The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense

Chrispian Jago at The Reason Stick, famous for his Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense, now attempts to show the interrelation of pseudo-scientific and pseudo-medical nonsense through a venn diagram:

Click twice to embiggen.

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  • -in

    I am unable to find any reference to the mysteries of quantum mechanics; perhaps these fall under a category of “rational nonsense” or “irrational fact.”

    Someday, we will create dull, efficient, thoroughly logical robotic humans that can be programmed to no longer entertain thoughts of any of the nonsense in the diagram and, finally, conclude our evolutionary journey.

    • Michael

      You seem to be implying several things here, including the following:
      1. That quantum mechanics is irrational or nonsensical.
      2. That it is better to believe some things true which you would know were false if you bothered to check.
      3. That it is impossible to have emotional reactions without believing things that are factually untrue.

      I’d like to see you substantiate any of those.

      • kessy_athena

        1. Quantum Mechanics *is* irrational and nonsensical, and has broken the brains of much smarter people then you or me in trying to understand it.

        2. Just because something has been labeled as “unscientific bollocks” by the self described skeptical community does not mean that there is sufficient contrary evidence to justify considering it definitely false. And “It doesn’t fit into my worldview, therefore it obviously can’t exist,” is not a valid argument. And it’s definitely far better to believe that some things that have not been demonstrated one way or the other might be true then to be utterly convinced that anything not approved as atheist dogma is stupidity that would only be considered by crazy people.

        • Michael

          1. Just because you don’t understand QM doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense. It is not “irrational,” indeed it is the product of rational inquiry. It’s merely surprising.

          2. Nobody said that. Everything in OP has been proven ineffective. And there is no “atheist dogma”. Seriously what the hell are you talking about?

        • http://scotteriology.wordpress.com/ Scott Bailey
          • Sunny Day

            I’ve made refreences to that poem at least 2x in the past.
            Good luck.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

          Quantum mechanics is very complicated and non-intuitive. That is, it doesn’t line up with our “common sense”, thus it breaks our brains to try to think about it. That doesn’t make it untrue. It also doesn’t make it unscientific- it’s falsifiable, a theory backed by facts, and only one (though the dominant) theory of how sub-atomic particles work. We know the rules work differently for very, very tiny things and very, very big things than for things on our scale. The same rules apply everywhere, of course, but the effects we see are affected by scale.

          For example: the strong and weak nuclear forces are very meaningful on the atomic and sub-atomic levels. They don’t clearly matter to us when we’re dealing with how cotton and wool blend in clothing. And gravity is … weird, wild, and wonky. It affects us, of course, but we don’t worry much about how gravity warps light and time when dealing with our lives on this one planet. It only matters on a very large scale.

          “Unscientific bollocks” means things that are either unfalsifiable or things that have been repeatedly proven untrue under reasonable scientific conditions/tests. Everything in the Venn diagram falls into one of those two categories.

          • kessy_athena

            Irrational and nonsensical are not the same as untrue and unscientific. In fact, each of the four means something different. What makes you think that just because something is the product of rational scientific investigation that means it’s going to make sense? The universe is what it is, and is under no obligation to make sense to us. The universe is not sensible and it’s not logical, and it doesn’t give a damn that that dents your poor little ego.

            Everything in the OP is either unfalsifiable or has been “proven” to be untrue, huh? That’s a verifiable claim – so evidence, please. Show me the data.

            And Michael, if QM makes perfect sense, then which slit did the electron go through?

            • Michael

              Irrational and nonsensical are not the same as untrue and unscientific. In fact, each of the four means something different.

              They do all mean slightly different things. However, QM is none of those things. It is not irrational in the context of the evidence. Indeed, it is the only rational position. It is not nonsensical, because sense can be made out of it with the appropriate interpretation. Some people just don’t bother to learn any interpretations.

              Everything in the OP is either unfalsifiable or has been “proven” to be untrue, huh?

              Yes. These are all typical examples of unscientific bullshit. All are practiced at the fringe and avoid scientific inquiry. They have no peer-reviewed evidence to support them and all break fairly clear scientific laws. It is, admittedly, not completely impossible that one is true anyway, but nothing is “completely impossible.” By any remotely reasonable standard of evidence, these are false. And in most cases the practitioners must know they are lying, which makes them frauds.

            • Michael

              Irrational and nonsensical are not the same as untrue and unscientific. In fact, each of the four means something different.

              They do all mean slightly different things. However, QM is none of those things. It is not irrational in the context of the evidence. Indeed, it is the only rational position. It is not nonsensical, because sense can be made out of it with the appropriate interpretation. Some people just don’t bother to learn any interpretations.

              Everything in the OP is either unfalsifiable or has been “proven” to be untrue, huh?

              Yes. These are all typical examples of unscientific bullshit. All are practiced at the fringe and avoid scientific inquiry. They have no peer-reviewed evidence to support them and all break fairly clear scientific laws. It is, admittedly, not completely impossible that one is true anyway, but nothing is “completely impossible.” By any remotely reasonable standard of evidence, these are false. And in most cases the practitioners must know they are lying, which makes them frauds.

              And Michael, if QM makes perfect sense, then which slit did the electron go through?

              In Quantum Mechanics we don’t talk about the path of a single particle. It only makes sense to talk about the distribution of an ensemble of particles. In this thought experiment, the stream of electrons is either interrupted by another particle (in which case decoherence causes the wavefunction to “collapse” into two bands) or it is not (in which case decoherence occurs later, when the electrons hit the back, forming an interference pattern), depending on how it is set up.

              An individual electron will presumably go through one slit or the other, though we cannot prove which one without checking.

              You should really check out De Broglie-Bohm theory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Broglie%E2%80%93Bohm_theory#Two-slit_experiment.

            • Sunny Day

              “And Michael, if QM makes perfect sense, then which slit did the electron go through?”

              This is why every peddler of woo and nonsense has glommed onto quantum mechanics like a starving newborn.

              Theres not some vast conspiracy of skeptics keeping down the people that believe in all that crap.

              In truth those very same skeptics will happliy knife the other guy for the chance to prove everyone else wrong.

              Its the ones that keep trying and failing over and over that get called cranks.

            • kessy_athena

              “In Quantum Mechanics we don’t talk about the path of a single particle. It only makes sense to talk about the distribution of an ensemble of particles. In this thought experiment, the stream of electrons is either interrupted by another particle (in which case decoherence causes the wavefunction to “collapse” into two bands) or it is not (in which case decoherence occurs later, when the electrons hit the back, forming an interference pattern), depending on how it is set up.

              An individual electron will presumably go through one slit or the other, though we cannot prove which one without checking.”

              No, no, no, no, no, no. That is not how it works – to be blunt, you’re using the word “quantum” about as well as Deepak Chopra is supposed to.

              QM describes each particle in terms of a wave function – a mathematical equation which is related to but does not directly measure the probability of a particle appearing at any given location. The wave function is a purely mathematical construct and does not have a demonstrated physical significance. The wave function is said to collapse in the Copenhagen Interpretation of QM because when we observe a particle we observe it in only one state, whereas the wave function describes all possible states. Wave function collapse is some somewhat problematic because it implies an observer created reality – that is that reality only exists when someone is looking at it.

