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« Chalk One Up for the Non-Asshats The RantsReally, Catholics? »

From the Depths of the Woo Mail Bag
2009.03.13 (Fri) 11:12

You know how sometimes you put something on your "to do" list, only to have it slip down your priorities so far that suddenly it's a year-and-a-half later, and you never actually did it? No? Oh. Guess that's just us, then.

At least, it's been over a year-and-a-half since we received this form submission from someone calling himself "vincent" back in June 2007. This guy took us to task for promoting propaganda by writing negatively about "alternative medicine" (a.k.a.: "bullshit"):

what about all the people that die a year from drugs and doctor's mistakes? why, if you want to be so objective, don't you also include all the medical fallacies, such as that most drugs don't even get all the testing they need before going on the market and that most drug side effects are discovered after they are released on the market. how about talking about the fact that cancer treatment via chemo and radiation survival rate has not changed in 30 years i could go on, my point, if you want to REALLY be objective, why not do so instead of promoting propaganda that is one sided?

Ouch. Us? Propaganda? Promoting it? Say it ain't so!

Okay, it ain't so. (That was easy.) As is all too common, vincent's missive was chock full of sound and fury, signifying precisely jack-all nothing.

Here's our reply (reformatted for the InterWebs), which nicely points out the fallacies in vincent's typical woo diversionary screed:

vincent,

We are promoting propaganda? That's an impressive accusation, but unfortunately for you, it's simply not true. Your points about the problems with the drug industry represent worthwhile topics for discussion, but neither that fact, nor those points, in any way indicate that anything we've been writing about qualifies as "propaganda." Just because we haven't chosen to write about the topics that you would like us to explore, it doesn't follow that the topics that we have written about are any less important, nor that our research on or presentation of them is any less valid, nor that the effort was any less worthy of our time.

Why haven't we written about your pet topics? For the same reason that we haven't written about the atrocities in Darfur, or the possibility of Michael Bloomberg or Fred Thompson throwing their hats into the GOP presidential race; because the mood just didn't strike us. It may interest you to know that we have absolutely written pieces specifically about problems with the FDA — just not the specific problems you mentioned. But then again, it's our site, and we write about what we find interesting.

So, what about the people that die from "drugs and doctor's mistakes"? Do you believe that modern medicine is inferior to alternative treatments? Do you believe that there is a massive conspiracy involving the drug companies? If you have an argument to make, then please make it.

Drugs will always have side effects; part of the point of scientific research is to determine the benefits and drawbacks of different treatments, and conduct our healthcare accordingly. Sometimes the side effects are discovered only when the sample size is increased due to widespread availability, and sometimes the side effects are pretty bad, but that doesn't change the fact that the overwhelming (and we do mean over-fucking-whelming) majority of prescription drugs benefit those who take them. And yes, vincent, doctors do make mistakes. Doctors will always be human and therefore prone to vanity, greed, violence, and error. In science, however, the actions of one individual do not negate an entire branch of knowledge. The mass effort on the part of all participants keeps the body of human knowledge self-correcting — unlike the stubborn and unchanging belief in the healing effects of, for instance, Reiki, scientific opinions change to match the evidence at hand. One scientist can be wrong, but the scientific method remains the most demonstrably valuable tool humankind has ever developed, period. Similarly, one doctor may make a mistake, but this in no way negates the overall benefits of the medical industry. We're pretty confident that you yourself have registered your implicit agreement with our position, simply by turning to doctors and pharmaceuticals whenever you are sick — but that fact has probably escaped your attention.

Our scientific system is far superior to the woo-based systems that we write about (and that you take exception to us writing about, it seems) since the woos proceed without actually testing their treatments to verify their efficacy. Good thing that real scientists have bothered to conduct the tests that the practitioners of these phony remedies have avoided, because now we know that woo treatments have been found lacking in all proper tests. And that's not "propaganda," vincent; it's simply research and experimentation. Try it for yourself — under controlled conditions — and see if your results differ.

In short, if you can refute something that we've actually written, then please feel free to do so. If you cannot, then please refrain from incorrectly referring to our writing as propaganda. Blindly tossing around terms like that is easy; actually refuting our arguments is not. To give you a quick rundown on what we mean by "refuting" our arguments, we'll refute one of your assertions.

You claim, rather vaguely and without any supporting documentation, that it's a fact that "cancer treatment via chemo and radiation survival rate has not changed in 30 years." We'll start by admitting that your statement wasn't all that easy to parse. Cancer treatment utilizes many different techniques and materials today, including surgery, drugs, aggressive screening, and the chemo and radiation therapies that you mentioned. We'll assume that you don't want to look only at survival rates related to chemo and radiation therapy, since that's not the best way to treat all cancers, so such an approach would be myopic and useless. Much more useful would be looking at the survival rates based on whatever treatment or combination of treatments was deemed most beneficial at the time that the statistics were being gathered, whether or not the particular treatment of the era involved chemo or radiation. For the record, even chemo and radiation treatments differ by year and by type of cancer; and we hope you agree that the ultimate goal is to come up with the best comprehensive approach to getting rid of the disease, whatever that approach may be.

