Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Pseudoscience Quackery Science Skepticism/critical thinking Television

Dr. Oz promises to stop promoting pseudoscience. Should we believe him?

Regular readers of this blog will find it no surprise that I don’t think much of Dr. Mehmet Oz. The reason, of course, is that his daily television show, The Dr. Oz Show, has been a font of misinformation about medicine almost since it began airing six years ago. It’s not for nothing that I long ago labeled him “America’s Quack.” Simply searching for the name Mehmet Oz on this blog will quickly produce examples of the many times when he’s credulously promoted quackery and pseudoscience such as homeopathy (The One Quackery To Rule Them All), faith healing, fear mongering about GMOs, and promotion of antivaccine views (Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., even!). He has even sunk so low as to feature psychic scammers like John Edward and Theresa Caputo as though they might have a legitimate role in health care.

Truly, Dr. Oz has shown that he has no shame.

Over the last few seasons of his show, Dr. Oz became increasingly shameless in his promotion of pseudoscience, in particular various dubious weight loss supplements, such that in June 2014 he was hauled before Senator Claire McCaskill’s (D-MO) committee for his unscrupulous promotion of such unproven weight loss aids. By last fall, it had gotten so bad that Dr. Oz’s social media people tried to do a an “Ask Dr. Oz” segment on Twitter under the hashtag #OzsInbox. Let’s just say that it backfired spectacularly and hilariously, much to the amusement (and schadenfreude) of skeptics everywhere. Most recently, a group of physicians wrote a public letter to Lee Goldman, MD, the Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine at Columbia University complaining that Dr. Oz is faculty at Columbia protesting his continued presence in good standing as a member of Columbia’s faculty. Unfortunately, the messenger was less than pure, having been primarily industry shills provoked by Dr. Oz’s expressed distrust of GMOs rather than his quackery. Predictably, Dr. Oz used his television show to fire back devastatingly. More effectively, a medical student named Ben Mazer used the example of Dr. Oz’s promotion of quackery to drive the passage of a resolution by the American Medical Association designed to develop ethics guidelines for media use by doctors and disciplinary pathways for doctors who abuse media to promote medical misinformation. It might as well have been called the “Dr. Oz resolution.”

Given Dr. Oz’s uneven history (over the last couple of years in particular), I was rather interested to see headlines like After Months of Criticism, ‘The Dr. Oz Show’ Makes Big Changes and Television Dr. Mehmet Oz returning with ‘heal thyself’ goal.

From the first story:

Dr. Oz will focus his entire upcoming season on the mind-body connection and make some changes in his show format to be more inclusive of the audience. (Photo: Getty Images)

After enduring months of intense criticism, Dr. Mehmet Oz is changing the direction of his show.

The entire upcoming season of The Dr. Oz Show — which kicks off Monday, September 14 — will focus on the mind-body connection and feature a partnership with former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, MD.

In the past, Dr. Oz has come under fire for the advice given on his show. Now, the newly focused program will use medical and other experts whose advice is based in research.

Imagine that! Using actual medical experts with advice based in research! Where have I heard that before? Oh, yes, right. Dr. Oz promised to do the same thing after his public humiliation on Capital Hill by Claire McCaskill in June 2014. It only took a year for him to actually follow through with his promise, or at least to claim to follow through with it.

From the AP story:

During a self-prescribed listening tour with physicians groups this summer, Mehmet Oz learned just how much it annoyed many doctors when their patients say, “I heard on ‘Dr. Oz’…”

It’s been a humbling stretch for the heart surgeon who built his own successful talk show after being introduced to the world by Oprah Winfrey. Critics, including some in Congress, scolded the hyperactive health evangelist for promoting questionable diet aids he’s since sworn off. In April, a group of 10 doctors urged that he be removed from Columbia University’s medical faculty, accusing him of promoting “quack treatments.” His show has lost half its viewers over the past five years.

Now, there‘s the real reason Dr. Oz is “recalibrating” his show. You can be sure that if his ratings were as good as they were five years ago his producers would be changing nothing, criticism be damned. (After all, who cares about Senate hearings, criticism by physicians, or the AMA targeting you if you have the ratings?) Well, that’s not entirely true. All successful shows have to undergo some changes, or they stagnate. However, if ratings were still good, Oz would be making incremental, evolutionary changes, nothing more than some tinkering, rather than announcing what sounds like major changes to the show’s format. If he’s going to do something, now is the time to do it, because he only has two seasons left on his contract, which runs until 2017. Doing something in the last year of the contrat could well be too late. In the stories, it’s pointed out that Oz’s reputation among consumers has clearly taken a hit and that this season is critical for Oz to determine his long-term viability. He needs to reinvent himself. But can he?

