Antivaccine nonsense Complementary and alternative medicine Homeopathy Humor Medicine Naturopathy Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

What is an “altie”?

How does one identify a hard core believer in alternative medicine, sometimes called in the distant past an “altie.” Well, this helpful list, culled from nine years ago, will aid you in spotting the identifying signs…

Orac note: While Orac is on vacation (fear not, he’ll be returning on Monday!), he’s rerunning some of the “best of” the blog (if you can call it that). Actually, he’s rerunning whatever strikes his fancy. This one struck my fancy because I used to use the term “altie” all the time, but haven’t used it in years. It was a good shorthand for someone like Gwyneth Paltrow.

This post originally appeared on April 11, 2008; so some of the references are a bit dated, and some of the links no longer work. But the sentiment is true. Feel free to add your updates to the list until I return on Monday.

It’s that time of year again. Actually, it’s well over a month past that time of year.

Long-timers may remember that, near the very beginning of my old Blogger blog over three years ago, I did a post entitled What is an altie? It was basically a Jeff Foxworthy-like listing of “You just might be an altie if…” statements that, I think, had a good point. For those of you not familiar with the term “altie,” it was coined on the Usenet newsgroup to describe a certain hardcore variety of alternative medicine aficianado who is utterly immune to evidence or reason. The original series of “You just might be an altie if” items appeared on back in the mists of time (around four or five years ago), and I appropriated the concept, expanding the list with some entries of my own within a month of starting my old blog. The list was meant to highlight in a humorous fashion what an “altie” is. Alties are often militant and always highly suspicious of “allopathic” medicine and doctors, as well as often strongly antivaccinationist. Part and parcel of being an altie is an anti-intellectual and antiscientific attitude that does not allow a little thing like evidence to sway one from one’s belief in the power of “alternative” medicine (or “complementary and alternative medicine” or “integrative” medicine, or whatever the buzz word du jour is). Not surprisingly, many alties fervently believe that “natural” must be better (whatever “natural” means, given that at least one altie regimens for cancer require coffee enemas and over 100 supplement pills a day and another requires hooking oneself up to a “zapper,” neither of which strikes me as not being particularly “natural”).

I originally promised to update the list every year (actually, every few months), and, wouldn’t you know it, it’s been more than a year since the 2008 edition. An update is definitely long overdue. Again. Following the tradition of one whole year, I’m presenting it as an installment of Your Friday Dose of Woo. After all, who is responsible for producing the woo that I deconstruct here every week? Alties, of course, which is why this is the perfect place for a yearly update!

There’s one thing you should know, though. This is an interactive Your Friday Dose of Woo. I encourage you, my readers, to come up with your own contributions to the list. I warn you, however. It won’t be easy. Having been built up over the past three years, this list has become quite long and a little bit repetitive. Consequently, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to come up with new original items. On the other hand, a fair amount of stuff has happened since last year that should give you ideas, and I think you’re up to the challenge. Have at it!

So, here, without further ado is the brand new, spiffy, updated, encyclopedic, complete “You might be an altie if…” for 2008:


