« Secretrons? Secretoids? | Main | 11th Annual Pigasus Awards »

April 06, 2007

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Go, Skeptico!

If you have ever opened a discussion of "The Secret" with any variation of the phrase "I only share this with people who are ready to transform their realities," you might just be a Secretard.

In fact, if you have ever used any variation of the phrase "we create our own realities," you might just be a Secretard.

If you have done any of the things listed here, you might just be a cult-leader-wannabe in dire need of critical thinking skills.

Great to laugh about this - been focused on the social-control implications of "The Secret" in my own writing about it, and the dynamics are grim on every level. Obviously, I was getting too negative about this species we're in and manifesting all these idiots. Something Very Bad might have happened. Thank you for saving me from myself, Skeptico.

The pronunciation might be improved. That's how I pronounced it in my head when I first read it, and it sounded to me like a reference to secretaries who are retarded. Starting the word with a 'see,' as in 'secret,' would make it more recognizable as 'secret-tard,' and not 'secretary-tard.'

I like "sec-RE-tard," because it keeps "secrete" in there. It's the best of both worlds.

I'm digging on "secretin" too, though.

Anyway, I'd say:
If you treat a classic bar joke as if it might be evidence for your philosophy, you might be a Secretard.

If you claim that "no one even knows what electricity is," and use that to support your "scientific law," then you might be a Secretard.

If you think that thoughts create reality and the universe doesn't care about your feelings, but actually it's what you feel that determines your reality and the universe responds more to stronger feelings, or no the universe responds to the power of thoughts and positive thoughts are more powerful than negative thoughts, and magnets are somehow involved, you might be a Secretard.

If you believe in a secret philosophy that has been suppressed for millennia, but also believe that it was known to and recorded by all the great thinkers of history, and is practiced by the richest and most powerful people in the world, and also a bunch of would-be philosophers, theologians, and poor scientists, but it's still a "secret," then you might be a Secretard.

If you can say "like attracts like" and compare that phrase to the function of a magnet in the same sentence, you might be a Secretard.

If you think it's profound to say "You have good feelings and you have bad feelings. And you know the difference between the two, because one makes you feel good, and the other makes you feel bad," you might be a Secretard.

If you can say "there are no rules, according to the universe" regarding the amount of "stuff" that can be provided to the universe, in a video promoting a "scientific law" that is often compared to the actual scientific law of gravity, directly contradicting the law of conservation of mass, and you see no apparent conflict here, you might be a Secretard.

If you can cram this much contradiction, inaccuracy, and absurdity into a 20-minute segment of a much longer film, and think that this segment will still be effective as a promotional device, you might be a Secretard.

Im gonna ask this here too....

Why does this crap piss us off so much? It infuriates me that thousands (millions?) of people flock to this crap. But when you try to describe how it hurts the value of real science, blames the victim and breeds ignorance to people who either believe in it or simply defend it as something that makes people feel better, they just look past it.

Why does this crap make so angry? Beucase as long as this shit continues we will never, as a society or a species cast of the shackles of religion and actually focus our brains and resources toward actual problems. how about you?

Although I enjoyed What the Bleep Do We Know, I completely cracked up reading your article. I thought WBDWK was cool when I first saw it because I took it as simply philosophizing about quantum mechanics' implications and didn't take it as some kind of mandate, or fact. Just interesting and neat that these scientists were using their metaphysical pondering as well as their scientific understanding. Blending philosophy with the things they had learned.

The Secret however went way too far, and it was no longer entertaining.

Hilarious post, keep it up.

Well that confirms it-I am a Secretard. I have to admit hilarious post- I'd laugh at Secretards if I wasn't one already.
I think whether you are a Godretard (blind robotic followers of God emphasis on retard and sounded better in my head)or whatever retard you are- It all boils down to beliefs-What beliefs help someone to strive for more, achieve more, for someone it may the belief in God guiding them, for others it may be the Secret.
For me it has nothing to do with science or anything else- It is simply about a belief that makes me realize hey you are mean't to be great,and in the end everyone is entitled to one.
There are portions of the Secret that I don't agree with but the overall message is that you can change your life and that is the message that makes a diffrence for me.

Here's something ironic for you- I honestly wouldn't know anything about _The Secret_ if not for your blog.

Of course, I've moved in circles where that belief was held as Fact and Law and questioning it was the worst kind of unorthodoxy, and it only demonstrated how you had not yet achieved any kind of enlightenment.

I love poking those sorts of bastards in the eye.

//But I'm really a very sad person.

Just interesting and neat that these scientists were using their metaphysical pondering as well as their scientific understanding. Blending philosophy with the things they had learned.
The problem is that they had to compromise their scientific "knowledge" to do so. None of the quantum physics in "What the Bleep" was scientifically valid, it was all buzzwords, common misconceptions, and intentional misrepresentations.

There are plenty of weird and interesting implications, scientifically and philosophically, of Quantum Physics. You don't need to bastardize the science to explore those implications. Unfortunately for the Bleepers, not one of those implications is "you create the world with your thoughts." And so their philosophy is old-age solipsistic reductionist bullshit, and their science is bankrupt.

The most amazing thing I've encountered in the past week was seeing Carl Sagan quickly and off-handedly take down JZ "Ramtha" Knight in "Demon-Haunted World." He essentially debunked "What the Bleep" eight years before it came out. Freakin' astounding.

Great Beautiful Love it. I am really happy that the Secret has helped some by enabling them to live in a fantasy world but it really pisses me off when they talk about everything being positive even horrible crap like disease--There is nothing positive to me that my sister has a degenerative incurable disease. And she didn't give it to herself by not being positive. And just thinking about it positively isn't gonna get congress off their asses to get moving on stem cell research so we can get a cure for it.

If you claim that words used to mean something they didn't, with no proof, and claim the Dead Sea Scrolls prove this and the LoA, you just might be a secretard.

If you claim that thinking you are fat makes you fat, in spite of the contradictory evidence provided by bulemics and anorexics, then claim when this is pointed out you meant only in their minds, you just might be a secretard.

If you refuse to answer what should be simple questions if the Secret is true, even when every pre-condition you have laid down for answering them is met, you just might be a Secretard.

With this paragraph – “If you think that thoughts create reality and the universe doesn't care about your feelings, but actually it's what you feel that determines your reality and the universe responds more to stronger feelings, or no the universe responds to the power of thoughts and positive thoughts are more powerful than negative thoughts, and magnets are somehow involved, you might be a Secretard.” Tom Foss manifested my coffee coming out of my nose. Some day I will learn to look away from the screen before I take a sip.

To techskeptic – “Im gonna ask this here too....Why does this crap piss us off so much? It infuriates me that thousands (millions?) of people flock to this crap.” I’ve been looking at this lately. If Skeptico doesn’t mind a Secret-related link, and you’re interested in musing further, come on over and talk about it. narcissism, abuse of power, and magical thinking: why “The Secret” is actively destructive, rather than just plain stupid (Transcripts of the Larry King interviews with the Head Secretards and lots of links, too, under the Secret-inspired label ‘The Department of Social Control.’)

To summarize my POV, it pisses us off because it’s a dangerous absence of critical thought with real and painful consequences to real people in pain. People flock to it by the millions because they have a desperate need to believe they have control over their experiences. It works because ‘The Secret’ exploits the most basic and effective tenets of both cults and pyramid schemes.

Sagan’s book “The Demon Haunted World: Science as Candle in the Dark” is so good. His point there – that in addition to needing to feel in control, people also have a basic need to feel awe and wonder – is relevant to “The Secret” phenom, too, I think.

It pisses me off because it shows a willful disregard for actual knowledge and critical thinking. AND it paints people who respect knowledge as negative. I resent that. If I can just use another example: flipping by the channels, I came upon Hillary Swank discussing her new movie The Reaping with Jimmy Kimmel. She was saying how her character in the movie goes around finding scientific explanations for what seem to be "biblical" occurences. She said, "these people ACTUALLY exist". (said in a very disparaging way) Kimmel said "They sound like a bunch of party-poopers". I had to turn the channel. Why in our culture right now, does having respect and an interest in science make you an a**hole?? Why is believing that god is sending plagues to punish us more fun than finding out what actually is going on? The Secret is part and parcel of this ridiculous anti-intellectual phase we seem to be going through. That's why it burns me, personally.
thanks, madaha

If you Suggest that the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust attracted their fate, and/or the ones practicing The Secret were the ones who survived, you just might be a Secretard.

You might also be a piece of human excrement that deserves fornication with an iron staff.

If you run a two day infomercial on your massively popular national television show, give glowing approval for a product without considering the implications, then realize that some women are actually stopping their cancer treatments because of what you said, then take it all back by saying that what you meant to say was that The Secret is simply ONE way to help yourself, that it is really just about positive thinking, and shouldn't take the place of traditional medical procedures, you just might be a Secretard.

Thanks to The Secret I've finally been able to make all of my brutal rape fantasies a reality!

And my victims? Well - they should have thought positive, like me! That's self-actualisation in action!

Thanks The Secret!

wyo, did Oprah backpedal? I missed that.

I mentioned the Oprah thing on an earlier thread - it was really lame. It wasn't a full retraction by any means, just a very tentative way to cover any possible liability.

Great job Skeptico, and nice additions by the rest of you as well.

Tom Foss, as usual the content of your post was par excellence (e.g., "You don't need to bastardize the science to explore those implications.") Nice.

There are portions of the Secret that I don't agree with but the overall message is that you can change your life and that is the message that makes a diffrence for me.

You needed The Secret for this? What was wrong with The Little Engine That Could?

Thanks madaha and wyo. Yes indeedy, that's lame. Here's the relevant section, from Oprah's site, in case anyone else is curious:

"What I believe about the law of attraction, I want to clarify it," Oprah says. "I want to say it's a tool. It is not the answer to everything. It is not the answer to atrocities or every tragedy. It is just one law. Not the only law. And certainly, certainly, certainly not a get-rich-quick scheme. [Editorial insertion: eh?] The law of attraction is a tool that can help you decide what you want your life to be, and then begin to help you focus on making the best choices through action to create that life."

(This to a woman who is going to use the principles of 'The Secret' to manifest her breast cancer going away instead of having the LUMP REMOVED. What's the matter, Oprah, did the inevitable consequences of this stuff just occur to you?)

Nes' Little Engine That Could comment almost got me to repeat the earlier Tom Foss nose-spray manifestation, but I was thinking positively when it happened so I averted disaster.

` OMG!!! My study skills teacher made us watch a clip from The Secret! It didn't have any weird quantum physics things in it, but now I see why it seemed so new-agey.
` Also I see why my teacher was irritated whenever I tried to explain to her why her feet felt cool when she went firewalking.

` You know, this also reminds me of someone I know who thinks quantum mechanics proves that he can fly like Superman.
` And THAT reminds me that there was this old guy (I wrote about it on my main blog) who jumped out of the nursing home window tonight, making his big escape! (But not quite, because our neighbor caught him.)
` Don't think he was a Secretard, though, just senile.

` Maybe that's what's happening to these people, they're attracting senility!

` BTW, I also wrote a critical post on What The Bleep and someone said 'Why don't you get an education? Go lick your girlfriend!'
` (I'm not attracted to those, thanks!)
` SO, if you try to prove you're right by telling someone to lick their girlfriend, you just might be a Secretard!

"And Skeptico steps up to the plate for the 0-0 pitch. The Skeptics lead by triple digits at this point and the Secretards have yet to score a run."

"Just goes to show, Jim, simply thinking 'grand slam' don't make it so."

"Too true. Oh, and what's this? Skeptico is calling his shot! Sweet Mammy's Biscuits!"

"Now look at him! He's batting one-handed! Is he... Is he closing his eyes? Oh, this is going to be embarassing for someone."

"The wind-up, and the pitch!"

"Crushed it! Walk-off home run for Skeptico! And that's going to be a nice souvenir for someone on the International Space Station!"

Suggestion from a writer sometimes in the business of making up words:

"Secret-tard"

Otherwise, it looks like you're criticizing retarded secretaries.