              The double slit experiment is a real, practical experiment, *not* a thought experiment. If it were just a thought experiment, no one in their right mind would take it seriously, it’s so nonsensical. If you pass a beam of classical waves through a double slit set up, such as water waves, the waves will interfere with each other, forming an interference pattern of alternating high and low intensity. If you pass a beam of classical particles through a double slit, you get two bands, the particles do not interfere with each other. If you pass a beam of quantum particles through a double slit, the particles will interfere withe each other and with themselves. If you reduce the intensity of the beam until you are only sending one single particle through the apparatus at a time, that single particle will interfere with itself and the over all pattern you get building up over time will still be an interference pattern. But wait, it still gets weirder. If you put detectors on the slits to determine which slit a particular particle goes through, you’ll be able to detect the particles and determine the slit just fine, but suddenly the interference pattern will disappear and you’ll get the double band distribution of classical particles. Furthermore, this is not due to the particles physically interacting with the detectors. If you leave the detectors in place but disconnect them so they don’t produce any data, suddenly the interference pattern is back.

              Dr Quantum actually explains it better then I can… mutter mutter stupid visual aides mutter mutter… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfPeprQ7oGc
              However, keep in mind what he says at the beginning: the double slit experiment is the grandaddy of all quantum weirdness. This is just the beginning, it only gets weirder form here on in. Sometimes much much weirder.

            • Michael

              No, no, no, no, no, no. That is not how it works

              You disagree with Griffiths on this point:

              For a particle in state Ψ, the expectation value of x is

              x⟩‎ = ∫ x|Ψ(x,t)|²dx

              What exactly does this mean? It emphatically does ‘not’ mean that if you measure the position of one particle over and over again, ∫ x|Ψ|²dx is the average of the results you’ll get. On the contrary: The first measurement (whose outcome is indeterminate) will collapse the wave function to a spike at the value actually obtained, and the subsequent measurements (if they’re performed quickly) will simply repeat that same result. Rather, ⟨x⟩‎ is the average of measurements performed on particles all in the state Ψ, which means that either you must find some way of returning the particle to its original state after each measurement, or else you have to prepare a whole ensemble of particles, each in the same state Ψ, and measure the positions of all of them: ⟨x⟩‎ is the average of these results. [...] In short, the expectation value is the average of repeated measurements on an ensemble of identically prepared systems, not the average of repeated measurements on one and the same system.

              QM describes each particle in terms of a wave function

              As I’ve just shown, it describes the expectation value of an ensemble of particles, not the state of an individual particle.

              The wave function is said to collapse in the Copenhagen Interpretation of QM because when we observe a particle we observe it in only one state, whereas the wave function describes all possible states.

              Kind of. It actually says that because our measuring devices (or more importantly, we) are classical systems, we can only measure classical variables, such as position and momentum. In this sense, the De Broglie-Bohm theory expands on Copenhagen, though it does conflict in some finer points.

              The double slit experiment is a real, practical experiment, *not* a thought experiment.

              “The double-slit experiment” is actually an idealized model of an experiment usually presented as a thought experiment. It can be actualized, and there are many real experiments based on it, but there is no one real “double-slit experiment” the way there was a single real Michelson–Morley experiment.

              If you pass a beam of quantum particles through a double slit, the particles will interfere withe each other and with themselves.

              Well, the wavefunction interferes. Again, it doesn’t make sense to discuss whether a single particle “interfered” with anything. Particles don’t have interference, only waves do. That’s sort of the whole point.

              Furthermore, this is not due to the particles physically interacting with the detectors. If you leave the detectors in place but disconnect them so they don’t produce any data, suddenly the interference pattern is back.

              This is patently false. I’d like to see a source on that. “Quantum observation” simply refers to a particle interacting with anything.

              In fact, this experiment can be performed on macroscopic objects, like an oil droplet (representing the particle) on the surface of water (representing the wavefunction). As in this study: http://phys.org/news78650511.html.

              Please don’t tell me I don’t understand QM, then go on a tirade proving you in fact do not.

            • Michael

              Ha! Even better, there was an experiment performed last year that was able to determine which path each particle took without disturbing the interference pattern: http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/05/disentangling-the-wave-particle-duality-in-the-double-slit-experiment/.

              Definitely check that out, as it directly contradicts your claim.

            • kessy_athena

              As I’ve said several times, nobody understands quantum mechanics, certainly not me. However, it’s starting to sound like I understand it better then you do. The wave function describes a quantum system, which can consist of a single particle. Actually, since we’re talking QM, we should really be saying “quantum object,” not “particle.” You most emphatically do not need an ensemble of quantum objects to get quantum behavior. What the text you quoted is trying to say is that the wave function describes a quantum object in a particular state, and that measuring that object changes that state.

              “Rather, ⟨x⟩‎ is the average of measurements performed on particles all in the state Ψ, which means that either you must find some way of returning the particle to its original state after each measurement, or else you have to prepare a whole ensemble of particles, each in the same state Ψ, and measure the positions of all of them.”

              And treating measuring instruments and humans as classical systems is a cheap cop out and you know it. There is no term in the Schrodinger equation that says “except for scientists.” Measuring devices and humans are also quantum systems, and the reason the Copenhagen Interpretation inserts a somewhat magical wave function collapse is because that’s the most convenient way to get an observation in a particular state out of the interaction of quantum systems.

              And no, turning off the detectors but leaving them in place does make the interference pattern return. It’s the measurement, not the simple presence of the detectors that eliminates the interference pattern.

              The oil droplet on water experiment is an analog to the pilot wave model, which uses a hidden variable scheme to try to make QM semi-classical and more deterministic. Unfortunately, in order to work, the pilot wave has to have some rather unusual properties, most notably traveling at superluminal speeds. It also has a bad tendency to shred causality, as any true superluminal phenomenon will.

              The experiment you referenced is interesting, but unfortunately I don’t know the math to really follow what’s going on. However, you’ve managed to determine which path the particle took by invoking the spooky action at a distance of quantum entanglement, which is even stranger then your garden variety wave particle duality. Sorry, but everytime you try to make QM make sense, Bohr and Heisenberg are going to rise from the grave in spirit to smack you upside the head for stupidity.

            • Michael

              As I’ve said several times, nobody understands quantum mechanics, certainly not me.

              Plenty of people understand quantum mechanics. They may not intuitively grok it, because it’s not intuitive, but they understand how it works. QED actually isn’t as complicated as people make it out to be. You, however, clearly do not understand it.

              The wave function describes a quantum system, which can consist of a single particle. Actually, since we’re talking QM, we should really be saying “quantum object,” not “particle.”

              You can use quantum theory to describe a single particle if you want, but the only way to empirically demonstrate the validity of the calculation is to test an ensemble. The wavefunction can only give the probability density of observables, not exact values. Note that any equation measuring a quantum variable will only predict the expectation value, not the value itself. If you want to describe a “particle in a box,” you are really describing the average value of an infinite ensemble of boxes containing particles. Griffiths describes this as particles in jars on shelves.

              And “particle” is fine. It’s standard terminology in particle physics.

              And no, turning off the detectors but leaving them in place does make the interference pattern return. It’s the measurement, not the simple presence of the detectors that eliminates the interference pattern.

              But you didn’t say “turn off the detectors,” you said “disconnect them so they don’t produce any data.” If the detectors are still bouncing photons off the observed particle, the interference is still destroyed, whether or not this information is transmitted to a computer screen or whatever.

              The oil droplet on water experiment is an analog to the pilot wave model, which uses a hidden variable scheme to try to make QM semi-classical and more deterministic. Unfortunately, in order to work, the pilot wave has to have some rather unusual properties, most notably traveling at superluminal speeds. It also has a bad tendency to shred causality, as any true superluminal phenomenon will.

              QM is deterministic, at least in the sense of the evolution of the wave equation. But yes, this analogy was to the De Broglie-Bohm interpretation I mentioned, which is the dominant one in modern physics. It is a positive result, because it shows that classical particles guided by classical waves exhibit the same behavior as quantum particles described by quantum waves. These waves are only superluminal in the sense that they are non-local, but no information can be transmitted faster than light. But after all, non-local interactions are already known to exist in the form of quantum entanglement. And it doesn’t “shred” causality, it makes causality an emergent property of the universe.