It may also be that, somewhere, way deep down in that lizard heart of his, Dr. Oz still has some professional pride left about his past. We know he’s been stung by the criticism; it’s just that as long as his ratings were good there was no real motivation to change. Be that as it may, remember—and this is something I’ve pointed out many times—back in the 1990s Dr. Oz was a rising star in academic surgery, and before he fell under Oprah Winfrey’s sway and became “America’s Doctor” he was a well-published, respected academic cardiothoracic surgeon. Now he’s still a well-respected academic surgeon, on the surface at least, but his career has taken a turn from serious, hard scientific and clinical investigations to what I like to call quackademic medicine; i.e., the study of “complementary and alternative medicine.” Indeed, there’s a reason why he’s the director of the Integrative Medicine Center at Columbia, although I can’t figure out why he still retains a high-ranking position (vice chair) in the Department of Surgery at Columbia. He does, though. At the very least, his pride has been wounded by all the criticism. That much is clear.

So what did he do about it? This:

He privately sought feedback this summer from doctors’ groups of various specialties. Some agreed to meet with him, some didn’t.

“We’re on the same team of trying to make people healthier, which I think everyone can agree is the case, even if you disagree with how I do it, even if you don’t like the entertainment aspect of it,” he said. “I get all that.”

What he didn’t realize was how he’d become a symbol for a development in health care that many doctors feel threatened by. Patients today often go for check-ups after Googling for information on what ails them or listening to advice from their favourite television doctor. In some respects, it intrudes on the physician-patient relationship, and Oz said he understands how irritating that can be.

Really? He’s just learning now that physicians, particularly primary care docs, have become utterly fed up with Oz’s promotion of pseudoscience, to the point where there are jokes and cartoons in the medical literature how there should be a “Dr. Oz says” billing code that allows a visit to automatically be bumped to the highest billing level because of how much time and effort it takes to counter misinformation that The Dr. Oz Show embeds into patients’ heads? Truly, Dr. Oz was oblivious. However, just because his fellow doctors are annoyed at him is not really an adequate reason to do a science- and evidence-based show. He should do a science- and evidence-based show because if you’re a physician doing a medical TV show it’s the right thing to do. In fact, it’s the only ethical thing to do.

To be honest, the whole claim that it’s because of doctors complaining about the “Dr. Oz says” phenomenon that Dr. Oz is changing his show strikes me as PR-speak for admitting that the show had not been evidence based and had been promoting quackery without actually admitting that the show had not been evidence-based and promoting quackery. After all, if Dr. Oz had been promoting evidence-based information, then I highly doubt many doctors would complain. Instead, they had to spend endless hours trying to explain why Garcinia Cambogia is not a magical fat-burning supplement and why homeopathy doesn’t work. Another interpretation is that he’s not really changing that much but will work on publicizing what he’s going to cover more, so that doctors aren’t caught off-guard when their patients bring it up. After all, most doctors are in their offices or the hospital when Oz’s show airs.

There’s no doubt that I’ve been one of Dr. Oz’s fiercest critics. Indeed, as far as I can tell, I’m the one who coined the term “America’s quack” as a riff on his self-proclaimed (or Oprah-proclaimed) title of “America’s doctor” to describe Oz. Let’s just say that I remain…skeptical. Dr. Oz’s history mandates that skepticism, but I also find the theme of this season to be a bit questionable. The reason is that any time someone like Oz refers to the “mind-body” connection, that’s at least in part invocation of dualism. Moreover, “mind-body” medicine is a category that is full of woo that is claimed to be evidence-based but when examined more closely is not really science-based. By choosing such a topic as a major theme of this season, Dr. Oz’s producers have left a lot of wiggle room to work in pseudoscience should they be inclined to take advantage of it.

Still, my skepticism and previous savaging of Dr. Oz’s promotion of quackery notwithstanding, I would actually love to see Dr. Oz turn away from the Dark Side of quackery and towards the Light of science and evidence. Were he to do that, The Dr. Oz Show could become a powerful educational tool. Actions speak louder than words, though. I need to see this claimed change over a prolonged period of time before I’ll believe that Dr. Oz has actually internalized the message that he needs to stop promoting pseudoscience and quackery. We’ll see.