Excellent post, Skep (and great comments, everyone else).

S E E Quine wrote:
` SO, if you try to prove you're right by telling someone to lick their girlfriend, you just might be a Secretard!'

I've had more than one Secret fan tell me my problem is that I need to get laid. And one friend of Joe Vitale who calls himself the Seduction King said my problem is that I don't feel like a woman inside. He said that this happens to be his area of specialty, but unfortunately he has a girlfriend so he can't help me. In the same post he told me that my problem is that I have not come to terms with my inner child, whom he calls "Little Connie." So either there are several people inside me who are causing problems, or he is sort of...well...Secretarded!

Anyway, I really enjoyed this post and the comments. Although I have nothing to add to the "you might be a Secretard," I'll do you one better by referring an actual 'tard to you. If you haven't heard from him already, you may soon. Look out for a guy who calls himself "Nabru," an acronym for "New Age Brilliance Rapidly Unfolding." He has chosen to share his brilliance on my blog and I told him he could probably hold his own on yours as well. :-)

To Techskeptic
This pisses you off because somewhere someone is sitting in a chair, feet on their desk, cigar in mouth, counting the millions rolling in. While most real scientists work tirelessly and anonymously on small projects that lack funding or glitz and when they finally produce results the "oprahs" of the world couldn't give a shit.

Beautiful post Skeptico, i've been debating secretards on a facebook site, wisely or not, and have gotten some pure gems of nonsense, including EVERYTHING on your list. You're in for a good laugh, but i'm sure you've heard it all before,
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2222488891&ref=mf

Nice post Skeptico. I just have to vent my frustration. I'm a manager of a small support team and one of my staff members actually tried to suggest in our last team meeting that a good team building exercise would be for us all to watch "The Secret". I almost burst out laughing in her face, but I managed to keep my face straight when I suggested it wouldn't really be a good idea. Now maybe I should forward this link to her....

Thank you! Thank you all!!! As a deep believer in The Secret, the law of attraction, and the idea that we are all connected as one unlimited source of energy I would like to take this opportunity to thank you! This website in an epicenter of thought around which so much energy in directed towards The Secret. I know that with your continued help this energy will help spread the word of The Secret even faster so that one day every person can live a peaceful life, connected with his/her inner, higher self. "What you resist, persists."

It's these people and their ilk that make me want to become a hermit. No more 'tards!

Errr.... you're welcome, Caren.

Because we all know: Advertising the unethical, nihilistic behavior of Secretards makes them more popular.

Personally, I do not like "Secretard" because it demeans developmentally challenged people.

Secretions is much better.

This pisses you off because somewhere someone is sitting in a chair, feet on their desk, cigar in mouth, counting the millions rolling in. While most real scientists work tirelessly and anonymously on small projects that lack funding or glitz and when they finally produce results the "oprahs" of the world couldn't give a shit.
That, and the fact that it's obvious that these people have no scruples, no conscience. Any one of us could toss together some newage bullshit, write a book, start a quasi-religion, and become millionaires. But we have ethics that tell us to not do that, and instead to fight against those who do. It's not hard to do what Deepak Chopra or Joe Vitale do, assuming you have nothing to stop you from doing it.
Thank you! Thank you all!!! As a deep believer in The Secret, the law of attraction, and the idea that we are all connected as one unlimited source of energy I would like to take this opportunity to thank you! This website in an epicenter of thought around which so much energy in directed towards The Secret. I know that with your continued help this energy will help spread the word of The Secret even faster so that one day every person can live a peaceful life, connected with his/her inner, higher self. "What you resist, persists."
Blah, blah, blah. "Because you're talking about the Secret you're attracting it to be true/you're attracting more people to believe it." Sounds like you're attracting some circular reasoning there, Caren.

By the way, if what you resist persists, then why did the Nazis fall? After all, lots of people resisted the Nazi regime, and they aren't persisting. The United States spent almost fifty years resisting the USSR, and they certainly haven't persisted. I guess it's just another case of the "Secret"-based aphorisms being selectively applicable.

Caren:

Thank you! Thank you all!!! As a deep believer in The Secret, the law of attraction, and the idea that we are all connected as one unlimited source of energy I would like to take this opportunity to thank you! This website in an epicenter of thought around which so much energy in directed towards The Secret. I know that with your continued help this energy will help spread the word of The Secret even faster so that one day every person can live a peaceful life, connected with his/her inner, higher self. "What you resist, persists."

If this is irony, great, discount what is written below.

Perhaps you should learn what the secret is, before believing in it. It seems to me that by the standards set forth by the secret itself, and its 'tards, that the negative energy that we are throwing in the secret's direction might actually be hampering it.

You know, like worrying about traffic jams causes them. Or negative energy causes negative things.

I have to admit even my depressingly cynical view of humanity's general intelligence has been surprised by what the secret has attracted here.

Gosh, I'm flattered that a portion of my comment made such an impact as to be repeated and denigrated. LOL

I hold no ill will towards any of you boys. I know that you are taking repeated pot-shots at this topic because it's good for business. As you said, no other topic had brought you this kind of traffic. Play it for all it's worth, sugar. Ride those coattails! Peace and joy to all of you.

What really annoys me is that I'm essentially an optimist, and people like the Secretards are slowly beating it out of me. Woodom, to me, looks like a massive hub of villainy, apathy, defeatism, solipsism, cynicism, nihilism, and lots of other really nasty -isms.

If I had to make a comparison between skepticism and wooism:

Skepticism = Star Trek: The essential message is that science can solve all our big problems and open up new wonders.

Woo = Zardoz: Lots of stuff thrown together in a incoherent mess that almost seems to revel in its absurdity.

In this case, I keep coming because I can always expect more stupid trolls who "cleverly" avoid discussing the issue and implicitly or explicitly making a big deal about how clever they are for talking about something other than the issue, and thus find more material for my Doggerel series. I come for Skeptico's no-nonsense posts and snark. I stay for trolls trotting out cliche spins and subject changes.

I've heard it all before, but sometimes its hard remembering which bits of doggerel I haven't covered, yet.

So, Marti, how exactly did your post contribute to the defense of The Secret?

BD:

I know how you feel. I actually took a long hiatus from blogging (you remember that, right?:) because these A-holes just wore on me; we can't win, right? But with each entry I made on the new blog (more so the evidence-based articles than the opinion articles) I felt that someone might read it and question themselves, just like I did about 7-8 years ago thanks to people like Bob Carroll from Skeptic's Dictionary and of course our version of a prophet.

But as long as Secretards like Marti and purveyors of woo are out their spouting bullshit as truth, there needs to be people to call them out on it; keep them honest. It also helps to keep me sane knowing there are like-minded people who would rather wipe their butts with a $20 bill than spend it on any kind of woo-woo.

To all my skeptical friends - don't let these A-holes get to you. Like Randi says, history will recall that there were people living in 2007 that did not believe in magic, and wanted society to be reality based so that we could move forward rather than be stopped in our tracks.

[/pat on the back]

P.S Marti - How's the traffic on your lame "LOL IMAKE FUN OF SKEPTICO" site? One surge when we all went to make fun of you and now no one cares, right?

So, Marti, how exactly did your post contribute to the defense of The Secret?

I never posted a “defense” of The Secret. I stated a personal belief that sometimes when a person prays, or “asks the universe” for something, the reply is, “No”.
That statement was used in this post:
Point # 9. If you state that God (or the universe) answers all prayers (or requests), but sometimes the answer is "No", you just might be a Secretard.

P.S Marti - How's the traffic on your lame "LOL I MAKE FUN OF SKEPTICO" site? One surge when we all went to make fun of you and now no one cares, right?

I did not build a website to parody this site. You have me confused with someone else.

*Apologizes to Marti*

You will forgive me though if your arguments seem to run together.

*Apologizes to Marti*

You're right, I did. Sorry Marti my comments are sometimes rushed here @ work.

I'm teh stoopid.

That's OK - I am a surprisingly easy-going woo.

:)

Marti

I'm glad you're enjoying the fruits of the secret. I was wondering about something, though.

What was it about The Secret that caused you to believe that it's a workable explanation of the way things are?

I worry that, in a ironic twist, it's the "scientific" explanations that seal the deal for many people. That science is somehow behind and in line with this idea makes it all the more appealing. It's one thing to believe in prayer for prayer's sake, but to have prayer get the stamp of "science" is pretty powerful stuff and helps explain why this has taken off so quickly.

Many people I've talked to effectively say, "Well, it seems to work for me, and it's working for a lot of other people, and there is a scientific explanation for it, so I believe it." Then I say, "What scientific explanation?" and they say, "The LOA," and I say, "What's that?" and they say, "A scientific law, like gravity" and I say "What?," and they say "There's a lot out there that science can't explain, and it's all about quantum mechanics and energy and stuff that isn't fully understood yet." I have no idea if the scientific angle had any effect on you, Marti, but I thought I'd throw it out there. If it was something else, I'd like to hear what that thing was.

I ask because I'm genuinely interested, not to bash anybody.

Thanks. Looking forward to hearing your response, Marti.

I was reading about fads of the 70s last night, and discovered there was a huge cult of the Secret back then! The cult was EST, and they didn't call it the "Secret" - they called it "It". hilarious!! Apparently they tried to cure world hunger by *imagining* an end to hunger. Way to be proactive.

What was it about The Secret that caused you to believe that it's a workable explanation of the way things are?
I am not a die-hard, this-is-the-one-true-way believer. I think a lot of The Secret is hype. I do not believe all of the so-called science that is sited as the explanation. I am rational enough to know that any data can be twisted and interpreted to suit the whim of the person trying to use it to make a point.

The key point of your statement, "Many people I've talked to effectively say, 'Well, it seems to work for me, and it's working for a lot of other people, and there is a scientific explanation for it, so I believe it'." is, "It seems to work for me" That's where I am.

I am not a scientist. I am not an evangelist for The Secret. I do not sell or promote it. I don’t own a copy of the DVD or book, but I have read the free information that is available online. I have tried positive thinking and concentrating on improving certain aspects of my life, and have seen improvement. I don’t know why, but it did happen. Would these things have happened regardless? There is no way to know. That’s the rub with trying to apply logic to faith and belief. I understand that it makes it very easy to scoff, and say, "There is no proof that these things happened because of your faith". That is true, yet, they happened.

I am merely explaining my personal experience and belief, not trying to convince anyone to try it or even to believe me. Just offering my perspective.

The reason it bothers people here is that when one claims to be able to be their very own Santa Claus we realize that they will then be deflated when they find they were on Santa's bad list that he checked twice. Damn if he hadn't checked it twice, I'd be on easy street.

To Marti -- positive thinking is one thing, but the narcisstic delusion that each mind creates reality is setting people up for a long fall if they are so inclined to do fall for it at all.

What I see is people taking the " positive thinking " aspect of this and ignoring the rest of the mantra.

I wonder how many " secret people " have a closet full of infomercial bullshit they don't know what to do with.

Marti,

Why exactly is it a surprise to you that positive thinking and working to improve your life helped improve things for you?

I hold no ill will towards any of you boys.

Please, try not to sound so churlish. And sexist. And patronising.

I had at least expected a little more from you based on previous posts. Guess that'll teach me.

I know that you are taking repeated pot-shots at this topic because it's good for business.

Yes of course, it couldn't possibly have anything to do with trying to debunk something that could be dangerous, and is monumentally stupid. Could it?

Ride those coattails!

Oh the irony. Just like the purveyors of the secret have you mean?

Right! why assume the skeptics are boys? I'm all woman! But anyway, isn't it funny and frustrating that we never learn from the foibles of the past? I mean, of course, the Secret is rehashed garbage, but to learn that we already processed through a huge, similar fad in the 70s is pretty embarrassing, isn't it? I mean, if the Secretards had read about this EST thing in the 70s, they'd think it was rather sad, right? That's why understanding the past will always help us in the present. I guarantee, in a couple of years, this will be OVER, and there is going to be a huge glut on the used-book and video market with this stuff, and the Secretards, understandably embarrassed, will never admit they were part of it.

