The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Deepak Chopra - Facepalm!

Once again, over at that bastion for woo, the Huffington Post, Deepak Chopra penned a tremendously stupid piece of ill-informed tripe. I shall begin the fisking, as it so deserves to be fisked:
The tone of the (Newsweek) article was the same tiresome blend of gotcha journalism and selective fact-reporting that fills tabloid coffers.
No, no, no, just because you do not like what is being said doesn't make it "gotcha journalism". Newsweek called out Winfrey because she promotes bullshit like The Secret, Suzanne Somers' insane pill-fiesta, and Jenny McCarthy's ignorantly arrogant anti-vaccine campaign to kill children. The "gotcha" here is that it took too long to get Oprah as cornered as she is currently.
And the fact that she has celebrity guests who have causes and crusades in the area of health, such as Jenny McCarthy or Suzanne Somers, is not the same as Oprah herself endorsing what they say.
This is tremendous bullshit. Oprah endorses a book, it goes to number one. She says a product is good, it flies off the shelves. Her audience is loyal, unquestioning and looks at her for their opinions - and as a meaningless anecdote, I have first-hand experience arguing with several of her minions and vouch for my own facts. Nyah nyah nyah.
...if people still trusted the health care industry to act in their best interest the way they did decades ago, then it would be unnecessary to brand Oprah for "crazy talk" simply because she occasionally provides a forum for ideas outside of mainstream medicine.
Again, no, no, no. She doesn't just "provide a forum", she makes these people stars. Dr. Phil, Rachel Ray, and next up is Jenny McCarthy. The Secret has sold over 100 million copies. Having Oprah give you time is as good as money in the bank from uncritical, easily led viewers.
Instead, we got a response from an oncologist in Canada repeating the establishment position: alternative treatments of cancer are bogus, subjectivity has no place in science, "soul talk" about illness is rubbish. This is exactly the kind of dismissive arrogance that drives millions of people away from conventional doctors.
My main problem here is Chopra's use of the term "dismissive arrogance". The doctors I check with are quite careful of their examinations of the studies and, in all honesty, would be intrigued if there was an actual effect found with any so-called "alternative" treatment. The reason Chopra's pet ideas are said to be "bogus" is because after looking at them, they fail time and time again to show any promise or efficacy. It is one thing to casually flip off something that may have use, it is quite another to continue down a wrong road decades after someone has shown you correct directions.
Scientific medicine by and large ignores wellness, prevention, and alternative medicine in general...As long as official medicine, backed by huge pharmaceutical companies, denies the existence of the problem, much less alternative solutions, the movement will remain patient-centered and the attitude toward alternative medicine will be one of unfounded disdain, suspicion, and ignorance on the part of physicians.
1. Science-based medicine does NOT ignore wellness and prevention. Saying this betrays an amazing ignorance of his own former profession. 2. The Big Pharma conspiracy shit has to stop. No one is arguing that huge pharmaceutical companies push drugs on doctors to give to patients, but not all the doctors are buying. Listen to Mark Crislip when he points out that the drug companies have amazing scientists doing great work, but then that work goes to scumbag businessmen and salespeople who foist it on the marketplace. That needs to change, but - and it is a large but - the care of science-based medicine is generally patient centered and not a dripping cesspool of corruption like Chopra and his ilk would have you believe.