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]

55 replies on “Dr. Oz promises to stop promoting pseudoscience. Should we believe him?”

Rest assured that someone in charge figured that his viewer demographic would be eager to swallow the woo of mind-body connections before trusting anything he has to say concerning the “health effects” foods and dietary supplements. Penetrating his veil, a prospective study published in the British Medical Journal last year found the following, which tallied well with my own evaluation: “For recommendations in The Dr Oz Show, evidence supported 46%, contradicted 15%, and was not found for 39%.”

When it came to dietary supplements, he was obviously out of his depth. Either Dr. Oz or his research team apparently believed nearly anything suppliers of supplements dared to claim. At first, he was so naive that the brands were displayed. Apparently recognizing the litigation that could follow, should any one of them fail to live up to their claims or worse, be found to cause adverse effects, unbranded representations were used in their place.

1. “What he didn’t realize was how he’d become a symbol for a development in health care that many doctors feel threatened by.”

No. I do not feel threatened by his abandonment of science-based medicine.

My patients are the ones threatened by the (minimally) worthless and (maximally) dangerous quack “treatments” he endorses on his show. His anti-vaccination views (re the flu shot) as well as having anti-vaccinationist RFK Jr on his show did nothing to help convince parents to vaccinate their children.

2. ‘heal thyself’goal .

I think he really means “heal his sagging ratings by giving his show a brief “body wrap” of science-based medicine”. I predict Oz will soon regress to promoting pseudoscience.

3. This is the equivalent of the anti-vaccine dog whistle you’ve mentioned for pediatrician Bob Sears. When these famous-through-quackery physicians get called out by fellow physicians, they only pretend to have heard the criticism of their peers, while still saying the right words in their “apologies” to let their legions of types know that they haven’t really changed their mind (the “dog whistle”). .

If Oz were truly serious, he’d resign his director spot at Columbia’s “Center for Integrative Medicine”. But, he won’t.

What he didn’t realize was how he’d become a symbol for a development in health care that many doctors feel threatened by.

And what I didn’t realize is that I am really Marie, Queen of Romania. </sarcasm>

Maybe Dr. Oz really was that oblivious. Big egos tend to have a reality distortion field as a side effect. But he should have known that he was becoming associated with what Orac aptly calls Google University. Perhaps some doctors really do find this threatening. I suspect many more are annoyed that they have to take time to dispel these myths–time they could otherwise spend actually treating patients. At least, that’s the impression I get from Orac’s post and Chris’s comment @2.

Well, with ICD-10 on the doorsteps of the USA (don’t laugh, rest of the world..the US has historically been very slow at adopting the new ICD codes), maybe there *should* be a modifier for office visits that identifies the visit took longer due to the Dr Oz effect. As a CPC, I’d accept that! 🙂

You can tuck an amazing amount of woo under the heading “backed by research”, if you focus on low-quality offerings, small studies and case reports (at all costs, avoid large-scale clinical trials and comprehensive reviews).

The “mind-body connection” angle suggests Oz will de-emphasize Miracle Supplements but instead give attention to psychic coaches, therapeutic touch and similar glop, while at the same time reproaching mainstream medicine for being oriented toward drug-based solutions.

There’s relatively little money to be made promoting quality evidence-based medicine on TV. It’s very important to Oz to be a “star”, and the image of a rebel, however he remodels himself will remain a paramount goal.

“Mind-body medicine”, eh? That could be anything from science-based discussions on stress and how it affects various systems in the body, how to alleviate stress, etc. I imagine there will be talk of exercise (yoga or tai chi, most likely), mindful meditation, etc. All good things to help reduce stress in your life and the harmful effects that come with it.

Of course, it could also very easily go into woo territory, with unwarranted claims about what various treatments can do. Think talk of qi/chi, energy, possibly even nonsense treatments like acupuncture, therapeutic touch, reiki, etc. I could also easily imagine some talk about how “Western” medicine is insufficient, pooh-poohing of conventional doctors, appeals to “Eastern” mysticism.

In the past, Dr. Oz has come under fire for the advice given on his show. Now, the newly focused program will use medical and other experts whose advice is based in research.