  1. If you believe that doctors, scientists, and the pharmaceutical companies conspire to suppress your favorite “alternative medicine” modality, you just might be an altie.
  2. If you like to claim that science is a religion, you might be an altie (or at the very least a creationist).
  3. If you accept without questioning vague and/or poorly documented anecdotes and testimonials as sufficient evidence for you that an “alternative” therapy can produce remarkable results “curing” cancer, heart disease, autism, Alzheimers, heart disease, etc., but routinely brutally nitpick and then dismiss well-designed randomized, double-blinded Phase III clinical studies for conventional medicine, you just might be an altie.
  4. If you believe that liver “flushes” actually cause gallstones to be “flushed” from your gallbladder and remove “toxins” from your liver, you just might be an altie. (Actually, if you believe that liver “flushes” do anything except give you exceptionally stinky diarrhea, you are almost certainly an altie.)
  5. If you believe that dichloroacetate is not cancer chemotherapy because it is a “compound” or because it is not a product of big pharma, there’s only an outside chance that you’re not an altie.
  6. If you believe that coffee enemas and megadoses of carrot juice can cure cancer, you just might be an altie.)
  7. If you make claims for a product or therapy like, “strengthens the immune system,” “restores balance,” “detoxifies the liver,” “cleanses the colon,” or “cleanses the blood,” you may be an altie.
  8. If you are impressed by such claims when made by others, you just might be an altie.
  9. If you do most of your “scientific” research on websites that exist to sell “alternative health” products, you might be an altie.
  10. If you believe that a chiropractor can manipulate your spine without touching you and cure your back pain, you are probably an altie.
  11. If you carefully avoid any criticism of any “alternative medicine” practitioner, product, or theory, regardless of how mind-numbingly obviously unscientific (homeopathy, for example), illogical, internally inconsistent, or fraudulent it may be, you might be an altie.
  12. If you think it’s perfectly acceptable, nay, laudable, for shady Internet entrepreneurs to launch a website that claims to be about “education” but in reality exists to sell a cancer treatment that has only shrunk tumors in animals and has yet to be tested against cancer in humans (and lie by claiming that it’s being sold to treat pets), you’re not only an altie, but you’re an idiot.
  13. If you accept or agree with every vilification of medicine and science as The Truth, regardless of the source or of how obviously irrational, without basis, or unjustified the vilification is, you might just be an altie.
  14. If you are utterly convinced that autism is a “misdiagnosis” for mercury poisoning, despite the fact that epidemiological and basic scientific studies do not support this hypothesis, that the number of new autism cases in the U.S. has not shown a sign of falling since thimerosal was removed from vaccines three years ago (ditto Denmark, where thimerosal was removed in the early 1990’s), and that autism does not share the symptomotology of mercury poisoning, you just might be an altie.
  15. If you believe that changing the bond angle of water can cure cancer (or that a simple distillation and electrochemical apparatus actually can change the bond angle of water), you just might be an altie.
  16. If you believe that Hulda Clark is being unjustly “persecuted” by “conventional medicine” and/or “the government” because she is a “threat,” you are very likely an altie.
  17. If you believe that Hulda Clark has ever cured anybody of cancer or AIDS in her life and that her clinic is a place of hope, you just might be an altie.
  18. If you believe that a liver fluke can cause all the diverse kinds of cancer out there and that “zapping” that fluke can cure all cancer and AIDS, you just might be an altie.
  19. If you absolutely, positively cannot ever admit that a conventional therapy, any conventional medical therapy, can cure a disease, any disease, you may well be an altie.
  20. If you believe that vaccines “don’t work,” that they “hurt the immune system,” or that they are a major cause autism or other chronic diseases, you just might be an altie.
  21. If you routinely use or Cure Zone as sources for medical information, you just might be an altie.
  22. If you regularly post to the message boards on Cure Zone and haven’t been banned, you’re certainly an altie.
  23. If you think should be a sunny little support group where true believers in alternative healthcare share testimonials and gleefully trash science and medicine without comment from skeptics (in other words, if you want it to be like Cure Zone), you may be an altie.
  24. If you underwent conventional therapy for cancer and then underwent alternative medicine treatment but attribute your survival and present cancer-free condition to the alternative medicine and not the conventional therapy, you just might be an altie.
  25. If you think it’s OK for (or any other such newsgroup) to be awash in advertising for snake oil quackery and other spam, you may be an altie.
  26. If you frequently use the term “allopathic medicine” to refer to accepted evidence-based medicine (particularly if you either turn your nose up or sneer as you say it), you just might be an altie.
  27. If you believe the trace of a dog’s milk molecule diluted 30C times has more healing power than 875 mg of amoxicillin, you might be an altie.
  28. Speaking of amoxicillin, if you can believe that a coroner’s autopsy report that showed Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, signs of chronic illness, and HIV encephalitis is more indicative of the cause of death being due to an acute allergic reaction to amoxicillin rather than to AIDS-related complications, you just might be an altie.
  29. If you consider someone “doctor” because they have a diploma-mill ND, you might be an altie.
  30. If you believe that alternative medicine practitioners are far more caring for their patients and far more moral (and therefore, by implication, less corruptible by money) than conventional doctors, you just might be an altie.
