April 26, 2012

"The University of Aberdeen is considering establishing a chair in a form of alternative medicine described by one expert as 'pure quackery.'"

I'd never previously given any thought to the University of Aberdeen, so as far as I know the entire place is quackery. Nice reputation building U of A!

We're talking about anthroposophical medicine.
According to Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter, anthroposophy was founded in the early 20th century by Austrian spiritualist Rudolf Steiner. Ernst said that anthroposophical drug treatments were based on the movement’s beliefs about the interplay between physiological and spiritual processes in illness and healing. One example is the use of mistletoe to treat cancer, which is based on the observation that, like cancer, mistletoe is a parasitic growth that eventually kills its host.
Even as a fanciful literary conceit, that's stupid.

35 comments:

Bill Harshaw said...

Wikipedia says it's a tad older than U of W. Matter of fact it's a bit older than Harvard. Whoops, it's actually older than Columbus discovering the New World.

rhhardin said...

You'd want the professor to take no shit from anybody, first of all.

Also he must be likeable.

That would be a useful a blow against expertism.

Kate Danaher said...

As an informal observer of quackery, let me toss this out there. Alternative medicines can become attractive when people don't have money or they are running out of options. If the NHS has put someone on a waiting list or worse yet, decided against further treatment, doing something might feel better than doing nothing.

hdhouse said...

Did the Board of Pseudo-Science suddenly move from Kansas to Scotland and take up residence?

Old doesn't mean anything except old. My cat was old. He knew how to be a cat and was good at it.

Medicine; well not so much.

Drew W said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Drew W said...

You needn't go all the way to Aberdeen for goofy alternative medical treatments. This is from The Economist a couple weeks ago: The University of Maryland’s Centre for Integrative Medicine has received $25m from the NIH for research. Separately it offers treatments such as reiki, in which a healer floats his hands over the patient’s body.

I could so do that for a living. How do I get my license?

Henry said...

One example is the use of mistletoe to treat cancer, which is based on the observation that, like cancer, mistletoe is a parasitic growth that eventually kills its host

By that logic you can you use bullets to cure bullet wounds.

Bite the bullet.

Scott M said...

By that logic you can you use bullets to cure bullet wounds.

That's ridiculous. I have never heard of one person forcing another to kiss under an upheld bullet.

Dave said...

This stuff sounds like the pre-scientific "doctrine of signatures". Likely pretty useless. The only positive result to come from alternative medicine was tamoxifen which was discovered in an enthobotany survey , but validated through standard medical science.

Christy said...

Drew W, one of my besties is a practitioner of Reiki. She would practice on her pets when she was in training. I confess reluctance to inquire too deeply into the practice.

As a society we have lost all discernment, don't you think?

Lawcruiter said...

So - if it isn't measurable by conventional "scientific" means - it's "stupid" and "quackery"?

Good thing our "scientists" are incorruptible by politics/fashion, big-money, the tort bar.

And everything is fine in the world of conventional medicine! No need for alternative approaches! Nope - they're quacks. Shut them down! Silence them! Shun them! Scorn them!

How ignorant and reflexively judgmental of you.

sydney said...

Western medicine has been sliding slowly down a slippery slope for the last 20 years. Between alternative/integrative medicine gaining a foothold and the influence of industry on research and guideline formation, we are well past our golden age.

Paddy O said...

"Whoops, it's actually older than Columbus discovering the New World."

Well that explains it then. It's not new quackery, it's just a revival of old alchemy.

Peter said...

Buying "alternate medicine" is like buying electronic parts or devices labelled as "untested."

That is, the electronic parts/components are not actually untested- they're being sold as such because they were, in fact, tested and were not acceptable.

"Alternative medicine" means, "not tested in accordance with any generally accepted scientific methodology."

For when "alternative medicine" therapies are scientifically tested and found to have a favorable benefits-to-risks ratio, they are then called "conventional medicine."

slumber_j said...

Rudolf Steiner was one of crackpottery's all-time greats. Check out his Wikipedia entry for a stunning array of fucked-up "ideas."

I guess he thought faster than anyone who could think better, or something--but the results are nothing short of spectacular. Perhaps tellingly, The Rudolf Steiner School near where I live in Manhattan seems to be dedicated to educating the children of washed-up rock stars.

Calypso Facto said...

Is it as much "quackery" as the study of law under a perjurer?

The Crack Emcee said...

I'd never previously given any thought to the University of Aberdeen, so as far as I know the entire place is quackery.

I feel the same way about San Francisco,...

The Crack Emcee said...

