A few months ago, when discussing Marshall Applewhite, the leader of the Hale Bop cult, Heaven’s Gate, a highly respected neurologist and skeptic, Dr Steven Novella, made a comment alluding to the fact that “you could just tell he was mad, by the look behind his eyes.”
Now, I understand we all make short-cuts of language when speaking informally, but I was very tempted to write in to the SGU (for the first time), to highlight that I felt this was a particularly dated and crass term to level at anyone, especially for people so educated.
I have to admit Dr Novella is the man who inspired me to study neuroscience and eventually start this blog, so it pains me to question a man I hold in such high esteem.
However, I feel that such catch-all terms as “mad” are comparable to the dated practice of describing people as hysterical. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but I wonder if anyone agrees that it would be beneficial if the influencers of society, as a whole, would attempt to move common thinking towards a situation where people recognise a cognitive deficit in someone’s character without writing them off as being “crazy, mad or hysterical”.
I realise this takes education, which some have no inclination to acquire, however if we reduce the use of such stigmatised terms, I feel we would be on the road to a better acceptance and understanding of mental deficits.
The man put in charge of the nation’s health policy is on record as supporting spending public money on magic water to cure disease. Below is a copy of a public motion he endorsed in 2007.
That this House welcomes the positive contribution made to the health of the nation by the NHS homeopathic hospitals; notes that some six million people use complementary treatments each year; believes that complementary medicine has the potential to offer clinically-effective and cost-effective solutions to common health problems faced by NHS patients, including chronic difficult to treat conditions such as musculoskeletal and other chronic pain, eczema, depression, anxiety and insomnia, allergy, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome; expresses concern that NHS cuts are threatening the future of these hospitals; and calls on the Government actively to support these valuable national assets.
And here is a copy the letter he sent to a correct constituent who told him that homeopathy is just water.
Dear Mr Ellis,
Thank you very much for your letter regarding EDM 1240 in support of Homeopathic Hospitals. I appreciate that you are disappointed that I added my name to this motion, and read your comments on this issue with interest.
I understand that it is your view that homeopathy is not effective, and therefore that people should not be encouraged to use it as a treatment. However I am afraid that I have to disagree with you on this issue. Homeopathic care is enormously valued by thousands of people and in an NHS that the Government repeatedly tells us is “patient-led” it ought to be available where a doctor and patient believe that a homeopathic treatment may be of benefit to the patient.
I am grateful to you for taking the time to write with your concerns. I realise that my answer will be a disappointing one for you, but I hope that the letter helps to clarify my view.
Jeremy Hunt Member of Parliament South West Surrey
One excerpt on climate change denial was particularly offensive:
“The paper’s main point seems to be said cooling cannot be attributed to the more common factors; aerosols , volcanic cooling, ENSO, arctic oscillation. Towards the end they weakly state said cooling is a result of the North Atlantic and marine surface air temperature being more coupled then usual due to a slowdown of the thermohaline circulation caused by documented regional drops in salinity in the late 60’s.”
Utter sophistry to peddle the agenda of those parties to whom climate change is an inconvenience and has implications on their profit margins. Those who commission, carry out and publish these studies should hang their heads in shame.
Bill Hicks was a truly great man and skeptic, who’s opinions are just as valid today as they were before he was taken from us. He was a man years ahead of his time and his opinions remain relevant to this day.
His stance on advertising and marketing (kill yourself) was the basis upon which I started to get angry about homeopathy and the capitalist peddlers of pseudoscience who pray on the sick and vulnerable – even though he did believe in some fairly out-there stuff. I can’t speak for him, I can only say that his passionate values and opinions of marketers, killing people for financial gain has been a constant source of inspiration for me.
Any time I wonder if I’m doing the right thing, he’s in my head keeping me on the straight and narrow. For that, I’m eternally poor but eternally grateful. He remains my moral compass and an inspirational figure.
Bill Hicks was a legend and will never be forgotten.
During the course of learning about molecules, medicines and drugs, I’ve discovered that we pretty much understand how a compound made from salicylic acid creates aspirin. Not only that, but we understand that salicylic acid inhibits the production of prostaglandins by binding to the enzyme cyclooxygenase(COX), thus slowing down the production of pain signals.
However, despite this simple process being reasonably well understood, we still do not fully understand how a very similar molecule, Ibuprofen works. However, the production of such a molecule is based on a fairly well understood molecule. Having said that, if it’s so difficult to work out how such a relatively simple chemical reaction has an effect on the human body, how on earth could anyone pull random substances out of their arse, dilute them down to an insignificant level and then pretend to know why it works? From what I’ve read about your average homeopath, they’ll say:
“It’s the life energy.”
