We have an active comments section on our blog, but for some reason some people prefer not to comment there, but to send personal e-mails to authors when they disagree. Some of them make me laugh. Some of them make me despair. We can carry on our struggle better if we know what we are fighting; and in that spirit, I want to describe a recent e-mail exchange.
If an e-mail is filled with angry CAPITALS and abusive language, I know there is no point in responding. But I still get suckered in by the ones that start out sounding as if a productive dialog might be possible; unfortunately, discussions almost always degenerate. In this case, it started with a polite request for my opinion about a specific study.
Note: I have not corrected the many spelling/punctuation/grammar errors in my correspondent’s e-mails. Why is it that so many of scientific medicine’s critics can’t or won’t bother to write proper English? In case you are wondering, English is this woman’s native language and she is a college graduate.
The initial e-mail was in response to the article I wrote about ASEA, a diet supplement described as a “life-changing” health aid. The email said:
Have you seen this?
Just was wondering if you think he is not telling the truth?
2. Summary of North Carolina Research Institute double blinded study plus significant new research results(17 min): http://vimeo.com/asea/review/50788371/b2d2c857e8
I very much appreciate your opinion.
The video was from an ASEA company meeting/pep rally; a researcher was describing his unpublished research.
I told her I wouldn’t waste my time on a video but would wait until he published his findings in a peer-reviewed journal. I said I would assume he was telling the truth as he sees it. I explained that even published findings are wrong about half the time, and that if ASEA is effective, it will take an accumulating body of well-designed research with replications to convince me and the scientific community.
I believe he is very well know guy and only does research as he is head of the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University.
Do you think he can afford messing and lying???
Do you ?? he will lose his job. !
Where do you work?
I should have realized at this point that it would be a wasted effort, but I tried to answer her questions. I pointed out that I did not think he was “messing and lying.” I explained that even the best scientists do studies whose results are overturned by better studies by other researchers. I explained the collaborative process of peer review, replication, and eventual consensus. I pointed out that scientists who only report their results in videos are bypassing that process.
I told her I was a retired family physician and warned her against the appeal to authority fallacy. It doesn’t matter who a person is; what matters is what they say.
However I feel that your site is very negative, and your commenst are based on no facts nor science either.
You do not acgnolage the fact that there is a good company with a good product which is trying to get all the necessary research they need to exactely get to that point . And as you pointed out below that will take time; but they will get there.
In the menatime the product is sold well as it obvioulsy helps, otherwise it would not sell so well and it does not need scinetific proove to work well does it? .
Getting back to your first email however I felt that your respons was ignorant and sarcastic.
And that’s why I did ask … where do you work. ? Simply to compare your excpertise with such from the head of the North Carolina Research Institute !
Simply as I did not see a response coming from a creditable source.
However your last response I can very well live with and I very much thank you for such.
I responded: How would you feel about a drug company selling a pharmaceutical before they had done any research? The FDA doesn’t allow that. Why should there be a double standard?
And the idea that the product “obviously helps” may well be a false conclusion — the history of medicine is full of things that seemed to help but really didn’t. For instance, for centuries people believed that bloodletting “obviously helped,” until testing showed that it did more harm than good. Paul Ingraham has a good list on PainScience.com of other strange and obviously harmful or useless medical treatments that were once popular — obvious to anyone now, and probably to some skeptics at the time.
Her agenda became more clear with her next e-mail:
Dear Hariette [I was intrigued that she managed to insert three spelling errors into my name at one fell swoop, dropping an r and adding both a t and an e.]
Well how many of the so called medicine is harmful and is still being used? And not removed from the marked. How much was used and created damaged children in Mothers’ wombs.
However everything that comes out of a large Pharmaceutical company seems to be ok in the eyes of everyone. To me everything that is natural does help, plants are very intelligent and all we need is in front us even growing at our doorstep, but the big “guy “ want the money so they change it around.. Remember the case in south’s Africa where farmers where able to grow their own medicine for aids then the big guys come along and want to sell the expensive version made by them, they also arranged to forbid framers to keep growing the natural version. Would you support such behaviour?