              The experiment you referenced is interesting, but unfortunately I don’t know the math to really follow what’s going on. However, you’ve managed to determine which path the particle took by invoking the spooky action at a distance of quantum entanglement, which is even stranger then your garden variety wave particle duality.

              That term hasn’t been used seriously for 50 years. And again, just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense. Quantum entanglement is a well understood phenomenon, and has been for decades. It isn’t some wizardry physicists can “invoke” when they want to violate the laws of nature, it is simply a result of the Schrodinger equation.

              The fact of the matter is, you were wrong about the meaning of quantum mechanical calculations, and you are wrong about the dual slit experiment. In both cases I have provided you clear proof of this, while you have given nothing but your confessed uninformed and confused opinion.

            • kessy_athena

              Quantum Mechanics is deterministic? Seriously? Seriously?? You really just said that? ROFLMAO!! Oh gods, that’s hilarious. Just how desperate are you?

              Hate to break it to you, but Newton’s clockwork universe is dead as a doornail, and no amount of wishing will bring it back.

            • Michael

              Quantum Mechanics is deterministic?

              Yes it is, and your incredulity is not an argument. As I said, “QM is deterministic, at least in the sense of the evolution of the wave equation.” Are you denying that the Schrodinger equation is deterministic? Note that I specifically left out the “collapse”, if such an event is real.

              However, there is no need to even invoke a collapse of the wavefunction anyway, which is pretty much the whole point of decoherence theory. That’s why I brought it up. But of course, instead of arguing any of the actual points I made, you will simply act surprised and insult me again, as per your MO.

              Hate to break it to you, but Newton’s clockwork universe is dead as a doornail, and no amount of wishing will bring it back.

              More proof by assertion. You remind me of this guy.

            • kessy_athena

              Oh my gods – you’re actually seriously arguing for a clockwork universe, aren’t you? (giggles) What century are you from?

        • Bill

          ” Just because something has been labeled as “unscientific bollocks” by the self described skeptical community does not mean that there is sufficient contrary evidence to justify considering it definitely false.”

          I think your implying that there is sufficient evidence to support the validity of some or all of the concepts listed in this diagram. (If I’m misreading that please feel free to tell me. this sentence is a bit confusing.)

          Would you please provide us some of that evidence?

          • Bill

            *you’re

            (I hate when I do that.)

          • kessy_athena

            No, I’m saying that there’s not sufficient evidence to invalidate all the concepts listed, which is the claim several people have made here. The burden of proof is on those who make the claim, not those who question it. And yes, I mean *all* of them – that’s what’s being claimed, after all.

            • Michael

              No, I’m saying that there’s not sufficient evidence to invalidate all the concepts listed, which is the claim several people have made here.

              It doesn’t take evidence to “invalidate” a concept. It takes evidence to support it. Claims without any evidence at all (positive or negative) are not trustworthy either. We reject crackpot claims every day that seem false, even if it is technically possible that they are true, simply because we have no reason to believe them.

              It is probably true that not every idea in the post has been analyzed sufficiently to state definitively that they are false (though many clearly have been). But they all make supernatural claims that defy basic science, which ought to be sufficient to reject at least their claimed mechanisms. And even if they didn’t, you would be a fool to believe them, which is pretty much the point.

            • Bill

              There is also insufficient evidence to invalidate my claim that sending me $10,000 right now will lead to you never having another health problem in your life.

              I await your cashier’s check.

            • kessy_athena

              @Michael: And now who’s moving the goal posts? Do you remember saying this? “Everything in OP has been proven ineffective.” Do you? Or have you redefined the word “proven” to no longer require actual evidence? You made a positive claim that is simply not defensible, no matter how you try to squirm out of it.

              And what’s supernatural about Bigfoot, crop circles, intelligent design, chem trails, anti-vaccination, hollow earth, or Apollo hoax? A lot of them are just wrong, a lot of them are pretty crazy, but supernatural?

              Even if the proposed mechanism behind a certain phenomenon turns out to be completely wrong, that doesn’t make the phenomenon non existent. We can all agree that lightning is not Zeus (or any other god) taking potshots at Earth. That doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as lightning.

              The appropriate response on an idea that you know nothing about one way or the other is “I don’t know.” Is there any sort of geologic activity on Pluto? I don’t know. A factual issue doesn’t care about should bes or could bes or ought to bes, it just is. It’s one thing to reject a political agenda (like Christianity) because there’s nothing to support it, and it’s another to decide a topic is taboo because there’s nothing to support it.

            • Michael

              I guess with the “proven ineffective,” I was referring to medical claims. It doesn’t make sense, for instance, to discuss whether or not Bigfoot is “effective”.

              And what’s supernatural about Bigfoot, crop circles, intelligent design, chem trails, anti-vaccination, hollow earth, or Apollo hoax? A lot of them are just wrong, a lot of them are pretty crazy, but supernatural?

              Well ID is patently supernatural. The rest are merely pseudoscience, which is pretty close to the same thing.

              Even if the proposed mechanism behind a certain phenomenon turns out to be completely wrong, that doesn’t make the phenomenon non existent. We can all agree that lightning is not Zeus (or any other god) taking potshots at Earth. That doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as lightning.

              Well yeah. But that’s not much consolation to the people who left offerings at the temple of Zeus.

            • kessy_athena

              @Michael: LOL, you have a point. I suppose that we could go looking for a female sasquatch to ask how “effective” bigfoot is, but that would probably be too much information. No, definitely TMI. ;)

              My real point is that I think that you’re making way too broad generalizations about everything in this grab bag, which makes it not really about the individual scientific merits or lack there of for each issue.

  • kessy_athena

    I think the more appropriate title for this would be, “Venn Diagram of People We Don’t Like and That We Are Ever So Superior To.” This is nothing but “we’re better then them,” and has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with science or the scientific method.

    • Michael

      There’s nothing in the diagram about people, only the ideas. You are the one bringing people into this.

      Whether or not we “like” astrologers, astrology is still bullshit. You seem to oppose calling a spade a spade because that might offend someone.

      • http://scotteriology.wordpress.com/ Scott Bailey

        Michael, my guess–and it’s just a guess–the reason she tried to move the goal-posts–yet again, it’s her particularly favourite argumentative skill as far as I can tell–and bring “people” into her comment to make the people here “feel bad” is because she “believes” in several of the things on the diagram.

        My guess is astrology or telepathy.

        • kessy_athena

          Oh really, and who’s the mind reader now?

          I have noticed that the people who whine about moving goalposts the most almost invariably have no idea how to make a substantive argument themselves. You don’t know how to make a coherent reply to a point I made? Oops, I moved the goalposts. I’ve shown your argument to be specious and unsubstantiated? Damn, there I go moving the goalposts again. Because obviously, you’re Right and anyone who dares to disagree with you is Wrong, so the only proper place for the goalposts to be is where you automatically win. After all, you’re the rationalist and so much smarter then all those stupid gullible people out there, so you couldn’t possibly lose any argument or be wrong about anything.

          And of course there’s nothing about any people in there. After all, if there were people involved, then you’d have to look the people in the face you’re being an arrogant asshole toward in order to feel superior. Can’t have that, now can we? It’s the sin you hate, not the sinner, right? You’re not bigoted, you’re just being moral, err, superior, err, rational. Yeah, I meant rational. And speaking of bigotry, hmm, acupuncture, ayurvedic medicine, karma, hmm, am I sensing a pattern here? Anything that wasn’t invented by white Europeans is obviously woo and bollocks, huh? Nothing like some naked racism from people who ought to know better to get the day off wrong.

