very much infiltrated the Pediatric Residency program there. Also within the field of Pediatrics about two years ago the president then of the American Academy of Pediatrics made some very ignorant statements in acceptance of Integrative Medicine and Pediatrics showing a complete lack of scientific understanding. Even now the current president of the American Academy of Pediatrics seems more interested in stamping out poverty than he does taking care of patients. I didn’t sign up for medicine to be a social worker or to deal with pseudo-scientific crap, and I’m having a real difficult time getting excited about taking care of patients again when I see how pervasive this nonsense has become.

On the plus side, I could listen to James Randi all day. He’s like the witty, gay grandpa I’ve always wished I’ve had.

Trilotherapist

Yay, I’m learning a new word!

What does it means? Something about listening to trilobites? (or to trebles?)

**Wiki search**
“‘Trilotherapist’ does not exist”

**Google search**
Tranquil Luminosity arrives 4th. Um, some kind of zen Quantum meditation à la Deepak Choprah.
Seems to be mostly a Canadian thing, with maybe a spin-off in India.

But seriously (OK, not too much), if bending spoons was teachable that easily to pediatricians, would you really want a poorly trained Magneto in the same room as your baby?

——————————–

Kutt appears not to be actually treating anyone, but rather making her living doing workshops on reiki and “energy medicine,”

Isn’t Reiki teaching a pyramid scheme of sort? You don’t go around treating people, you go around teaching them how to do it themselves.

Oh, rats, @4. You beat me to it. Listening to trilobites was my very first guess! I’m quite sure it would be more useful than whatever the heck Trilotherapists actually do.

Now, now. I have an energy metabolism – chemical energy, but that’s energy nonetheless.
I’ve also bent many a spoon that I’ve gripped too tightly.
Obviously, that’s because I’m a lizard or something.
Oh wait, nipples, must be a mammal, with all of that warm blood. OK, or something.

OK, all that said, if the subject at hand were in reality in question, I’d simply advocate for summary execution of the advocate. We are speaking of medicine for children and I’m rather uncompromising in that area.
I’m all fun and games until the welfare of a child becomes a matter of concern, then, the part of ancient maps becomes a matter of focus, “Here be monsters”.

And I thought U of Alberta was a good university. Yep, up there with U of T and McMaster in the woo stakes though with a spoon-bending Grand Rounds it may be taking the lead. ARRGH! What were those idiots in the Senate and on the Board of Trustees thinking of?

@ 4 Helianthus

Trilotherapist

India? I didn’t see anything about India. It does look like there is a minor but possibly dangerous infestation in Alberta (See the House of OM in Calgary) and the http://trilotherapy.com site seems to be written in Hebrew (well it looks like Hebrew to me but what do I know?)

The blurb about trilotherapy (http://trilotherapy.com/trilotherapy/)is as stupid and facile as one wouldexpect it would be. Deepak Chopra would probably find it ridiculous. Its only apparent good point is it does not use the term quantum.

Well given a Bigfoot hunter and someone organizing a psychic spoon bending Pediatrics Grand Rounds I know who looks saner. Hint it’s not the cutlery enthusiast.

“She holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree with a major in Microbiology and Immunology”. Sorry; I just can’t help thinking that if she is sooo intelligent, stuff like spoon bending, even if used as a metaphor, is completely beneath her. I suppose the idea was to teach people to deceive children with tricks to encourage them to believe they can overcome their illness. But how is that ethical or necessary?

India? I didn’t see anything about India. It does look like there is a minor but possibly dangerous infestation in Alberta (See the House of OM in Calgary) and the http://trilotherapy.com site seems to be written in Hebrew (well it looks like Hebrew to me but what do I know?)

Deepak Chopra is involved, and Mr. Chopra is originally from India, so if you are playing the six-degrees-of-separation game…

I agree that the trilotherapy site (at least the front page) is in Hebrew. Not only do the letters look like Hebrew letters, but the text is clearly intended to be read right-to-left, consistent with Hebrew.

