Antivaccine nonsense Autism Medicine Politics Quackery

You knew it had to happen: A quack likens “Western medicine” to the subprime mortgage mess

After having posted about Jenny McCarthy, my brain hurt so much from the neuron-apoptosing idiocy that she always delivers that I decided I needed to move on to something that wouldn’t assault my reason and quite so much. So I headed on over to that uber-repository of quackery and paranoid conspiracy theories, Mike Adam’s Natural News.

It’s true. Jenny is so dumb that Mike Adams looks intelligent by comparison, and that’s saying a lot. Well, not really. In actuality, they’re both black holes of negative intelligence, sucking all knowledge and science out of whatever environment self they land in. When you’re looking at the relative potency of one black hole over another in creating an event horizon of stupid, past which no intelligence unfortunate enough to wander near can escape, differences don’t really matter that much. What I’m talking about is an amazing bit of twisted analogy creation by that wizard of woo-ful lies, Mike Adams, entitled Why the Institutions of Western Finance and Western Medicine are Both Doomed to Fail.

Did you know that “Western medicine” is like the U.S. financial system right now? Mike Adams tells us so, listing seven reasons, of which I’ll discuss a few:

1. #1 They’re both based on fraud and deception

Both Western Finance and Western Medicine are fundamentally based on fraud. The fraud of Western Finance is that you can create money from nothing and everybody can get rich by selling each other fictitious financial instruments that have no connection to reality. The fraud of Western Medicine is that everybody can get healthy by taking fictitious patented chemicals (pharmaceuticals) rather than addressing fundamental issues of nutrition, exercise and exposure to consumer chemicals.

Don’t you just love this straw man? “Western medicine” does not claim that everybody can “get healthy” by taking pharmaceuticals. One can argue that it may not always value lifestyle changes and healthy living as much as it perhaps should, but claiming that it totally ignores such issues, as nutrition and exercise is such a misrepresentation that it makes me at once laugh and almost cry to contemplate it, especially the part where he likens the mortgage-backed financial instruments that have nearly destroyed our economy to FDA-approved drugs:

Western Finance’s fraud is committed by high-brow academics who contrive complicated derivative financial instruments that are then presented to the investment community as things of real value (which they are not). Western Medicine’s fraud is committed by high-ego medical researchers who selectively massage clinical trial data to create fictitious “scientific” results that are then presented to the FDA as fact. The FDA then “approves” such drugs which are sold to the public as medicines that treat “disease” (which are also fictitious, by the way; being voted into existence by a panel of experts who benefit from such disease definitions).

I love it how Adams keeps claiming that diseases are fictitious. I suppose that cancer doesn’t exist and kill millions, or that infectious diseases don’t still claim the lives of millions as well. If you really want high-ego fraud, look no further than quacks who say with a straight face things like that diseases are “fictitious.”

Number two is the same old whine in which he claims that “Western” medicine treats only the symptoms, just like the proposed $700 billion financial bailout, naturally:

The $700 billion financial bailout created in Washington is a classic example of Western Medicine’s “treat the symptoms” mentality. Rather than address the root cause of the problem (the Fed’s control over the money supply and the very structure of fractional-reserve banking), politicians seem satisfied to rig up a series of financial bandages that allow them to pretend the problem has been solved.

In Western Medicine, this “treat the symptoms” approach is the de facto treatment philosophy taught in medical school: Ignore the real cause, don’t bother educating patients about diet or exercise, and simply prescribe pharmaceuticals to mask the problem for as long as possible.

Actually, I don’t entirely disagree that the bailout is a “treat the symptoms” sort of Band Aid. I do disagree with the same old alt-med refrain that scientific medicine only “treats the symptoms.” In actuality, it’s “alternative” medicine that “treats the symptoms,” usually with the placebo effect and “Western” medicine that goes after the causes. It does this by trying to understand, through science, how the body works, how its functions go awry, and how to intervene to fix what’s wrong. It is scientific medicine that goes after the “real” cause of disease, not Mike Adams’ woo. Indeed, his brand of woo postulates causes for disease that either don’t actually exist or don’t cause the disease attributed to them, such as heavy metal toxicity, imbalances in qi, or excess acidity.