Marti

Thanks for the response. I really appreciate your willingness to share your perspective.

From what you said in response to my post, it seems to me that you have a fairly informed perspective and don't really need The Secret, since you seem to understand that it was created mostly for hype and money and doesn't have it's roots in any type of science.

Why not just try and live a positive life and do good things for yourselves and others, and just leave the hype behind? Why associate yourself with something that has so many glaring shortcomings? Why not just be a decent person, roll with the punches, and find your life gifts when you can?

You just don't seem like a guy that needs a "Secret," but, then again, maybe you do.

Again, thanks for the response.

Wyo

Goodness, Jimmy, you sound so angry.

Please, try not to sound so churlish. And sexist. And patronising.
Churlish
–adjective
1. like a churl; boorish; rude: churlish behavior.
2. of a churl; peasantlike.
3. niggardly; mean.
4. difficult to work or deal with, as soil.

Nothing in my statement was "churlish".

Sexist
Not. I am a middle-aged woman. I call males who are younger than myself, "boys". A Whois search reveals that this site is owned by a person with a male name. "Jimmy" is a male name. A male name generally used by young men, who in later life, prefer, "Jim" or "James".

Patronizing
-adjective
(used of behavior or attitude) scornful, disparaging

I said nothing scornful or disparaging. If you choose to take it that way, it is solely your interpretation. My remarks were not made to offend. I was stating my opinion.

Yes of course, it couldn't possibly have anything to do with trying to debunk something that could be dangerous, and is monumentally stupid. Could it?
Maybe, but the extra traffic is still pretty sweet.

Oh the irony. Just like the purveyors of the secret have you mean?
Yes.

Best wishes to you for a pleasant day.

Wyo,
Why not just be a decent person, roll with the punches, and find your life gifts when you can?
I’m sure trying - LOL

Thank you for your polite response. I posted here because I found the topic interesting, not as a promoter.

Best wishes for a wonderful day.

Not. I am a middle-aged woman. I call males who are younger than myself, "boys".
And we will call middle-aged women who decide to refer to us with a diminutive appellation "patronizing." So you don't continue to misunderstand the word, here's a real definition: "To assume or adopt an air of superiority; to act or speak condescendingly." When you call a bunch of adult males (and occasional females, madaha) "boys," the condescension is obvious.
Maybe, but the extra traffic is still pretty sweet.
Maybe for Skeptico. I don't get anything from it, and I don't think most of the people here do.

marti,

A lot of us who run skeptical blogs do it because we see what happens to people who believe in things for no reason. We see people who are being ripped off by charlatans, and it bugs us. We see people who we love who are deciding not to take chemotherapy, but rather eat carrots and think positively, and it scares us. We see the scientific enterprise (something I spend most of my intellectual energy on) being bastardized, and it really pisses us off.

There doesn't need to be a financial or a traffic reward in this. Most of us are doing this because we think it's the right thing to do.

Marti,

Goodness, Jimmy, you sound so angry.

How original.

Yes Marti I am angry, angry that people believe the secret is valid and worthwhile, that other people make money from this, that other people continue to support it, that some people believe very dangerous things based on their belief in the secret. You bet I'm angry. What scares me, is that you aren't despite what some believers in the secret have promoted on this very site.

Nothing in my statement was "churlish".

Right. So when in the first line of the definition it says 'rude' you don't think that calling grown men and some women 'boys' is rude? Or how about 'mean' like in line three of your posted definition?

Not. I am a middle-aged woman. I call males who are younger than myself, "boys". A Whois search reveals that this site is owned by a person with a male name. "Jimmy" is a male name. A male name generally used by young men, who in later life, prefer, "Jim" or "James".

Are. Jimmy is a male name, but I also took the name from one of my favourite songs. I actually prefer to be called Jim. I don't like people calling me Jimmy outside of the blogosphere. Nevermind though, assume away.

You might also want to pay more attention to what others have to say. HCN is a woman, Sophia8 is a woman. Madaha points out above that she is a woman. Your assumption that we were all male is I believe sexist, since it implies that no woman would be skeptical like us 'boys' or would post here, or be critical of you and the secret.

I said nothing scornful or disparaging.

dis·par·age
–verb (used with object), -aged, -ag·ing. 1. to speak of or treat slightingly; depreciate; belittle: Do not disparage good manners.
2. to bring reproach or discredit upon; lower the estimation of: Your behavior will disparage the whole family.

It's not at all depreciating, belittling or reproachful to call grown men and women 'boys' is it now? Isn't that right granny (see, I refer to all women older than me as 'granny' but not in a scornful or disparaging way. If you choose to take it that way, it is solely your interpretation.)?

See, quoting dictionaries can be fun.

Maybe, but the extra traffic is still pretty sweet.

Like Tom says, maybe for Skeptico, but I gain nothing from increased site traffic here.

The secret is unproven, unfalsifiable new age gibberish that promotes a dangerous abdication of responsibility for actions and is risking lives, but it is being promoted around the world and is making millions for unscrupulous scumbags. You bet I'm angry. Why aren't you?

Well said, Jimmy_Blue - thanks.

Marti; appreciate that you're engaging in actual conversation about this. Factician said it well - there's much more going on here, and in other critical response to 'The Secret,' than pointless mockery. The faux-science, exploitation, and pure fiction of the scam has enormous consequences to vulnerable people. Positive thinking is healthy. Magical thinking is dangerous, consequential stuff.

I am also a woman, by the way.

I was amused when someone who visited my blog from here called me 'sir' (I always wanted to be as androgynous as David Bowie when in fact, as madaha put it, I am 'all woman' in appearance, so 'sir' is not something I hear often). I find it less amusing, however, when there is a presumption that anyone reading, commenting on, or contributing to critical thought is presumed to be male.

That's some old sexist news right there.

Kind of like the New Age idea that anger is inherently bad or inappropriate.

Anger is a good thing, wielded properly. If you don't get angry when something evil is going on, you're in the much more dangerous territory of "apathy."

We see people who we love who are deciding not to take chemotherapy, but rather eat carrots and think positively, and it scares us.
A person choosing not to take chemotherapy is making a personal choice. I’m not saying it is right, or that you shouldn’t be concerned. It must be a terrifying situation, and I imagine that a cancer patient is willing to grasp at straws to recover. Have a discussion with them about their decision and its consequences. The best thing you can do, as a friend or relative of a person in this situation, is sit down and have a long, rational conversation with them about their choices. Get other medical opinions and investigate other treatment options. If you show the person you are willing to be their advocate, they might be more willing to reconsider conventional therapies. Perhaps you can find a compromise of conventional therapy, diet and mental techniques. Wishing you all the best!

When I used the term, “boys” I was addressing those who had engaged in conversation with me here, not every person who has ever left a comment. The word was not intended as a slur, but I regret using it because it was taken that way. If the moderator had deemed my comment “rude”, it wouldn’t have appeared at all, per the guidelines. I apologize to anyone who was offended by it.

Isn't that right granny (see, I refer to all women older than me as 'granny' but not in a scornful or disparaging way. If you choose to take it that way, it is solely your interpretation.)?
I choose not to, although the term is technically inaccurate, as I have no grandchildren.

Like Tom says, maybe for Skeptico, but I gain nothing from increased site traffic here.
Obviously a remark about traffic is directed to the site administrator.

The secret is unproven, unfalsifiable new age gibberish that promotes a dangerous abdication of responsibility for actions and is risking lives, but it is being promoted around the world and is making millions for unscrupulous scumbags.
What proof do you have that it is risking lives? There have been charlatans, con artists and foolish people who fall for their scams, throughout history. I am not defending these people, simply acknowledging they exist. It is certainly sad when someone makes a bad decision and suffers the consequences, but I don’t think that The Secret is the most dangerous thing that exists in our world today. People abdicate their responsibility when they drink and drive. Parents abdicate their responsibility when they walk away from their children (such as a parent who owes child support but doesn’t pay). Politicians abdicate their responsibility when they lie, or use their office for personal gain.

You bet I'm angry. Why aren't you?
Again, I think there is a plethora of evils in the world that are more deserving of justifiable outrage. The Secret has defenders because many people say they have benefited from it. Can you site examples of people who have been harmed by it? What was the harm they suffered?

Anger is a good thing, wielded properly. If you don't get angry when something evil is going on, you're in the much more dangerous territory of "apathy."
Yes. The genocide in Darfur is truly evil and every human being should be outraged. Hopefully, the fine people who participate in this discussion are applying their indignation to making improvements to many situations they are angry about, through charitable contributions, assisting those in need in their own community, or speaking out (as is being done here). Passion is a fine and noble thing, and I applaud those who feel passionately about this subject. I don’t think anyone should allow themselves to be caught up in hype. Skepticism is a good thing. Research and discussion are good things. I would hope that no one would buy into The Secret or anything else without a skeptical eye. That is how we end up with tragedies like Jonestown and Heavens Gate. My personal opinion is that The Secret is not dangerous. It may be useless and a waste of money, but I just don’t see the danger as being as monumental as many of you do.

Marti,
if people are avoiding cancer treatment to try to cure themselves with the LoA first, (as seen on Oprah), then yes, the Secret IS potentially quite dangerous. We've discussed this before. And your point about Jonestown is very well taken. Groupthink and woo is what we're objecting to!

What proof do you have that it is risking lives?
See the woman who appeared on Oprah to tell her she was discontinuing chemotherapy to cure her breast cancer with the Law of Attraction.
There have been charlatans, con artists and foolish people who fall for their scams, throughout history.
And there have been the rationalists, realists, scientists, and altruists to stand up and hold the line and say "no, that's crap." We're continuing that proud, oft-maligned tradition.
I am not defending these people, simply acknowledging they exist.
And we take as a given that they exist. It doesn't mean they shouldn't be exposed for the frauds and charlatans they are.
It is certainly sad when someone makes a bad decision and suffers the consequences, but I don’t think that The Secret is the most dangerous thing that exists in our world today.
Is anyone saying that it is? Certainly there are far more dangerous things, but this is an unnecessary and controllable danger. There are enough dangers in the world without charlatans and snake oil salesmen inventing new ones.
Again, I think there is a plethora of evils in the world that are more deserving of justifiable outrage. The Secret has defenders because many people say they have benefited from it. Can you site examples of people who have been harmed by it? What was the harm they suffered?
We're outraged at the greater evils, too. But while few of us can take action to stop the genocide in Darfur or the war in Iraq, stopping bullshit like the Secret is mostly a matter of spreading information and educating the public. In other words, it's something we can do.

Again, I doubt that the woman giving up chemo for the Secret is alone in her delusion. And furthermore, isn't "getting fleeced out of your money over lies and false mysticism" harm?

My personal opinion is that The Secret is not dangerous. It may be useless and a waste of money, but I just don’t see the danger as being as monumental as many of you do.
I'll agree that the people giving up medicine for positive thought are going to be few and far between. But it is dangerous in other ways. Besides being financially dangerous, it's contributing to the progression of pseudoscience and credulity that runs rampant through this nation. Already our science education is struggling to stay in the middle of the pack with regard to the rest of the developed world, and anti-science bullplop like this only exacerbates that problem.

Just to show you I have a sense of humor:
As reported by Publishers Marketplace, a THE SECRET parody has been acquired by Nation Books: Jim Gerard's WHO MOVED MY SECRET? The Ancient Wisdom That Tells You It's OK to be Greedy and that Bad Things Only Happen to Good People Who Vibrate on the Wrong Frequency. Jones postulates that the real Law of Attraction "means that if you're gullible enough to believe in it, The Secret folks will be attracted to your credit card number." I will not comment on this sale out of fear that The Secret believers will think really hard about me falling into a trash can.

FROM Nathan Bransford’s blog

Marti,

I choose not to, although the term is technically inaccurate, as I have no grandchildren.

And grown men are not boys. See where I'm going with this?

What proof do you have that it is risking lives?