And yes, there’s definitely something rotten in Edmonton. How does anybody, skeptic or not, get into a position of authority in a medical school without knowing that spoon bending is fake?

@Rob

Holy crap. You’re right. This is even worse than I thought. The Pediatric Integrative Medicine program has a reiki quack organizing education events! True, she’s just a Research Assistant and probably just does the grunt work inviting and scheduling speakers decided upon by the leadership, but clearly she has influence if she talked them into letting her do a spoon bending workshop.

I agree that the trilotherapy site (at least the front page) is in Hebrew.

It’s shilling workshops by trainees of Nissim Amon.

…but clearly she has influence if she talked them into letting her do a spoon bending workshop.

From reading their profiles at Rob’s link it looks as if they were already there.

However, I’m encouraged that this department includes those involved in SONAR (Study Of Natural health product Adverse Reactions).

But seriously (OK, not too much), if bending spoons was teachable that easily to pediatricians, would you really want a poorly trained Magneto in the same room as your baby?

Maybe they’re just looking for “The One”.

I would hold this seminar.

Then, hold everyone, wait for the presenter to sit own, and introduce my special guest speaker, James Randi.

@Rob #12
Thanks for that link. The real problem is Dr Sunita Vohra who started the PIM program several years ago. I remember running across some credulous articles about her/it at the time in the Vancouver Sun.
She is unfortunately an actual MD, and self identified “expert” in woo….err…CAM. This is her department, and all the staff will be taking her lead.

Chris Hickie: “I think to some degree this is the same tolerance by people that are being way too nice (i.e. pediatricians) when it comes to integrative medicine and even worse nonsense like spoon bending and energy healing–not that any of it is stuff that I think should be tolerated in science based medicine. At least I’m hoping that’s how it is and this would extend as well to the increasing anti-vaccination you see within Pediatrics. ”

I think it’s a tad more complicated from that. First of all, the current young pediatricians are, in most areas, more poorly educated than the generation before, thanks to political nonsense in the schools. Secondly, a lot are from evangelical areas where pediatrics is the one acceptable sort-of-sciency career, but they’re all very susceptible to wild theories and dislike vaccines (cause government). Finally, the administration doesn’t give a toss and most anti-vaccine pediatricians are free to practice and air their nonsense without censure from any higher-ups. If the boards were to make a few examples, I’m sure there’d be a lot fewer anti-vax pediatricians, and the rest might start using their brains.

Mary [email protected]: Delicate debutantes like Horgan superciliously declare that science needs to work harder to fix and improve science and medicine, then shit giant bricks the moment science starts by stripping out the most copious and lowest hanging of fruit.

Right.

And how the fack do these dimwits think science got where it is today in the first place?

Frankly, if you ain’t doing science like this, you ain’t doing science at all. The only thing a good scientist needs a spoon for is shivving the competition when it’s wrong.

Actually, I can see a use for spoon bending in a pediatric ward of a hospital.
Entertainment.
Like having clowns visit, or window washers who dress up like Spiderman.

I misread this as ‘Tribbletherapy’, and thought it was somehow Trekkie relevant.
Shame they cancelled. I was intending on asking a friend, (a local Edmontonian and fellow skeptic), to attend. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

There is a great performer who calls himself the Space Cowboy (he’s Australian), I guess he’s a mentalist – and sword swallower – he does things that others have presented as ‘psychic’ but he’s honest about having no supernatural powers. His is an amazing show, I’ve seen him a few times over the years. He does a trick involving an up-turned knife blade under one of 3 paper cups, he says he reads the non-verbal cues of the audience member participating to guess which cups are safe to crush. I know he’s gotten it wrong at least twice, and ended up with a knife through his hand.

Watching that first video I almost felt bad for Uri. I did not even almost feel bad for the faith healing lying bastard.

