Some fields seem to attract quackery. Energy production is an obvious one (I predict that the idea of perpetual motion machines will never die – the idea is too attractive and there will probably always be sufficiently gullible/ignorant people in the world), but there are certain fields which seem to attract medical quackery more than others. I thought I’d list a few of the apparent similarities between some of the areas that I see as attracting quackery or, at best, dubious claims.
Firstly, I think that there is a commonality between autism, cancer, and Aids (and possibly dyslexia too, but not that I can recall from my personal experience) in that these areas are quite likely to provoke emotional responses. Some may find the fear felt by some parents over autism (as was obvious in the MMR scare) to be bizarre – but it exists nonetheless. A Google search for “I’d rather see my child dead” +autism brought up only a single result, but then that is quite a specific search term. The exact phrase captured by Google was “I remember thinking that I’d rather see my child dead or deaf than profoundly autistic”. You’d have to be pretty scared of autism (and ignorant of it, some would say) to prefer your child to die than be “profoundly autistic”. Aids was the subject of the “don’t die of ignorance” campaign in Britain and growing up in the 1980s I can tell you that Aids was frightening to me. A leaflet about AIDS was also delivered to every household in the UK, with the advice – “Anyone can get it, gay or straight, male or female. Already 30,000 people are infected.” [Source: National Archives.] Cancer is so frightening for some that they will not dare speak its name – referring to it instead as “the Big C”. If we are scared of something then it could be that we are more likely to be vulnerable to those making dubious claims and/or selling dubious products. That it is young people who are diagnosed with autism and that relatively young people were being targetted by the messages about Aids may add fuel to the fire – we tend to be even more concerned about our children than we are about ourselves. [Personally, I think that mobile phone masts are another example of this.]
There are also conspiracy theories relating to these areas. The painting of conventional cancer treatment as a “slash, burn, poison” approach and the abundance of websites making dubious claims about conventional treatment (often offering unconventional treatment as an alternative) means that cancer is in this set. The famously daft conspiracy website Whale.to has four diseases listed on the home page – smallpox and measles are there, as you might expect from the anti-vaccine editor of that particular website. The other two? Aids and cancer. [http://www.whale.to/] Whale.to also features interesting articles on other subjects – including hosting at least one by David Icke on the New World Order, and others on Big Brother, flying dolphins, orgone energy, aspartame, ‘dental toxicity’, peak oil, depleted uranium, cellphone towers, chem trails, nutritional medicine, dowsing… and mind control.
Educateyourself.org also has ‘information’ on cancer alongside pages on aliens, chem trails, orgone, the New World Order, nutrition, dowsing, cellphone towers, metal-free dentistry, peak oil, depleted uranium, vaccine dangers, free energy machines (perpetual motion FTW!), 9-11 truthism… I could almost copy and paste the Whale.to list for Educateyourself.org so similar are the subjects of their conspiracy theories. Of the few that are medical in nature, dentistry, cancer, nutritionism, and anti-vaccination
seem to be the ones that appear on both sites (although Aids does get a brief mention on the Educateyourself site in a section on bioelectrification and black boxes). [http://educate-yourself.org/] The whale.to site casts doubt on the link between HIV and Aids, calls AZT “bottled poison” (claiming, by the way, that it kills rather than cures) and goes on to tell us that “At this point you should know that Vitamin C has been proven to kill viruses”. Educateyourself, meanwhile, suggests that we should cure ourselves of cancer rather than seek treatment from the “huge pharmaceutical propaganda machine”. The site also asks “why doesn’t everyone who smokes come down with cancer? We all have the same DNA.” I could point out that some smokers may die of heart disease before they have the chance to get cancer, but I’ll simply point out that it is not strictly true that we all have the same DNA. [If we did, then what use would DNA tests be in telling us of our paternity? What place would DNA ‘fingerprinting’ have in a court of law?]
Autism also attracts conspiracy theories – “there is ample scientific evidence vaccines cause autism, yet the government and industry keep coming up with studies showing “there is no evidence”. This is a conspiracy to suppress the truth.” [http://www.whale.to/vaccine/mmr54.html] What’s the conspiracy? Well, apparently “it is naive to believe the medical cartel are looking for the truth regarding MMR and autism” and “the scientific evidence proving MMR causes autism” leading to Andrew Wakefield being smeared in the media. [http://www.whale.to/vaccines/mmr.html] Despite the MMR scare (remembering that MMR never contained thimerosal), some think that the real autism conspiracy relates to thimerosal – like this site.
Sorry about posting all that. I know that everyone in this room is dumber for having read it and I’m truly sorry for that.
Oh boy. This is where I can find links between all these fields. The dubious claims and purported cures are everywhere.
Cancer? Laetrile pops up in several places. Like this rather fetching lilac & green effort – here. Thankfully, there are websites such as Quackwatch to counter claims regarding Laetrile. They also have a page on Linus Pauling and Vitamin C for cancer here. John Diamond wrote of Essiac, a purported herbal cancer cure. Or there’s always homeopathy for cancer. Or Patrick Holford can encourage you to Say no to Cancer.
Aids? Linus Pauling’s acolyte Patrick Holford claimed that “AZT, the first prescribable anti-HIV drug, is potentially harmful, and proving less effective than Vitamin C”. What is especially damaging about Holford’s claim is that it was made in a best-selling book. [Wikipedia claims that “His fourth book, The Optimum Nutrition Bible, has sold more than 500,000 copies worldwide.”] Homeopaths held a symposium claiming that those attending would get a fascinating insight into the role of homeopathy in “treating HIV/AIDS” and that “In searching for an effective remedy for treating the AIDS-epidemic in Africa, the UK-homeopath Peter Chappell discovered a method to design remedies fitting the totality of a disease. These remedies are now known as PC-remedies.” I don’t need to remind you of Matthias Rath’s involvement with HIV/Aids.
Autism has been claimed to be reversible. By homeopaths – and those who believe that chelation will ‘cure’ autism. Sometimes with tragic consequences. And sometimes the attempts at a cure are, in my opinion, offensive and ignorant rather than dangerous. Patrick Holford has a chapter on autism in his book Optimum Nutrition for the Mind [more here.]
Then there’s dyslexia. I can do no better than to link to this post, which demonstrates the complete failure of the mainstream media to inform us as to the nature of the dubious claims expounded by the Dore programme. It was left to Gimpy, Duck, and Jon from HolfordWatch to do that. Dore – the miracle cure that wasn’t. Gimpy has an earlier post about specific learning disabilities that includes a dishonourable mention for Dore, Duck wrote a post titled “why are Dore so bad at research”, and HolfordWatch have a post from October 2007 that is headlined “Dore pwned in medical journal: expensive and unproven ‘cure’”. And that’s just Dore. Apparently, homeopaths can cure your dyslexia – just fill in this questionnaire and you can find a remedy. Holford’s Food For The Brain want to feed you fish oils for your dyslexia (here).
Don’t read too much into the fact that Holford and Homeopathy crop up in each of these areas above – when it comes to illnesses, diseases, and medical other conditions they are drearily ubiquitous.