So let's look at overall survival rates for cancer over the past thirty years. According to a Reuters UK story published last month [May 2007, that is]:

The likelihood of surviving 10 years after a diagnosis of cancer has doubled over 30 years, charity Cancer Research UK said on Tuesday.

Survival rates vary widely among different cancers, but on average a patient diagnosed with cancer now has a 46.2 percent chance of surviving 10 years, the medical charity said.

That compares with just 23.6 percent 30 years previously.

If you read the rest of this article, you'll see that the improvement in survival rates is in part based on "advances in chemotherapy and radiotherapy." Gee, vincent, your assertion is looking pretty weak right now. They even referenced exactly the same timeframe that you chose to use for your unsupported, incorrect data point.

But hey, we aren't happy unless we can verify our information via multiple sources. What does the NIH have to say on the matter?

Death rates from all cancers combined have been decreasing since the early 1990s. Death rates decreased for 11 of the top 15 cancers in men, and eight of the top 15 cancers in women.

And the American Cancer Society's annual report to the nation?

Death rates decreased for all cancers combined (1.1% per year since 1993) and for many of the top 15 cancers occurring in men and women. The 5-year relative survival rates improved for all cancers combined and for most, but not all, cancers over 2 diagnostic periods (1975-1979 and 1995-2000).

Of course, we're sure that all three of these entities must be part of a vast conspiracy to hide how ineffective modern medicine is. You know, that same conspiracy that instructs us to maliciously avoid writing about these things. Right, vincent?

It seems that your assertion is utterly incorrect and, in fact, completely baseless. If you have some supporting documentation to back up your claim, then please present it. Otherwise, we'd urge you to stop spreading your clueless and unresearched misinformation and, well, propaganda.

To bring this home, vincent: the reason that we write about the harm of so-called "alternative" treatments is because there is nothing at all effective or redeeming about them. They are either scams or delusions; even if they don't relieve their victims of sizable sums of money, they frequently relieve them of their lives or well-being. Yes, modern medicine is an imperfect system, as any human endeavor tends to be (to err is human, so we'll forgive you), but modern medicine provides more benefit to the human race in a single afternoon than alternative medicine has provided in generations of practice. That's the problem, here, and that's why we focus on debunking the woos and not the doctors. It may be an old joke, but do you know what doctors (and other rational people) call "alternative medicine" that actually works? They call it "medicine." There's a reason for that; maybe you can figure it out some day.

Regards,
The Two Percent Company.

In point of fact, we failed to include the following information which we found in an MSNBC article shortly after we sent our reply:

The other gain is the result of new treatments, which are credited with doubling survival times for the most advanced patients.

In 1996, there was just one truly effective drug for colon cancer. Today, there are six more, giving patients a variety of chemotherapy cocktails to try to hold their tumors in check, said Dr. Louis Weiner, medical oncology chief at Philadelphia's Fox Chase Cancer Center and a colorectal cancer specialist.

Ouch. This one directly addresses advances in chemotherapy leading to increased survival rates for colon cancer, which goes a long way toward answering vincent's specific gripe. It's almost as if he designed his assertion such that the available data perfectly contradicted him. You go, vincent!

You might even note — perhaps with some minor heart palpatations — that we didn't even swear at vincent in our reply. Us! Yeah, us — not swearing! Shame on all you people who think we're always rude to morons. Sadly, vincent was offended nonetheless, and he shot back an e-mail reply that showed his offense, his last name (which we won't print here), and his inability to refute any of our arguments or admit that he was wrong:

i don't appreciate your cursing and wouldn't do it to you face to face. you sound very angry and i am sorry for that as i would have liked to continue this conversation. for your information i am a health professional and could talk quite in depth on what i mentioned, i simply was inquiring why you seemed so scewed as i have seen many many people hurt by traditional treatments that shouldn't have been done in the first place. your site is stimulating at least.

Ah, the typical "I can't respond to your arguments, so instead I'll feign offense at your potty mouth [which, really, isn't even particularly true in this case!], pretend to take the high road, and slink away with my tail between my legs" approach (with a little "argument from authority" thrown in for good measure). Excellent! Way to cover those bases, vincent.

Our final response this tool:

Let's recap, vincent. You sent us a message in which you referred to our writing as propaganda. You spewed out some "facts" that, upon even a cursory examination, were not, in fact, factual. And you implied that writing about the harm of pseudoscience was not a worthwhile endeavor. In addition, we feel we should note that you never once stated your position on anything, which makes it quite tricky, if not impossible, to converse in any meaningful way. All told, that doesn't sound like the behavior of someone who wanted to conduct an intelligent conversation.