At least one cancer sufferer has refused treatment in favour of the secret that we know of. I am confident that as this fad really takes hold we will hear of many more similar cases. One believer in the secret who has posted on this site believes crime victims deserve what they get, even if its her own children. One other poster thinks you don't need to take precautions against crime, you just need to not worry about it. It is putting lives at risk.

but I don’t think that The Secret is the most dangerous thing that exists in our world today.

Neither do I or anyone else here.

People abdicate their responsibility when they drink and drive. Parents abdicate their responsibility when they walk away from their children (such as a parent who owes child support but doesn’t pay). Politicians abdicate their responsibility when they lie, or use their office for personal gain.

And if Skeptico had a post about those things, you can bet I would comment on them. Funnily enough though they have nothing to do with this discussion. So why bring them up, what was your point?

Can you site examples of people who have been harmed by it? What was the harm they suffered?

Well the aforementioned woman may die. Doesn't really get more harmful than that. And if it is just one person who dies, it's one person too many. Of course, do a look up on Google for The Real Secret behind the Secret, then see what the financial harm can be.

Hopefully, the fine people who participate in this discussion are applying their indignation to making improvements to many situations they are angry about, through charitable contributions, assisting those in need in their own community, or speaking out (as is being done here).

That's so close to Mora/Joe and What-The?'s patented 'Well what good do you miserable skeptics do for society?' that I will not dignify it with a reply other than his.

And grown men are not boys. See where I'm going with this?
Yes, Jimmy, I see where you are going, but I choose not to follow. I stated my regret over use of the word “boys” and apologized.

At least one cancer sufferer has refused treatment in favour of the secret that we know of.
The woman on Oprah claimed she was cured.

This is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Secret_(2006_film) “>Wikipedia
ABC news referred to claims that the mind has power over our health as "perhaps the most controversial" in The Secret. They quote Rev. Michael Beckwith, founder of Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City, Ca, and one of The Secret "teachers" as saying: "I've seen kidneys regenerated. I've seen cancer dissolved.”
The film features one man who was paralyzed, mute and on a ventilator after his spine and diaphragm were crushed in an airplane accident. He credits his full recovery to the power of his mind. A similar story is told by another interviewee whose breast cancer went into spontaneous remission without medical intervention. Critics worry that these unusual and remarkable stories will prompt others to avoid medical care, even though the film verbally asserts that traditional medicine should be pursued for serious illness

And if Skeptico had a post about those things, you can bet I would comment on them. Funnily enough though they have nothing to do with this discussion. So why bring them up, what was your point?
My point was that I don’t think that The Secret is the most dangerous thing that exists in our world today. You stated, it, “promotes a dangerous abdication of responsibility for actions”. I was siting examples of what I consider more dangerous abdications.

Well the aforementioned woman may die.
All of us are going to die. Many people who use traditional cancer treatments have recurrences of their disease, such as Elizabeth Edwards. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Edwards>At a March 22, 2007 press conference, John and Elizabeth Edwards announced that Elizabeth's cancer had returned, and that his campaign for the Presidency was continuing at full steam.

That's so close to Mora/Joe and What-The?'s patented 'Well what good do you miserable skeptics do for society?' that I will not dignify it with a reply other than his.
I did not refer to the readers here as “miserable”. I said, “fine”.

Best wishes to all of you for a lovely day.

Oh, hell no! Marti, that woman on Oprah DID NOT say she was cured. Your wikipedia article is referring to something else. I saw that episode, and sat incredulous as this poor woman with breast cancer was describing HER INTENTIONS of not seeking medical attention, and trying to "secret" her way back to health. We did not make this up, unfortunately. Hopefully this woman will come to her senses. Just because we're all going to die SOMEDAY, (hopefully in our old age), doesn't mean we should all just step in front of a bus right now. Argumentum ad absurdam, anyone? Yes, there's no proved scientific cure for cancer yet, but things are getting better, so obviously E. Edwards' best bet is to continue to see medical doctors for treatment. That cancer is a horrible, resilient disease does not mean that treatment isn't effective, especially when caught in its early stages. But come on, you knew this already. And again, nobody said that the Secret is the MOST dangerous thing in the world today. But it is dangerous on several levels, and deserves to be commented on.

Actually, there are some things that can be called cures for some types of cancer. Think one example I was given was a type of melanoma treatment with an 85% cure rate.

I doubt we'll find one treatment that'll cure any cancer, but we'll probably find a really good array of treatments for a lot of them. We've come a long way from the days when cancer was this evil, incurable thing, but a lot of woos out there pretend that science has had no meaningful successes.

... I just can't help but think... how many of the above 33 points ALSO apply to Intelligent Design advocates?

Thanks BD, 85% is freakin' awesome! (and very welcome news, since I'm just about to make an appointment to have my freckly shoulders et al. looked at). So exactly. Edwards is wisely seeing a medical doctor, not a Secret-style scam artist. I'm sure the idea that "we're all going to die anyway" is not a comfort to her. Best wishes to you too, Marti. May you have a skeptical, thoughtful day.

Marti:

but I choose not to follow.

I think that's rather my point. You regret using the word because some people did not like the way you used it, not because you used it and it was wrong and insulting. I'll hazard a guess that you will continue to use it and consider there to be nothing wrong with it.

The woman on Oprah claimed she was cured.

No, she didn't. Oprah

And did you really want us to accept a Wikipedia article that cites ABC views (sorry, I refuse to call US television 'journalism' news) citing one of the scam artists promoting the secret as a valid source? Do you have any independent medical sources for any of the cases cited?

How many kidneys did you see 'regenerate' in your time in the medical profession? How about dissolving cancers? Any medical proof of the incredible rebuilding spine?

My point was that I don’t think that The Secret is the most dangerous thing that exists in our world today.

Again, neither do we.

All of us are going to die. Many people who use traditional cancer treatments have recurrences of their disease, such as Elizabeth Edwards.

Oh bugger. I'd forgotten about that.

Well, if we're all going to die then why bother getting treatment for any disease, right? Or is that not what you are saying with this tired, pointless old cliche?

And if the disease/illness might recur, again, why bother getting treatment, right? Maybe I should have just told my mum not to have that breast cancer treatment, since she is going to die anyway and it might recur. Maybe she could just wish her cancer away.

Of course, her conventional medical treatment did cure her. It's just not posted on Wikipedia.

I did not refer to the readers here as “miserable”. I said, “fine”.

Oh I know, that sort of language use is when sarcasm is at its best. But note I said it was close to, not the same as. The point was, it is irrelevant and seemed to be a clumsy attempt at a veiled criticism.

... I just can't help but think... how many of the above 33 points ALSO apply to Intelligent Design advocates?
I think you'll find that quite a few of them are wooniversal.

"I doubt we'll find one treatment that'll cure any cancer, but we'll probably find a really good array of treatments for a lot of them. We've come a long way from the days when cancer was this evil, incurable thing, but a lot of woos out there pretend that science has had no meaningful successes."

Well said.Take Hodkings Lymphoma for example.Without chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy the mortality rate is 95% in 5 years.With chemo or/and radiation therapy the mortality rate drops to 10% (5 years) for Stage I.That means that 90% of the patients in Stage I are alive after five years if they receive chemo or/and radiation therapy.

I have a friend who is totally addicted to all of the charlatans hawking this stuff and she keeps trying to shove it down my throat and you can no longer have an intelligent conversation with her.
She spends a fortune on seminars and books and DVDs and instead of things getting better, last week just had to go back to work full time and she is over 50.
But the worst part is, she is becoming callous to the suffering of others and just said a friend of mine died during a medical test because she brought it on herself with her negative thinking.
For the first time in my life I felt like slapping her for that remark and telling her to keep drinking the Kool Aid while she waits for the shuttle to the mothership.
This is all ruining our 30 year friendship and she has already alienated other long term friendships.
This is no different than cult behavior.

Yes. The Secret truly is dangerous.

Your post is HILARIOUS!!! And sooooo spot on about the ridiculous things that are said in support of The Secret.

BTW, I am a woo-woo person, but I hate The Secret. Not all of us New Agers are lacking in critical thinking, believe it or not.

Well said, Stephanie. It's refreshing to find a New Age believer who doesn't automatically the whole pantheon - i.e., if you believe in homeopathy, you must believe in alien abduction, crop circles, magnet therapy and the Loch Ness Monster.

Stephanie:

Your post is HILARIOUS!!!

As is yours.

And sooooo spot on about the ridiculous things that are said in support of The Secret.

Yes. Just like the ridiculous things that people say about chi. Or 'feelosophy', whatever the hell that is. Or acupuncture. Or reiki. Or yoga. Or qi-gong. Or Tai chi (which incidentally is a martial art that ridiculous woos believe all sorts of nonsense about, I know because I've been learning it for nearly 10 years and I've heard some real crap about it). Or chanting.

Not all of us New Agers are lacking in critical thinking, believe it or not.

Really? Maybe you need to re-read your site then because it displays exactly the same absence of critical thinking that every other woo we've ever come across does. Here's some choice quotes that demonstrate the complete absence of critical thinking:

Life force energy is a concept familiar to many cultures. The Chinese speak of chi, and Hindus speak of prana.

Chi, or prana, is the spiritual energy that makes your body go.

When chi is blocked or becomes stagnant or negative, mental or physical disease can result. Chi is both cause and effect in the mind/body system.

If a person experiences an emotional trauma, the chi can stagnate, causing health problems, which cause more chi to stagnate, which causes more health problems and so on.

Of course, one should be skeptical of any "channeled" information in the first place. It's not that channeling isn't possible...but do you actually know the resume or credentials of whoever is communicating from the other side? Don't believe everything you hear, just because a spirit told it to you.

Wow. The dead have resumes. Who would have thought?

Actually, Your site has got to be parody. No-one could really claim to be a critical thinker and believe this junk, and write it with a straight face. Brilliant, very funny. You really had me. I actually thought you were a woo who claimed to be a critical thinker.

Now go on. The next step is to say science has been wrong before/doesn't know everything. That you do have evidence for the existence of chi but then not provide it when repeatedly asked for it. That skeptics are all negative miserable people. That chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years so must be true. That science is faith. That we just don't get it. That skeptics don't contribute anything to the world. That we are being mean to you so you aren't coming back. Then come back. Then claim that because we don't have an answer to every one of your anecdotal pieces of evidence we must be wrong.

Go on.

Not believing the secret does not a critical thinker make.

I would dearly like to see a bottle or sachet of de-stagnated chi, but I still found it refreshing to hear what Stephanie said. Don't knock it, Jimmy!

Normally, it's like there's some kind of charter that says if you believe one weird thing, you have to believe them all.

For my part, I've never seen why believing in, say, acupuncture should make UFOs or Bigfoot seem more probable.

Nowe, if you'll excuse me, I hear my cold fusion kettle boiling. ;)

Big Al, I understand what you are saying, but Stephanie does seem to believe in most other woo, just not the secret. So it does seem that believing one seems to lead to believing most of the others.

Let's face it, if you are open to one unlikely and ridiculous claim on the basis of limited or no evidence, then every other claim like that becomes potentially and probably acceptable.

Not only that though, Stephanie's position is hypocritical. You disagree with the people who claim science supports the secret, but not those who claim it supports chi, or acupuncture, or reiki when they cite similar studies/evidence/mechanisms? On what basis can you do this without tying yourself in tortuous knots of twisted logic and reasoning?

Under those circumstances her claim that she doesn't lack critical thinking is laughable. Just take a look at her website.

It's like that Michael Shermer quote, "skepticism is fine as long as it is someone else's codswallop under the microscope."

Skepticism's like sunscreen: the more widely you apply it, the more useful it becomes.

To me, the hypocritical woos are the most annoying.

Does anyone remember good ol' Rev. Ron?

*That's what happens when you don't refresh before you comment, kids*

Don't get me wrong, guys: I still think Stephanie's deluded, but she may have the capacity one day to look for evidence for her beliefs.