  31. If you believe it’s perfectly logical that some alt-med clinic tucked away in a remote corner of some South American country (or on the outskirts of Tijuana) has been able to achieve amazing cure rates for many usually highly fatal cancers for years, all without publishing any data and without attracting the attention of any Western medical or science institutions or media whatsoever, then you must be an altie.
  32. If seeing a company charge exhorbitant prices for herbs or other alternative medicine treatments doesn’t bother you in the least but you castigate pharmaceutical companies (which spend hundreds of millions of dollars and many years to get each new drug developed, tested, and approved) for price-gouging, you are very likely an altie.
  33. If you dismiss every well-designed randomized clinical study that fails to show a benefit for an alternative medicine or therapy over a placebo control as either not proving that the therapy is ineffective or as having been manipulated by nefarious forces (conventional medicine, the pharmaceutical companies, the government, etc.) to produce a negative result, you may well be an altie.
  34. If you call your backyard herb garden “the pharmacy”, you might be an altie.
  35. If you think skeptics are close-minded and paranoid with no possible exception and they’re all out to get you, you might be an altie.
  36. If you can go on and on for hours about how many people die from medical errors but become confused and defensive when someone mentions the victims of alternative medicine, you might be an altie.
  37. If you get sicker and sicker while taking echinacea but tell everyone you’re feeling better, you might be an altie.
  38. If you say your healer “is too busy people making people healthy” to conduct evidence-based trials but have never met a single person helped by them, you might be an altie.
  39. If you excuse your healer and other alternative medicine practitioners from conducting evidence-based clinical trials of their treatments on the grounds that there is no money to support well-designed clinical trials testing alternative medicine even though the yearly budget for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is over $120 million, you just might be an altie.
  40. If you believe that there really are herbal cures for diabetes and cancer, but the government forbids their sale because pharmaceutical companies need to make money from their “expensive drugs that don’t work,” there’s a good chance that you’re an altie.
  41. If you’ve read Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About and consider it to be truthful and chock full of useful medical information that you can’t wait to try out, you are without a doubt an altie.
  42. If you’ve actually forked out $499 for a lifetime membership to Kevin Trudeau’s website and consider it money well spent, you are without a doubt an altie. (And an easy mark, as well. Are you interested in some investments in land in Florida that I could hook you up with?)
  43. If you believe that chelation is a valid treatment for autism, Alzheimer’s disease, coronary artery disease, or any medical condition other than heavy metal poisoning properly documented with appropriate symptoms and laboratory tests, you are well on the way to being an altie; that is, if you’re not one already.
  44. If you think that vaccines do far more harm than good, you’re probably an altie.
  45. If you believe that the Mohammed Al-Bayati is a credible authority on pathology and does good science, you just might be an altie.
  46. If you think that HIV can be cured with herbal supplements that “boost the immune system,” you’re an altie.
  47. If you can look at a study that doesn’t mention alternative medicine and that actually points out that its results should cast doubt on claims of “miracle cures,” and still conclude that the study shows that alternative medicine can cure “incurable” cancers, you’re definitely an altie.
  48. If you speak of the AMA as if it were a government regulatory agency, you just might be an altie.
  49. If you believe that a “healthy” person’s shit literally doesn’t stink, you’re definitely an altie (I suspect the reason chlorophyll has a reputation as a “detoxifier” is that it’s actually an effective stool deodorizer).
  50. If you assert that dosage, mean dosage and standard deviation of dosage are all “pharm concepts” that aren’t relevant to your favorite remedy, you’re probably an altie.
  51. If you talk about the pH of the “body,” you’re either an altie or have access to a very large blender.
  52. If you’re standing at the blackboard writing,”HIV does not exist. HIV is harmless and does not cause AIDS. HIV is a genetically engineered bioweapon,” you’re the AltieBart.
  53. If your definition of “acceptable risk” is, “What the hell, let’s give it shot, what have we got to lose”? You might be an altie. (Apply this one to DaveScot.)
  54. If you “think” recommended dosages are for sissies, and that median ED/LD’s are best determined by experimentation on your child…you might be an altie.
  55. If you think shifting burden of proof onto someone who doesn’t have access to medical information on an unverifiable, unblinded, uncontrolled anecdote is the height of debate, you might be an altie.
  56. If you think someone pointing out your failed efforts to shift the burden of proof is “evasion,” you might be an altie.
  57. You might be an altie if you view cherry picking quotes from the abstracts available on pubmed to be the main duty description in your role as soldier in the war against vaccinations.
  58. You might be an altie if you cite a contentious review as gospel and declare victory over your imagined enemy (99.99% of the world) in the process.
  59. If you think that your kid is getting better when you dose him with something recommended by a “Defeat Autism Now!” doctor or Rashid Buttar because the kid grows pale, vomits, breaks out in a rash, loses hair, skin starts peeling and he has a serious change of fecal color or has a seizure and/or a high fever, you are probably John Best or one of his altie antivax buddies from the altie autism boards and the quacks just love you to bits.
  60. If you are like John Best and you refuse to see that your buddies are a quacks and liars who are ripping off parents, then you just mightbe delusional.
  61. If you write about Herxheimer reactions in autistic kids but you can’t spell “Herxheimer” you are probably Rashid (coffee enemas are our friends) Buttar.