Why is everyone so surprised spoons bend? Haven’t they ever had to scoop ice cream out of a freezer set on the low side using a regular spoon?

jk rideau

And I thought U of Alberta was a good university.

At least they didn’t give Stanley Pons* tenure.At least they didn’t give Stanley Pons* tenure.

He was too fast on the draw. He didn’t do that extra experiment that one wants to do to verify, said the University of Alberta official, who asked to remain anonymous.

I wonder who Anastasia Kutt is related to/married to/shagging at the U of A.

OR they could come to the Vanishing Rabbit Magic Shop and buy the spoon bending DVD LOL

It’s the very epitome of what John Horgan considers wrong with organized skepticism.

And I’m still wondering why Horgan’s opinion should carry any weight for anyone.

http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/edmonton/spoon-bending-workshop-widely-ridiculed-online-pulled-by-university-1.3615916

More from Tim Caulfield
“That’s my sort of umbrella concern with this,” Caulfield said. “Is these kind of programs legitimize the pseudo-science. The problem is, it always sort of slides into the embrace of pseudo-science.

“It’s always presented in a legitimate fashion. You don’t have that critical component to it, you’re working arm in arm with energy healers, reiki experts and homoeopathy practitioners.”

#20 The real problem is Dr Sunita Vohra who started the PIM program several years ago”

She seems rather cagey in the limited quotes I’ve seen. She skirts the issue, looking for more investigation or that doctors need to be reactive and more knowledgeable about what their patients are interested in. The lack of efficacy and the risks of alternative medicine is never mentioned. Nor are the ethics of these grand placebos.

@#8 I took some Hebrew in college. Although that was many years ago, and I no longer have a dictionary. The first two words ( under the guy in the orange bubble, Hebrew goes right to left) I think has something to do with ending/concluding faith/belief. Under the other bubble it says trilotherapy. That is as far as I am going to go right now as I have to get up really early for work tomorrow.

<>

Since this post concerns Canada, I thought I’d raise this here.

There used to be a guy, who I met once in Toronto, who was a very prolific writer and commentator, on autism/vaccine-type issues.

He used to post under the name “Sheldon” – which I think was his name – and then he seemed to vanish. At least in an online presence.

Does this ring any bells, or anything, with anyone. I can think of quite a number of people who’ve dropped out of the area of interest. So I’m kind of curious, nothing more.

<>

Sarah #37
The first two words are the name of the guy, Nissim Amon. Those Israeli guys are really good at spoon bending.

@ 12 Rob 12 & 14 Orac 14

I think the rot is even worse. If you read some of the blurbs at Rob’s link, , we get

Dr. Hsing Jou… completed the University of Alberta’s Certificate Program in Medical Acupuncture in 2002.

The U of A is issuing some kind of certification in acupuncture!

@ 36 harriet huestis

If you track down the Director Dr. Sunita Vohra, it looks like she is researching some interesting areas. https://uofa.ualberta.ca/integrative-health-institute/directors/sunita-vohra . Note the (i) cluster-controlled cost-effectiveness trial of pediatric integrative medicine (acupuncture, Reiki, massage therapy) for inpatients; – See more at: https://uofa.ualberta.ca/integrative-health-institute/directors/sunita-vohra#sthash.SI8T7v46.dpuf.

In my experience one does not do a cost-benefit study before one had demonstrated (to some level of surety) that the intervention is having an effect.

She looks pretty far gone in woo.

Brian — Yes, Sheldon101 was a prolific, and excellent, vaccine defender on the HuffPo years ago (back before they went on non-anonymous FaceBook and I left).

I noticed he vanished, too. I fear he went the way of the late, greatly lamented lilady.

With a 75% success rate for spoon-bending, the The Amazing Randi should be handing out quite a few million dollars after every workshop. I know that’d be my first stop if I suddenly acquired special abilities.