Reason #3 is the one that almost resembles reality in that it says that both financial institutions and the medical industry exist to enrich themselves. One can argue that big pharma is too influential, but it’s definitely falling into the deep end of the paranoia pool to say something like this:

Raids against vitamin companies, supplement companies and natural product retailers are organized and conducted by both the FTC and FDA, two regulatory bodies that engage in outright extortion, threatening natural health companies with bankruptcy and criminal charges if they don’t pay outrageous fines based on fabricated accusations of things like “linking to a scientific journal from your website” (which is now a crime in the U.S. if you sell nutritional products).

No, the FTC and FDA go after quacks who claim they can cure diseases with their supplements or other and cannot produce the scientific evidence to support their claims, hiding instead behind the Quack Miranda or vague claims like “boosting the immune system.”

Reason #4 is the most amazingly silly one of them all:

#4 They’re both based on arrogance and the worship of money

Arrogance runs high in Western Medicine, where clever men at the top of the pharmaceutical companies think they’ve outsmarted mother nature by brainwashing consumers into thinking the human body is born with deficiencies of patented synthetic chemicals. This same arrogance is woven directly into the fabric of Wall Street, where greed-based financial players convince themselves they’re so brilliant that the mere idea of how to make money is now recorded as a bankable asset on the balance sheets (that’s the Enron style of accounting, which has now infected all of Wall Street).

The arrogance in both these industries is astounding. Neither Western Finance nor Western Medicine believes there is such a thing as a reality that shall ever hold them accountable. They don’t believe in gold, or real food, or cause and effect. Things are things because they say they are, and nothing is subject to economic reality, scientific scrutiny or real-world common sense.

The stupid, it burns.

Arrogance? I’ll show you arrogance. Arrogance is thinking that you know the cure to so many diseases without knowing anything about them that has anything to do with science. Arrogance is clinging to prescientific ideas of disease that have not stood the test of time and science, all the while insisting that you have The Answer and science does not. Arrogance is accusing those who have actually studied disease and physiology of “arrogance” for simply applying what they know while spouting off ignorant, conspiracy-laden gibberish about “natural cures.”

Now that‘s arrogance. As is this:

#7 Both are doomed to collapse

The final parallel between Western Finance and Western Medicine? They’re both doomed to collapse.

That very idea was considered absolutely loony just 30 days ago. But I’ve stuck to this prediction for five years: Western medicine is doomed to collapse. And now, all of a sudden, more people are waking up and seeing their fictional world crumbling around them. The near-collapse of the global financial system, it seems, has rudely awakened a few people who were sleepwalking through life, intoxicated by visions of free riches, free pharmaceuticals and life in the land of zero accountability.

Reality, though, is a stubborn thing. You can daydream all you want, but the laws of economics cannot be violated any more so than the laws of human physiology. When there’s a poison in the system (biologically or financially speaking), something must be done to eliminate the poison and bolster the health of the patient. Sadly, Washington remains in the business of denying the problem, which makes it all the more difficult to try to solve it.

I agree that reality is a stubborn thing. You can daydream all you want about “toxins” and the need for “detoxification”; substances becoming stronger in healing potential with dilution and shaking; the ability of magicians–yes, magicians, what else are they to be called, except that they can’t do real magic or even real illusions?–to wave their hands and manipulate a person’s life force in order, in essence, to perform faith healing; or the claim that liver flukes cause cancer and all disease, but reality has a funny way of intruding. You can claim that cancer can be cured by natural diets, exercise, and supplements, but damn if that cancer will almost certainly have other plans. But that same cancer very well might “listen” to a combination of surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy. You can say that AIDS can be cured by “natural” remedies, but HIV will behave according to the laws of science regardless, and protease inhibitors will stop it.

Indeed, I would make an analogy myself. The subprime crisis was the result of arrogance and a fundamental misunderstanding and underestimation of the effect of packaging so many bad loans into risky financial instruments. The vast majority of CAM therapies (other than some herbal remedies; after all, medicinal herbs that work are, in fact, drugs) are based every bit as much on magical thinking, while a profound misunderstanding of the “laws” of human physiology lays on the side of CAM advocates, not scientific medicine. CAM advocates think they know how the human body works, but they are almost always profoundly wrong in their beliefs. The ironic thing about it is, they are so vociferous in accusing “Western” medicine of the very ignorance and arrogance they possess in such abundance.

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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