          Everything in the OP has been proven to be ineffective, huh? Well then, I’m sure you won’t mind sharing your references then, will you? Peer reviewed articles only please. Because you do understand what “proof” means in a scientific context, right? It means that you have a large preponderance of hard evidence which consistently and reproducibly lead to a single conclusion. So you have such evidence for every single subject listed above, right?

          You guys are so full of shit. You still think like Christians. “We’re Right, everybody else is Wrong, and that makes us superior to everyone else.” That’s the only *real* bollocks here.

        • Sunny Day

          Bigfoot is on the list.

          • Sunny Day

            So is Telepathy.

          • kessy_athena

            Oh yeah, and Bigfoot has been completely disproven because… because… because it has! And anyone who questions that is a smelly doody head! Or have your debating skills progressed beyond the level of a five year old since the last time we discussed this, Sunny?

            • Sunny Day

              HA HA HA.
              Scott was guessing (he even repeatedly said he was guessing) what silly malarkey you believed in, and I was helping him out.

              I’d think insisting ad nauseum that we just haven’t given it enough investigation must be pretty tiring.

            • Michael

              Bigfoot is not “completely disproven,” but it’s pretty close. The places he is supposed to live vary tremendously (if we are to believe all sightings to be genuine, then there must be bigfoots all over North America), and are generally well enough populated and studied to all but rule them out from the get-go. However, it is always possible that one or two sightings are real, and every other one is fake, but that kind of thinking doesn’t get you anywhere. There has never been any solid evidence of an anomalous giant humanoid living in American temperate forests, which makes believing in it anyway a pseudoscience. The fact that we cannot rule out the possibility completely doesn’t change that.

              Get rid of this expectation of certainty.

            • kessy_athena

              Michael, I suppose you missed it, but we already beat this subject to death (several times over). http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unreasonablefaith/2012/12/bigfoot-isnt-in-ny/
              I’m not real inclined to reopen that particular debate, so I’ll just say that most of North America is a lot bigger and a lot emptier then you might think. Particularly west of the Mississippi. To say there couldn’t be a large undescribed animal living out there, well, who’s the one looking for certainty now?

              (Incidentally, why in the world would you think all bigfoot sightings are real, even if the animal does exist? Lots of sightings of perfectly ordinary animals like mountain lions or coyotes turn out to be misidentification; surely the same would be true of bigfoot.)

          • Jabster

            Have you got any popcorn as I’m down to my last seven bags … not sure it’s going to be enough :-)

            • Sunny Day

              There’s a couple of different kinds of popcorn makers, oil, air pop, microwave & campfire stove, in the Air Raid shelter. Just stay away from my beans.

            • Jabster

              @Sunny Day

              A long time since there’s been a car crash thread of this magnitude – my highlights so far are:

              - You disagree with people making you emotional and hurt therefore you need therapy.
              - You’re wrong and I’m right about subjects which and I have no idea what you know about them and I certainly know nothing about them.
              - If you disagree with a bunch of woo (a number of parts of which come from the white western world) it means you’re a racist.
              - No one understands anything with the word quantum well expect me and you’re wrong about it.
              - Argument ad google

              Keep up the good work!

            • kessy_athena

              Keep it up, Jabster, and I’ll use a fact on you. Careful, your head might explode.

            • Jabster

              If you used a fact in any of your posts my head wouldn’t explode but I have to say I would be surprised. Probably as surprised as for the for list:

              You said sorry for implying that people where racist
              You didn’t move the goal posts with every other post
              You actually understood how little you know and acted accordingly
              You had the ability not go off on one
              You used ‘big’ words and understood them
              You had the insight to realise when you were wrong
              Bigfoot exists

            • Sunny Day

              That’s so going to get you banned, Jabby. Or challenged to another infantile debate, cause you know that’s how we can tell who’s really S M R T. I’m sill laughing about the whole. “I don’t know who Chopra is or what you’re talking about but you’re a stupidhead” debacle.

            • Jabster

              @Sunny Day

              That was one of the many highlights – it’s just a general theme though. I believe in woo so if you attack any form of woo as being wrong then I’ll say you’re wrong regardless of how little I know of the subject. I’ll then use argument ad google to find things that I don’t really understand and post them to prove I’m right. When that doesn’t work I’ll change the subject and/or misrepresent what you said – claiming that you need therapy or are being racist is indeed funny but they seem to be a one off.

              As for a debate … I think debate in this context is a competition to so how many words you can cut and paste per-minute regarding a subject you know nothing about.

            • kessy_athena

              @UF readers:

              You know guys, if you agree with Jabster and Sunny, why are you letting a couple of idiots who only know how insult and attack people and couldn’t make a reasoned argument to save their lives represent your position?

              If you don’t agree with them, why are you letting these trolls represent your community? Isn’t one of the main criticisms of liberal Christianity that they don’t stand up to fundies? The best way to lead is to lead by example.

            • Nox

              It’s an open source community. It is represented by whoever chooses to comment here.

            • kessy_athena

              Which is exactly my point, Nox. If people see Jabster & co trolling and they say nothing, then they’re choosing to let them represent the community. Rather like how if you don’t go vote, you’re supporting whoever wins.

            • Sunny Day

              WAIT WHAT? Finding your arguments slapped down by others time and time again you’re reaching out to the audience plaintively whining at them to somehow help you while blaming me for all your problems? Or Kessy you could Butt The Fuck Out of an exchange between Jabby and myself and stop trying to make EVERYTHING about you.

              You should turn the question on yourself and wonder why nobody is making arguments in support of you. Your rude dismissive and despicable methods are on the page for everyone to see, and I’m the one who’s trolling?

            • kessy_athena

              @Sunny: ROFLMAO! Are you pulling my leg or being sarcastic or pulling a poe or something? I have a hard time believing even you would say that seriously.

              Slapping down an argument requires the application of facts and logic. Shouting over and over, “That’s obviously woo! Anyone who’d take it seriously is an idiot!” does not qualify. It doesn’t even qualify as an argument. Nor does, “Well that’s like talking about vampires and werewolves. Don’t ask me how, but it is!” And simply asserting that something has been disproven without providing anything remotely like support for that is just bluster.

              You don’t get to complain about someone butting into your discussion when you’re talking about the person in question in a thread that they’re actively participating in. Well, you can, but you sound like an idiot.

              I am only rude when people are rude to me first. Or sometimes when they’re very rude to others within my hearing. I think I’ve shown by my actions that I’m perfectly willing to have a polite respectful discussion with anyone, including you and Jabster, whenever they’re willing to give me the same courtesy. That’s actually my preference.

              I’m only dismissive to people who are either annoying and make no substantive argument at all, or who continue to make the same utterly ridiculous argument when it’s been explained to them multiple times why it’s ridiculous and shown evidence to back that up.

              Incidentally, if reasoned debate is infantile, what do you consider to be mature? Unreasonable faith? I can’t speak for Vorjack or Daniel, but I don’t think that title was meant to be prescriptive. The problem is that you start with the conviction that you know the right answer to a particular question, and that conviction becomes a lens that distorts everything you see. This results in things like ignoring the explicitly stated conclusions of a paper and picking out anything that can be manipulated to make it sound like the paper supports your initial position. Being right doesn’t matter, because our knowledge is always limited and imperfect, and invariably we always turn out to be wrong in some way. The important thing is the process of listening to different arguments and looking at different evidence and piecing together the best picture you can.