This gives Oz a pretty wide berth around who is considered an expert and what constitutes research. After all we have physicians promoting acupuncture, naturopathy, TCM, homeopathy et al. and all have some “research” supporting their efficacy, shonky as that may be. I don’t see Oz abandoning woo, maybe just the more outlandish claims.

I’ll believe it the day they have an episode guest hosted by ScienceBasedMedicine’s team instead of Oz. But you get to ask him stuff.

The demographic that watches Dr Oz wants pseudoscience. They want to hear about the fake fat-busting natural extractions that no-one else knows about.

There are only so many novel, exciting, evidence-based treatments he can showcase before the viewers get bored. So n Dr Oz will go back topeddling pseudoscience.

Yes, a daily TV show has a bottomless maw for material, given that Oz has to produce 150-200 episodes per full season. I fear that he’s not going to be able to fill that up with enough science-based material that keeps his audience interested for long. My guess is that, by mid-season at the latest, the pseudoscience will be back.

# 9 ChrisP
So you are saying that Dr Oz is the TV version of a supermarket tabloid? Sounds good to me 🙂

Dangerous Bacon: “The “mind-body connection” angle suggests Oz will de-emphasize Miracle Supplements but instead give attention to psychic coaches, therapeutic touch and similar glop, while at the same time reproaching mainstream medicine for being oriented toward drug-based solutions.”

You forgot to mention reiki!

IDK Orac. Keep hoping. Things don’t look good from the Yahoo article where he blames his audience:

[Oz says that a lot of the criticism he heard was about a “very fundamental reality” involving the interaction fans of the show were having with their doctors. “Sometimes what I was saying wasn’t portrayed the way I thought it should be portrayed in the office setting,” he says.]

And it sounds like he’ll be marching into the positive psychology/life coaching arena any day now. Much harder to say he is not evidence based there.

[It will also include a partnership with the National Council on Behavioral Health. “I was exposed to some data in the spring that revealed most Americans are more worried about their emotional and mental health than their physical health,” Oz explains about the season’s focus.]

What bothers me a great deal is that Oz – like many woo-meisters- caters to a primarily female audience and it disturbs me as a feminist that there is still such an audience for swill like his. It’s not 1968. It’s not Oz’s fault that he’s acceptable to masses of (mostly) women with time on their hands in the afternoon ( if that’s when he’s on) although he makes use of their interest. Surely they can find something better to do. But no, they fall for his line of BS and ( supposed) good looks**.( And I know, I know, men have reams of nonsense with which to waste their time and energy which I won’t mention here but 3 subjects immediately come to mind. OH, guess).

At any rate, to make matters even worse, he will descend into the filth-laden cesspit that is pop psychology and quasi-spiritual balderdash that is usually the cherished realm of woo-meisters like those idiots which I regularly survey.

Oz masquerades as an expert ( which he IS- but he doesn’t talk much about his true area of expertise) and then, advises followers into the deepest, darkest recesses of woo which I’m will soon focus upon psychobabble. The Secret and perhaps, Bruce Lipton’s World of Wishes are on the way.

**Right, I’m supposed to like that type but he’s so objectionable I can’t even see anything worthwhile

Oz came down to Baltimore and filmed a couple of segments with the Baltimore Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen. A few of us warned Dr. Wen about associating with him for any kind of project in Baltimore. Not only does he promote quackery, but the Baltimore youth are not really the demographic that would listen to him anyway. In my opinion, and from what I could read from several people, it was a waste of time to associate with him.
Dr. Wen replied to us that she had read a posting from the current president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, where the president states that she went to the Dr. Oz show to be able to reach millions.
Yes, we need a megaphone to get out good messages to the public, but we don’t need his megaphone. His audience is not ready to listen.

Has any MD ever come back to SBM once they’ve gone down the path of woo? I know of none.

@ Chris Hickie:

James Laidler, MD, preached autism woo ( DAN!) but was enlighten through his observation of his kids’ after eating so-called forbidden foods ( se Wikip—–; Autism Watch)

“Dr. Oz will focus his entire upcoming season on the mind-body connection …”

Any changes to Dr. Oz’s show chosen by him and his producers will be chosen on the basis of ability to boost ratings and drive revenue, pure and simple.