  62. If you think you can put a paste of bloodroot on your skin that will eat a big hole through your flesh and that what is happening is really that cancer is being pulled out of your body and that the accompanying pain is necessary and better than what allopathic medicine would offer you, you are likely an altie.
  63. If you are saving up for your own Ondamed ™ device, you might be an altie.
  64. If you’ve ever grown/brewed your own jar/crock of “Kombucha tea”, yup, you’re an altie.
  65. If reading the words “” makes you break out in a cold sweat, you might be an altie.
  66. If you think moxabustion, high colonics and ear candling are really fun things to do, you’re probably an altie.
  67. If you named your child Mugwort, pretty good chance that you’re an altie.
  68. If you think natural is synonymous with good then you’re probably an altie.
  69. If you tell me not to touch my apple because it’s covered in pesticide while you’re eating a Big Mac, you may be an altie.
  70. If you buy your kids cokes while protesting against water fluridation, you may be an altie.
  71. If your grandmother never talks about the two children she lost as infants and you hear other family members and your friends talking about how dangerous immunization is and so you become concerned for the health of your children, you may be human.
  72. You might be an altie if even with overwhelming evidence that you might be wrong, you absolutely refuse to admit any error in your thinking.
  73. If you believe the soil depletion theory and stock up on megadoses of vitamins, you might be an Altie.
  74. If you believe that removing your amalgams will help your illness, you might be an Altie.
  75. If you believe that a clinic on a dirt road in Mexico can cure your cancer, you might be an Altie.
  76. If you believe that a Naturopath has more medical knowledge than a Medical Doctor, you might be an Altie.
  77. If you try every protocol found on the Internet to eliminate mercury/parasites/allergies, you might be an Altie.
  78. If you think medicine is organized, you ARE an altie.
  79. If your replies to skeptics start with “lol” there’s a preety good chance that you are an altie.
  80. If you try bazillions of cures until symptoms go away, then declare the last one to be a cure, you might be an altie.
  81. If you think researching a possible cure is a waste of time because you have to cure people right now with your shot in the dark, you might be an altie. (This one’s definitely DaveScot.)
  82. If you like to talk about some anonymous guy’s finances before you talk about a critical medical issue in a blog entry about that very critical medical issue, you might be an altie.
  83. If you think financial motivations alter the laws of thermodynamics, you might be an altie.
  84. If you complain about the chlorine in Splenda while putting salt on your dinner, you might be an altie.
  85. If you complain about Coca-Cola’s acidity while drinking a glass of orange juice, you might be an altie.
  86. If you believe the plural of anecdote is data you are probably an altie
  87. If you believe alternative and complementary therapies cannot adequately be studied using randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trials because they miss the essence of the therapy, as was recently suggested in an article in the BMJ, you are almost certainly an altie.
  88. If you have a conspiracy theory that requires the non-existence of doctors who are both compassionate and require double-blind control studies to make decisions, then you might be an altie.
  89. If you prefer to use the term “babies” to describe all children under the age of 10, there’s an outside chance you’re an altie.
  90. If your arguments tend to degenerate to comments about “baby poisoners” while never once considering the concept of “infant mortality rate”, the massive reduction in infant mortality in industrialized societies in the last 150 years, or what that means in the grand scheme of human happiness, you’re almost certainly an altie.
  91. If you’ve ever screamed “won’t somebody please think of the children?!”, you might be an altie.
  92. If you refuse to believe that any disease or condition could possibly cure itself or regress to a mean, that all improvements in health are driven by outside influences, while simultaneously describing the body’s own miraculous healing powers, you are an altie.
  93. If you don’t know that many diseases are caused by the immune system, under the term “autoimmune disorders”, and that “boosting” or “energizing” one’s immune system is the key to health and longevity, you might be on the path to being an altie.
  94. If you respond to skeptics by pointing out how Semmelweis was ridiculed for his ideas, you are probably an altie.
  95. f you don’t know the difference (or know that there is a difference) between ethylmercury and methylmercury, yet still claim you know that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism, you might be an altie.
  96. f you attribute the sudden, radical decline in polio incidence that occurred when the Salk vaccine was introduced to the fact that “polio rates were already declining anyway” … you may be an altie.
  97. If you believe that…
    — A worsening of symptoms proves your alt.therapy is “cleaning out the toxins”
    — An improvement in symptoms proves your alt.therapy has cured you
    — Unchanged symptoms prove your alt.therapy has “halted the progression of disease”… you may just be an altie.
  98. If you insist that “the flu shot gave you the flu,” and your evidence is that you got a “stomach flu” 3 months after getting the shot… you may be an altie.
  99. If you can utter or hear the words “psychic surgery” with a straight face… you could just possibly be an altie.
  100. If you believe that any efficacious treatment for anything ever could, or should, be 100% safe for everybody… you must be an altie.
  101. Corollary: If you believe that a drug/vaccine that saves 1,000,000 lives and kills 5 people is no better than rat poison… I’m afraid you might be an altie.
  102. If you believe that this makes logical sense:
    — My child did not get the pertussis vaccine.
    — Yet my child did not get pertussis.
    — Therefore, the pertussis vaccine is useless…
    … well, it looks like you might be an altie.