Lawcruiter,

So - if it isn't measurable by conventional "scientific" means - it's "stupid" and "quackery"?

Yes, because almost everything we have and know has been brought to us by scientific means.



Good thing our "scientists" are incorruptible by politics/fashion, big-money, the tort bar.

What does that matter? "Scientists" (people) may be fallible but "science" (a method of discovery) isn't. That confusion is leading you away from clear thinking.



Everything is fine in the world of conventional medicine! No need for alternative approaches! Nope - they're quacks. Shut them down! Silence them! Shun them! Scorn them!

Problems in conventional medicine - which science corrects - don't validate alternative approaches, which are pretty much dead ends, having no known mechanisms,...because there are no mechanisms. 



How ignorant and reflexively judgmental of you.

Really? You're judging science by what scientists do - while, both, utilizing what science has brought us (like the computer you're writing on) and disdaining it's accomplishments (like extending our lives by 50 years or more) - and that "stupid" train of thought has driven you into being judgmental, hypocritical, AND ignorant.

I'm sure you'll now whip yourself appropriately for A) your sins against logic and reason and B) trying to spread misinformation in the service of quackery.

Considering such thinking as yours kills, I'd be more careful with that in the future,…

Tibore said...

"And everything is fine in the world of conventional medicine! No need for alternative approaches! Nope - they're quacks. Shut them down! Silence them! Shun them! Scorn them!"

Instead of "alternative medicine", maybe you're better off learning the difference between "being studied" and "disproven". New treatments - such as some of the novel neoangiogenesis suppressive drugs being tested - are being studied and are amenable to study, therefore "alternative" but still legitimate. They're taken as legitimate because their mechanisms are known and their affects are being studied and documented.

Contrast that to non- (not "pseudo", but non) scientific treatments like homeopathy, which has been studied and disproven. The problem is, too many disproven pseudomedical practices find refuge under the moniker "alternative medicine" and therefore encase themselves in a false cloak of legitimacy. This is why people like Crack Emcee and I ridicule the field: Instead of subjecting themselves to actual proof, measurement, and evolution of treatment practitioners all too often stick with refuted "theories" and unproven treatments under the guise of sticking "it" to the medical establishment. Which ignores the fact that the medical establishment would quickly adopt treatments should they actually demonstrate effectiveness, for profit reasons if no other. But that's something too many alt-med advocates choose to ignore.

The problems with the medical profession and limits of medical science are not a legitimization of disproven, falsified, and counter-to-established-biology practices. Efficacy is measured against what it accomplishes in patients, not against the "conventional medicine" ediface practitioners contrast themselves against. And if there's any doubt as to the ineffectiveness of too many of these alt-med treatments, go look up the "What's The Harm" website and read about the victims. Conventional medical researchers are well aware of their fields limitations. Which is something far too many alt-med practitioners blithely ignore.

Drew W said...

Christy: You showed admirable restraint, hanging out with someone who practices reiki on animals, and not referring to them as "Doctor Do-nothing."

edutcher said...

It's the Green Energy of medicine.

Lawcruiter said...

@ The Crack Emcee and Tibore

I have no problem with skepticism about alternative medicine. What I have a problem with is the inability of most skeptics of alternative medicine (and I include both of you - and Althouse -in this category) to get beyond this constricted view that unless something is conventionally measurable than it is not "scientific" and must therefore be scorned and silenced. The flip side to this is what I see as an unwillingness (laziness?) to expose conventional medicine to the same level of skepticism.

The reality, for anyone who wants (or needs) to look at the situation more broadly, is that conventional medicine is becoming increasingly inadequate at dealing with significant health issues (e.g., the increasing incidence of autism-spectrum disorders and food/environmental allergies), or that its responses to these issues have become increasingly hidebound (treat the symptoms with increasingly strong steroids). All this leaves those of us who are confronted with these issues wondering if maybe the whole paradigm is messed up and whether there isn't significant merit in examining a more holistic approach.

And to suggest that alternative approaches should or don't submit themselves to scientific studies is to essentially avoid the issue because it should be clear that a lot of this stuff cannot be conventionally assessed because so much of mechanism is unknown or misunderstood. And, as an aside, this is leaving aside the futility of this approach given the inherent bias in the medical community against funding such studies since that group is almost completely focused on approaches that produce results that are both litigation proof and can be easily monetized, such as pharmaceuticals and high-end medical technology. I appreciate that both of you will find this point particularly frustrating – but I think we need to think more creatively about how to measure and assess things that cannot be conventionally measured, rather than simply dismissing them - in the absence of such data - as “quackery” and “stupid”. Start with something basic like the placebo effect – a well-known phenomenon which has clearly been inadequately studied. (And once we figure that out – we can move on to a subset of epigenetics that studies how gene expression can be caused by non organic phenomena...)