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

              I was letting Michael take care of it, mostly. I know enough to know I don’t understand QM and could only half-follow your arguments with him. I am not qualified to make a judgment about collapsing wave functions or the implications of Schrodinger’s equations because I have a pretty good layman’s grasp of physics but nothing close to advanced understanding.

              As for the acupuncture debate, Bill and Michael had that one. Your sources didn’t say what you wanted them to say. They suggested that acupuncture was, at best, as good as a placebo but not better. Why jump in just to say “yeah, what they said”?

              The things in the Venn Diagram are unscientific. They rely on spirits, magic, magical energy, god(s), or some other non-physical non-measurable force for their explanation, which makes them inherently unbelievable. Or they’re conspiracy theories. Most of them aren’t even plausible, yet many have been tested, and the ones that have been (a surprisingly high number of them) have always evaluated out to “no evidence for it, so return to the null hypothesis”. The possibly plausible ones (anti-vax, for example), have been tested a whole lot of times and been shown to be inaccurate.

            • kessy_athena

              @M – Could you please explain to me how you came to the conclusion that all the assorted sources sited in this thread say that acupuncture is at best as good as a placebo. Because I cannot for the life of me understand how you can possibly say that. I could quote the sources where they explain that “sham” acupuncture isn’t a placebo, but I already did that. And I could point out that if you insist that it is a placebo, you are implicitly saying that the usual care for those conditions is actively harmful, since they produced significantly worse outcomes then “sham” acupuncture, but I’ve already done that too. And I could point to where Custy already explained that randomized controlled trials (RCT’s) almost never use placebos in the first place. (Thanks Custy, I didn’t know that.) So, please, M, I’m completely at a loss – how could a rational person possibly come to that conclusion?

            • Sunny Day

              That’s just adorable of you Kessy.

              “Like a sniper using bollocks for ammunition”

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

              Actually, yes, the studies do seem to show that most of the treatments we use for back pain are actively harmful. They don’t seem to help the pain or the underlying causes and might cause temporary relief, but not permanent relief. That’s where the evidence leads, so that’s where I follow it to. So glad we’re in agreement about what the science seems to be pointing towards.

              As to the other things- you’ve got the burden of proof wrong. I don’t have to show it doesn’t work. If you think it does, you must find the evidence that it does. I’ve done quite a bit of reading over the years, including medical journals when I was in college and had access to the databases. Every time one of these pseudoscientific, homeopathic “medical techniques” was tested, it failed in clinical trials. That means that every other alt-med technique that claims the same cause of action is suspect, to say the least. I dismiss the vast majority of what is in the Venn diagram because it’s patently ridiculous- there is no evidence of magic, spirits, qi, gods, or any form of the supernatural. Thus, it can’t fix people because, well, it isn’t there.

              TL;DR: A theory has to make at least some logical sense before I’ll even consider it a viable possibility. If you want me to consider it, YOU provide the evidence to support it.

              P.S. Sunny, I think you’re overly harsh and often unproductive to a conversation, but I love “Storm”, so …

            • Jabster

              @Sunny Day

              Just when you think things couldn’t get more laughable – well they get more laughable. If you just accused people of trolling then it’s probably best not to go to another thread and then use a term in deliberate attempt to provoke an action from another poster. That’s kinda what trolling is. I will of course be waiting for the reason why that’s different.

              The icing on the cake is to then to appeal to other participants in this thread who she’s* presumably pissed off and/or insulted (if participants start saying they are done with you that generally means something is going wrong with your ‘”debating” style and not because you’re right) to stand up for “what’s” right. Is her thinking so simplistic that if A dislikes B and C dislikes A then C likes B?

              Personally, if I was her, I’d being asking my therapist for my money back as they are obviously not very good at their job – insecurity and anger management issues springs to mind. If the scenario in this thread happened once it may be regarded as misfortune but when it happens again … ?

              *Will the internet gender stereotyping police be on my case for this?

            • Sunny Day

              @M
              You mean It’s rotten to dismissively respond to someones post with what amounts to a giggle and a taunt?

              @Jabby.
              She trolled us, and then starts complaining when we respond like she wanted us to. (me when I was telling Scott what kind of inanity she believes. and you when you asked for popcorn.) It would be hilarious if not for her sense of superiority and entitlement. I honestly don’t read her posts too closely anymore, just skim down the replies of people patiently correcting her crap.

            • Jabster

              @Sunny D

              Well yes it’s her mismatch between her ego (almost a desperate attempt to prove that she’s intelligent) and reality that makes her posts somewhat amusing. Here’s the latest example … “But I still know enough to recognize BS when I see it.”

              It’s certainly worth skimming her posts just to to see what latest stupidity she’s come up with.

              Anyway, have you still got your beans?

            • kessy_athena

              @M – if a treatment has been demonstrated to be actively harmful to patients, that makes it highly unethical and probably illegal to use on patients. So you’re saying that’s what the medical community is doing with the conventional treatment for back pain?

              And you still haven’t answered the facts that “sham” acupuncture isn’t a placebo to begin with (which makes the entire discussion of the efficacy of usual care rather moot) and the fact that RCT’s almost never use placebos at all.

              As for the burden of proof, as I keep having to remind everyone, this debate began with the claim that all of the things in the Venn diagram have been shown to be ineffective. Which puts the burden of proof squarely on the person making the claim.

              Complementary and Alternate Medicine is a catch all category for things that originate from cultures all over the world throughout human history, from traditional Chinese medicine that predates the dawn of history to something that was dreamed up in Yonkers last week. Generally, the only thing they have in common is the fact that they’re not currently part of conventional Western medicine. So, if you were to disprove homeopathy (by whatever standard of proof you care to use), how does the validity of something that was invented in late eighteenth century Germany have anything at all to do with acupuncture, which is a Chinese technique that’s thousands of years old?

              As I’ve pointed out before, many of the things in the OP are in no way supernatural.

              The universe is under no obligation to appear logical to you. Proper science starts with observations and then moves toward theory and conclusions. Starting with theory and then trying to make observations fit it is not science.

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

              Acupuncture “works” by realigning your qi/chi energy flows. There is no evidence we have chi energy flows, so acupuncture is immediately suspect.

              No, RCTs usually don’t use placebos. I didn’t respond to that because, well, DUH! It would be terrifically unethical the vast majority of the time. However, if sham acupuncture (literally poking people randomly in the back with toothpicks) isn’t basically a placebo, I don’t know what is. It was as effective as acupuncture at chi points. There’s been quite a lot of evidence that surgery is ineffective at relieving back pain, not just from these studies but from other ones comparing surgery to watchful waiting, gentle physical therapy, home stretching/exercises, and opioid painkillers. And, of course, comparing each of these to the others. That does, in fact, mean that current treatments for back pain are unethical and probably ought to be illegal or at least, the absolute last resort. That’s been bubbling up in the medical literature for the past few years now, actually. What, you think I think the medical establishment never makes mistakes, or is wrong, or misreads data, or allows biases to screw things up? I know better. Part of science is correcting its mistakes, but that does presuppose that there are mistakes to correct, after all.

              Of course the universe has no obligation to be logical. It does, however, follow the rules of the universe. Are you really arguing that starting with the premise “things have visible/measurable action mechanisms” is not scientific? I’d argue that “things work because MAGIC” is much less scientific. I might not know how it works, but I’m confident that it has a measurable and quantifiable way of working. You, on the other hand, accept the most absurd claims that it works “because”. Because why? Just because. That’s emphatically not science, not logical, and requiring an action mechanism is not asking the universe to be logical either. Stop twisting my words to imply things I’ve never said.