I saw a notably uncritical "documentary" the other night concerning UFO sightings. One of the funniest things for me was seeing an abduction believer hypnotised and going through the stereotypical "abduction experience".

However, a self-professed clairvoyant and alien channeler who was present said afterwards that she didn't really believe the woman had been abducted. Sort of a Stephanie-skeptic, I guess.

The next thing you know, the same clear-eyed psychic was sitting in a crystal-shaped cage with crystals suspended from each vortex, communing with our extraterrestrial buddies. I didn't laugh out loud, but I was smiling throughout the bizarre sequence.

I waited in vain for even a token skeptical comment.

Jimmy,

There was no need to personally attack me like that with so much vitriol. In all of your rant against me, did you give any sort of rational evidence to support your claim that *all* things woo are complete and total crap?

Please share with me your thesis exploring *all* studies done (pro as well as con) on acupuncture as a means of completely debunking it. And share with me every single little study done on prayer, energy healing, and whatnot. EVERY single one.

Because from my observation, skeptics prefer to tout the studies that disprove these things, and then they conveniently ignore the studies that do suggest these things help.

For example, I'm sure you'll come up with some sort of reason pulled out of your butt why this study, suggesting that acupuncture can help women with urinary tract infections, is completely bogus:

http://www.ajph.org/cgi/content/full/92/10/1609

To me, a skeptic who automatically dismisses everything that slightly hints at the spiritual is just as bad as a woo who embraces everything new age hook, line, and sinker.

Critical thinkers don't shut themselves off to possibilities just to prove how much more "rational" they are compared to others.

Personally, I'm interested in what works. My exploration of energy healing came from an extremely difficult personal struggle with a chronic illness. Western medicine doesn't know how to fix it yet, so I turned to alternatives. Guess what? The alternatives WORKED where Western medicine failed me.

I am not opposed to Western medicine, and I will be seeing a doctor if I need surgery for anything. I would never suggest to someone that they *only* pursue alternative health options.

But I am NOT an idiot for exploring alternatives. Nor am I a dumb-ass for using what has clearly *worked* for me, and that has been acupuncture, Reiki, and other forms of energy healing.

If you haven't explored it yourself, and haven't even tried with an open mind to see how it affects you, then you really have no basis for slamming it - or me - like you do.

P.S. One more thing. I need to comment on the following inane reasoning by Jimmy:

"Not only that though, Stephanie's position is hypocritical. You disagree with the people who claim science supports the secret, but not those who claim it supports chi, or acupuncture, or reiki when they cite similar studies/evidence/mechanisms?"

OK...never mind the fact that the people behind The Secret falsely claim that science supports it...and I never said anywhere that science was 100% behind Reiki or acupuncture.

The bigger issue here for you is...because I don't believe that the world can be reduced down to "everything I think and feel comes back to me," that means I must, by association, dismiss thousands of years of Chinese medicine, even though the two concepts have *nothing whatsoever to do with each other.*

Otherwise, I'm a hypocrite?

Yeah, that's *rational* and intelligent...

That's like saying, because you don't like football, you should also hate baseball, because both belong to the general category of "sports."

If you are going to challenge me, come up with better arguments, please.

Carry on.

Just a quick note on this study referenced by Stephanie. If I read it correctly there was no control group receiving a placebo treatment; the control group received no treatment. Placebo effects therefore cannot be ruled out.

Skeptico, don't want to get your comments here sidetracked on acupuncture, but what I wanted to say was...sure, it is possible that it is just a placebo effect.

However, I have found that acupuncture is much more effective in managing my physical symptoms than more "esoteric" energy healing modalities such as Reiki.

Reiki seems to be better (to me, at least) in assisting in emotional well-being than offering dramatic physical healing. This may just be the effects of the meditation involved, or for a client, the fact that it is nice to have a human touch.

I do believe it is more than just that for reasons I don't want to get into here, but regardless...having tried a variety of these modalities, I have found acupuncture to be the best treatment for my physical symptoms.

And if people respond to Reiki because it makes them feel better due to a placebo effect, human touch, or just having another person there for them, is that the most horrible thing in the world? I don't think so. Sometimes, I think the most important thing in any healing relationship, and this includes Western medicine, is having that other person there supporting your healing.

(Note: Acupuncture, because it involves needles, is not something to be taken lightly. Find a *good* acupuncturist, just like you should find a good doctor. Don't substitute acupuncture for a regular doctor's check-up either.)

Stephanie:
There was no need to personally attack me like that with so much vitriol.

Please cite exactly where I make a vitriolic personal attack on you. Since you are a critical thinker and seem to be so concerned with the evidence, this shouldn't be a problem and I'll shortly be apologising to you. Still, I am glad you are following the script, I said you would complain that I was being mean to you.

In all of your rant against me

So two short posts, one of which actually contains more of your words than mine, make a rant now then? So what would that make your subsequent posts exactly?

did you give any sort of rational evidence to support your claim that *all* things woo are complete and total crap?

Please do again cite exactly where I claim this. Further to this though, as a critical thinker you should know that the burden of proof lies with the claimant. Since it is woos who claim that woo works, it isn't me that has to provide the evidence, is it? As a critical thinker though, you already knew this. Didn't you?

Please share with me your thesis exploring *all* studies done (pro as well as con) on acupuncture as a means of completely debunking it.

Sure, as soon as you have managed to prove that it does work.

And that would likewise mean *all* studies done (pro and con). I mean, you have read them *all*, right? Or have you reached a conclusion without reading them *all*? So why do I need to read them *all* if you don't need to read them *all*?

And share with me every single little study done on prayer, energy healing, and whatnot. EVERY single one.

Why? Have you read them all? EVERY single one? So, presumably you have no opinion on the matters in question then, right? I mean, since I can't form an opinion on these topics because I haven't read EVERY single study, I guess the same should be true of you right? And yet your site seems pretty sure that your particular favourite woo works. Remember how I said your position seemed hypocritical?

Because from my observation, skeptics prefer to tout the studies that disprove these things, and then they conveniently ignore the studies that do suggest these things help.

Because from my observation, woos prefer to tout the studies that prove these things, and then they conveniently ignore the studies that suggest these things don't help.

For example, I'm sure you'll come up with some sort of reason pulled out of your butt why this study, suggesting that acupuncture can help women with urinary tract infections, is completely bogus:

Charming. So, did skeptico pull that whole placebo thing out of his butt then? Well you even accept it could be placebo. So I guess my butt isn't the only one with ideas since you agree with it. Still I do like the quiet time I get when taking a dump, let's me think.

As for the study, I note that it seems to suggest that even sham acupuncture has an effect. I refer you to the actual cited source from the introduction to your article (footnote 4):

Eighty-five percent were free of lower UTI during the 6-month observation period in the acupuncture group, compared with 58% in the sham group (p < 0.05), and 36% in the control group (p < 0.01).

In other words, sticking needles in at random also has an effect. Note also that the study group was extremely small, just 67 women. And 67 divided by three is 22.333 recurring. So the subject groups were unbalanced. And why didn't they carry out the test on subjects with cystitis rather than simply people prone to it? What controls were there to ensure none of the women recieved other treatments during the test period? What controls were there to ensure the women in each group were all exposed to the same environments for potential risk factors for UTIs? Did the women know they were recieving sham or real acupuncture, and did the people interpreting the results and administering the treatment know which was the real acupuncture and which the sham, in other words was this a double blind study?

Gee whiz, my butt is just choc full of ideas.

To me, a skeptic who automatically dismisses everything that slightly hints at the spiritual is just as bad as a woo who embraces everything new age hook, line, and sinker.

Oh, I agree. Of course, if this was referring specifically to me then its a strawman argument since that is not my position. And as a critical thinker you certainly wouldn't be making that kind of mistake, would you?

Critical thinkers don't shut themselves off to possibilities just to prove how much more "rational" they are compared to others.

Again I agree. Again if this refers directly to me, it's a strawman. Again, a critical thinker really wouldn't make that sort of mistake.

Personally, I'm interested in what works.

Really? So you'll be able to prove it works then, right?

My exploration of energy healing came from an extremely difficult personal struggle with a chronic illness. Western medicine doesn't know how to fix it yet, so I turned to alternatives. Guess what? The alternatives WORKED where Western medicine failed me.

Thanks for playing along. I said you'd use anecdotes, and here we are. Of course, I'll see your anecdote and raise you mine. I had a friend who was very seriously hurt in a car crash, including impaired motor and language functions. The British NHS gave him acupuncture. It didn't do ANYTHING (see, capitals make it extra special true) for him. So they continued conventional medical treatment, and he improved significantly over time. So, since my anecdote cancels out yours, you need some more proof.

But I am NOT an idiot for exploring alternatives.

I agree. But writing something like

Of course, one should be skeptical of any "channeled" information in the first place. It's not that channeling isn't possible...but do you actually know the resume or credentials of whoever is communicating from the other side? Don't believe everything you hear, just because a spirit told it to you.

would certainly put a person in the running.

If you haven't explored it yourself, and haven't even tried with an open mind to see how it affects you, then you really have no basis for slamming it - or me - like you do.

I haven't tried sex with animals either. See where I'm going with this or do I need to spell it out?

OK...never mind the fact that the people behind The Secret falsely claim that science supports it...and I never said anywhere that science was 100% behind Reiki or acupuncture.

Oh I know, that's why you also didn't try and use a scientific study to prove acupuncture works. And please do tell us how you know that those who claim science supports reiki and acupuncture don't do so falsely. Or that those who claim it supports the secret do so falsely.

The bigger issue here for you is...because I don't believe that the world can be reduced down to "everything I think and feel comes back to me," that means I must, by association, dismiss thousands of years of Chinese medicine, even though the two concepts have *nothing whatsoever to do with each other.*

I have to be honest, I don't have a bloody clue what you are talking about here. But since that's obviously not then what I meant or was saying, this is yet another strawman argument. Which you as a critical thinker would obviously never fall into the trap of making.

Otherwise, I'm a hypocrite?

You are a hypocrite for all the reasons I've highlighted.

That's like saying, because you don't like football, you should also hate baseball, because both belong to the general category of "sports."

No it isn't. It's like saying that you don't like football as it is a sport played by men, but you do like baseball because its a sport played by men. That's the hypocrisy.

If you are going to challenge me, come up with better arguments, please.

If you are going to respond to me, respond to the things I have actually said not the ones you made up.

(Note: Acupuncture, because it involves needles, is not something to be taken lightly. Find a *good* acupuncturist, just like you should find a good doctor. Don't substitute acupuncture for a regular doctor's check-up either.)

Further note: Since there is no proof it works, don't waste your time and money on either *good* or *bad* acupuncturists. Don't substitute acupuncture for anything.

Further further note: since sham acupuncture seems to work at least half as effectively as acupuncture, save yourself money and go to a sham acupuncturist. They cost half as much.

Sorry, just realized I only commented on the study referenced as a previous work to the one Stephanie linked to, but here is some commentary on the linked article.

First and foremost was the following:

T. Alraek prepared the study protocol, recruited and treated patients, took part in the data analysis, and wrote the brief.

So the person that designed the test also treated patients and analysed the data. So it wasn't entirely double blind. It doesn't account for placebo as the previous study did with the sham acupuncture group, which given the results of the first study seems a very damning ommission.

The comments about exposure to risk factors still stand with the second study.

The comments about controls on the test subjects receiving other treatments still stand.

Can someone explain why the 94 participants were split into a ratio of 4:1 for acupuncture to non-acupuncture? Wouldn't that introduce a bias in the results? Why were 67 women treated and 27 not treated?

Why were the acupuncture test subjects not all given the same treatment for the same symptoms? Note that every patient was given different acupuncture treatment based on their TCM diagnosis, not the medical diagnosis. So they were all given different 'treatment'.

How was deqi measured? Since it would be subjective based on each patients different interpretation this is an inherent flaw in the experiment protocol. There is no guarantee that any one patient recieved the same treatment and effect as any other, since they all would feel it differently.