  103. (Corollary: If you react violently when someone suggests your children stay healthy because of the herd immunity bestowed by all those kids who did get the vaccines… you might be an altie.)
  104. If you refuse treatment for depression that is an understandable side-effect of your chronic, painful illness because you think receiving such treatment would mean admitting your illness is “all in your head” and you wouldn’t then be able to access further treatment for the disease itself, you might be an altie.
  105. If you believe your overweight or obesity is caused by “toxins” and take great pains to remove these toxins from your diet and home, while neglecting to look at whether you may simply need to eat less or get more exercise (or indeed check for underlying medical conditions like hypothyroidism), you might be an altie.
  106. If being seen to be right about your chosen theory or treatment is more important to you than recovering as much of your health as possible, you might be an altie.
  107. If you use the term “allopathic” without irony when referring to evidence based medicine.. you’re an altie!
  108. If you believe pro biotic yogurt cures measles.. you’re an altie.
  109. If you spout anti vax propaganda while relying on herd immunity to protect your(unvaccinated) children.. you’re an altie , and a selfish hippocrate to boot.
  110. If you believe polio was not wiped out by vaccination, and that FDR in fact had EPV .. you’re an altie ( and probably posting on
  111. If you believe chiro works.. you’re an altie.
  112. If your response to any criticism of your pet woo woo is- “allopathic medicine and evil big pharma kill 100,000 people a year”… you guessed it , there is absolutely no doubt that you are an altie.
  113. If you believe measles is harmless… altie
  114. If you believe enemas cure anything other than constipation… altie
  115. If you use the words- energy, vibrations and quantum when discussing vitamins/crystals/homeopathy etc.. altie through and through.
  116. If you believe carl sagan and james randi are members of the illuminati…. altie!
  117. You know you’re an altie when you are horrified that they are serving cookies and sweets in the chemo room because you know for certain that sugar feeds cancer…..and then you rant and rave about the wonders of juicing, that your off to drink a huge glass of beet juice (as if cancer can differentiate the types of sugar you are feeding it)
  118. If you think the bald assertion of the possible existence of completely unspecified logical fallacies is devastating to your opponent, you might be an altie.
  119. If you think that ridicule designed to highlight your logical fallacies is inherently immoral and fallacious, you might be an altie.
  120. If you think that skeptics should hold a straight face when dealing with your silliness, AND that they should be more emotional when they do keep a straight face, you might be an altie.
  121. If you think your “putting babies on spikes” treatment is legitimate because a handful of kids had an allergy to something in the widespread, successful evidence-based treatment/prevention, you might be an altie.
  122. If you think hydrogen, hydrogen ions, hydroxide ions, oxygen, ozone, water, and hydrogen peroxide are all the same and can be labelled the same because they all contain H’s or O’s, you might be an altie.
  123. Finally, if you are deeply offended by the above list, you just might be an altie!
  124. If you think that the Law of Attraction really is a law or The Secret actually works, you might be an altie.
  125. If you think that ancient people using nothing but herbs, witch-doctoring and an outdoor lifestyle lived long, disease-free lives, you might be an altie.
  126. If you refuse to believe that the chinese are turning away from TCM towards medicine that actually works, yup, Altie right there…
  127. If you think nicotine can be represented as a sine wave and that changing the frequency (they mean phase) to a cosine wave and resonating it into your body will stop you smoking…you are most definitely an altie.
  128. f you think that use of an herbal by “the ancients” or any other long-dead group of people constitutes evidence of effectiveness, you might be an altie.
  129. If you think the iron in blood makes it responsive to magnetic fields, you might be an altie.
  130. If you think human blood and seawater have exactly the same concentration of salt, you might be an altie.
  131. If you claim that placebo-controlled trials are an improper method of testing your claims, because they never show effectiveness for your claims, you might be an altie.
  132. f you believe that 1 in 2 aboriginal children died after vaccination unless they received IV vitamin C…
  133. If you believe that Shaken Baby Syndrome is a mis-diagnosis for vaccine injury that involves sub-clinical scurvy…
  134. If you believe that any viral infection, including measles and hepatitis, could be dramatically ‘cured’ by administering Vitamin C intravenously in big doses–provided that treatment was commenced early enough and continued for long enough…you could well be an altie.
  135. If you are unconcerned with the possibility that your preferred form of therapy might be a placebo effect because “the placebo effect” is simply another way of referencing the powerful mind-body connection, which is capable of altering or even creating material reality through intentional energy itself…then you might be an altie.
  136. f you think that basing medical treatments on evidence is “Dangerously Normative,” you might be an altie. (Can’t believe no one caught this one this year.)
  137. If you’ve ever said “Why are you so obsessed with the facts/reality/evidence?” you might be an altie.
  138. If replacing every instance of “Quantum,” “Quantum Mechanics,” and variants in your statements with “Magic” causes them to make more sense, you might be altie.
  139. If you don’t know the difference between Schroedinger’s Equation and Schroedinger’s Cat, you might be an altie.
  140. If you’ve ever began a post with “I’m/I was a skeptic too, but…” you might be an altie.
  141. If you believe that when Carl Sagan was giving his example of the invisible dragon in his garage that he was trying to illustrate that the dragon does exist, but science can’t detect it, so science is faulty, you might be an altie.