              The CAM things that’ve been tested above? None of them worked. Things with action mechanisms similar/identical to the ones that didn’t work should, prima facie, be rejected as equally ineffective. If it works by manipulating your vital energy, it’s bollocks. And by the way, I didn’t start with a theory. I started with a bunch of observations- woo hasn’t ever worked in any of the properly conducted studies I’ve read, the ones that claimed it did have not been successfully replicated, every effective treatment we have has observable physical effects, every effective treatment we have we know or are learning how it works and none if it is by magical energy. With these facts in mind, I then formulated a theory that science is usually right and woo never is. So far, I’ve not yet found evidence persuasive enough to change my mind. I’m glad you can read my mind and figure out how I reach my conclusions, though. That’s super exciting. Tell me, what’s my favorite color?

            • Custador

              Well indeed. Among the placebos that it’s just not ethical to use in trials, one should include just about every CAM intervention except maybe massage.

            • Jabster

              @M

              The evidence for acupuncture ‘working’ always seems to be much like someone claiming that their wonder tonic van cure Aids, cancer, baldness, back problems, blindness and coughs. It works by re-aligning the corpulanteness cells of the body so that they are in a neutral quantum flux state thereby reducing the negative energy that leads to illness.

              If the trials show that it works the same as a placebo or even there is some evidence that it may be mildly effective for coughs I’m really not sure that means you can jump up and down saying – it works, it works. Maybe it’s just cough medicine?

              One of the real problems I have with alternative medicine (why do we have to use that term – do we have alternative cosmology or alternative geology for other forms of woo?) is that there seems to be this view that you should be allowed to put medicine in the title but the normal rules don’t apply.

              If you want to make medical claims then expect to back them up like everybody else – alternative medicine doesn’t operate in a different reality to real medicine and it’s bogus to suggest otherwise.
              Alternative medicine isn’t effective because real medicine kills thousands of people a year – then again couldn’t drowning be claimed as a a massive homoeopathic overdose?

              Try splitting people into two groups and then treating one with alternative medicine and one with real medicine. Give it five years and then we’ll see which is more effective.

              So there we have it … what’s alternative medicine called that works … medicine.

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

              @Jabster, I agree with your assessment of acupuncture and alternative medicine. I do not endorse the claim that acupuncture works. I don’t know how you got the impression I might think CAM was effective.

            • Jabster

              @M

              Sorry … I wasn’t implying that you did as it’s clear in your posts that you don’t. I using a similiar example to your’s as to what acupuncture claims to be and what evidence (and not strong at all) there is in support of a small number of cases where it may be midly effective.

              Then again if it’s a good as an over-the-counter pain killer for a very specific type of pain then why spend half-an-hour and £50 when you can by a whole packet of treatment for 50p?

            • Jabster

              @M

              Just to make it clear the ‘you’ in the following …

              “I’m really not sure that means you can jump up and down saying – it works, it works.”

              Isn’t directed at you :-)

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

              @Jabster; Ok, fair enough :). We are in agreement that, as far as we’ve been able to determine, acupuncture doesn’t work better than a placebo or OTC medicine and costs way more, making it a pretty poor way to spend your money or your time.

            • Jabster

              @M

              If you add “… for a couple of very specific conditions and the evidence for this is not strong.” I think we would be in agreement :-)

              Then again that was from three or four years ago and even those cases may have slipped into the ether by now – I would imagine if they had show more positive results the CAM money making machine would have been in full on dishonesty mode claiming that proves that all alternative medicine works.

            • PJM

              Curved ball here, people:

              So I have a question for some like-minded thinkers out there. I recently joined a group of painters as I like to paint although my real job is in a different field in academia. The teacher is excellent and I am learning a lot from her. This is why I am suffering, because every person in the group – 8 others including the teacher – believes in most of the garbage that your Venn diagram maps out. It drives me bloody crazy as they talk about it all the time. If I were not so thin-skinned I would tell them what #@$% I think it all is. Instead I just attend the group and feel more and more unhappy. But I really love what I am learning from her and I don’t want to feel like a child that cannot deal with some psychological discomfort. After all most of the world believes in rubbish of this type.What is it with these idiots that they feel they can preach their irrational rubbish to anyone and everyone?

              What do you think?

            • kessy_athena

              @Custy: Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the point of an RCT to compare the effectiveness of the treatment being investigated with treatments whose effectiveness is reasonably well known? And wouldn’t that make it inappropriate and actually counterproductive to the study to include other treatments whose effectiveness is unknown or dubious?

            • Custador

              It depends. If you have a whole bunch of treatments whose effects are unknown, without evidence or dubious, then balls to it, might as well trial ‘em all! You’d be surprised how much medicine is based on tradition rather than empirical evidence; Archie Cochrane had the right idea, and it’s getting better all the time.

            • kessy_athena

              @Custy: Well, considering how much of life in general is just people doing what they’ve always done, whether it makes much sense or not, it wouldn’t actually surprise me all that much. ;)

        • Michael

          I have noticed that the people who whine about moving goalposts the most almost invariably have no idea how to make a substantive argument themselves.

          What? Let’s stay the fuck on topic here and look at the question at hand. Your response to this blog post was “This is nothing but ‘we’re better then them,’ and has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with science or the scientific method.” So you are claiming specifically that the blog post was attacking people due to a sense of superiority rather than ideas that fail the scientific method.

          You have made no attempt to substantiate this claim. After all, the diagram only ever mentions ideas, never people, and categorizes these ideas, not people who believe they are true. When confronted with this fact, you again went on an ad hominem attack, this time against users here.

          But at no point did you back up the original argument you made. THAT is what we call “moving the goalposts.”

          And of course there’s nothing about any people in there. After all, if there were people involved, then you’d have to look the people in the face you’re being an arrogant asshole toward in order to feel superior.

          Yes. If there are people involved, we get into all kinds of problems like the ones you are stating. Because insulting people is . . . insulting. But rejecting their ideas is honest. To be clear here, would you rather we attack individual people for holding false beliefs than those beliefs? Or are you saying we shouldn’t attack the beliefs either, because it’s better to be PC than to be correct?

          And speaking of bigotry, hmm, acupuncture, ayurvedic medicine, karma, hmm, am I sensing a pattern here? Anything that wasn’t invented by white Europeans is obviously woo and bollocks, huh?

          Holy Character Assassination, Batman!
          No, we are not racists. A majority of the ideas mentioned were created by white Europeans. Creationism, transubstantiation, relics, angels, the trinity, angel therapy, faith healing, anthroposophy, scientology, bible code, intelligent design, OBEs, the shroud of Turin, the stigmata, seances, psychics, automatic writing, crop circles, palmistry, orgone, hollow earth, chemtrails, anti-vacc, chiropractic, kinesiology, reflexology, and past life regression are just some examples.

          You really better apologize for such an unfounded and disgraceful accusation.

          Everything in the OP has been proven to be ineffective, huh? Well then, I’m sure you won’t mind sharing your references then, will you?

          What, for every single one? I could give plenty of references for any individual one, and you could find them yourself in a few minutes on Google. Picking one at random, here is a systematic review of studies on reflexology: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19740047.

          You guys are so full of shit. You still think like Christians. “We’re Right, everybody else is Wrong, and that makes us superior to everyone else.”

          Nobody here said that. You just imputed bad intent because you thought that was an easy way to dismiss us again without addressing any actual argument. Being right doesn’t make us superior. It just makes us right.

  • http://Scotteriology.wordpress.com Scott Bailey

    Kessy, your lack of reading and comprehension skills are showing again: I said “guessing” because I don’t know. I made a guess from your ignorant rambles. I didn’t say she believes this for sure (something you’re not afraid to do unfortunately). I made a guess based on your comments. I even explicitly wrote it was a guess.

    Apparently, I was too close to something. More therapy I guess!