As someone who is both highly skeptical of alternative medicine but who has benefited from it personally (who knows why) – and given also the breadth of unstudied promising phenomena - I frankly applaud any systematic and serious effort to study or consider alternative medical approaches. And bravo if the approach is underwritten by a group that considers things from an Anthroposophical perspective. It can be Ayurveda, for all I care. Better that than yet another another chair underwritten by a another big pharmaceutical company.

edutcher said...

PS Hey, Crack, if that's a rear view of Althouse, I'd think you'd want to get on her good side.

Howard said...

I love it... a wanna-be failed middle-class San Fernando Valley rapper lectures on science.

Did you know that the high-end medical journals publish the highest percentage of retracted psuedo-science than any other peer reviewed science journals?

Stop kidding yourself and take your Lipitor. Then you will need (well, not Crack) viagra to make wood. Muscle relaxers to elimate the lipitor spasms and ambien for sleep with an abilify chaser to keep you on an ever strain. Yes, better living through peer reviewed science.

The science pills are so much better than any alternative like stretching and isometrics (yoga), relaxation (meditation), jogging (zen-running), and a healthy diet loaded with whole unprocessed foods and fresh meat (paleo-diet).

leslyn said...

Drew W said...
You needn't go all the way to Aberdeen for goofy alternative medical treatments. This is from The Economist a couple weeks ago: The University of Maryland’s Centre for Integrative Medicine has received $25m from the NIH for research. Separately it offers treatments such as reiki, in which a healer floats his hands over the patient’s body.

I could so do that for a living. How do I get my license?

4/26/12 7:33 AM

You go to a practioner who is authorized to train you. You might surprise yourself.

leslyn said...

I don't practice reiki. I take supplements for most medical conditions. I'm not deeply involved in alternative medicine.

But I do know that a naturopath MD, who diagnosed me based on good old-fashioned symptoms rather than medical tests, saved my life.

I know many people who have consulted naturopaths and alternative-type nutritionists, and finally found a cure for their conditions.

Modern medicine is the result of learning that some received knowledge was wrong. Otherwise we'd still be back in the era when "bleeding" a patient to get rid of their "bad humours" was standard practice.

But for Big Pharma, there is no profit in spreading the news that there are cures for medical conditions other than the next expensive pill.

themightypuck said...

Ancient wisdom is at the very least a good hypothesis generator. I'd rather be lost in the Brazilian rainforest with a friendly and skilled Yanomami hunter than a Harvard Ph.D. in Amazon biology.

Trial and error is a powerful thing.

ken in sc said...

My mother enabled my step-father to go through expensive chellation therapy after he had a stroke. It involves removing calcium from the blood. She did this not because she thought it would work, but because she wanted the family to know she had done everything she could to help him. He never recovered and died anyway.

ken in sc said...

Chellation is one of those quackeries carried out by those MDs who move from state to state after losing their licence in another state.

leslyn said...

Chelation gave my landlord full mobility again.

I'm sorry your stepfather died.

Howard said...

Chelation is standard proven medical treatment for heavy metal poisoning. It's a life-saving thearapy when used appropriately.

Quacks use it to "cure" lots of other things. That is quackery, not the treatment itself.

Quaestor said...

leslyn wrote:
Chelation gave my landlord full mobility again.

Did the double-blind study yourself, eh? Maybe you should publish.

EDH said...

"The University of Aberdeen is considering establishing a chair in a form of alternative medicine described by one expert as 'pure quackery.'"

Remember, ducks need medical care too.

Michael said...

"Rudolf Steiner was one of crackpottery's all-time greats. Check out his Wikipedia entry for a stunning array of fucked-up "ideas."

I wouldn't completely argue with that, but given a choice between the crackpottery in a Waldorf school and the kinds being practiced in modern public schools, Steiner looks pretty damn good.

Biodynamic wine is pretty good, too.

fairoaks said...

Rudolf Steiner is much understood. To know him requires understanding his core philosophy found in his "Philosophy Of Freedom". This is a humanistic philosophy that human morality, like human knowledge, is conditional upon human nature. It empowers one's life through deepening scientific inquiry and living according to one's highest ideals. For anyone interested in learning about Rudolf Steiner a new online Philosophy Of Freedom Study Course is available at http://www.philosophyoffreedom.com . Its Free and includes videos, illustrations, and diagrams to help study the book.