Dr Nieman has found that ASEA is less toxic than water, what type of medicine can make that statement! In addition the bovis amount was measured and is also is very high.
Just look at GMo food
+ microwaves its harmful to us and the environment but still on the market, so how can I trust the so called testing institutes?
In addition I have three doctors that have tested the ASEA well for me… that’s why I am taking it. With a method you would not approve but the only one I do accept. Called applied Kinesiology and a computer that works on your meridians. I am using my body to tell me what is good for me or my cat, as they can be trusted.
In Russian hospitals they heal people from cancer with Grabovoi and Petrov methods, but would your institute approve.?
Look at the vaccine, your institutes allow stuff in vaccines that are very harmful to children e.g. vaccine grows on cancer cells and GMO cells. How will the children’s children who got the GMO vaccines look after their birth ? As you know there is also Mercury in the vaccine does your institute take it out? No ? Why? Cause they are too scared going against the big guys. As they have the money..
Look at the vaccine study about mercury … the first study said its harmful, the pharmaceutical company said to the guy: no not good do it again. He changed it w, but as still not good enough and the third one which said Mercury is actually good for children was published. That doc was promoted to a high job in Brussels. In similar cases where the docs don’t do what they are told, they have lost jobs…. So you want to tell me I can trust your testing methods ?
And bloodletting can be good, its depending on the problem you have and what type of person you are again, again you need to ask your body computer for what’s best to you. .
Medicine is every person responsibility. Do not just trust some test manipulated you also need to trust your body.
Please excuse my long email but I feel you are taking this matter from a single point only which often is manipulated by the big guys.
At this point I knew there was no chance of reaching her with science or reason. She is obviously a true believer in several areas of nonsense and misinformation. Our readers will readily recognize the many things wrong with her thinking, but I’ll highlight just a few:
- Paranoia and conspiracy theories
- Wrong facts (for instance, vaccines don’t contain mercury and are not grown on GMO cells, and the statements about AIDS in Africa are blatant lies).
- The natural fallacy (“plants are intelligent”?!)
- She completely fails to understand the need for scientific studies. My example of bloodletting went right over her head.
- She doesn’t trust “your testing methods” yet she cites ASEA tests done by those methods as trustworthy.
- Her “doctors” have tested her response to ASEA with applied kinesiology and a computer that works on your meridians!
- She believes it is already established that ASEA works and that it is OK to market it before scientific testing. She expects the research to prove to the satisfaction of others that it works; she sees no need for research to ask if it works. She didn’t respond to my point about the double standard. Would she accept a prescription drug on the basis of the kind of evidence available for ASEA? I suspect not.
This time I didn’t answer her. I would have had to write a book-length answer to address all her errors adequately, and even then she would probably not be able to understand — or would not want to understand. Her worldview is just too different from mine.
Then she sent me an “FYI” e-mail with a link to an article claiming that microwave cooking is killing people. It isn’t. And even if it were, that would hardly be any support for the effectiveness of ASEA.
People who are gullible enough to fall for applied kinesiology and meridians and electrodiagnosis with biofeedback machines are not likely to listen to any arguments from science or reason. ASEA is salt water, but she wants to believe it is something more. She is an educated woman, with a diploma in engineering; but she is hopelessly ignorant about medicine and science. We can’t hope to give people like her a complete education in science and critical thinking; we are not writing for the handicapped: the “true believers” who lack critical thinking skills. I can only hope she will keep reading SBM and eventually start to question some of her beliefs. I am not optimistic.
Science-based medicine is chipping away at a mountain of ignorance, misinformation, and misunderstanding. Like Sisyphus, we laboriously push the boulder of science and reason up the hill only to see it roll right back down again. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
This article was originally published in the Science-Based Medicine Blog.