It’s Hebrew all right. Nissim Amon. The “about” page tela how he went to the far east after his army sevice. Korea, Japan,Nepal, India. Zen monasteries. The whole nine yards. sigh. Born every minute even here.

@ palindrom

That’s what I was thinking maybe. Maybe someone knows.

Pretty snide thing to refer to a legitimate failing of skepticism to refer to calling out what she called out as a “whine” and then buttress it with some lame random grab from the Wikipedia fallacy article. Indeed there should be a moratorium on the word whine because it is little more than a signal that the user is obviously signalling that their opponent hit a nerve.

todd, I lost track of exactly what you were whining about there (sorry), but referring to one’s opponents as “whining” is an overused dodge.

Yesterday the Wall St. Journal devoted its weekly religion op-ed to praising a book about Christopher Hitchens, alleging that he supposedly seriously contemplated a switch to religion during his final days (a version of the Deathbed Conversion tale we’re familiar with in relation to Pasteur and other luminaries). The op-ed’s author referred to atheists who protested/debunked this alleged turnabout by Hitchens as “angry” and “hysterical”.

Tiresome.

If I can be permitted a slight diversion this far into the discussion, it was interesting to noted an article this past week on Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, in which he discussed his serious childhood bout with polio (he was unable/not permitted to walk for awhile, but ultimately was left with what was described as minor permanent physical impairment). McConnell was attempting to reassure voters that Donald Trump will be “perfectly fine” (or similar wording) as President. Guess Mitch doesn’t know or care that Trump holds inane antivax views and might attempt to weaken vaccination programs, creating more kids susceptible to polio and other dangerous diseases.

Just a few points.
Not only are pediatricians nice, but these are Canadian pediatricians, and should therefore be the ne plus ultra in nice.
The first page that came up on my trilotherapy search was called The Home of OM (points for the rhyme). The picture is of Mr. Amon in an East Asian garment with a Japanese-type sword at his waist. The picture implies that it has something to do with the “Diamond Sword of Zen” Either Mr. Amon is rather petite or the Diamond Sword is immense.

(I hate this keyboard!)
Cont’d:
In either case it looks as if Mr. Amon would need four hands rather than the usual two to wield it. He also doesn’t look very Zen warrior-like. If you want to be taken seriously, it isn’t a good idea to so beclown yourself (Note: This is a generic use of “you”. It is not meant to implicate any individual who may be reading this. (Or maybe it is)).
The page also asks, “Trilotherapy uses many different ways to help you awaken yourself to your own life without guilt, remorse, negativity or stress. Could you imagine what your life would be like without all of these things?”
No, I can’t. The only kind of folk I can think of who can imagine it are that strange tribe we call “psychopaths”. Maybe the sword has something to do with turning unhappy people into unreflective psychopaths?
The spelling down the page of “troilotherapist” may be revealing too. Maybe the Diamond Sword of Zen is to be used to administer the kind of therapy Troilus administered to Cressida. It all begins to make sense on a deeper level.

New to your blog. I picked this one to make my first post on because, well, I have several social ineptitudes that will show themselves as we get to know one another, but…

When people at these gatherings are not able to bend spoons and the organizers tell them they are all just part of the 25% that can’t do it and they add themselves up and realize they constitute more than 25% of the attendees, are they allowed to get their money back? ????

I dunno, I’m infamous for bending spoons. Strong hands and a blunted sense of touch will do it every time. I really do have to follow up on that with doctor, find out if it’s thoracic outlet syndrome or something in my cervical spine.
My wife and I are keeping quite a few specialists busy of late!

I guess I should have finished every comment to see the event has been cancelled.

My wife and I were at the beginning stages of a serious conversation about a trip there.

The picture implies that it has something to do with the “Diamond Sword of Zen” Either Mr. Amon is rather petite or the Diamond Sword is immense.

