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Your Friday Dose of Woo: Feedback loops, reproductive cells, cancer, and design

It is with some trepidation that I approach the latest target of Your Friday Dose of Woo.

No, it’s not because the woo is so potent that it has actually struck the fear of You-Know-Who in me (I leave it up to readers to determine whether I was referring to God or Valdemort), although it is indeed potent woo. Nor is it that the woo is boring woo (there’s a reason why “power of prayer” kind of woo usually doesn’t make it into YFDoW unless there’s a really entertaining angle to be targeted). No, it’s because this particular woo seems to combine genetics with systems biology (I kid you not), complete with feedback loops as a way to target cancer. “But wait,” you might say. “That doesn’t sound like woo at all.” And so I thought as well–for the first couple of sentences. But the best woo is woo that doesn’t sound like woo right away, as you will see, and this woo starts out sounding half sane before taking an amusing left turn into that woo-ey goodness that we all like, albeit a turn that may gross a few of my readers out a bit. But, hey, if reading about urine drinkers and colon cleansers didn’t drive you away, I doubt that this will.

I could be wrong, however.

Be that as it may, things start out sounding fairly sane, almost scientific, even. Almost:

When we diagnose cancer, the treatment is still primarily surgical, commonly combined with radiation therapy and anticancer drugs. The aim of these treatments is to suppress, or arrest, the unrestrained growth of cells in the body organs or tissues. In the case of many man-made systems we are similarly faced with situations where processes deviate from the normal operation of the system. But the remedy for such deviations is surprisingly simple: negative feedback.

i-cbaad3d54c5fba624fed1ba211edfafd-author576.jpgUh-oh. Even though the introduction sounds fairly straightforward, even like the first paragraph of a scientific paper about cancer, whenever you see someone alluding to a “surprisingly simple” solution and implying that this solution can be applied to cancer, be wary. Almost inevitably (actually, I’m not sure that there’s even an “almost” about it), the woo will follow. And it does here.

But first, who is this Kazmer Ujvarosy, the person who apparently wrote this (or at least posted it to the listserv without comment)? It turns out that he’s the founder of Frontline Science, which is described as an “independent thinktank based in San Francisco.” (A thinktank in San Francisco? If that doesnt’ warn you that woo is coming, I don’t know what will.) He is quoted on his own website as saying, “The knowledge of the cosmic system’s input and output is the key to all knowledge,” which gives you an hint that there might be a bit of woo lurking there. He is also described on the American Chronicle thusly:

He is dedicated to the analysis of complex problems, and the development of realistic, concrete proposals on issues of global concern. His stance is independent, interdisciplinary, with an analytical rigor, and a view to the future.

He is uniquely qualified to help you understand what makes scientific sense, and what does not, based on cause-and-effect and systems principles.

Of course he is. As the link above reveals, he’s also a creationist, but that form of woo is not what we’re here to have some fun with, given that I just administered a heapin’ helpin’ of Respectful Insolence™ to ID flak Dr. Michael Egnor. No, let’s move on to the real woo du jour. You see, Kazmer Ujvarosy has a very simple solution to the problem of how to produce a negative feedback loop in the body of a patient with cancer and thus, presumably, eliminate the cancer (or at least stop it from proliferating out of control):

Negative feedback means that the system’s output is fed back into the same system in order to enable the system to determine the difference between the actual and the desired output, and to make the necessary corrections in its own operation. For example a vehicle’s speed control uses the difference between the actual and the desired speed to adjust the fuel flow rate. Those systems which feed back their own output for self-regulation are said to be closed-loop control systems.

So how can a human being transform himself into a closed-loop control system for the proper regulation of his cell production? The answer is the feedback of his body’s genetic output. What is the genetic output of his body? Answer: the reproductive cells.

Think about that for a minute. Let its implications sink in. Yes, he is saying exactly what you think he is saying. He really is, although you might not notice that’s what he means right away, given the way that he couches it in euphemism. His justifications are two-fold. First, he justifies it on a seemingly rational basis with absolutely no basis in scientific evidence, a common tactic for woos:

In other words our body is a system that has genetic input in the form of our inherited genetic constitution, and genetic output in the form of reproductive cells. The production of cells within our body may deviate from the normal because the control of those cells is not based on the feedback of the body’s reproductive cells–i.e., the body does not measure genetic error through the feedback of its own genetic output, but assumes that its genetic output is correct. Knowing that closed-loop control systems are able to detect disturbances or errors in their own operation and to make the desired corrections by the technique of feeding all or part of the output back to the system for comparison with the reference input or desired value, and knowing that systems resemble each other in fundamental ways, it is reasonable to postulate that the closure of the human body’s open loop by the feedback of the body’s genetic output will enable the human organism to evaluate its own operation and to correct the detected errors in its functions.

It would only be reasonable to postulate such a thing if there were any actual scientific evidence to suggest this might be true. It’s a true sign of woo when you see someone trying to justify a treatment solely on the basis of “reason” or “logic” alone, without some scientific evidence to back it up. Now, it is true that cancer results in part when cells fail to respond to negative regulatory and feedback loops that normally keep the cells of our body quiescent, except when they need to replicate for normal physiologic processes, such as wound repair, the female menstrual cycle, and the replacement of the lining of our GI and respiratory tracts, but there is no evidence at all that “our inherited genetic constitution in the form of reproductive cells” has anything to do with the body’s regulatory mechanisms that keep cells from becoming cancerous. Even if there were, ingesting one’s own “reproductive cells” would result in their destruction, including the destruction of their genetic material. Stomach acids, followed by digestive enzymes will do that to biomolecules like proteins and DNA. It also makes one wonder: How could women benefit from such a treatment? It’s not as though their “reproductive cells” are as easily accessible as those of a man.

