Category Archives: Pseudoscience

But…but…it worked for me!

What does apple cider debunking, overpronation and cigarette smoking, Oscon supplements for Severs disease and vaccines causing autism have to do with each other?

^^^ that is the final slide in a video from my Critical Thinking Boot Camp. Anyone who blogs about science always get responses and comments with anecdotes about what was written with responses that it either does or does not apply to them. The science either ‘sucks’ or is the ‘greatest thing since sliced bread’ depending on the anecdote! It has now reached the point where I just delete that anecdotal comments on my posts as they contribute nothing of use to the topic under discussion. Steve Novella succinctly summed this up:

It is almost inevitable that whenever we post an article critical of the claims being made for a particular treatment, alternative philosophy, or alternative profession, someone in the comments will counter a careful examination of published scientific evidence with an anecdote. Their arguments boils down to, “It worked for me, so all of your scientific evidence and plausibility is irrelevant.”

In my other blog, I previously litigated all the issues around “anecdotes” and why useless treatment sometimes appear as though they did work. I don’t intend re-litigating the same issues here but develop them further with some examples I have dealt with recently. For background, I refer you to those two posts.

Health Benefits of Apple Cider
My first example comes from a blog post by Melinda Moyer following an article she wrote on the health benefit of apple cider. These three quotes sum up the issue:

After getting hate mail for debunking the health claims of apple cider vinegar, I’m explaining why I rely on science, not rumors.

Last month, I wrote my first Truth Serum column, “What Apple Cider Vinegar Can—and Can’t—Do for Your Health,” which explored what the science says about apple cider vinegar’s supposed health effects. I found that there isn’t much evidence ACV can cure colds, heal acne, help you lose weight, or alleviate heartburn—and that vinegar can sometimes be harmful.

Then came the angry emails and Facebook posts. Readers chided me for interviewing researchers and doctors rather than people who have actually been helped by apple cider vinegar. Others felt the evidence is irrelevant; vinegar works for them, so they’ll keep using it. A few implied that my writing was unbalanced and unfair.

I am sure you can see the issue …

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‘More junk getting through to the keeper*’

The whole idea of the peer review process prior to publication is to weed out the junk, so it does not get published. One thing that the alternative therapies have in common is that their journals let a lot of junk science through. Too many studies get published in those journals that should never see the light of day, let alone been conducted so badly in the first place. There are ethical issues at stake in this and the editors of those journals would do well to apprise themselves of publication ethics. Institutional ethics committees or review boards also have a responsibility to prevent bad science from even getting off the ground.

What spurred that little rant was this publication today on ‘The effect of reflexology on the quality of life with breast cancer patients‘ published in the journal, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. They do not get much worse than this one.

It was a study that supposedly randomized 60 people with breast cancer into two groups; one group the control and one group getting reflexology; the aim being to see how it affected their quality of life and symptoms. Sounds good on the surface, but:

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Schadenfreude


One probably should not laugh at another’s misfortune, but sometimes it can just not be helped. For those unfamiliar with it, schadenfreude is the German word for just that. There is not an equivalent English word. I recently, twice, had a really good schadenfreude. This had nothing to do with podiatry or the foot, but has everything to do with pseudoscience and junk science.

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Is global warming causing the increase in the prevalence of diabetes?

diabetes climate change
This is not foot related, but it is diabetes related and science related.

I have no doubts what-so-ever about climate change and global warming. All the science I have seen is good; the consensus of the overwhelming majority of climate change scientists is good. The only dissent to this overwhelming consensus of experts are those with vested financial interests or those into conspiracy theories who latch on one piece of negative evidence (and ignore the 1000’s of good evidence) or latch onto one dissenting scientist (and ignore the 99.5% of the other scientists). How many more generations that we survive on this planet will depend on how seriously the politicians take this scientific evidence that it is happening.

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Homeopathy data dredging

Homeopathy does not work and can not work. The evidence is clear; and there is plenty of that evidence. It is no better than a placebo. Any ‘clinical’ effect of it is due to that placebo effect. I won’t get into it all the details here, but if you want more check this out: How Does Homeopathy work?.

That does not stop those who try to defraud the consumer with homeopathy from grasping at straws and coming up with implausible and improbable mechanisms as to how it might work (it doesn’t) and grasping at some badly done flawed studies published in a low or no impact factor journals, and ignore all the well done properly blinded and controlled studies published in high impact factor journals. And when that argument does not work, they come up with some sob story or special pleading that this is not the appropriate way to clinically test homeopathy (it is).

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Who are these fan boys that one does speak about?

There is no doubt that I regularly poke fun at what I call the “fan boys”, or more correctly the “fan boi’s”, in blog posts and lectures. It is hard not to resist those who paint such targets on themselves. I have had some enquiries as to who are these “fan boys” (and not to mention, the “fan girls”). This what I wrote elsewhere about what a “fan boy” is:

A fan boy (or fan boi) is a slang term for someone who is considered very devoted to a single subject, often to the point where it might be considered an obsession. It is a term reserved for when the obsession or passion is beyond what just being a typical fan might be considered as being.

Traditionally they were a passionate fan of something in geek culture such as a sci-fi genre, comics or specific video games, but more recently it has been expanded to include non-geek niches. It is also considered to be a type of insult or put down and is somewhat derogatory.

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