Um, I get the reference, but the use of props really is not approprate. I was quite distressed to read that he spent some time with Seung Sahn. If I recall correctly, his monastic training was also in Korea (presumably Chogye). Show me the inka, Nissim.

Narad, I absolutely missed the possibility of phallic symbolism with the sword. That is very unlike my usual sex-crazed self, especially when I’m on the manic side of the swing,
In any case, we;re better off at this blog than at Home of OM.
Nissim Amon may have Zen, but we have Orac!

I absolutely missed the possibility of phallic symbolism with the sword.

That’s just as well. Here.

^ I dunno, maybe he’s just putting in a blender with Takuan or something. Korea’s not Japan or China.

Uri Geller was my kids’ gateway to skepticism. Trying to bind up the tatters of his career, Geller had a special on the erroneously named Fox Network (erroneous because it’s neither cunning nor hot, unlike Beautiful Rockin’ Wife). The Young Rockin’ Kids were about 8 and 9, young enough not to be taken in. When Geller was about to go into his spoon bending, I told them to ignore anything he was saying and to watch only his hands. They spotted the trick immediately, much to their amusement and my pride.
John Horgan can go suck it.

Sarah #50
Nissim may mean “miracle” and Amon may mean either “believer” or “skillful worker”. The whole name could be translated by “magician” or, more accurately, by “he who is able to bend spoon”.

Hi everyone, have been lurking here for a while, enjoying the antivax/ alt cancer pummelings. I have a neglected bachelor degree in Biology and am a martial art (MA) Zen cult survivor.

Which makes it rather painful that my first post will be seen as a defence of woo, with only personal anecdotes to boot! Please be gentle as I’m not out to score points, more moved by my sense of honesty.

I joined this MA organisation as I was getting beaten up a lot, it ticked all the boxes for being a good MA org. About two years in, I started getting taught to smite and move people with energy.

Obviously I was pretty sceptical, with many questions, the main one in my head being “am I just going along with this”? Their premise could be summed up thusly:

The woo only works if both people are “switched on”, the MA org only recruits people who can be switched on. Most people are closed, therefor cannot be affected by the woo (convenient hey).

Why bother then? Well the best MA comes from being switched on, meaning that closed people are dealt physically, the switched on via the woo.

So I went along. Then my personal sensei discovered Reiki, claimed to have gone through five fraud instructors, to finally find a real one. He progressed rapidly, bought a table and started offering sessions. I had a few, but found the “effects” didn’t last, was told that my smoking was ruining my health and his efforts.

Now on to the heart of the matter, my girlfriend (gf) at the time had a lot of problems, so I took her for a session and was invited to watch.

Now she was totally asleep, loudly snoring, he was waving his hands around, then he stood about a meter away from her head and slowly “pushed” the air, after a slight delay she quivered starting from her head all the way down.
He repeated this trick at least three times from different angles. Then at one point moved his hands slowly a foot above her body, stopping at the base of the lungs, she groaned a bit and moved her hands over her lungs, still asleep. He said her lungs were full of “crap” and she needed to stop smoking (no mystery there, she smoked like a chimney), as he can’t really do anything.

That had quite an effect on me, could I have been hypnotised into seeing that or something?

After a few weeks he quit the reiki sessions, he said it was too much effort, personally I think he made more money from teaching MA. Gf left the org first, then a couple of years later I left, it was starting to overtake my life, being pushed to teach MA myself and I only joined to learn how to protect myself and that was sorted.

Years later I asked the now ex gf about the experience, she can’t remember anything really, but swears blind there was no set up.
Years later the org’s founder was outed as a fraud and the whole org split into loads of factions.

What might cheer the people on this blog would be the assertion of the now ex sensei that Reiki was pointless for anything else apart from the problems Reiki can solve and therefor had no place in a hospital lol.

As for the studies showing only a placebo effect, when discussed, was talked about mainly in the difficulty of finding a “real” practitioner, the large proportion of switched off people in society and (I kid you not) the power of sceptics smothering the woo.

