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Well well well on Spewcter. NOw if Coleman will just evaporate into the ether, cause he's gonna fight and fight and fight (that sounds so Blago).

As for acupuncture, no doctor - no matter the field - should blame their patients for faulty treatment. I can say that I've recently met 2 more people (one skeptic the other a believer) for whom acupuncture was the only solution to their ills - one a back problem and the other wrist tendonitis. Maybe it's just TLC that they just can't get or do on themselves. Acupuncture does have a long history helping people, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

My own sister says acupuncture helped her when nothing else would. It's not that I think she's lying, but so-called "evidence" for acupuncture always seems to be anecdotal. Not to mention that the acupuncturists and its proponents always behave like other groups of your run-of-the-mill kooks (homeopaths, psychics, New Agers, even audiophools).

I think it points to something sad about our medical system that so many patients need to go elsewhere to get the Placebo effect caused by the feeling that someone is trying to to heal you.

Hire one doctor to treat you and one professional to administer bedside manner .

Massage and Acupuncture should be part of treatment regiments for their largely mental benefits.

I'm not so sure about that. Many people who go to those treatments already tried medicine. Thing is that in reality there aren't cures for everything. Even diagnosis is seemingly impossible sometimes. That's why faith-healers and pseudoscience peddlers are so despicable. They prey on desperate uninformed people. My mom went to healing mass and I saw shark fin powder in my parents' room too, and all the while she was also going through chemotherapy.

Oh, I'm sorry. I may have misunderstood your larger point. I thought you were saying that it says something about our medical system that it drives people to use pseudoscience instead.

Specter's decision was more political than it was principled. He has a much better chance of being re-elected as a Democrat. This way he can avoid a nasty GOP primary against a rapid right-winger.

I meant rabid, duh.

No matter what his reason - WOW on Specter. I wonder if that will make Lieberman decide he has to become a Republican......they will definitely woo him....But - wow, bring on Franken.

Did you see Limbaugh's reaction - Specter should take McCain and his daughter with him. Rush is truly drunk with self-importance (I'm not sure that statement defines that fact but it's all I can think of with him.)

I know next to nothing about acupuncture nor about the details of studies testing its efficacy, but I would assume that its benefits are more or less analagous to massage, saunas, being pounded on by some 6' Swedish woman, or having hot rocks distributed over your body. I would guess that benefits of these types do not lend themselves well to being quantified and would further say that discounting the possibility, based on these studies, that these benefits are "real" for at least some people requires an extremely rosy view of statistical analysis.

RE: the Respectful Insolence guy (whose column I have developed a sick affection for), I would say that...

Any surgeon who's ever operated on the colon regularly (as I used to do until I subspecialized...

...perhaps he's subspecialized too much, because he seems to have way too much time on his hands. While I agree with much of what he says and have certainly gotten a good laugh more than once watching the colon-cleansing infomercial guy on late night TV, it seems to me that he takes mushiness of the science being conducted by the homeopathy, et al folks a bit too personally. Yes, these people are making money by providing a good or service of questionable benefit, but isn't that true of about 90% of us? I don't really see that these people promoting colon cleansing and the like are doing any particular harm (I am not including the vaccine conspiracy people here); hell, maybe the late night TV guy has even inadvertantly prevented a few cases of colon cancer along the way.

I would guess that benefits of these types do not lend themselves well to being quantified and would further say that discounting the possibility, based on these studies, that these benefits are "real" for at least some people requires an extremely rosy view of statistical analysis.
The problem with acupuncture is that they also make VERY wild claims. Chi, chakras, or whatever latest bullshit story they come up with. That is not true for most of the other stuff you cited. Some notable skeptics and quack-watchers like Ben Goldacre are very adamant on pointing out that placebo is actually more powerful than people (even skeptics) give it credit for, and that the whole ceremony of the procedure in a placebo treatment is very important, if not the most important thing.

Yes, these people are making money by providing a good or service of questionable benefit, but isn't that true of about 90% of us?
Really? What do you do?

I don't really see that these people promoting colon cleansing and the like are doing any particular harm (I am not including the vaccine conspiracy people here)
The problem is that even though some "therapies" of these sorts might be more or less innocuous, they all feed on the same principles of pseudoscience and ignorance of the public. The promotion of even the innocuous ones helps the proliferation of the harmful ones.