Can anyone comment on whether or not the results are statistically significant:

Following treatment, 73% of women in the acupuncture group were free of UTIs during the 6-month observation period, as compared with 52% of women in the control group (P = .08).

How was the number of UTIs measured and recorded/reported?

Note that the acupuncture group reported one third as many episodes per person-month as the control group. So acupuncture either increases the symptoms or those who were in the acupuncture group seemed to be leaning towards some reporting bias, probably because they were more focused on their symptoms due to knowing they were recieving the treatment.

Note also that 50% of the women in the control group became free of cystitis.

Note that although the study makes a point of saying that the acupuncture group showed a 50% reduction in residual urine over the 6-month follow up period, 75% of participants started with a level above the 10mL study level, when only 10% of the general female population is above this level anyway. The study doesn't seem to take into account the possibility of natural recovery to the normal level, in line with the general population other than saying there was no change in the untreated group.

But there I go talking out my arse again.

Skeptico: sorry about the triple post frenzy.

did you give any sort of rational evidence to support your claim that *all* things woo are complete and total crap?
Ignoring, for the moment, where the burden of proof lies, have you looked at any of the other posts on this site? Evidence abounds.
Please share with me your thesis exploring *all* studies done (pro as well as con) on acupuncture as a means of completely debunking it. And share with me every single little study done on prayer, energy healing, and whatnot. EVERY single one.
Say it with me, folks: the burden of proof is on the claimant. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. In science, we assume the null hypothesis until evidence supports the positive claim. So far, at least in my experience, the studies you discuss fall into three categories: ones where any effects can reasonably be attributed to placebo, ones which showed no effect to the treatment, and ones with improper controls. If you've got examples of studies which show positive effects for so-called alternative medicine, without being simply placebo effects or examples of poor controls, I think we'd all be interested to see them.

For me, the one-two punch of "all the studies are inconclusive at best and damning at worst" and "the explanations given for these treatments violate Occam's Razor and go contrary to what we already know about physical and biological science" is enough "evidence against" to claim that they are all, in fact, crap. I'd be willing to examine evidence to the contrary.

Because from my observation, skeptics prefer to tout the studies that disprove these things, and then they conveniently ignore the studies that do suggest these things help.
Really? Then you must not have been around this site much. Skeptico takes on studies from both ends, pointing out poor controls and placebo effects on both sides.

It's the woos who typically suffer from confirmation bias. They'll ignore or spin the studies which show no positive effect, and then laud the poorly-controlled studies which show an effect, or the reliable studies which show a somewhat different effect from what they claim.

For example, I'm sure you'll come up with some sort of reason pulled out of your butt why this study, suggesting that acupuncture can help women with urinary tract infections, is completely bogus:
Actually, I'll pull reasons out of the article: 1. There were 67 people in the experimental group and 27 in the control group. Why such a wide disparity? Why such a small sample group? 2. There was no placebo group. Thus, there was nothing to rule out the placebo effect. 3. Even with the huge disparity between the two groups, the experimental group was only 21% more effective than no treatment whatsoever. Why seek out a treatment with such a low success rate? 4. Urinary tract infections are in part due to lifestyle, diet, and other controllable factors. Furthermore, they often go away on their own due to the body's own immune system. What differences in lifestyle, diet, and overall health were there in the two groups? When one group is scarcely more than two dozen, individual differences become much more significant.

To me, a skeptic who automatically dismisses everything that slightly hints at the spiritual is just as bad as a woo who embraces everything new age hook, line, and sinker.

Critical thinkers don't shut themselves off to possibilities just to prove how much more "rational" they are compared to others.
A skeptic who automatically dismisses everything spiritual is not much of a skeptic. A skeptic who assumes the null hypothesis until shown evidence to the contrary is a consummate skeptic. It's not about looking more rational, it's about being more rigorous with regard to standards of evidence. We are quite open to the possibilities, so long as those possibilities are supported by physical evidence.

Personally, I'm interested in what works. My exploration of energy healing came from an extremely difficult personal struggle with a chronic illness. Western medicine doesn't know how to fix it yet, so I turned to alternatives. Guess what? The alternatives WORKED where Western medicine failed me.
What chronic illness? Which "energy healing" worked? What "Western" medicine failed? And what of confirmation bias and placebo?

We're interested in what works, too. Which is precisely why we're demanding more rigorous tests than "I tried it myself and it worked for me." The human brain is quite amazingly capable of fooling itself, and we'd prefer studies which ruled out that possibility.

If you haven't explored it yourself, and haven't even tried with an open mind to see how it affects you, then you really have no basis for slamming it - or me - like you do.
How does the Mark Twain quotation go? "I don't have to eat a whole egg to know it's rotten," I think. No, we don't need to try it ourselves before we can dismiss it. We can dismiss it on the basis of it being unsupported by positive evidence, i.e., by assuming the null hypothesis. But, just to reinforce our positions, we'd much prefer to perform some double-blind placebo-controlled studies, in order to weed out the nasty psychological effects that can cause us to accept things that aren't true.
The bigger issue here for you is...because I don't believe that the world can be reduced down to "everything I think and feel comes back to me," that means I must, by association, dismiss thousands of years of Chinese medicine, even though the two concepts have *nothing whatsoever to do with each other.*

Otherwise, I'm a hypocrite?


No, the hypocritical thing is claiming to be a critical thinker, but refusing to evaluate your energy healing stuff with a critical mindset. The reason that science isn't behind Reiki and Acupuncture is that they're explained through scientifically improbable (if not impossible) mechanisms, and they cannot be shown to work better than placebo under proper scientific controls. Color me unimpressed by expensive treatments that can't outperform a sugar pill.

That's like saying, because you don't like football, you should also hate baseball, because both belong to the general category of "sports."
No, it's like claiming you're a sports enthusiast when you only really like ping-pong.
However, I have found that acupuncture is much more effective in managing my physical symptoms than more "esoteric" energy healing modalities such as Reiki.
And what symptoms are those?
Reiki seems to be better (to me, at least) in assisting in emotional well-being than offering dramatic physical healing. This may just be the effects of the meditation involved, or for a client, the fact that it is nice to have a human touch.
Or it may be through the magical stimulation of an undetectable universally omnipresent energy that binds us and penetrates us, and the focusing of that energy to heal diseases.

I'm told it can also be used to generate lightning, choke insubordinates, and retrieve lightsabers from across the room.

Personally, I'll go with "human contact has a psychological effect on what you admit are psychological symptoms." As to magical ki energy, well, "I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerful force controlling everything. There’s no mystical energy field controlling my destiny. It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense."

And if people respond to Reiki because it makes them feel better due to a placebo effect, human touch, or just having another person there for them, is that the most horrible thing in the world? I don't think so. Sometimes, I think the most important thing in any healing relationship, and this includes Western medicine, is having that other person there supporting your healing.
There is a psychological component to all healing, and having a human touch, having companionship and support, is absolutely key. The thing is, you don't need to pay some charlatan stranger to receive that. No, it's not the worst thing in the world to provide placebo care. It is one of the most horrible things in the world, however, to provide such care and claim that it has a real, physical effect, when it doesn't. And it's really approaching the most horrible things in the world to take the money of desperate, suffering people and give them snake oil and false panacea in return.
Note: Acupuncture, because it involves needles, is not something to be taken lightly. Find a *good* acupuncturist, just like you should find a good doctor. Don't substitute acupuncture for a regular doctor's check-up either.
Before you can see a good or bad acupuncturist, you have to show that there's a difference in effects.

Jimmy_Blue: You really covered the potential control problems a lot better than I did. Thanks!

Oh it gets better Tom, I'm pretty sure given her faith in this study that Stephanie hasn't actually read the two further linked articles linked at the bottom of her original one. The first is a response from a Dr Katz criticising the study, the second is the original authors' response.

Read the response, it's very enlightening.

In particular though, pay attention to where they admit that all participants in the study still recieved conventional 'western' medical treatments after each UTI episode. Of course, the authors themselves even state in their response that it is too early to draw conclusions from their work. Gee, I wonder why they didn't mention that originally.

Way to go Stephanie. That's some critical thinking you got going there. You did read *all* of the study, didn't you?

And good catch on the result statistics Tom, I knew they were fishy but didn't think to come at them from the angle of 'But they're only 21% better than doing nothing at all.' Want to bet that the conventional medical treatment for it is somewhat better?

I really must stop talking out my arse though.

Following this line of conversation about acupuncture has been very interesting for me. I know nothing, zilch, about any definitive or scientifically rigorous proof that acupuncture is any more effective than a sugar pill.

In 1998 I was afflicted with Bell's Palsy. My doctor sent me to a neurologist to double-check the diagnosis, which he did and then prescribed steroid medication. He told me candidly that little was known about my disease: inconvenient, not life-threatening, and the symptoms (including facial droop) can linger for years or hours. He also admitted, on questioning, that the expensive medicine he prescribed had no proven efficacy. His recommendation: take the steroids anyway.

Someone suggested acupuncture and for some reason I decided it was worth a try. At this stage, I had no reason to feel more confident in either treatment. So I went, and the symptoms abruptly reversed. Could have been placebo effect. Even so, I don't begrudge Dr. Jiao his money any more than I would fault the neurologist for prescribing steroids without knowing what effect it would have.

Oh goody, another anecdote.

I already stated my anecdote proving that acupuncture doesn't work. So, now where does that leave us?

Just one question. Did you take the conventional medicine as well?

I also refer you to the website of the Bells Palsy Research Foundation.

Bells Palsy: What is Facial paralysis?

Money quote:
Statistics have shown that about 50% of all sufferers have COMPLETE SPONTANEOUS RECOVERY within the first 30 days WITHOUT ANY TREATMENTS OR INTERVENTIONS. Another 20% recover between months 1 and 3, another 5-10% between months 4 and 6. With a total of 80% exhibiting spontaneous recovery within six months.

So, I know where my money would be going.

"I already stated my anecdote proving that acupuncture doesn't work. So, now where does that leave us?"

No, you only gave an anecdote that apparently showed that acupuncture did not seem to work in one extreme case. It proved nothing.

In fact, it is possible that the person in question ultimately got stronger and was more amenable to conventional medicine precisely because of the acupuncture.

Generally, I found that after an acupuncture session, my symptoms would get worse the next day and then a few days later I would feel much better. This is because (in healing theory) when negative chi is cleared out it causes these types of temporary "clearing" symptoms. So I'm not convinced that acupuncture didn't work just because someone might have felt somewhat worse immediately after.

Regardless, acupuncture is not necessarily something that should be used in every case. Would you use antibiotics on a viral infection? Would they work on the common cold? Does that mean antibiotics have no value?

Maybe acupuncture just wasn't really going to help that particular situation. Doesn't mean acupuncture never helps.

So no, you "proved" nothing with that statement whatsoever.

I would never say, ever, that acupuncture is the modality to be used 100% of the time for EVERYTHING.

If I got into a car crash, I want to be taken to a surgeon, not an acupuncturist. Duh.

As for your ripping apart of that study...so what that conventional medicine was also used? I would always say: USE BOTH WHEN NEEDED. Kind of the "point" to me is that acupuncture helps conventional medicine work better!

Also, to me, a 21% improvement is still an improvement. You may think it means nothing. Well, apparently the researchers felt that the results were interesting enough to warrant further study.

This is just one study, and I was sure you would find something to rip apart in it, so thanks for obliging.

BTW, care to comment on the following statement they wrote in the follow-up:

The American Food and Drug Administration has recommended acupuncture (stimulation of the P6 acupuncture point) as an antiemetic treatment. This recommendation is partly due to systematic reviews and meta-analysis concluding clinically significant results,2,3 but still the actual explanation for the effect is lacking.

Gee, I guess the FDA is a bunch of idiots too. I guess I must be such a moron for thinking acupuncture has some merit when some scientists and even the FDA thinks it might have some benefit.

Gosh, how "out there" I am. Riiight.

Ultimately, what I don't get is why you are so pissed off about this issue. If you want to educate people, that's fine. But your tone is completely condescending and it really isn't helping your message.