Scientists are to blame for the chaos occurring in integrative medicine. The flat refusal to acknowledge obvious things like the impact of nutrition on an organic body of cells and organs is the obvious misstep. Scientists and pharmaceutical companies that sponsor their “work” are in a narrow path to synthesize drugs. People are flippin’ sick of it. So while it’s bizarre to hear about spoon bending, it’s a travesty that an entire health care system from medical schools to pharmaceuticals to insurance carriers have no interest in breaking out of the “cancer conveyor belt” they profit from. Many of us are not tolerating those choices any longer. And guess what? They live to tell how they “beat” the establishment.

Michele: “The flat refusal to acknowledge obvious things like the impact of nutrition on an organic body of cells and organs is the obvious misstep.”

Who figured out about the existence of vitamins and their relationship to problems like scurvy, rickets, pellagra and beriberi? Come on, be honest. Was it naturopaths or scientists and medical doctors?

Was Joseph Goldberger a naturopath or a medical doctor?

Was Christiaan Eijkman a naturopath or a medical doctor?

Was Frederick Hopkins a naturopath or a biochemist?

Was Kurt Huldschinsky a naturopath or a medical doctor?

“So while it’s bizarre to hear about spoon bending, it’s a travesty that an entire health care system from medical schools to pharmaceuticals to insurance carriers have no interest in breaking out of the “cancer conveyor belt” they profit from.”

No the travesty are those who make up stuff out of thin air and try to profit by selling nonsense. There is lots of money to be made by selling sugar pills, random hand waving and over priced supplements. Especially if it endangers children.

So get off of your high horse and answer my questions on those names.

Scientists are to blame for the chaos occurring in integrative medicine.

I honestly think greed is to blame. And that happens in both research and woo. I know a fair number of people who have been helped by weird theories that in practice were nothing more that avoiding foods that bothered them.

I could do without the weird and at some point those selling it will have to pony up with the science to support their WA claims. Just as our society will have to support funding of research outside of commerce.

Mrs Grimble @62 — Excellent news! He’s very much on the side of the angels.

@Chris – you know who invented vitamins and tryptophan, but it has nothing to do with what is happening in Dr offices in 2016.

Whoa, Michele, you actually think vitamins were invented! That is hilarious. The air must be very thin on top of that high horse.

So what is really happening in doctor’s offices in 2016? Give us details. Was I not supposed to go to the orthopedic doctor office when I broke my wrist? Do tell us what works better for obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Type 1 diabetes, Hib meningitis, and childhood leukemia?

After doing some errands I plan on starting Chapter 4 of Terrors of the Table. It is a history of nutrition, from the science to the fads. This is why I was literally laughing at Michele’s sentence: “The flat refusal to acknowledge obvious things like the impact of nutrition on an organic body of cells and organs is the obvious misstep.”

Scientists are to blame for the chaos occurring in integrative medicine. The flat refusal to acknowledge obvious things like the impact of nutrition on an organic body of cells and organs is the obvious misstep.

could you please name 3 scientists who have refused flatly to acknowledge the impact of nutrition on an organic body of cells? Ideally that would be in papers published in a high impact peer reviewed scientific journal (though not The Journal of Irreproducible Results). However, direct quotes reported in reputable news publications would be fine considering the claim.

Thanks.

Setting aside the spoon-bending at UA, I want to address the framing question: On what basis might we critique the merit of different choices skeptics make in the pseudo-science that receives their attention?

Horgan mucked up his complaint by using the lingo of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ targets, which, given his examples, too easily seemed to equate ‘hard’ with ‘serious’ and ‘soft’ (or ‘easy’) with ‘trivial’. But that’s not how he actually defined them. What he was trying to call for was more skepticism close to home, more scrutiny for scientific sloppiness within things skeptics tend to accept. He seems to gave gotten derailed by injecting the Bigfoot example that was in the front of his mind due to a personal squabble with his NECSS moderator.