Of course, I should have known that Ujvarosy would have something that he considers to be “evidence” in support of his idea:

The literature on the subject reveals that the feedback of reproductive cells for the regulation or revitalization of the human organism was recommended by folk medicine and alchemy as well. Traditional medicine attributed transformative powers to the human reproductive cells and often termed that product of the body “universal medicine,” “elixir,” or “philosopher’s stone.” It is also on record that:

  1. The Yellow Emperor of China (c. 2697-2598 B.C.) practiced the feedback of his own reproductive cells for therapeutic purposes. (A. Ishihara & H. S. Levy, The Tao of Sex, Harper & Row, New York, 1970.)
  2. Christ partook of his own semen to show that “we must so do, that we may live.” (Interrogationes Maiores Mariae, quoted by St. Epiphanius in his Panarion, XXVI, cap. VIII.)
  3. A Gnostic sect celebrated the Eucharist (spiritual communion with God) by eating “… ‘their own sperm,’ declaring it to be ‘the body of Christ.'” (“Gnosticism,” Encyclopedia of Erotic Wisdom, R. C. Camphausen, Inner Traditions International, Rochester, Vermont, 1991.)
  4. “Semen, or Bindu, is held to be the true elixir of life by Yoga and Tantric schools alike.” (J. Mumford, Sexual Occultism, Llewellyn, Saint Paul, 1975.)
  5. “Human semen, as medicine, is used by many peoples, as by the Australians, who believe it an infallible remedy for severe illness. It is so used in European folk-custom ” (E. Crawley, The Mystic Rose, Macmillan, London, 1902.)
  6. Dutch missionaries in New Guinea observed that among many tribes “the male’s semen was regarded as a sacred substance” and was used in healing and in fighting epidemics (“Sperm Magic,” Encyclopedia of Erotic Wisdom, R. C. Camphausen, Inner Traditions International, Rochester, Vermont, 1991.)

I have to tell you, #2 is something they never taught me in Sunday school or in Catholic grade school or high school. In any case, I’m convinced. How about you? Given such amazingly compelling evidence as above, how could you not be convinced? You know, a couple of weeks ago I blogged about the applications of systems biology to human disease and cancer. Leroy Hood, the scientist whose work I wrote about, may be a bit of a visionary to the point where he doesn’t see the difficulties involved in translating his ideas into useful clinical tests and treatments, but Kazmer Ujvarosy goes way beyond that. In fact, when he’s moved on since he wrote the above to the serious pseudoscience that is creationism, except that he does it in an amazingly cosmically woo-ey way that is far more entertaining that Dr. Egnor’s humorless banter. Observe, as he tries to explain how “intelligent design” does not necessarily require a supernatural intelligence while sounding of a piece of the semen-drinking cure for cancer woo that he wrote above. A sample:

  • Dark energy, that drives the expansion of the universe, is one of the deepest and most exciting puzzles in modern science. We posit that dark energy is the field manifestation of the parent seed of the universe, just as the cosmic vacuum’s zero-point energy. They all originate from the cosmic seed’s biophoton emissions, which blackbody radiation provides a holographic biofield for the generation of the physical universe. Based on the fact that the biophotonic radiation emitted by DNA is coherent, we predict that the cosmic seed’s biophotonic field or “dark energy” is equally coherent.
  • The universe is a living system, dynamically managed by the parent seed’s unbounded and conscious holographic biofield, and regulated by the process of information feedback.
  • The elusive Higgs boson – so vital to the Standard Model of particle physics that it is dubbed “the God particle” – is identical with the genotype of the phenotype universe, and each human genome is its reproduction. Based on this identification we posit that mass-giving is life-giving because the elementary particles that come into contact with the cosmic seed’s biofield or quantum vacuum receive their mass and property as a result of that interaction.

That’s some mighty tasty woo, don’t you think? It’s got everything you want from only the finest quality woo: zero point energy, biophoton emissions, blackbody radiation, a holographic biofield, the universe as a “living system,” and–of course!–a pointless invocation of quantum theory, something no true woo can be without. All in all, it sounds a lot like Deepak Chopra on steroids, with a little more liberal sprinkling of seemingly scientific-sounding physics terms thrown about willy-nilly to impress the rubes. Certainly it impressed this rube:

If Kazmer were still laboring under the shackles of materialism would any of this have been possible? Of course not – these are the kinds of discoveries that can only come about when we first reject the rigid dogma of the philosophy behind atheism and Darwinism’s only life-support.

I wonder if throwing off the shackles of materialism is necessary to come up with the idea that drinking your own semen might be a cure for cancer by producing a “negative feedback loop.” (Certainly that nasty materialism leads to the skepticism and critical thinking that would recognize the concept as–shall we say?–highly improbable.) In any case, if that’s what’s necessary to be able to find woo like this credible or even “scientific,” I think I’ll keep my materialistic shackles, thank you very much.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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