I don’t think science based medicine will drive daytime ratings, but mind-body medicine will, if by mind body we mean woo. I foresee more reiki, therapeutic touch, acupuncture, prayer, distant intention healing, homeopathy, life after death, and perhaps even advocating placebo medicine, all supported by extensive “research”. I see a whole season focused on using the power of the mind to heal the body.

Queue the sad trombone whamp whah sound. 🙁

Well, the new season is not starting off well:

Monday 9/14: How to Channel the Super Human in You. Dr. Oz meets everyday people who became like superhumans to save a life, even a 5-year-old who saved her family.

Tuesday, 9/15: Scott Stapp [of Creed] speaks out about his struggle with addiction and mental illness. Find out how getting treatment helped his recovery.

Wednesday 9/16: Energy Pick-me-ups that Won’t Make You Crash. Dr. Oz tries the newest energy trend – caffeine e-cigarettes to find out what it does to your brain and body.

Thursday 9/17: Concussion Epidemic and the Test that Changed Oz. Dr. Oz reveals his personal experience with concussions and the unexpected news from his brain scan. Dr. Oz and Dr. Sanjay Gupta arm you with information to diagnose and treat concussions quickly and accurately.

Friday 9/18: Blueprint for Balance: Go From Burnout to Back on Track. Do you ever feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions? Dr. Oz kicks off his Blueprint for Balance series. The tools, tips, steps, and insights to bring you relief. Plus, the five questions that can help you be happier.

It looks like it will be a long season.

Tuesday, 9/15: Scott Stapp [of Creed] speaks out about his struggle with addiction and mental illness. Find out how getting treatment helped his recovery.

Whoopie-do. Call me when he gets treatment to help him make music that does not suck.

Thursday 9/17: Concussion Epidemic and the Test that Changed Oz. Dr. Oz reveals his personal experience with concussions and the unexpected news from his brain scan.

Trying to resist obvious cheap shot…

Sigh. Damn submit button.

From the Yahoo article

Oz publicly responded to the letter at the time by saying ‘The Dr. Oz Show’ is actually “not a medical show,”

Sure had me fooled.

re Wednesday’s show:
Oz on caffinated e-cigarettes could be interesting to watch.

Tuesday, 9/15: Scott Stapp [of Creed] speaks out about his struggle with addiction and mental illness. Find out how getting treatment helped his recovery.

There are serious issues with how we deal with mental illness in the US, so this one has potential to do real good (disclaimer: I haven’t seen this or any other Dr. Oz show). I don’t think I’ve knowingly heard anything by his band, so I’ll remain agnostic on that point.

The concussion episode might also be decent. The other three, oh boy. The relationship of becoming a superhuman to medical treatments (as opposed to doing something under pressure that you wouldn’t be able to do if you had a chance to think about it, which is a phenomenon) is farfetched, and the other two are at minimum yellow alerts for woo.

I have a friend that works for the county extension, and teaches classes on nutrition. She also has to deal with the “Dr Oz says….” nonsense.

Just think if DT is the president he could name Oz as Surgeon general.

Anti-Vaxer logic cures death. Observed fact: every person who has every died took a breath just before they died. Therefore: taking a breath caused their death. So to keep on living one must stop breathing.

Bad logic leads to bad results.

William: hope you are better at twisting backs than at science!

His website is a hoot. A survey asking if I’m in favor of GMO labeling, a thyroid painting sweepstakes for a $100 painting by Dr. Oz (I assume it is his abstract impression of a thyroid but who knows) and some debt detox counseling.

What woo I found there is definitely leaning towards nutritional and “lifestyle” items that suggest he is playing it safe around medical topics

“Has any MD ever come back to SBM once they’ve gone down the path of woo?”

James Laidler?

“Has any MD ever come back to SBM once they’ve gone down the path of woo?”

Edzard Ernst?

It cou3ld be that fame and Winfrey seduced him to the woo side, but on the other hand it could be marriage to a reiki practitioner.

Personally, I’d be tickled to see a weekly “Quackbusters” TV series (subtitled “Busting Medical Myths.”)

Oz on caffinated e-cigarettes could be interesting to watch.

I suspect that these are just caffeine, sans nicotine.