  142. If you treat the Prince of Wales as an authority on medicine, or for that matter anything but perhaps the British military and British history, you may be an altie.
  143. If you say that Evidence-Based Medicine is a “micro-fascism” then you might be an altie, and you’re definitely a pomo idiot.
  144. f you have ever bought a product that advertised itself as “chemical free”, you might be an altie. (Exceptions made if you are actually buying the one known chemical free product: A perfect vaccuum.)
  145. If you oppose food irradiation because you don’t want your strawberries to glow in the dark, you might be an altie (and you certainly don’t understand radiation).
  146. If you’ve ever bought a bracelet because it was “ionic”.
  147. If you think the magnetism from powerlines is killing you, but magnets in your insoles could save you, you’re almost certainly an altie.
  148. If you worry about your cell phone causing brain cancer, but still smoke, you might be an altie.
  149. If you turn off your cell phone at the gas station to keep it from exploding, but don’t put out your cigarette, you might be an altie.
  150. If you think condoms are useless against the transmission of AIDS because of the latex pores, you might be an altie… and almost certainly you’re a fundamentalist Catholic.
  151. If the pseudomedicine of your choice relies heavily on (supposed) flaws within the standard, scientifically accepted explanation, but has virtually no positive evidence supporting it, you might be an altie.
  152. If you use out-of-date research papers in support of your favorite alternative medicine, you might be an altie.
  153. If you believe that promotion of sexual abstinence among teens actually works, you could be an altie, but it’s almost sure that you are a Republican.
  154. If you wave the credentials of a woo as a proof for some claim, but when someone points out the lack of qualification of the woo in the field being discussed you say arguments matter, and not credentials, you’re an altie and maybe a bigot and a moron.
  155. Or if you consider the criticism towards the woo’s credentials as ad hominem, you are an altie.
  156. You might be an Altie if you know what a vortex is.
  157. Or if you’ve ever stood on a vortex naked. Wearing crystals. Chanting.
  158. If you’ve ever said “I went to a conference on healing in Sedona.”
  159. If you think that putting a clean IV in you in the hospital so you can proven receive life-saving medication is evil, but putting a potentially dirty IV in you so you can receive disproved chelation in an unregulated altie clinic is wonderful.
  160. Or if you think EDTA is evil when a food preservative but is beautiful when mainlined in an IV.
  161. You want your cardiologist to re-cath you to prove the chelation therapy dissolved your coronary blockages.
  162. You’ve ever approach families of kids with Down Syndrome in the grocery store to inform them that vitamins and swimming with dolphins cures mental retardation, then you’re not just an altie but an insensitive clod.
  163. If you can read more than ten to twenty strips of The Chelation Kid without needing to go lie down for a bit, you are surely an altie.
  164. If you think the only doctor you ever need to see is a nutritionist, then you’re definitely an altie.
  165. If you think that an alternative method is backed by science if a university department that has nothing to do with medicine (and therefore does not have the necessary credentials to evaluate any kind of therapeutic method), offers courses in that alternative method, well you might be an altie.
  166. You might be an altie if you relentlessly harass your offspring for taking medication you assume isn’t necessary, and then when they get worse after abandoning it at your request, your reaction is to send them long-distance reiki
  167. You might be an altie if your response to my production of several Pubmed studies of homeopathic remedies which quite clearly show them not to work is to cross your arms and say, “Homoeopathy works.” And if you do this again after I show you the tape of Randi swallowing a whole bottle of homeopathic sleeping pills, you are with 0.999 certainty an altie. And if you do this AGAIN after I repeat said swallowing stunt in front of you, you are irredeemably altie – and don’t deserve a place in higher education.
  168. You may be an altie if…
    * you like to rely on the “wisdom” of the ancients to heal illness while ignoring the fact that life spans were shorter then.
    * you think there’s some difference between natural compounds and synthetic compounds, even if they are exactly the same compound.
    * your treatment of choice involves a deity/unspecified higher power.
    * you think water has a “memory” of more than a few picoseconds.
    * you believe it’s possible to live a chemical free lifestyle without involving a total vacuum.
    * you believe that stars/planets actually care about your illnesses (or anything else, for that matter).
    * you focus mainly on the large intestine, regardless of what symptoms you are experiencing and where. (Or… you believe that every disease springs from one single organ in the body.)
    * you underestimate the ability of the large intestine to keep itself clean and unobstructed in healthy people. (Peristalsis? Never heared of it…)
    * you believe that oxygen can be absorbed into the bloodstream through routes other than the lungs.
    * you complain about BigPharma being money grabbing and corrupt for selling medicines that “don’t work”, yet have no problem selling a bottle of sugar pills containing animal blood that has been diluted into non existance for high prices.
    * you are afraid of all forms of EM radiation, yet you have no problems with it when using light therapy.
  169. You might be an altie if you can’t stand me taking pills in front of you, but you’re perfectly happy to agree with the lady selling “angel stones” because there’s no reason not to. You are an altie if you equate her fluffy ideas with scientific hypotheses, and especially if you tell me she has more “positive energy” than me, and that is why she is well and I am not.
  170. And, of course, if you think unprovable notions are “good enough”, that I disagree with you because all skeptics are assholes who take pleasure in ruining the faith of good people like you, and evidence is just the obsession of nasty people like me, you are an altie. Irreconcilably.