For example, when I challenge you to just TRY IT OUT, you compare alternative healing methods to bestiality, and that's why you wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. This doesn't make you sound like a rational, reasonable guy. This makes you sound like a fanatical nut.

When you say things like that, you aren't being open. You are just interested in supporting your own world view out of sheer stubbornness.

If you truly feel like the world is worse off due to alternative healing, and you want to stop it, a rational, reasonable response that does not resort to insults and gross exaggerations would be much more welcomed.

Showing some good will and being open-minded enough to try it out would also help a lot in your personal credibility.

Instead, you are just killing your own message with your snobbish attitude.

For me, critical thinking comes from me looking very carefully at my world and my experiences and what makes sense to me. I question things but I also do have to go by my personal experience. I'm sorry, but it trumps your critique of a somewhat vague scientific study any day of the week.

And finally, I will say again: So WHAT if it is just a placebo effect? You think I am so stupid that I don't consider that half of the benefits of alternative health are because my mind buys into it? Excuse me, I am a hypnotherapist, that's what we do...get people's minds to work FOR them.

To me, the fact that my mind can create healing is an amazing thing. I don't think I'm an idiot for using things that stimulate my innate healing capacity. That's really ultimately what all "woo" healing is about - stimulating the innate healing capacity of the person.

There's nothing charlatan or evil about that, really.

Anyway, have fun ranting to yourself, you haven't convinced me of one damn thing and I'm sure I haven't convinced you either, so at this point I will bow out and let those interested people who are open to new things come by my website if they want.

PS Hey, I saw this film The Secret once...hmmm...what do you think?

Stephanie:

No, you only gave an anecdote that apparently showed that acupuncture did not seem to work in one extreme case. It proved nothing.

I see. And what was your anecdote exactly? I take it then that your anecdote proves nothing as well? Again, where does that leave us exactly?

In fact, it is possible that the person in question ultimately got stronger and was more amenable to conventional medicine precisely because of the acupuncture.

Ah, the unfalsifiable ad-hoc hypothesis. Not the sort of trap a critical thinker falls into. You have absolutely no way of proving this claim do you? So it is completely unscientific and a highly uncritical piece of reasoning.

Generally, I found that after an acupuncture session, my symptoms would get worse the next day and then a few days later I would feel much better. This is because (in healing theory) when negative chi is cleared out it causes these types of temporary "clearing" symptoms. So I'm not convinced that acupuncture didn't work just because someone might have felt somewhat worse immediately after.

I didn't say he felt worse, I said he didn't feel anything. Do you have any prove that qi exists? Do you have any proof that negative qi exists. Do you have any proof it can be cleared out? A critical thinker would certainly not assert something for which they have no proof.

Regardless, acupuncture is not necessarily something that should be used in every case.

Oh, so it does work but only when it does work, and obviously not when it doesn't. So, how do you know when it does work and more importantly when it should work? If you don't know when it should work, then what bloody use is it?

So no, you "proved" nothing with that statement whatsoever.

That's the point Miss I'm a Critical Thinker, anecdotes prove nothing.

As for your ripping apart of that study...so what that conventional medicine was also used?

Are you for real? You really don't think there is anything wrong when a test that is attempting to show the effectiveness of alternative medicine allows test participants to use conventional medicine at the same time. Let me just spell it out for you then:

IT INVALIDATES THE RESULTS. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO KNOW IF THE POSITIVE RESULT IS THE CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE OR THE ACUPUNCTURE.

Of course, that was just one of the many flaws in the study, I note you address none of the others.

Kind of the "point" to me is that acupuncture helps conventional medicine work better!

You have no way of proving this however. And the point of the study was not to show this, but to show that acupuncture had some prophylactic use against UTIs. Which we still don't know since participants were allowed to use conventional medicine.

Also, to me, a 21% improvement is still an improvement. You may think it means nothing. Well, apparently the researchers felt that the results were interesting enough to warrant further study.

Actually I don't think it means nothing. I think it means that acupuncture is only a little better than doing nothing, and only marginally better than sham acupuncture, and that we don't know how much better it is than conventional medicine because the study failed to include it. It could be that it's worse than conventional medicine.

This is just one study, and I was sure you would find something to rip apart in it, so thanks for obliging.

Oh nice try. However, the study was ripped apart because it was total junk, not because we had to look really hard to find desparate scraps to tear it down. Its massively flawed. And Dr Katz agreed with a lot of what myself and Tom wrote.

BTW, care to comment on the following statement they wrote in the follow-up:

The American Food and Drug Administration has recommended acupuncture (stimulation of the P6 acupuncture point) as an antiemetic treatment. This recommendation is partly due to systematic reviews and meta-analysis concluding clinically significant results,2,3 but still the actual explanation for the effect is lacking.

Sure. The FDA also clears homeopathic remedies for use. They don't work either.

But one other thing that does occur to me is which studies did the FDA look at, how well regulated and run were they? See the FDA didn't do it's own study, they did a meta-analyses of existing studies and if those existing studies are all as bad as the one you cited, then of course they will have found results that appear to show acupuncture works.

I do find it funny that whenever meta-analyses show that woo doesn't work woos dismiss them, but when they support their case they are suddenly 100% valid.

But once again since you ignored Tom when he said it. If someone has some good evidence that acupuncture works, derived from well run and controlled studies, then we are all ears. The problem is, no-one has provided that yet. Including the FDA.

For example, when I challenge you to just TRY IT OUT, you compare alternative healing methods to bestiality, and that's why you wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole.

Obviously I do need to spell it out. The point was not that acupuncture and bestiality are comparable. The point was I don't need to try bestiality to know its wrong. Just like I don't need to try woo to know it doesn't work. But never mind, keep up with form and throw in some more strawmen.

This doesn't make you sound like a rational, reasonable guy. This makes you sound like a fanatical nut.

Good job I wasn't saying that then. Of course, what does completely misunderstanding what I said, making up stuff about what I said and then getting on your high horse about it make you sound like?

When you say things like that, you aren't being open. You are just interested in supporting your own world view out of sheer stubbornness.

Right. How silly of me. I don't support something for which there is no reliable evidence and that makes me stubborn. Of course, your refusal to acknowledge the very real and crippling problems with just the one study you yourself cited makes you what exactly?

If you truly feel like the world is worse off due to alternative healing, and you want to stop it, a rational, reasonable response that does not resort to insults and gross exaggerations would be much more welcomed.

And here it comes, 'You skeptics are just so mean.' Please do point out the gross exaggerations though. I'm sure as a critical thinker you'll have the evidence for that claim.

Showing some good will and being open-minded enough to try it out would also help a lot in your personal credibility.

Oh, an appeal to be open minded. Didn't see that coming. Tell me, if you refuse to put your hand in the fire, does that mean you aren't being open minded about it?

If you don't believe the secret works, does that mean you aren't being open minded about it? On what grounds do you conclude that the secret doesn't work that makes you open minded on the subject?

You refuse to accept that using conventional medicine in your study invalidates its results. I accept that there may be something to acupuncture but that no well controlled and run studies show this. Now who is being open minded?

For me, critical thinking comes from me looking very carefully at my world and my experiences and what makes sense to me.

Oh I get it. You're a critical thinker because you redefined the term to mean what you wanted it to. How silly of me not to have seen that coming.

I question things but I also do have to go by my personal experience.

So you questioned that study of yours then? Maybe you need to start asking some harder questions.

I'm sorry, but it trumps your critique of a somewhat vague scientific study any day of the week.

Hey, it was your study, you still think it shows acupuncture works. If you don't think that, why did you post it and defend it? You wouldn't be trying to distance yourself from something that blew up in your face, would you?

So WHAT if it is just a placebo effect?

Er, people spend vast amounts of money on it. The charlatans that promote it are preying on vulnerable and scared people, as well as idiots. People give up conventional medicine to try it and they die. Yeah you're right, what's the harm?

To me, the fact that my mind can create healing is an amazing thing.

Presumably you have some proof of this?

I don't think I'm an idiot for using things that stimulate my innate healing capacity.

And this.

That's really ultimately what all "woo" healing is about - stimulating the innate healing capacity of the person.

Really? Because that seems to disagree with just about every other version of woo healing I've seen explained or promoted.

There's nothing charlatan or evil about that, really.

There's nothing charlatan or evil in selling the placebo effect to people who may die because they give up conventional medical treatment. Wouldn't you say that paints you in a pretty uncaring and unflattering light? If that is what being openminded is to you, then colour me closeminded and glad of it.

Anyway, have fun ranting to yourself, you haven't convinced me of one damn thing and I'm sure I haven't convinced you either, so at this point I will bow out and let those interested people who are open to new things come by my website if they want.

Wow, all the usual crap rolled up into one paragraph. Still, thanks for following the script.

So, when will you be trying bestiality? You just have to approach it with an open mind remember, you can't knock it until you've tried it. Check the internet, I'm sure you'll find some positive reviews and studies.

Damn, sorry about the double posting.

I went back and looked at the FDA assertion. First point to note is that the FDA did not do the work, it simply went on two other studies not carried out by the FDA.

The FDAs job is primarily to say that something does no harm as I understand it, not that it works. So their recommendation is not an endorsement of the efficacy of acupuncture.

One of the studies cited as support of the FDA's decision starts with the following :

The effects of acupuncture on health are generally hard to assess.

So, that's a good start. But then I notice that the study was carried out by the Research Council for Complementary Medicine, not so good.

The results:

Thirty-three controlled trials have been published worldwide in which the P6 acupuncture point was stimulated for treatment of nausea and/or vomiting associated with chemotherapy, pregnancy, or surgery. P6 acupuncture was equal or inferior to control in all four trials in which it was administered under anaesthesia; in 27 of the remaining 29 trials acupuncture was statistically superior. A second analysis was restricted to 12 high-quality randomized placebo-controlled trials in which P6 acupuncture point stimulation was not administered under anaesthesia. Eleven of these trials, involving nearly 2000 patients, showed an effect of P6.

Hardly overwhelming evidence.

Study number two (cited footnote 3 in the original articles author response) seems a little better run and organised.

Results taken from 19 trials eligible for meta-analysis:

In children, no benefit was found. Some results in adults were significant. Nonpharmacologic techniques were similar to antiemetics in preventing early vomiting (RR = 0.89 [95% confidence interval 0.47–1.67]; NNT = 63 [10-]) and late vomiting (RR = 0.80 [0.35–1.81]; NNT = 25 [5-]) in adults.Nonpharmacologic techniques were better than placebo at preventing early nausea (RR = 0.34 [0.20–0.58]; NNT = 4 [3–6]) and early vomiting in adults (RR = 0.47 [0.34–0.64]; NNT = 5 [4–8]). Nonpharmacologic techniques were similar to placebo in preventing late vomiting in adults (RR = 0.81 [0.46–1.42]; NNT = 14 [6-]). Using nonpharmacologic techniques, 20%–25% of adults will not have early PONV compared with placebo. It may be an alternative to receiving no treatment or first-line antiemetics.

Now, why might we think that acupuncture doesn't appear to work in children. Could it be that they don't know what acupuncture is, don't expect it to work and don't like having needles poked in them by any chance? And it might be an alternative to doing nothing. Very convincing.

Remember, sham acupuncture is about 50% as effective as acupuncture, so those results are not all that impressive.

Stephanie, you really should read *all* of the studies you keep citing.

No, you only gave an anecdote that apparently showed that acupuncture did not seem to work in one extreme case. It proved nothing.

In fact, it is possible that the person in question ultimately got stronger and was more amenable to conventional medicine precisely because of the acupuncture.


No, the point is that you two were playing dueling anecdotes. The point that I'm sure Jimmy was trying to make is that anecdotes are worthless as evidence. They are unverifiable, unsourced, uncontrolled, and for every one there is an equal and opposite one.