‘Soft target’ skepticism, per Horgan’s actual defintition, really refers to skepticism that is ‘easy’ to do because the woo is so obviously non-scientfic. This would include not just amusing BS like Bigfoot, but very serious BS, like Brian Clement killing people with curable cancers by getting them to forego chemo for wheatgrass smoothies. Obviously, then, the ‘hard/soft’ distinction isn’t a determining guide to what does and doesn’t deserve attention. To be fair to Horgan, he says “soft” targets “deserve criticism,” and strikes me as suggesting only that typical skeptic targets receive too much repetitive attention, while skepticism towards problems in ‘mainstream science’ – which Orac correctly noted RI and SBM do indeed do – could stand more or more vocal attention.

All of which is to say I don’t think the question of spoon-bending at UA and Horgan’s essay are really relevant to one another. Regardless of what Horgan himself would think of something like the spoon seminar, we could allow that his ‘hard/soft’ distinction has some merit, but is only one consideration among many about what amount of our finite time and energy for critique any given instance of BS might merit. For one thing, spoon-bending-with-the-mind may be well-established as ridiculously bogus, and not at all widely believed, but when it appears under vague auspices at a medical school, that’s hardly outside of Orac’s tribe. While I suspect that workshop was intended as something other (and much less worrisome) than what Tim Caulfield assumed, the matter certainly is worthy of attention to try to uncover what exactly is going on.

I’m not up to offering some list of what considerations should guide an assessment of how and where skeptics expend their critical energies. But I do thing that ought to be a subject of debate, and critiuqe should not be simply dismissed. When Orac’s tries to reduce Horgan’s critique to subjective preference – “you should stop caring about what you care about and care about what I care about” – the corollary implication is that whatever you care about is worth unlimited attention in public forums simply because you care about it, thus casting any question of social responsibility as illegitimate. I don’t think Orac actually believes that, since he actually addresses several justifying criteria, if not necessarily by name, in defending his critique of homeopathy by tying it to opposition to the licensure of naturopathy: ‘widely believed,’ ‘moving toward legitimation’ , ‘degree and scope of potential harm” and ‘utility in countering harm.’ There are other factors of course, and even within these, we will argue over how they apply. But as a start, those considerations sound good to me, anyway, and a long way from Bigfoot.

sadmar: “On what basis might we critique the merit of different choices skeptics make in the pseudo-science that receives their attention?”

The same basis I would use when someone tells me to stop commenting on blogs: I don’t them how to spend their time, so don’t tell how I should spend my time.

By the way, about five blocks from where I am sitting is the grave site of someone from our family who decided to not bother with the psychiatrist and the prescription for her bipolar diagnosis, but go to a naturopath who sold her expensive homeopathic sugar pills. This is why I think homeopathy is not a soft target.

By the way, yesterday’s included a very lively discussion about Horgan. Oh, and another thing: don’t tell me to not listen to podcasts, and I won’t tell you to stop listening to music (actually, that is often directed towards dear hubby).

Yep.

Also, I actually do believe that Horgan was, in essence, saying that skeptics should examine things he thinks are important. (He even more or less admitted it in a followup post.) Of course, if that wasn’t what he meant, than he’s an incompetent writer and speaker because he certainly overlaid his arguments with his own preferences. Let’s just put it this way. I can’t read Horgan’s mind; so I can only address what he actually says or writes.

As for “hard” versus “soft” targets, I’m taking on a very hard target on my not-so-super-secret other blog, which will, of course, eventually be crossposted here, probably a week later. Maybe I’ll Tweet it at Horgan.

Another Antivaxx Slayer, I too am a bit disappointed that the event was cancelled. I can see how a conman could persuade people that he was bending spoons by the power of his mind, but how does a conman persuade an audience that they are bending spoons by the power of their minds? Trick spoons maybe?

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