Thoughts from the ever-quotable Dr. Harriet A. Hall
On the vaccine–autism manufactroversy. . .
There is no vaccine–autism controversy. The evidence is in. The scientific community has reached a clear consensus that vaccines don’t cause autism. There is, however, a manufactroversy—a manufactured controversy—created by junk science, dishonest researchers, professional misconduct, outright fraud, lies, misrepresentations, irresponsible reporting, unfortunate media publicity, poor judgment, celebrities who think they are wiser than the whole of medical science, and a few maverick doctors who ought to know better.
On being a skeptic. . .
I’m an equal opportunity skeptic. I’m skeptical about alternative medicine, pseudoscience, and quackery; but I apply the same standards of skepticism to conventional medicine. I don’t write about conventional medicine so much, because I don’t need to. Science itself is inherently skeptical and scientific medicine is self-criticizing and self-correcting. When better evidence comes along medical practices change.
On alternative medicine. . .
Alternative medicine embraces many things: treatments that have never been tested or have not been adequately tested; treatments that have been tested and shown not to work; treatments that are based on nonexistent phenomena such as human energy fields and acupoints; treatments such as homeopathy that would violate established scientific knowledge; and treatments that have been proven to work but that mainstream doctors have good reasons not to recommend.
On the pseudoscience of chiropractic. . .
Chiropractic theory is based on three principles: (1) bony displacement causes all disease; (2) displacement interferes with nerve function; (3) removing the interference allows Innate (a vitalistic force) to heal the body. All three of these principles are false.
On organic choices. . .
Sometimes locally grown foods that are not technically ‘organic’ are a better choice. We should ask questions rather than reflexively buy ‘organic.’
On acupuncture. . .
There were originally 360 acupuncture points (based on the number of days of the year rather than on anatomy). Currently more than 2000 acupuncture points have been ‘discovered,’ leading one wag to comment that there was no skin left that was not an acupuncture point.
More on acupuncture. . .
Studies have shown that acupuncture releases natural opioid pain relievers in the brain: endorphins. Veterinarians have pointed out that loading a horse into a trailer or throwing a stick for a dog also releases endorphins. Probably hitting yourself on the thumb with a hammer would release endorphins too, and it would take your mind off your headache.
On detoxification. . .
People who want to ‘detoxify’ often don’t have any idea what ‘toxins’ they’re talking about. They may vaguely believe that modern life contaminates us with lots of bad things that we ought to get rid of. It’s reminiscent of religious fasting and purification rites.
On fake news. . .
Journalists have codes of ethics, and these fake news stories clearly violate them. I understand that newspapers need advertising income. But I can’t condone the newspapers’ disguising ads as news stories and making it hard for readers to distinguish real news from fake news. They are deliberately misleading their customers with false information about health. Shame on them!