The Sceptical Response

 

(Wherein our columns are opened to the debunking of theories and models presented in the pages of this publication.   As with the models themselves, the views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Nurturing Potential or its editorial staff)

[Illustrated by Yaron Livay]

 

[Click on the headings to be taken to the articles]

Massage

Colloidal Silver

Health Supplements

Joe Sinclair's tongue-in-cheek definitions

Spiritualism

 

MASSAGE

 

The Skeptic's Dictionary states the following: 

The American Massage Therapy Association claims that

Research shows [massage] reduces the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, increases blood circulation and lymph flow, relaxes muscles, improves range of motion, and increases endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. Therapeutic massage enhances medical treatment and helps people feel less anxious and stressed, relaxed yet more alert.

They don't mention who did the research and where one might verify these claims. Nor do they mention that these effects are likely to be temporary or that similar results might be achieved by meditating, walking, exercising, having sex, or reading a good book, not necessarily in that order.

 

We also read, with some amusement, the following:

One reason foot massage may be so pleasurable and is associated with significant improvement in mood is that the area of the brain that connects to the foot is adjacent to the area that connects to the genitals. There may be some neuronal overlapping. Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran writes of a person whose leg was amputated and who experienced orgasms in his phantom foot (1998: 36-37). ďThe genitals are right next to the foot in the bodyís brain maps,Ē he notes, and speculates that this fact may account for foot fetishes. 

 

 

COLLOIDAL SILVER

 

Three years after my fungal complaint had been "cured" with colloidal silver (writes Joe Sinclair), it recurred.

 

I had used up my supply of colloidal silver and couldn't  find any in my local health food store.  I decided to apply some liquid Tiger Balm that had languished in my medicine cabinet for some ten or more years.  It apparently was not only as efficacious as the colloidal silver, but acted rather more quickly.  Furthermore it was somewhat less expensive.  Perhaps I should re-bottle it, offer it for sale as a "miracle" cure, and become a successful quack, 

 

Jodie Bernstein,  Director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, offers the following list of signs of quackery:

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The product is advertised as a quick and effective cure-all for a wide range of ailments.

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The promoters use words like scientific breakthrough, miraculous cure, exclusive product, secret ingredient or ancient remedy.

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The text is written in "medicalese" - impressive-sounding terminology to disguise a lack of good science.

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The promoter claims the government, the medical profession or research scientists have conspired to suppress the product.

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The advertisement includes undocumented case histories claiming amazing results.

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The product is advertised as available from only one source.

 

The general rule is "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

   

As far as the propensity to argyria is concerned, there is a large body of evidence that confirms the belief that the small quantity of silver in correctly produced colloidal silver preparations (1ppm) can have no adverse effects.  The suggestion is, therefore, that any connection between the use of a silver product and the development of argyria is probably the result of an excessive dosage, or a dosage maintained for too long a period.  Having said that, readers wanting further evidence of potential danger might look at http://homepages.together.net/~rjstan/rose1.html - a site produced by and devoted to an argyria sufferer.  They might also profitably click on the connection at the foot of that page to "Dr Roger Becker's disclaimer".

 

 

HEALTH SUPPLEMENTS  

 

The main reason people seek "alternative" health care is because they think it "works." That is, they feel better, healthier, more vital, etc., after the treatment. Those who say "alternative" medicine "works" usually mean little more than that they are satisfied customers

 

   

According to the Skeptic's Dictionary, the post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this therefore because of this) fallacy is based upon the mistaken notion that simply because one thing happens after another, the first event was a cause of the second event.  Post hoc reasoning is the basis for many superstitions and erroneous beliefs.

 

Many events follow sequential patterns without being causally related. For example, you have a cold, so you drink fluids and two weeks later your cold goes away. You have a headache so you stand on your head and six hours later your headache goes away. You put acne medication on a pimple and three weeks later the pimple goes away. You perform some task exceptionally well after forgetting to bathe, so the next time you have to perform the same task you don't bathe. A solar eclipse occurs so you beat your drums to make the gods spit back the sun. The sun returns, proving to you the efficacy of your action.