  • kessy_athena

    Well, since none of you seem to be willing to dig up any evidence or actual facts about any of this, I guess I’ll have to do it one topic at a time. Gee, funny how “rationalists” suddenly develop an allergy to facts when they might contradict their preconceived notions.

    First topic: acupuncture.

    There has, in fact, been quite a lot of research done on the topic, and i’ts an active field of research – mainly because no one has a clue how it works. Never the less – it does work.

    From the US National Institutes of Health MedlinePlus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/acupuncture.html
    “Research has shown that acupuncture reduces nausea and vomiting after surgery and chemotherapy. It can also relieve pain. Researchers don’t fully understand how acupuncture works. It might aid the activity of your body’s pain-killing chemicals. It also might affect how you release chemicals that regulate blood pressure and flow.”

    From the NIH Consensus Development Conference Statement of 1997: http://consensus.nih.gov/1997/1997Acupuncture107html.htm
    “cupuncture as a therapeutic intervention is widely practiced in the United States. While there have been many studies of its potential usefulness, many of these studies provide equivocal results because of design, sample size, and other factors. The issue is further complicated by inherent difficulties in the use of appropriate controls, such as placebos and sham acupuncture groups. However, promising results have emerged, for example, showing efficacy of acupuncture in adult postoperative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and in postoperative dental pain. There are other situations such as addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and asthma, in which acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative or be included in a comprehensive management program. Further research is likely to uncover additional areas where acupuncture interventions will be useful.”

    From the UK’s National Health Service: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Acupuncture/Pages/Evidence.aspx
    “There is some scientific evidence that acupuncture is effective for a small number of health conditions.

    However, for the majority of conditions for which acupuncture is used, the scientific evidence is inconclusive or there has been no attempt to collect good-quality evidence. For a small number of conditions, there is evidence that acupuncture does not work.

    More research is needed into the effectiveness of acupuncture on a wide range of conditions.

    The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) say that acupuncture is an effective treatment for persistent lower back pain.

    There is reasonably good evidence that acupuncture is an effective treatment for:

    chronic back pain
    dental pain
    pain and discomfort during gastrointestinal endoscopy
    headache
    nausea and vomiting after an operation
    pain and discomfort during oocyte retrieval (a procedure used during IVF)
    osteoarthritis of the knee

    There is some evidence that acupuncture does not work for:

    rheumatoid arthritis
    stopping smoking
    losing weight

    For most conditions against which acupuncture is used, we do not have enough good-quality evidence on the effectiveness of acupuncture. More research is needed before we can draw conclusions on whether acupuncture is effective for the following conditions:

    addictions
    asthma
    chronic pain
    depression
    insomnia
    neck pain
    sciatica
    shoulder pain
    stroke
    tinnitus”
    The World Health Organization has put out a quite extensive review of the current research on acupuncture which can be found here. http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js4926e/
    And guess what? They find that acupuncture has been pretty definitively proven to be effective in some areas, for example:

    “Some of these studies have provided incontrovertible scientific evidence that acupuncture is more successful than placebo treatments in certain conditions. For example, the proportion of chronic pain relieved by acupuncture is generally in the range 55-85%, which compares favourably with that of potent drugs (morphine helps in 70% of cases) and far outweighs the placebo effect (30-35%)”

    Now give me one good reason that acupuncture is on that chart, other then the fact that it’s a major part of Chinese traditional medicine.

    • Bill

      “Clinical trials of acupuncture for chronic low back pain have shown higher rates of symptom improvement with either acupuncture or sham acupuncture than with usual care.”

      http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMct0806114

      • Bill

        Please consoder your sources:
        NIH: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

        And what those sources say:

        “While there have been many studies of its potential usefulness, many of these studies provide equivocal results because of design, sample size, and other factors. The issue is further complicated by inherent difficulties in the use of appropriate controls, such as placebos and sham acupuncture groups.”

        Scientific trials conducted to investigate the effect of acupuncture on these conditions found that acupuncture had a beneficial effect.

        “However, because of disagreements over the way acupuncture trials should be carried out and over what their results mean, this evidence does not allow us to draw definite conclusions. Some scientists believe that good evidence exists only for nausea and vomiting after an operation. Others think that there is currently not enough evidence to show that acupuncture works for any condition.”

        • kessy_athena

          What, the NIH isn’t a good enough source for you? Oh, wait, the name of the office has “alternative medicine” in it, obviously they must be a bunch of idiots over there! Or maybe the NHS has been taken over by crazy people? Oh, wait, obviously the WHO is part of the New World Order conspiracy since it’s part of the UN.

          Can you say, “grasping at straws”?

          In this context, “sham acupuncture” refers to acupuncture that’s not being done according the traditional Chinese system of meridians and acupuncture points. Which you would have known if you’d bothered to read the references at all.

          So a discussion of the difficulties of the experimental procedure and an assessment of the uncertainties involved means you can just ignore any evidence that’s inconvenient for your ideology? Did you intern at Watts Up With That? Cause you seem to know their BS techniques to a tee.

          • Michael

            What, the NIH isn’t a good enough source for you? Oh, wait, the name of the office has “alternative medicine” in it, obviously they must be a bunch of idiots over there!

            I doubt they are idiots, but if positive results are claimed by CAM departments and not by traditional medical departments, we can’t conclude the results are real.

            Or maybe the NHS has been taken over by crazy people? Oh, wait, obviously the WHO is part of the New World Order conspiracy since it’s part of the UN.

            Strawman much?

            In this context, “sham acupuncture” refers to acupuncture that’s not being done according the traditional Chinese system of meridians and acupuncture points.

            . . . which shows the traditional system is bullshit. The claims acupuncture makes are very specific. You can’t just say that because poking people in the back has some physiological effects, acupuncture works. You have to prove much more than that. By comparison, bloodletting relieves hypertension, but that doesn’t mean bloodletting “works.”

            So a discussion of the difficulties of the experimental procedure and an assessment of the uncertainties involved means you can just ignore any evidence that’s inconvenient for your ideology?

            Can you stop with this strawman nonsense? It is so grating I can’t believe you can even bear to post it. The article was not merely “an assessment of the uncertainties involved,” it was a review of the evidence of the efficacy of acupuncture for treating chronic lower back pain, as well as a discussion of the implications for treatment guidelines and more. A short review of the article can be found here, and includes the following quote:

            The most recent well-powered clinical trials of acupuncture for chronic low back pain showed that sham acupuncture was as effective as real acupuncture. The simplest explanation of such findings is that the specific therapeutic effects of acupuncture, if present, are small, whereas its clinically relevant benefits are mostly attributable to contextual and psychosocial factors, such as patients’ beliefs and expectations, attention from the acupuncturist, and highly focused, spatially directed attention on the part of the patient.

          • Bill

            Kessey

            The sources you cited include clear statements that the evidence on the efficacy of acupuncture is at best inconclusive, and it’s quite possible that any positive results are caused by the placebo effect. These are your sources. I’m merely pointing out that they hardly support acupuncture as a viable medical treatment.

            Your reaction is , frankly, over the top. By your own sources, this is not a medically proven treatment for anything. I have no idea why you would try to make me out to be a new world order conspiracy theorist.

    • Michael

      Your first link is from the “NIH: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.” It does not cite any actual studies, but makes a generic boilerplate statement. Your second link comes with the following disclaimer in red at the top:

      This statement is more than five years old and is provided solely for historical purposes. Due to the cumulative nature of medical research, new knowledge has inevitably accumulated in this subject area in the time since the statement was initially prepared. Thus some of the material is likely to be out of date, and at worst simply wrong.

      Note that the statement has been “more than five years old” for over a decade now. The WHO link is just as old, only including studies through 1998.

