Complementary and alternative medicine Humor Medicine Quackery

The red flags of quackery

Via Stupid Evil Bastard, here’s a great cartoon that points out the red flags that indicate most of the major red flags of quackery (click to embiggen and see the whole cartoon):


I have to admit. The main ones are all there.

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 “The red flags of quackery”

What about the many shameful misuses of “Balance”? Does it fall under one of the big quacks here (“Energy balancing”, “Balancing your chakras”…) or is it a distinct kind of silly?

One that you’ll often encounter: “It cures autism!”

There is the “miracle cure-all” panel. I think that covers it.

Quantum: it doesn’t mean what Chopra (and so many others) think it does.

To be fair, in my quantum chemistry class (so many years ago) we were taught that all chemistry is a manifestation of quantum interactions (orbitals, paired and unpaired electrons, etc.) and since all biology is simply an inter-connected series of chemical reactions, you could say that quantum effects are a significant part of day-to-day life.

However, Chopra’s idea that photon entanglement shows how we are all connected and his outdated belief that the presence of an observer alters the quantum state (“collapses the wave function”) and thus shows that we can change reality with our thoughts… well, that is just bulls***t.

So, I’ll continue to use my maxim that whenever someone mixes quantum mechanics and medicine there is a 99+% probability that they misunderstand either quantum mechanics, medicine or both.

BTW, with Chopra, it’s “both”.


They left out “holistic” — which usually signals an attempt to encompass the entire reality of Mind, Body, AND Spirit. Western reductionist materialist science forgets to connect it all together like that.

I like the “it’s probably Chopra” tagline — with its tone of him being a unpleasant force of nature one occasionally encounters, like, say, flash flooding or tornadoes.

More Red Flags of Quackery:

“Boosts the immune system” – without warnings about autoimmune diseases getting worse and the very real possibility that your T lymphocytes might kill you to death.

“Activates the body’s own inner wisdom to heal itself” etc.

I’m always suspicious of people promising to put the power to heal “in your own hands!” Because it seems to me Big Pharma does that for sixty bucks and no fanfare. Here’s a bottle of pills literally in your hands. So if they have to shout from the mountaintops that that’s what it does, it must not be self-evident.

OT, I checked out an article refuting the Jesus=Horus internet trope on SEB, and made the big mistake of following a troll’s link.

Oh my H. P. Lovecraft’s entire pantheon. The crazy was not what my migrainey, recupperating head with stuffy sinuses needed.

Don’t such boring things as semiconductors and lasers require QM to explain?

Woah! Thanks for the plug! Some rebuttal: Yes, I know that’s not what poison ivy looks like, it’s a stylized leaf thing out of photoshop 🙂

Also, I state that QM can’t help you directly. I do mention semiconductors and flash memory in the accompanying article.

The Telltale Quack

Thanks again, glad you like it!

Please make an elementary school safe version of this, without the unnecessary finger, and Fucking, and bullshit. Seriously.

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