OK, I'm not really about to become the great defender of acupuncture, etc. I guess I only end up making comments here when something annoys me (sorry to say), and my annoyance always seems to stem from people holding other people to standards to which they don't hold themselves. I'm sure there are a number of lines of psychoanalytic inquiry one could embark on regarding my annoyance [which, incidentally, would be "woo" or "quackery" itself, I'm sure]. And by "standards", I'm talking about the accomplishments or utility of one's work, not that (if your field is science-related) you simply memorized the steps of the scientific method and go through the motions of applying them. If someone's going to spew a lot of venom about someone else's more or less innocuous work (or entire field), it seems reasonable to expect that the person doing the spewing would have made significant personal contributions to his/her own field. But that's just me, and I don't claim to be the world's most reasonable person.

...Now I'm going to attempt the never before attempted (by me) double blockquote:

Yes, these people are making money by providing a good or service of questionable benefit, but isn't that true of about 90% of us?
Really? What do you do?

I can assure you that I would place myself squarely in that 90% (which, OK, is probably a gross overestimate, I hope...). On a somewhat unrelated note, I tend to think, especially now, that unless one is in a profession wherein you couldn't simply be replaced by a robot (or a few thousand lines of Python, an empty chair, etc.) that you should be feeling pretty lucky.

OK, I'm not really about to become the great defender of acupuncture, etc. I guess I only end up making comments here when something annoys me (sorry to say), and my annoyance always seems to stem from people holding other people to standards to which they don't hold themselves. I'm sure there are a number of lines of psychoanalytic inquiry one could embark on regarding my annoyance [which, incidentally, would be "woo" or "quackery" itself, I'm sure]. And by "standards", I'm talking about the accomplishments or utility of one's work, not that (if your field is science-related) you simply memorized the steps of the scientific method and go through the motions of applying them. If someone's going to spew a lot of venom about someone else's more or less innocuous work (or entire field), it seems reasonable to expect that the person doing the spewing would have made significant personal contributions to his/her own field. But that's just me, and I don't claim to be the world's most reasonable person.

So, correct me if I'm wrong. If I'm a waiter, unless I'm a very accomplished waiter and have changed the lives of people who dine at my restaurant positively, I can't call bullshit on bullshit? What does one thing has to do with the other? It doesn't matter what your career path or job is. Reality is reality, and nonsense is nonsense. There are ways to find out which is which.

Nobody is criticizing the pseudoscientific kooks for making money the way they do, it's because their bullshit is bullshit, and because their bullshit can be and is dangerous. The innocuous ones aren't much different. They operate with the same fundamental principles of feeding on deception and ignorance.

So, correct me if I'm wrong. If I'm a waiter, unless I'm a very accomplished waiter and have changed the lives of people who dine at my restaurant positively, I can't call bullshit on bullshit? What does one thing has to do with the other? It doesn't matter what your career path or job is. Reality is reality, and nonsense is nonsense. There are ways to find out which is which.

Obviously if your field is completely unrelated to the one you're ranting about, then you don't pretend to speak from a position of great authority (at least not by virtue of your profession alone). However, for the sake of argument, if you're a waiter who's going on and on in some blog about the grotesquely subpar customer service skills, hygiene, and general intellect of fast food employees, then I'm going to find your blog quite annoying if in your field (waiting tables at proper restaurants) there happens to exist rampant identity theft, working while in the grips of massive diarrheal illness, and overt disdain for customers. You yourself may be the perfect waiter, but I would still rather you address the failings in your own industry than in someone else's more or less parallel field. Too extreme? Well, you gave an extreme example.... Thankfully, though, I am not making the rules.

...it's because their bullshit is bullshit, and because their bullshit can be and is dangerous.

Apparently we are talking about "kooks" of differing orders of magnitude.

In the part you quoted just above you missed my next sentence. Dangerous and innocuous pseudoscience operate fundamentally the same.

And how exactly can you be in the same "field" as pseudoscientists? Only "accomplished" homeopaths can criticize acupuncturists? Please. You don't need to pretend to "speak from a position of great authority", you don't even need to if you do have a position of authority. If you are right, and you make an argument, and you have evidence or evidence that the other is wrong, then that should stand for itself.

Argument from authority is no argument.

Well put, a smoker has no standing to say smoking is bad for you? Of course he does that he is a hypocrite may be true but it is irrelevant.

Well put, a smoker has no standing to say smoking is bad for you?

Actually, I would say that a smoker has a great platform from which to say smoking is bad for you. I guess I am talking more about people in glass houses than about hypocrisy.

I thought the glass house adage was all about hypocrisy.

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