Alt-med purveyors show their true colors

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Jan. 25 2010 10:17 AM

Alt-med purveyors show their true colors

At some level, I understand the motivations of people who promote "alternative medicine". They may very well be altrustic, seeing what they perceive as a massive failing of so-called Western medicine, and feeling strongly that they know how to fix the situation, if only people would seek alternatives. I know that when I feel strongly enough about an issue, I feel morally obligated to speak up.

The problem is that for a lot of this so-called alternative medicine, there is no evidence it works, and in fact evidence it doesn't work. Worse, a lot of its biggest purveyors actively try to denigrate real medicine, the stuff that, y'know, works, in an attempt to bolster their alt-med claims. And you have to be a little suspicious when they hawk their wares on their sites, too.

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Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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So I question the motivations of some of these people, including one Mike Adams, about whom I wrote a couple of days ago. When called out for what is apparently voter fraud for a Twitter Shorty Award, he threw an epic tantrum that displays a decided lack of grip on reality (assuming he honestly believes what he's selling). After that fact-free diatribe he followed up with a rant about skeptics that's so far off the mark that it's hard to believe anyone could post something like that honestly. Steve Novella takes him down on that one.

And as if these word spasms from Adams weren't enough, he posted a third article where he completely gets science wrong, claiming water and quantum mechanics are magic, and then a fourth about the Shorty Awards where he once again ramps up the paranoid conspiracy theories.

Sigh. The irony is that he makes my job easy since he's self-debunking, but also makes it harder because so many people swallow what he says whole without even giving it a moment of critical thought.

Joe Mercola, the other "victim" professing to have the vapors over this Shorty Award nonsense, decided to jump into the fray as well. Instead of using facts -- because why start now? -- he thought it was a good idea to say that Rachael Dunlop is fat:

An arrogant group of science bloggers that have vilified me for the past few years have started a campaign to have an Australian shill to win a health award on Twitter. This overweight non-physician has arrogantly bashed nearly every alternative therapy and encourages reliance on drugs.

Rachael is a woman who has tirelessly fought quackery and the dangerous wares of many alt-med purveyors, and of course Adams and Mercola are squarely in her crosshairs. She has called out many an antivaxxer, and was a key player in the travesty involving Dana McCaffery (an infant who died of pertussis) and Meryl Dorey, an antivaxxer who claims no one dies from pertussis anymore.

So when faced with someone like Rachael who has years of experience and who wields science, evidence, and reality, Mercola decided to stick out his tongue and call her fat.

Wow, folks. There's your alt-med hero.

And yes, I am engaging in an ad hominem, an attack directed at someone instead of their arguments. But it's not always wrong to do so; in this case Steve Novella, Orac, Rachael, and many others, including me, have already shown that people like Mercola and Adams are full of it. But sometimes that's not enough. I think it does a lot of good to see how vile these people can be, and something like this is not only warranted, but needed, especially when these alt-medders set themselves up to be victims, claiming to be sympathetic and only wanting to help. They don't help; they hurt.

Look. We're not talking about goofy nonsense like ghost-hunting or UFOs here. We're talking about people's lives. Alt-medders like Adams and Mercola reject treatments that we know to work, that we know can cure illnesses, that we know can relieve pain and suffering on a massive scale, and that we know can save lives. That's what you're turning your back on when you listen to them.

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