Regular readers of this blog know that many forms of quackery and science denial have conspiracy theories associated with them, but a further examination suggests that all science denial a form of conspiracy theory. In the middle of a deadly pandemic, it is a form of conspiracy theory with potentially deadly consequences.
“Dr.” Joe Mercola just celebrated 23 years of his website. It’s actually been 23 years of promoting quackery and antivaccine misinformation, culminating in a lot of COVID-19 disinformation.
Earlier this week, a new survey from the American Society of Clinical Oncology showed that belief in alternative cancer cures is common, with roughly four out of ten Americans believing that “natural” alternative treatments alone can cure cancer, without any conventional oncologic therapies, like chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy. This survey points to just how ingrained misinformation about cancer is in our society and how much work advocates of science-based oncology have ahead of them to combat it.
In the online echo chamber promoting alternative medicine, there are varying degrees of deception. There are true believers (who are often victims), entrepreneurs (who are often true believers who found a profitable business), and scammers. The categories are not mutually exclusive.
Cancer quackery, particularly the false hope it engenders in cancer patients, infuriates me. Earlier this week The Sun published an article suggesting that a form of quackery called the Berkson protocol allowed a mother with metastatic pancreatic cancer to survive unexpectedly long enough to see her daughter married. It almost certainly did nothing of the sort.