“Bollox”, I say.
People who pray on the vulnerable to make money are either conning, immoral cretins, employing Olympic standard stupidity or are mentally ill.
So it’s that time of year again – the January abstinence is starting to wane, the sleet and snow are turning to rain and the nights are extending the basic bloody decency of descending an hour later than lunch time. Meanwhile, us Scots are dusting down our kilts, reviving our weary Caledonian lilts and preparing for another pretense of Burns night nostalgia. What a fantastic excuse to get together, fire down a few drams and recite the Scottish Haka at an unsuspecting sheep’s stomach full of entrails? Aye, it’s a time of year that would make most people go off their nuts quicker than an anorexic squirrel, however none more so than our beloved resident half-wits – The Homeopaths!
Now, I’m not the most prolific of posters and it takes something fairly special to make me sit down and rant about something, but this latest chapter in the Fawlty Towers book of medical buffoonery has me laughing and seething at the same time. A recent whim of the Supplementary, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (SCAM) practitioners to come to the fore is the idea that, in order to cure burns, one should apply more heat to the affected area – burn a burn in other words. Such outbursts of weapons-grade stupidity are not uncommon among our friends with compelling anecdotes, however this soliloquy of drivel is not just bullshit, it’s down-right dangerous. In an article published in 2008, but just last week attracting the Sauronic eye of skepticism, we are treated to a water-tight study on the benefits of using hot water to treat a scalded hand. Our hapless homeo recants an anecdote in which she is dining with a friend who cured her burn by holding it over a candle. The explanation given is that, “left alone a burn, ‘burns’, the vital force produces heat. By applying cold water this burning effect was reduced and the vital force had to summon even more heat. If instead we assist the vital force by applying heat the job would be done more quickly.
This is really nothing more than elementary homoeopathy[sic].” Quite.
She then excretes another anecdote about burning her hand in a deep fat fryer and holding it under hot water instead of cold, which “amazed” onlookers at its miraculous healing properties. To cap it all, she tells a deeply disturbing story in which her daughter fails to cure the pain of scalding herself by using the deeply scientific rigour of…
…scalding herself. Incredible!
Well, luckily there was a professional on the scene. She deftly administers an insignificant trace of Canth which, if it had any noticeable effect would be devastating. According to abchomeopathy.com, “This powerful drug produces a furious disturbance in the animal economy, attacking the urinary and sexual organs especially, perverting their function, and setting up violent inflammations”. Luckily homeopathy is just water.
So the basic principle of homeopathy, for those who don’t know, is that “like cures like” – sounds reasonable for anyone who’s ever battled through to a Sunday lunch time and thought, “Bollocks to this, I’m having a pint”. Right? Well, not really. As much as a couple of soothers the day after a session relieve symptoms temporarily, the process by which this result is achieved is no cure. When alcohol is metabolised in the body, it produces acetaldehyde, a poison similar in composition to formaldehyde, and sharing many components of vinegar. The body must then metabolise this poison, eventually breaking it down into carbon dioxide and water. Theories abound as to the exact mechanism behind the relief of symptoms, however one widely held theory that seems the most compelling is that the body is more efficient at breaking down the less poisonous components of alcohol and therefore enacts this process first. This means that adding more alcohol to the system slows the production of the more poisonous components and therefore relieves the worst symptoms. Of course, the pain is still in the post but can be spread out over the course of the day, and even in to the following evening’s sleep, giving the option of an emergency parachute for those with severe symptoms. However, if alcohol is consumed to the point where it is not dealt with before the following morning we run the risk of the dreaded rollover hangover!
Even if this central tenet of homeopathy were plausible, the concentration to which the “active” ingredient is diluted is so infinitesimal that it would be the equivalent of trying to cure a hangover by pouring a drop of lager into a swimming pool and drinking a shot from the deep end. The obvious parallel is that you may notice a slight effect from drinking children’s pee and chlorine, however to imagine that the drop of lager will cure your hangover is frankly ludicrous. Even if this were not clear bunkum, applying the same philosophy to burns has, to put it politely, no basis in scientific fact.
So, back to our homeopath. After administering another (surely deadly) dose of homeopathic miracle, her daughter begins to calm down, however her gast is well and truly flabbered at the failure of the Canth to relieve the inflammation and the failure of the clinically flawless treatment of “double-scalding” to reduce the blistering.