Chopra then mentions positively this study which was demolished by both Steven Novella and the "oncologist in Canada", David Gorski, who both use better logic, more common sense, and, you This is embarrassing for Chopra who really should know better.
Iatrogenic disease, roughly defined as illness that results as a complication from a doctor's care, leads to between 230,000 to 284,000 deaths every year
Tu quoque much, Deepak? Again, no one is saying that science-based medicine is perfect or free from iatrogenic disease/screw-ups. That, in no way, makes acupuncture or any other "alternative" therapy valid.
Their (science-based doctors) own lack of curiosity and creative thinking is disturbing. Does the most brilliant researcher in the world know why cancer sometimes spontaneously disappears? Why a patient with obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression can respond equally well to talk therapy and drugs -- that is, why talk is as effective as chemicals in altering the brain? Or how the body's healing system is influenced by outside forces?
Man, this is like a "spot the logical fallacy" game. Oh, oh! I know! False dichotomy! Just because medical scientists and/or doctors do not know how or why something works is no reason to trust in people with no evidence or plausibility. "You can't show me every step in evolutionary history, therefore Intelligent Design is correct". Please try again. We have some fabulous parting gifts for you.
Scientific medicine is leery of so-called anecdotal evidence, that is, individual stories of disease and cure. Their skepticism is rational and well-founded...But Oprah is letting individuals tell their stories for other, positive reasons: to share their pain, to reach out to others in the same circumstance, to provide hope.
I call bullshit. Oprah lets people like McCarthy, Somers, and The Secret peddlers on her show to passionately give their product air-time. As stated above, Oprah's influence is tremendous and for Chopra to ignore this is disgraceful and dishonest.
The article sneers at the popular movement linking autism with childhood vaccination, yet current understanding looks at autism as a complex, multi-factorial condition in which some cases could be influenced by an outside factor like a vaccine.
"Could be"!? This is just sad. Chopra has moved so far from rational thought here that it is almost as though he has devolved into some sort of sponge-like creature with no brain. Perhaps he, like Oprah and Jenny McCarthy/Jim Carrey, need a bit of a reminder of why we vaccinate. I would also suggest listening to Mark Crislip's Quackcast defending vaccinations where he says that, "the only greening coming from not vaccinating will be the grass growing on the graves of dead children." There is NO EVIDENCE AT ALL that autism is caused IN ANY WAY by vaccinations. Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey are idiots. The end.
One fears that all of these arguments will fall on deaf ears, because the schism between official and alternative medicine runs deep -- deep enough that the average physician doesn't bother even to skim the thousands of studies that bolster alternative claims.
Could it be that this is the Santa Claus problem? Once you wait by the chimney for 20+ years for the jolly old elf with nothing to show but rug-prints on your cheeks from falling asleep on the floor, are you really that expectant on the 35th year? Why skim studies purportedly showing that acupuncture works when you can be pretty much guaranteed that the controls were lax, the design flawed, and the experimenters biased? The well-controlled, blinded, placebo-including studies show that a modality like acupuncture is just not viable. Sorry. It's done, so toss it aside and let's see what else is out there.
This study suggests a human connection rather than a biological one. Or rather, human distress leads to biological distress. Doctors don't officially believe that; millions of ordinary citizens do.
Oh, well, if that many ordinary citizens believe it, it must be true. How many people believe that the iron in your blood will be attracted to a magnet? I bet you could convince Oprah. Once that happens, BAM!, you've got 30 million others who will likely believe it too. That doesn't change the fact that it is wrong and that magnets have no medical value (other than MRI, obviously).
Patients aren't supposed to know more than their physicians. The fact that they often do, at least insofar as alternative treatment goes, is both a sign of hope and cause for distress.
No, it is a sign that a degree from Google University is essentially worthless. It is like learning a black belt form in karate when you just walk in off the street. Sure, now you know a black belt kata, but do you really know more than the brown belt student who studied that particular style for years? You have no idea why your arm is in that position, why your foot is there precisely, or why you have to turn your wrist in that particular manner. Knowing about "alternative treatments" is no great feat; most are worthless, which is why they are "alternative" in the first place. "Alternative" can be exchanged with "implausible", "unproven", or in most cases, "disproven".

It is sad that so many people think that Deepak Chopra is a deep thinker with new ideas when he is really just mired in gobbledegook and new age babbling that means nothing. His understanding of what makes a good scientific study seems to be less than mine, and I'm a goddamn massage therapist with an English degree. He should be ashamed of himself - but, then again, he is rolling in that alt-med phat cash, so maybe it is me that should be getting on that bandwagon with him.

Nah, I like being able to look myself in the mirror.

(tip o' the horns to Rebecca Watson)

1 Barbaric Yawps:

At 10/6/09 9:07 am, Anonymous Tony said...

Well said Mike.


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