“Concussion Epidemic and the Test that Changed Oz. Dr. Oz reveals his personal experience with concussions”

Cripes, how many did he have? And did he get them plowing into the line on short-yardage situations, or in fights with nurses?

a thyroid painting sweepstakes for a $100 painting by Dr. Oz

There are a few ways to parse this, one of which boils down to, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

Part of me wonders why anybody would spend $100 (or even anything close to that) for a Dr. Oz painting. Then a different part of me reminds the first part that people actually paid money for Thomas Kincade paintings, or velvet Elvises, or any number of different kinds of so-called art. Maybe Dr. Oz really does have artistic talent, in which case he missed his calling. It does happen: Brian May, Ph.D. (astrophysics) is better known as Brian May, rock guitarist. But the odds are against it.


That’s cool about Brian May. I think I may have been informed of that years ago but it certainly didn’t stick.

You can see Dr. Oz’s painting here. It’s not bad for abstract art. Also, if they hadn’t described it as hand-painted I would’ve guessed it was digital.

Anyway, what kills it for me is the description as thyroid art. No way would I want to look at that everyday knowing this.

Dr. Oz does have his uses. When the nurse my brother hired to sit with our dying father switched on the Dr. Oz show and when questioned about it said she loved the show and it had a lot of good information, I knew instantly that she was an idiot and not to be trusted. To this day I regret that I didn’t tell her to sit outside the room and leave us alone, and also that, even though he wasn’t conscious, some of my dad’s last minutes were spent with the Dr. Oz show playing in the background. Sheesh. An awful addition to an awful day.
So, Dr. Oz can be a good screening tool when you have to hire a nurse: pick the ones who can’t stand his show.

I just assumed he’s trying to get people to watch his show by calling it “new”- I’m not optimistic. There has been a recent dust up with plant scientist Kevin Folta- Folta recently turned down an invitation to appear on the Dr. Oz show- Frankly, I can’t imagine that not being an ambush.

What I think we should do about Oz:

Assume he’s going to be a good guy now, pat him on the back if he behaves himself and sticks to it, and ignore him or give him hell if he doesn’t. Make the high expectations known and, per science-based psychology, give him positive behavioral reinforcement (attention) if he lives up to them.

What I think Oz may actually do:

Seeing as he mentioned mental health, I think he’s thinking ahead to next year and the year after. Yes, that means the election. If Trump wins the White House, Oz rebrands himself as America’s Psychiatrist, and his new slogan is “You need me now like you’ve never needed me before!”


Denise @ 15: I’ll admit I think Oz is kinda’ cute, but I’ve had wooski friends before and found it …what’s the word for this, when you want to roll your eyes and say “please don’t use the word ‘energy’ like that again or I’m going to vomit”…? So, nah, I couldn’t think of him as boyfriend material. In any case he’s straight & married (to another woomeister, eek) so he’s out of range, but the what-if is amusing enough;-)

And now we get serious:

Chris @ 17: Has anyone come back from woo to SBM? If we did some very careful survey research, I have a hypothesis or two, and this is serious, not snark:

1) Postulate six categories:
a) Always SBM.
b) Always woo.
c) Woo to SBM.
d) SBM to woo.
e) woo to SBM back to woo.
f) SBM to woo back to SBM.

2) Postulate six comparable categories for belief in a deity:
a) Always atheistic
b) Always theistic
(c) through (f) continue the parallels through the same types of belief-changes.

3) Hypothesis: percentage of population in each category under (1) are similar to percentages of population in each category under (2).

4) Estimate needed sample size, choose statistical test(s), and proceed.

Comment: I think the tendencies toward and away from woo, closely parallel the tendencies toward and away from belief in deities. Both invoke supernatural agencies and causality. If we can reasonably assume that “attraction to supernatural agencies and causes” maps to neuroanatomy & functioning in a reliable way (such as per Michael Persinger, numerous articles in _J. Perception and Motor Skills_), then we should see similar behaviors for different examples of this type of content.

Brian May, Ph.D. (astrophysics) is better known as Brian May, rock guitarist.

He is not convincing anyone with his theory that fat-bottomed girls, rather than angular momentum, are responsible for planetary rotation.

re. herr doktor bimler @ 43:

Ahh but sometimes loons are right, and having read all of his stuff in J.Percep & Motor Skills, I think he’s probably correct about one thing, the effect of 5Hz stimulation on the right temporal lobe. (Re. the item you linked, a quick skim leaves me skeptical of Persinger as theorist, but poor theorists sometimes turn in good experimental results. Let’s not forget that working electromagnetic telegraphs were invented before Maxwell’s equations unified electricity & magnetism.)