Generally, I found that after an acupuncture session, my symptoms would get worse the next day and then a few days later I would feel much better. This is because (in healing theory) when negative chi is cleared out it causes these types of temporary "clearing" symptoms. So I'm not convinced that acupuncture didn't work just because someone might have felt somewhat worse immediately after.
Or, maybe the acupuncture was making you worse, and your body was releasing endorphins in its process of recovering from the acupuncture. And then your acupuncturist was coming up with an ad hoc explanation for why, when it's really not working as advertised.

I tend to think it's somewhere in-between: the acupuncture was doing nothing more than providing a placebo effect and possibly stimulating endorphin release.

I like how you talk about the healing "theory" of chi. You must be using a different meaning of the word theory than what I'm used to, because when I use "theory," it means "an explanation supported by evidence and experimentation" and not "an explanation that relies on some unproven, magical energy, and tries to give rules to it."

Regardless, acupuncture is not necessarily something that should be used in every case. Would you use antibiotics on a viral infection? Would they work on the common cold? Does that mean antibiotics have no value?
No, you wouldn't use antibiotics on a viral infection, because you understand precisely how antibiotics work, how the body's immune system works, and how viruses work. And you know that all of those things work.

Meanwhile, I just did a quick Google for "acupuncture treats," and immediately came up with no less than four sites citing the WHO, claiming that acupuncture can treat "localized traumatic injury" and neurological "movement disorders." So, if acupuncturists and acupuncture organizations claim that Jimmy's friend can be successfully treated with acupuncture, then it seems that acupuncture should work to treat him. If it doesn't work, then acupuncturists should stop claiming that it does.

Maybe acupuncture just wasn't really going to help that particular situation. Doesn't mean acupuncture never helps.

So no, you "proved" nothing with that statement whatsoever.


Actually, he proved that anecdotes are bogus, which I'm pretty sure was his point.

And if acupuncture only works in some situations, and you can't know ahead of time whether or not it's going to work, then why seek it out? At least with medicine, we know how all the parts work together and what the chances are of the treatment working.

As for your ripping apart of that study...so what that conventional medicine was also used? I would always say: USE BOTH WHEN NEEDED. Kind of the "point" to me is that acupuncture helps conventional medicine work better!

Ad hocking again! You're pretty bad at this critical thinking stuff.

See, when the patients are continuing regular "Western" treatment, that introduces another variable into the experiment, one which should have been controlled for. As long as they are receiving two different kinds of treatment for the same problem, we can't know with any certainty which treatment caused the recovery. A good scientific study would have ruled out that possibility.

Also, to me, a 21% improvement is still an improvement. You may think it means nothing. Well, apparently the researchers felt that the results were interesting enough to warrant further study.
A 21% improvement in a group three times larger than the control group in a study that is not double-blind, has no placebo, and is poorly controlled, means precisely dick. And that's a 21% improvement over doing absolutely nothing. "Hey, if you pay for this treatment, you'll have a 1 in 5 better chance of the infection not recurring for six months over not paying for the treatment at all."

No conventional medicine would be released if 80% of the time it was no better than doing nothing at all. I guess "traditional Chinese medicine" has a much lower standard.

Gee, I guess the FDA is a bunch of idiots too. I guess I must be such a moron for thinking acupuncture has some merit when some scientists and even the FDA thinks it might have some benefit.
You know what else the FDA recommends?

MEDICINE!

Jimmy did a pretty decent job of looking at the problems in that study as well. Seems to me that when it comes to post-chemotherapy antiemetics, the research would support marijuana over acupuncture. I'd be curious to see a placebo-controlled study on this supposed antiemetic effect, so we can see if perhaps "laying on the stomach for awhile in a calm environment and having someone stimulate your back" is the root of the effect.

For example, when I challenge you to just TRY IT OUT, you compare alternative healing methods to bestiality, and that's why you wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. This doesn't make you sound like a rational, reasonable guy. This makes you sound like a fanatical nut.
Maybe you should try following the link or at least listening to the reasons that we aren't going to "try it ourselves." People are quite good at fooling themselves, at committing ad hoc and post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacies, at perceiving patterns where none exist, and any number of other common failures in thinking. That's why we're asking for double-blind placebo-controlled experiments, which weed out most of those psychological errors. The study you've built your case around was not double-blind (the researcher separated the groups; the participants knew whether they were getting 'some treatment' or 'no treatment') had no placebo (no 'sham treatment' or even sugar pill), and was not properly controlled (the two groups were wildly unequal, the effects of conventional medicine treatments were not ruled out, the sample size was small, and the test was for recurrence of a randomly-recurring condition). Now, I'm not a medical researcher, I'm not even a biologist, and yet I can see that this experiment is hemorrhaging sources of error. Is it so hard to find an experiment that employs proper controls and proper double-blind, placebo protocol?

When you can provide a study with proper controls and proper use of placebo, which also shows that TCM is significantly better than placebo, then we'll start considering laying down our money to try the treatment. Until then, I think we're all better off with doctors who know why what they're doing is effective.

When you say things like that, you aren't being open. You are just interested in supporting your own world view out of sheer stubbornness.
No, we're interested in adhering to rigorous standards of evidence and proof, because that's the best way of building a worldview. We're absolutely open to the possibility that acupuncture works, but you're going to have to demonstrate as much, and to do so under proper experimental conditions. Why is that so much to ask? Why is it that we all accept as a given that conventional medicine must go through years of rigorous, controlled experimentation before it ever reaches the public, but we don't expect the same from these practitioners of "alternative medicine"?

I guess we are being stubborn. We're stubbornly requiring all medical claims to be subjected to the same amount of scrutiny, that they be able to perform under the same conditions, and that they show themselves to be significantly more effective than "nothing" or "placebo." We're being stubbornly intellectually consistent. And I don't think that's a bad thing. Once you start saying "I require different standards of evidence from different types of claims," you're opening yourself to be bamboozled.

Showing some good will and being open-minded enough to try it out would also help a lot in your personal credibility.
Showing some intellectual rigor and being open-minded enough to consider that you might be wrong would also help a lot in your personal credibility.
For me, critical thinking comes from me looking very carefully at my world and my experiences and what makes sense to me. I question things but I also do have to go by my personal experience. I'm sorry, but it trumps your critique of a somewhat vague scientific study any day of the week.
I seem to recall that you're the one who cited the study in the first place, as support for your position.

See, the difference between you and us, I think, is that folks like Jimmy and I want what we believe to be as close as possible to reality. So we recognize our psychological limitations and the prevalence of fallacies in human thought, and we seek independent confirmation of our experiences. We set up certain standards of evidence that claims must meet before we will accept them, and we make sure those standards rule out, as best as possible, the sort of thinking fallacies that we know ourselves to be prone to. We request repeatable results from these tests, further extending the sample pool and ironing out errors. And once we've put claims through the wringer, we accept what still stands up at the end. You, it would seem, are perfectly content to accept whatever 'works for you,' and to ignore the rest of the process. That's your choice, naturally, but to us it betrays a rather cavalier attitude toward reality. And I don't think any of us would really call that "thinking critically." You say you ask questions, but you show that you don't really care what the answers are, or even whether the answers are true or false. For you, just asking the softball questions is enough.

And finally, I will say again: So WHAT if it is just a placebo effect? You think I am so stupid that I don't consider that half of the benefits of alternative health are because my mind buys into it?
So why pay for that? Why not just invent some personal ritual that will rid your body of your symptoms? Say "I'm going to lay down and meditate and push all the negative chi out of my body, and that will get rid of my symptoms," and the placebo effect will work just as well for that as for the acupuncture.
Excuse me, I am a hypnotherapist, that's what we do...get people's minds to work FOR them.
You and I have very different definitions of "critical thinking."
To me, the fact that my mind can create healing is an amazing thing. I don't think I'm an idiot for using things that stimulate my innate healing capacity. That's really ultimately what all "woo" healing is about - stimulating the innate healing capacity of the person.

There's nothing charlatan or evil about that, really.


So, if the FDA approved a drug that was a sugar pill, said it could cure asthma, urinary tract infections, neurological diseases, and all sorts of other ailments by "stimulating the body's natural healing process," and doctors began prescribing it and charging for it, you'd be all right with that?

We've got a word for that kind of thing: fraud. We've got a phrase for it, too: false advertising. You're basically saying "alternative medicine does nothing, but because we're convinced it does something, it's okay." You're saying that it doesn't matter that none of the claims of acupuncturists and their ilk are true, as long as we believe that they're true, so they'll have precisely the same effect as doing just about nothing.

Kind of undercuts your advice to go to a "good acupuncturist" earlier. Seems here that you're saying "just go get someone to stick needles in your back, but really believe hard that they're doing good.

Hey, I know! I can make you taller, stronger, more healthy, and immortal! Just send me a thousand dollars and believe really hard that it's working.

Anyway, have fun ranting to yourself, you haven't convinced me of one damn thing and I'm sure I haven't convinced you either, so at this point I will bow out and let those interested people who are open to new things come by my website if they want.
I'm plenty open to new things as long as they're supported by evidence. See, I care whether or not what I believe is true.

The short, short reason I don't try this sort of stuff myself: I don't trust in my own objectivity.

Double-blind control studies are specifically designed to remove bias.

Tom, no need to be unsure of what I was doing with the anecdotes. My point was precisely to prove that anecdotal evidence is next to worthless in this kind of circumstance.

I've been thinking more about the whole FDA thing and frankly it stinks. Nowhere in the article that asserts the FDA approves the use of acupuncture as an antiemitic is a source for this assertion from the FDA actually quoted. What is quoted in support of this is two studies not done by the FDA, which still don't refer to the FDA as far as I could tell.

More significant though is the fact that one of the studies showed children do not gain any benefit from acupuncture. I am interested in how Stephanie tries to explain that but unfortunately she has taken her ball and gone home.

My guess would be that children are unaware of what are supposed to be the benefits of acupuncture, they are unaware that it is claimed it works as a treatment, they do not like being stuck with needles and they are also less able to suppress feelings of nausea than adults are. Hence acupuncture fails even as a placebo for them.

On the other hand, adults know of acupuncture, most average people think or at least have been told it works as a treatment, they can live with being pricked by the needles and they are able to fight down feelings of nausea and rationalise them away since they believe they are recieving a treatment that they think works.

So Stephanie, apart from the problems with the studies, do you have proof that the FDA does endorse the use of acupuncture other than doing so because it doesn't have any harmful effects?

How do you explain the fact that acupuncture does not work as an antiemitic in children when it is claimed it does in adults?

Tom, no need to be unsure of what I was doing with the anecdotes. My point was precisely to prove that anecdotal evidence is next to worthless in this kind of circumstance.
Yeah, I saw that once I read your responses, but I didn't want to go back to change my statements. At least my laziness isn't intellectually-based.

I've been mulling over the nausea a bit myself. I know I can induce nausea and potentially vomiting psychologically, and I'm curious about how well I'd be able to intentionally suppress it, without any treatments.

I have read the whole Secret thread. I had a lot of fun and found it very amusing at times. Especially the incredibly silly arguments made by some of the believers. Excellent critical thinking on the part of the skeptics. Definitely enlightening.

As a Cuban I was educated with a lot of propaganda, but I was also taught the scientific method. I'm grateful for the latter. I get the impression all these woos are just lacking a good scientific education. It seems to me a lot needs to be done regarding education. This blog is doing a great job for the sake of science.

Sorry for being off-topic. Basically just wanted to say thank you.

Keep up the good work!

CubanJah
Viva Pastafarians!

Sorry if you guys have heard this before, but...

If you ask: "Well, have you read the entire book?," you just might be a secretard.

If you use ALL CAPS and more than four exclamation points per sentence, you just might be a secretard!!!!!

If you say: "I was a sceptic too, but...," you just might be a secretard.

If you can't think of anything that could, in principle, convince you that you're wrong, you just might be a secretard.

If you cannot satisfactorily explain why "The Secret" offers merchandise for sale while saying that the Law of Attraction can give them to you for free, or why they need to sell the books and movies for money when the Law of Attraction could give them all the money they need, then you just might be a secretard.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Search site