Thanks to all who contributed to the list over the years. Again, I know that its sheer size makes it difficult, but please, feel free to post more “You just might be an altie” items in the comments! Come on, folks, don’t you like a challenge? Don’t let me down. Get me more “You just might be an altie…” items. Give them to me in the comments! Let’s see how many “You might be an altie” items we can come up with! We should at least be able to push this list over 200.

Maybe next time it won’t take me more than a year to post a new and updated iteration of “What is an altie?/You might just be an altie if.” Or maybe I’ll wait two or three years, given how big this list has become. I don’t know. What I do know is that I couldn’t have done it without you.

Finally, apologies to Rich Shewmaker, who originated the list.

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]

39 replies on “What is an “altie”?”

If you claim that the only valid controlled trial must have placebo as the control, you may be an altie.

If you claim that some single chemotherapy agent that doesn’t work for one specific cancer proves that “CHEMO DOESN’T WORK” for other agents and other cancers, you may be an altie, particularly if you yell about it like I quoted you doing.

If you think something homebrewed for your illness is to be prefered over something chemical from the pharmaceutical industry, you might be on your way, to become an altie.

If you think the only justification needed for using a treatment is “people have used it for thousands of years”, you might just be an altie.

If you say the same thing about a treatment that hasn’t existed for more than a few decades at most, you might just be an altie.

If you believe a treatment must work because it was invented in a specific geographic location (i.e. ‘Eastern’ medicine), you might just be an altie.

If you think Battlefield Acupuncture is more effective than morphine for pain control during an austere environment evac.


I had forgotten all about CureZone.

So have most people it seems, but there remain a few dedicants among the tumbleweeds.

You just might be an “Altie” if you believe that climbing Mount Everest has healing properties.

If you think correlation equals causation when you hear autism-onset-after-vaccination anecdotes, but you think correlation doesn’t equal causation when shown massive evidence that there’s no correlation between vaccines and autism….

If you use the word “qi” in discussing somebody’s health, you might be an altie.

Regarding item #156, I actually do know what a vortex is, and I don’t think that word means what alties who use it think it means. Yet another physics term of art that, like “quantum”, has been coopted by the alt-med crowd.

If you think you can cure anything by pumping coffee up your arse, then you’re an arse yourself altie…

#129 only works if you’re Magneto
(Warning: could be considered an icky scene

Also, if you trust sites like Natural News, InfoWars, and, but not the CDC, you may be an altie. Or conspiracy theorist. But I repeat myself.

You might be an Altie if you follow the advice of woo-soaked loons via the internet or radio….

( On the Null front:
it seems he’s still on WBAI. They even repeat his infomercials to raise cash ..

Altie bashers can possibly have some fun with him and his staff because he says he’ll answer questions on air if you submit them to prnstudio@gmail ( not sure if that’s upper or lower case/ spaces or not as I heard it on the computer). He has a youngster to read the questions to him.
RI folk can probably think or many questions for him
website gary’s vitamin


You are correct in that believing climbing Everest has no healing properties. Few climbers of Everest (and other high mountains) walk away without physical damage to their bodies.

However, training for high altitude can help your body in many ways. My highest climbing elevation so far is only 17,000 feet but I was in the best shape of my life.

I had plans for hiking some 22,000 foot passes in Nepal in the next few years. Life events have a strange way of changing ones plans.

I have decided to retire to Chiang Mai, Thailand in January, which is a large change but an even larger change is that I have a young woman that will be sharing my and her life with each other.

You may be an altie if you believe the advice of a materialistic natural nutritionist (I still haven’t figured out what this really is).

I had forgotten all about CureZone.

At least Reddit has preserved the basic interface.

It’s sad that the only things on that list that feel really dated are Hulda Clarke (who has since died of AIDS) and Kombucha being way way out of the mainstream.
These days kombucha is weird and crunchy, but it’s not particularly “out there”.

From the list, my sister is definitely an altie, and anti-vaccine to boot. Thank goodness I don’t see her too much, though I sincerely hope that she doesn’t harm my niece too much with her silliness. My late mother also was, and that definitely played a part in her death from cancer last year. So was my father, he was really deep down the TCM rabbit hole, but despite all his woo he still wound up in the care of real doctors and conventional medicine when he had a stroke two years ago. Seems I’m the only one in my immediate family who isn’t one. While Mrs. Coward has some proclivities it seems she’s still more into science-based medicine than not. In fact she has kept me from slipping down the rabbit hole of alt-med more than once.