 

You use your dowsing stick and then you find water. You imagine heads coming up on a coin toss and heads comes up. You rub your lucky charm and what you wish for comes true. You lose your lucky charm and you strike out six times. You have a "vision" that a body is going to be found near water or in a field and later a body is found near water or in a field. You have a dream that an airplane crashes and an airplane crashes the next day or crashed the night before.

 

However, sequences don't establish a probability of causality any more than correlations do. Coincidences happen. Occurring after an event is not sufficient to establish that the prior event caused the later one. To establish the probability of a causal connection between two events, controls must be established to rule out other factors such as chance or some unknown causal factor. Anecdotes aren't sufficient because they rely on intuition and subjective interpretation. A controlled study is necessary to reduce the chance of error from self-deception.

 

On the other hand, many questionable products touted as cure-alls or as cures for serious illnesses such as cancer or heart disease are promoted with scientific gobbledygook and misrepresentation or falsification of scientific studies.

 

 

SOME TONGUE-IN-CHEEK DEFINITIONS

 

Some years ago [writes Joe Sinclair] I published in the newsletter of the Dorset Association of Complementary Practitioners the following tongue-in-cheek assessments of various vitamin and other health supplements

 

Garlic. I take it for my heart. Don't know how effective it is, but it seems to keep the vampires away. I haven't been kissed by one since I started taking it. The bad news is that I haven't been kissed by anyone else either

 

 

Glucosamine is a natural substance found in joints.  Iíve just been to several joints  trying to find some.  At first it was pretty dispiriting to be told they hadnít any.  But I persevered.  After the shixth joint, I shtopped caring.

 

Vitamin C plus bioflavinoids.  I started taking this because it was supposed to be good for smokers, drinkers of alcohol and the elderly.  And Iím pleased to announce that it works! Before taking them I was a one pack a day man and a sociable drinker.  I can now manage 50 a day, and a quart of scotch.  Iím looking so much older, that I reckon I can start increasing the dosage.

 

Iíve been told that Niacin increases sex hormones.  Apparently it also increases musical ability.  Iíve learned to play the organ and the sexophone.   Or as Mae West once said: ďIs that a gun in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?Ē

 

Royal Jelly is said to make the Queen Bee live up to 30 times longer than the normal bee.  Itís so worryingly expensive that Iíve decided it doesnít make me live 30 times longer, it just feels like 30 times longer.

 

I started taking Bamboo Gum in the form of Silica for my arteries, skin and eyes.  Now my mouth is stuck tight!  I need to open it in order to take my daily supplement of Alpha-galactosidase (in the form of Beanex), which I enjoy taking.  Itís a real gas!  

 

I began taking Ginseng to increase my potency. I have now become completely impotent, but have achieved a nice growth of hair on my chest.

Gingko Biloba has had some success as a cure for my tinnitus. I used to get the sound of rushing wind in my ears. Since taking the G.B. I now hear the Beatles. I'm working on a way of getting Beethoven's Choral Symphony, preferably with a stereophonic effect.

 

I believe that  Evening Primrose Oil will make me come up smelling like roses.  The Garlic, in addition to warding off vampires,  disguises the smell of the roses. 

 

Vitamin E is supposed to increase my energy. I think it's beginning to work. I can actually now manage to raise my arm and swallow all the other pills.

And a megadose of Multivitamins is useful in case I forget to take enough of the others, including the one that is supposed to be good for the memory.  Wish I could remember which one it is.

 

 

SPIRITUALISM  

 

"Aren't you a bit surprised that the only message that the dead seem to be able to give to us is someone had a nickname Miss Piggy? And they can only tell us that, you know, I had a heart condition?....I want to hear just one of the psychics today tell me when is there going to be the next bus bombing in Tel Aviv so we can avoid going on that bus."
--Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, on "Larry King Live," March 6, 2001

 

The Skeptic's Dictionary contains a vast amount of material on this subject.  We would not know where to begin in trying to distil part of it here, so we suggest you go directly to their site and following the numerous links for a really good browse.

 

The quotation above is one of several - both pro and con - that appear on the Skeptic's Dictionary pages.