There are a couple of implications of Persinger’s work that atheists should find interesting, because they may provide a path to reduce susceptibility to woo and a path to reduce religious fundamentalism, as follows:

5Hz electromagnetic stimulation adjacent to the right temporal lobe was found to have two effects:

One, inducing vaguely numinous feelings, that were incorporated into subjects’ responses to “completing a story” tests. How this may be useful: By measuring the right temporal lobe responses to various written material and media, we might find ways to improve the quality of science writing & communication, in a manner that provides the kind of subjective reinforcement that is appealing to those who wallow in woo, thereby helping to wean them off their nonsense. I could describe some possible research approaches if you’re interested.

Two, producing “verbal substitution behavior.” Atheists may find this highly interesting. Subject is given a sentence to repeat, e.g. “Sarah skipped over cracks in the sidewalk.” In the control condition, subject repeats it back exactly as given. In the test condition of 5Hz stimulation of the right temporal lobe, subjects show an increase in verbal substitution: instead of repeating it verbatim they might say “Sarah stepped over cracks in the pavement.”

Religious fundamentalism hinges on exact scriptural literalism, and on memorization and concrete thinking rather than on abstract thinking. Notable example, the Madrassas, but similar phenomena occur in American fundamentalist Christianity. If 5Hz stimulation of the right temporal lobe interferes with the repetition and literalism components, this may suggest a mechanism whereby the the literalist and repetitive aspects of fundamentalism occur in the brain, and lead to various other means of producing brain activity that is not conducive to fundamentalist cognition.

A bit of a reach, sure, and two IFs don’t make an AND. None the less, anything that offers a possibility of decreasing religious absolutism should be welcome, and deserving of further research support.

I heard he’s having someone from the Environmental Working Group on next week to discuss glyphosate. His shenanigans aren’t over by a long shot.

EWG is paid by the Organic Trade Association to run the Just Label It campaign. JLI is on a big media push right now, managed by Fenton Communications, the people who marketed the Alar scare.

having read all of his stuff in J.Percep & Motor Skills, I think he’s probably correct about one thing, the effect of 5Hz stimulation on the right temporal lobe

I’m skeptical of Persinger’s experimental work because he was reporting dramatic results from magnetic pulses that are orders of magnitude smaller than anyone else in the TCS field is using.

He is not convincing anyone with his theory that fat-bottomed girls, rather than angular momentum, are responsible for planetary rotation.

The assertion of course is qualified as “the rockin’ world.” This might manifest, e.g., as a small nutation term. I hesitate to speculate regarding the seasonal Yarkovsky effect.

He is not convincing anyone with his theory that fat-bottomed girls, rather than angular momentum, are responsible for planetary rotation.

Perhaps he has an a posteriori proof of that.

herr doktor bimler @ 47:

If I’m not mistaken, Persinger was doing this before TCS protocols were established, and he was probably trying to play it safe so he wouldn’t get mauled for exposing Ss to potential dangers.

The potential for insight into the mechanisms of uncritical belief is too interesting to let the whole thing drop because Persinger was “a loon” and didn’t turn up the juice up to 11.

In any case the solution to a methodological problem is to replicate the study with the problem fixed and see what comes out. Once the lab is set up, it costs little more to run more trials at varying levels of magnetic field strength.

I wonder if there’s a way to get this funded as if it’s a kind of “alt med” for psychiatry…? The goal being to spend some NCCAM (or whatever it’s called these days) money doing something worthwhile. There’s a potentially delicious irony in that.

Perhaps he has an a posteriori proof of that.

He does if they “let it all hang out.”

I wonder if the good doc pays big bucks to that annoying audience member.. Every time he takes a break from the show, this loud “Woooooooooooooo!” permeates the air. He/she is at every show, it seems — those I’ve tuned into, anyway. I guess they want us to get the impression that at least SOMEbody is enjoying himself. Hmmm, could be a family member too.

I found this blog doing a search for how to get what I think is silver nitrate stains off of counters, hit on the perils of drinking collodial silver post. Anyways I am a hospital/clinic cleaning lady. When I first started working at the hospital Dr. Oz was always on in the waiting rooms and in the break rooms. I do not have a background in medicine, so interpreted that as being Dr. Oz was alright. Last year I read an article on sciencedaily that Dr. Oz and The Doctors was a load of crap. Anyways I really appreciate the post, clarification is a good thing.

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