If you insist that modern medicine ignores prevention of disease while being antivaccine, you might be an altie.
If you believe that refined grains are bad for your health while you practice juicing, you might be an altie.
If you believe that a US federal government report stated that only 15% of medical interventions are scientifically based, you might be an altie (see

Essential oils. Can I tell you how many times a day I hear parents telling me about essential oils? They are essential for nothing, are untested, and I’ve seen them trigger asthma (including mine) and cause blistering skin reactions.

CureZone, like other message boards has fallen on hard times due to social media competition. Why post your “detox” experiences there when there are a bunch of detox groups on Facebook (for example)?

You might be an altie if you obsess over minute traces of “toxic” glyphosate in wine, but think the wine itself is miraculously toxin-free.

You just might be an “Altie” if you believe that ORAC is an acronym for—->Our Rights and Cures.

You might be an altie if… think doctors cannot be trusted because they are secretly paid shills for big pharma, while, simultaneously, see no conflict at all when a naturopath sells supplements directly from their offices.

If you obsess over any one thing as the root cause of multiple issues, you might be an altie.

If you have every bent a spoon with your “mind” to prove Reiki works, you might be an altie.

Rebecca @18: Oh goodness! You’re right. I got her confused with someone else.
Note to self, double check before posting.

You may be an altie if you say: “A couple of hundred years ago, people thought the earth was flat and now they accept it is a sphere, so give it time and people realise … (fill in the idea you prefer) is true.”
Read this in an interview with a breatharian.

Renate (#27) writes,

A couple of hundred years ago, people thought the earth was flat and now they accept it is a sphere…

MJD says,

How do you know those people now accept it as a sphere?

They’ve been dead for over a century.

You just might be an “Altie” if you believe that dead people can change their mind. 🙂

MJD says –

You just might be an “Altie” if you believe that ORAC is an acronym for—->Our Rights and Cures.

Citation, please, that there is anyone, anywhere, who at any time in the entire course of human history has believed this.

In a related factoid, there is nowhere on the planet where they ever called the wind ‘Mariah’.

Renate@27: The thing is, people N centuries ago (for values of N as high as the low 20s) knew the Earth was round. A clever fellow by the name of Eratosthenes even determined its circumference, and came within about 1% of the modern accepted value, which is pretty good considering the technology he had available. That people before Columbus thought the world was flat is a myth invented in the 19th century.

The real reason Columbus had trouble getting funding for his first expedition was that potential funders thought, correctly, he was using a lowball estimate of the circumference of the Earth. Luckily for his Spanish backers, there turned out to be a previously unknown continent about the same distance west of Europe as Columbus claimed Asia would be.

@ Eric
I knew that, but it appeared, the guy using this comparison, to defend his completely ridiculous ideas on not needing any food (well the guy states he eat a bit if his emotions lead him to it) doesn’t know, or doesn’t care.

These days kombucha is weird and crunchy, but it’s not particularly “out there”.

Weird, maybe, but delicious. I’ve always enjoyed it as a beverage and have never known anybody who claimed it to be a “miracle cure” or something.

I even have friends who make their own. I like Derek’s brew; he usually includes some type of fruit, like mango, and seems to have a good touch with it. My friend Andy makes kombucha from the same “mother,” but I find that his usually comes out tasting too sour for me.

The only time I had Kombucha and really didn’t like it was when I decided to buy the kind with chia seeds in it. Blech. It was about like what I imagine drinking frog eggs would be like.

I will pile on to defend kombucha. Not really an altie thing, just a beverage of “acquired taste.”

But JP, the chia seeds make it look as cool as Bubble Tea!

Yeah, but Bubble Tea is actually good.

There was a Bubble Tea place by Pinball Pete’s in Ann Arbor; I used to stop there and get a big tea (with bubbles, of course, I think I usually got the strawberry milk tea) and then take a twenty dollar bill to Pinball Pete’s and play pinball and retro arcade games for like an hour, then take the rest of the quarters home for laundry.

My friend Eugene and I also used to love to go there and get Bubble Tea when we were high. Mostly, though, we used to stock up on lots of fruit beforehand – watermelon and cherries in particular, if memory serves. (He has chronic pancreatitis, so he can’t really have junk food with lots of fat in it or anything.)

He did used to buy this aloe based drink and share it with me; he bought it specifically because it looked so cool in a glass, with little aloe pieces floating around in the mixture.

We initially bonded over teaching Russian together during the summers. But then we segued into hanging out and walking the dog and getting high and watching movies and… trying to have geo-political conversations. This generally deteriorated into giggles, and then at some point his girlfriend (they’re engaged now) would come home and be like “you two are ridiculous” and go in the bedroom to study for the GRE. (She’s in grad school for linguistics now.)

If you think drinking coffee is terrible for your health but putting it up your arse is a wonder cure…

If you send your child to a Waldorf school, there’s a good chance you’re an altie…

The face of M.H.A has changed over the years. The Altie is the rare person that shows up only to have their claims debunked with logic, data and carefully constructed criticisms based on evidence and even more evidence,

It had change since this was written

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