The fact that you are a "health professional" — be it neurosurgeon, night janitor at the free clinic, or Reiki Master — doesn't mean you can acquire credibility or respect by just making things up, vincent. We're fuzzy on how you could talk in any great depth about a fact that isn't even true in the first place; and even if you could do so, we fail to see the benefit, and we aren't interested in participating. Our advice would be to stop spreading misinformation, and instead take some time to research your views to see if they are actually supported by the data, rather than leaning on your exceedingly vague "health professional" title to spread your propaganda.

As a note, the only "cursing" we did in our entire response wasn't even directed at you. We used the term "over-fucking-whelmingly" to accentuate a point we were making. If that's enough to twist you up into a fit of prudish agony, then you clearly have some of your own issues to deal with. Take note, vincent — they're just words, and a rational, confident conversationalist is not deterred by them (or from using them).

Perhaps your feeble response about our "icky swearing" was simply all you could muster. Perhaps you truly cannot refute a single argument we have made on our site; we suggested as much in our reply. To date, you have yet to present a single argument along with supporting evidence, so we feel pretty comfortable with our assertion. If you do ever manage to get past your own incredible misinformation and form a cogent argument, let us know.

Until then, go relax on your "health professional" laurels, and talk quite in depth to the captive audience in your own home, whoever that may be. We, you see, would not like to continue this conversation. It's boring and repetitive.

Most sincerely,
The Two Percent Company.

One of the big problems with the True Believers is that they are ready and willing to accept any piece of information as a solid fact if it looks like it bolsters their beliefs. Rather than fact-checking anything he was saying, vincent chose to spew his bullshit at us in a misguided and moronic attempt to show us the error of our ways. Unfortunately for him, we like to check the facts, and his were all wrong. Of course, a propensity for believing in bullshit that isn't supported by any facts is what gets the woos into trouble in the first place, so it's hardly surprising that this same tendency then compounds the problem to a nearly farcical degree.

One thing we were curious about was vincent's claim that he was a "health professional." While that claim doesn't change the idiocy of his assertions one bit, we had a nagging suspicion that his specialty fell into the field of quackery and woo. Frankly, we were quite curious about his, er, "field of expertise."

Thanks to his e-mailed reply, which contained his fairly-unique last name (along with some other information), we can be relatively sure that we've found him. We won't print his full name or e-mail address on our site, but we will link to the results of our own research. It turns out, and we can say this with a high degree of confidence, that good old vincent is a woo-slinging chiropractor.

So why don't we ask: what, pray tell, has chiropractics done to advance cancer treatments and increase survival rates over the past thirty years? Gee, vincent, we must have missed all those ground-breaking advances in neck cracking that magically cured pancreatic cancer, huh? Fuck, we'll even extend our question beyond the scope of vincent's question, and ask for a single example of chiropractics ever curing a single fucking disease, ever. Just one documented, scientifically validated example.

Anybody?

Got one yet?

No?

Right — there are none. Other than possibly soothing sore joints (or, just as likely, causing a stroke), chiropractic treatments don't do dick, and they never fucking will.

So, vincent, we'll take those admittedly imperfect but scientifically policed doctors and medications over your useless, potentially harmful brand of utter bullshit — any day of the week. Thanks for playing.


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[  Filed under: % Bullshit  ]

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.twopercentco.com/rants/tpc-trkbk.cgi/472

Comments (3)

TimmyAnn, 2009.05.20 (Wed) 14:54 [Link] »

My best friend, in addition to being Catholic as I mentioned in response to another rant, is also a frequent visitor to the chiropractor. I suddenly find myself trying to remember why I am still friends with this person!



Jeff from the Two Percent Company, 2009.05.20 (Wed) 17:22 [Link] »

Don't be so hard on yourself, TimmyAnn. I've been there too — quite recently, in fact — and I'll guarantee you I'll be there again. There are things that connect us to our friends (and family) other than the stuff we talk about here, and I think it's completely fair to be attracted to those traits (on a platonic or intimate level) despite some of the loonier shit wrapped up in the packages we call "other people."

Human connections are more than just the sum of common beliefs and value systems. We're pretty complex social animals. Of course, if you can't see anything of value in that friendship beyond the wacky shit, then yeah...you're boned. Shitcan her. (End glib humor.)



TimmyAnn, 2009.05.20 (Wed) 18:45 [Link] »

Yeah, I'm sure you are right, Jeff. He just gets on my last nerve sometimes and then I think of all the weird crap he believes (He identifies as Republican, too!) and think, "Wait, why are we friends?" I have known him for many years, though, and at this point it's sort of like having a brother with whom I disagree vehemently on a lot of things.




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