She dribbles, “I was also confused as to why the hot water had not relieved the pain as it had with my own, perhaps more serious, burn.
I remembered seeing Hahnemann’s article ‘On the Treatment of Burns’ in the book ‘The Lesser Writings’ (1816). I re-read the article and realised the mistake we had made. I also understood why my burn had had a different result.
The problem was, it seemed, the time that the hand had been exposed to the heat. My hand had been immersed for a considerable amount of time whilst I engaged in discussions with the concerned customers, whilst my daughter had merely put it in and taken it out.
Hahnemann’s advice is that the heating should continue until there is no more pain. He recommends the use of alcohol and/or oil of turpentine, neither of which I had at my disposal, but I deduced that it was the ‘heat’ that was the important ingredient.
I explained this to my daughter and we spent the next three hours with her hand in hot water. At this point I should explain that I do not mean scalding hot! The temperature is what I would describe as ‘hand hot’, the temperature that a normal hand understands as ‘hot’ but not unbearable.”
Well there you have it – alcohol, turpentine and the temperature at which the hand “understands” as hot. Brilliant. All this backed up by quoting a “medical” paper written in 1816 around the time of blood-letting and written by the founder of this whole cult. Well if that doesn’t convince you, maybe a picture of the resulting injury caused by this “first aid” will.
As anyone on nodding terms with scientific fact can tell you,
“The reason we cool wounds after exposure to heat is to end the process of injury. Throughout the article the author seems to think the use of cooling is based on just making people feel better. However, cooling a wound acutely after injury also serves to halt the process of continued injury from the tissue remaining overheated. Your body can not cool the tissue as fast as you can with a stream of cold water. Further heating the tissue will slow the process of cooling even more. In the face of a burned hand from say, scalding water, our body must rely on convective cooling of the tissue using your blood which is a balmy 98.6 degrees. Running your hand under the tap will much more rapidly lower the temperature of the injured skin, ending the continuous damage to the overheated tissue. – Mark Hoofnagle MD PhD”
Needless to say, our budding Jesus of Nazereth continues to tell us how the burn miraculously healed in the end and how homeopaths have a duty to tinker around with fantastic, anti-scientific treatments in order to provide miracle cures that 200 years of empirical medical study has never thought of. To round it all off, she bemoans the oppressive litigious culture where a visionary such as herself is suppressed into denying people the obvious benefits of her own personal brain fart.
Well, I don’t know about you, but if I happen to set fire to myself this Burns night instead of my Drambuie, I’ll be opting for a cold shower rather than a plunge into a furnace – and if I have a stinking hangover the following morning I may treat the symptoms with just enough uisge-beatha (fire water) to see me through till bed time. I know Rabbie Burns would have approved. Slàinte!
Reports have surfaced in the last couple of days that a foetus of an albino cyclops shark has been discovered by fishermen in Mexico. Initially, written off as a hoax due to it’s unbelievable appearance, the shark has now been examined by Mexican biologist Felipe Galvan-Magana and declared real.
The shark has been diagnosed with with cyclopia, a rare defect that causes the development of only one eye.
Shark expert Felipe Galvan Magana, of Mexico’s Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias del Mar, said: ‘This is extremely rare. As far as I know, less than 50 examples of an abnormality like this have been recorded.’
Cyclopia is a rare congenital disorder which causes the failure of the front portion of the brain to properly divide the orbits of the eye into two discrete cavities.
Cyclopia occurs within the spectrum of brain and face defects known as holoprosencephaly, which in severe cases can result in miscarriage or stillbirth.
However doubts still remain from certain corners due to the mammalian appearance of the dusky shark’s eye. Only further examination will reveal the truth behind this unlikely creature.
Simple really, by engaging people at a level most informed people refuse to do. Ms McCarthy spreads her ill-informed diatribe to anyone who’ll listen on any medium available.
Jenny McCarthy’s strength is that she doesn’t just join in the conversation — she assaults it. She has publicly joined an autism organisation, she participates in social media, she writes books and articles, she reaches out to the press and she has a marketing strategy. It even looks like she is going to have her own talk show.
Really, you couldn’t make this stuff up. The latest “treatment” to come out of the homeopathic community is something called Aqua Nova – basically water that has been purified in order to be diluted with water. As Steven Novella said, “I wish I’d thought of that” in order to take the piss! Respectful Insolence has more: