Medicine Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s rather short memory

About a week ago, I laid a bit of the ol’ Orac-style ultra-snarkiness on CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta for having done an embarrassingly credulous interview with two of Oprah’s minions who participated in the atrocity that was Oprah’s episode about faith healer John of God. One of the most disappointing things about Dr. Gupta’s interview is that he seemed fairly clueless about John of God’s “forceps in the nose” trick. Well, while I happened to be perusing incoming links last night, I came across the very good Skepdic article on John of God. Honored that Orac would be mentioned in such a fine, well-established skeptical resource, I looked over the entry again and noted that Robert Carroll had added to his original article. More fascinating was that Carroll had apparently dug up evidence from an old report that Dr. Gupta did that shows that he should have known about the trickery:

Yes, it’s Dr. Gupta reporting on the “human blockhead” trick and explaining why it’s anatomically possible to stick rather long objects into your nose without injuring yourself–if you know what you’re doing, of course. He even demonstrated it on himself, albeit with a Q-Tip rather than an actual nail, probably a wise thing if he wanted to avoid accidentally perforating his nasopharynx. Be that as it may, apparently Dr. Gupta’s memory is rather short. It wouldn’t have taken much for him in his interview with Susan Casey and Dr. Jeff Rediger about John of God and Oprah Winfrey’s episode about him to point out that the “forceps in the nose” trick is nothing more than a variation on the blockhead trick. He could have even shown a clip from this old report and asked Casey and Rediger what they say about it.

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]

17 replies on “Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s rather short memory”

I know it’s not much, but I have sent him a few tweets asking if he’ll respond to any of this. Nothing from him. I doubt he’s really running his own twitter account.

I think the most reasonable conclusion to be drawn is that Dr. Gupta stuck something a little too long and a little too pointy in his nose and has suffered some memory loss because of it.

Orac, bored?
I am starting to think I figured out your fascination with Gupta. I thought you were jealous of Redinger, given his superior education, in fact, it is Gupta. Did you two go to school together? Both, UM. Regardless, did you actually watch the Gupta segment before posting this? He said about the forceps in the nose “this is done all the time. I mean you can put a nasogastric tube down the nose, and the sinuses are large.” That didn’t do it for you? I guess you know what he really meant?
In order to be “adequately” skeptical, should he have paid homage to the wildly jealous Orac first? By the way, why do you refer to yourself in the third person?

James Randi does a fairly high quality debunking of JoG.
I had hints from Jeremey’s previous comments that he has it in for Randi too. apparently Randi hasn’t enough scientific credentials to comment on a common or garden variety charlatan.

I thought you were jealous of Redinger, given his superior education

Rediger’s gullibility does not speak well for his “superior” Harvard education. Given that Orac’s critical thinking skills are far superior to Rediger’s, I doubt that Orac is jealous of Rediger.

I think Jeremy Poivan has ambitions of becoming the next John Kwok.

I really don’t care about your “musings” about anyone. I wish you would answer my question. What would Gupta say regarding “forceps in the nose” that would have satisfied your skeptic scale?

There are several training videos on how to stick things up your nose. Even a child can do it:

How to Stick Objects in Your Nose

Things that can go up your nose


wot not to stick up your nose

I doubt that Dr. G suffered any lapse of memory – he just knows better than to cross an AO (Agent of Oprah).

I think skeptics should protest Oprah, stand outside her venues with picket signs. Is there any way of doing that, or otherwise making her (or the news media) take notice of us?

Chris @13 – you’re just jealous of Jeremy’s superior Harvard education 🙂

“Harvard – the Michigan of the East” — sweatshirt caption seen frequently in Ann Arbor.

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