      Prefer Bill’s study below from the New England Journal of Medicine, which used toothpicks to simulate acupuncture, producing the same effect. i.e. it is a placebo. This agrees with this study from JAMA, which compared traditional acupuncture to randomly placed needles and found the same effect.

      So why are there contradictory studies? Meta-analysis can shed some light on this curious phenomenon, which was also seen with homeopathy. First of all, we notice that older studies show higher rates of success than newer ones. Second, this review shows that “those with more flexible acupuncture and no placebo control scored closer to effectiveness.” Finally, consider the source of the successful trials; most of the best ones are in low-impact journals or not published in a peer-reviewed journal at all.

      Now it is possible, as some have suggested, that needles in the back can affect the flow of a mystical “qi,” improving health by providing a wide range of symptomatic relief, covering everything from migraines to post-op nausea. Or it is possible that this is simply a placebo, or a non-specific effect coming from stimulating nerves in general. Which do you think is more likely?

      • kessy_athena

        Oh, come on guys, you aren’t even trying. A climate change denier could do a better job wishing away evidence then you two are doing. Bill, from the NEJM article you cited: “Clinical trials of acupuncture for chronic low back pain have shown higher rates of symptom improvement with either acupuncture or sham acupuncture than with usual care.” Michael, from your JAMA article: “Results At 8 weeks, mean dysfunction scores for the individualized, standardized, and simulated acupuncture groups improved by 4.4, 4.5, and 4.4 points, respectively, compared with 2.1 points for those receiving usual care (P < .001). Participants receiving real or simulated acupuncture were more likely than those receiving usual care to experience clinically meaningful improvements on the dysfunction scale (60% vs 39%; P < .001). Symptoms improved by 1.6 to 1.9 points in the treatment groups compared with 0.7 points in the usual care group (P .05).

        Conclusions Although acupuncture was found effective for chronic low back pain, tailoring needling sites to each patient and penetration of the skin appear to be unimportant in eliciting therapeutic benefits. These findings raise questions about acupuncture’s purported mechanisms of action. It remains unclear whether acupuncture or our simulated method of acupuncture provide physiologically important stimulation or represent placebo or nonspecific effects.”

        Bill, the sources I cited include clear statements that the evidence on the efficacy of acupuncture is at best inconclusive, and it’s quite possible that any positive results are caused by the placebo effect? Seriously? Do you really think I didn’t read my own sources (even though I directly quoted from them) so you could just BS your way through this? Get a grip. From NIH: “Research has shown that acupuncture reduces nausea and vomiting after surgery and chemotherapy. It can also relieve pain.” Also from NIH: “However, promising results have emerged, for example, showing efficacy of acupuncture in adult postoperative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and in postoperative dental pain. There are other situations such as addiction… …and asthma, in which acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative or be included in a comprehensive management program.” From the NHS: “There is some scientific evidence that acupuncture is effective for a small number of health conditions. However, for the majority of conditions for which acupuncture is used, the scientific evidence is inconclusive or there has been no attempt to collect good-quality evidence. For a small number of conditions, there is evidence that acupuncture does not work. More research is needed into the effectiveness of acupuncture on a wide range of conditions.” From WHO: “Some of these studies have provided incontrovertible scientific evidence that acupuncture is more successful than placebo treatments in certain conditions.” Please explain to me exactly what sort of mental gymnastics are necessary to turn these into, “Acupuncture doesn’t work, it’s complete bollocks.” I want to watch, it should be amusing.

        Michael, “if positive results are claimed by CAM departments and not by traditional medical departments, we can’t conclude the results are real.” Really? You’re seriously trying to say that? How do you look yourself in the mirror in the morning? That’s like saying, “Well, the pediatrics department may say that x treatment is what’s appropriate for children 5 – 8 years old, but if it’s not coming from traditional medical departments we can’t conclude it’s real.” And if you aren’t going to claim that the NIH, NHS, and WHO have been taken over by idiots, crazy people, or the New World Order, then how exactly do you intend to discredit them? Hmmmmmm? Please, explain to me why the atheist echo chamber on the internet knows more about medicine then those world respected organizations.

        “You can’t just say that because poking people in the back has some physiological effects, acupuncture works. You have to prove much more than that.” Oh really? So since the luminiferous ether turned out not to exist, then all physics is nonsense and we should just toss it out the window? Because fire, air, water, and earth aren’t elements, atomic theory is complete bollocks? A field of inquiry has to have all the answers perfectly right or it’s trash? You know how many fields meet that standard right now? None.

        It’s painfully obvious at this point that you two have decided that anything labeled “alternate” or “spiritual” or “paranormal” or any other term you dislike the sound of must obviously be bollocks, and you’re both just too proud and stubborn to admit you might possibly be wrong, so you’ll abuse the facts in whatever way you have to to avoid having to make any such admission. You’re using the exact same dishonest, BS rationalization and obfuscation techniques that you’d rightly excoriate a creationist or climate denier or someone like that for using. And if me saying that grates, Michael, then stop doing it.

        • Michael

          You evidently do not understand the meaning of “sham.” The point of the article was that acupuncture is no more effective than placebo in any of the tests. This is the definition of a negative result. The sham group is the control. The “usual care” group is always going to perform worse in these studies; as this group is not blind, it can be used to measure the placebo effect in the study. Let me be absolutely clear here: sticking needles into random points or pricking them with toothpicks is not acupuncture. It is simulated acupuncture. There is no reason for professional acupuncturists to exist if the same effect could be gained by a family member prodding them with toothpicks.

          Bill, the sources I cited include clear statements that the evidence on the efficacy of acupuncture is at best inconclusive, and it’s quite possible that any positive results are caused by the placebo effect?

          Yes. The NIH review uses the word “equivocal” (which means “inconclusive”) and cites “inherent difficulties in the use of appropriate controls, such as placebos and sham acupuncture groups” (note that now that we do have more studies with appropriate controls, we are finding negative results). So to be clear, it is saying there are not yet enough placebo-controlled studies, which is another way of saying positive results may be due to the placebo effect. It says there are “promising results,” which means exploratory studies have found possible uses, but they have not been confirmed, and it does say “acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative or be included in a comprehensive management program.” It may be. But we don’t know yet. And this is YOUR best article, from 1998, with a boilerplate warning that it is old and still shown for historical reasons only.

          The NHS source you cite is laughable. It says for most conditions, there is no evidence that acupuncture is effective or there is strong negative evidence. It does say for a small number of conditions there is some positive evidence, but this is what you would expect when a large number of studies are conducted for a wide variety of conditions. Furthermore, it also points states: “It is important to remember that when we use a treatment and feel better, this can be because of a phenomenon called the placebo effect and not because of the treatment itself.”
          Then for the “positive effects,” it gives the following warning:

          However, because of disagreements over the way acupuncture trials should be carried out and over what their results mean, this evidence does not allow us to draw definite conclusions.

          Some scientists believe that good evidence exists only for nausea and vomiting after an operation. Others think that there is currently not enough evidence to show that acupuncture works for any condition.

          This is your source, and it will not even state that acupuncture works. Just that it might, or that some people believe it does for some things. But it doesn’t cite any actual studies, just references them obliquely while insisting they aren’t that great anyway.

          Your WHO source says the following:

          Since the methodology of clinical research on acupuncture is still under debate, it is very difficult to evaluate acupuncture practice by any generally accepted measure. In this publication, only the results of controlled clinical trials that were formally published through the year 1998 (and early 1999 for some journals) are collected and reviewed.

          So to be clear, the methodology was still under debate in 2003, but they only look at studies from up to 1998.

          Just to demonstrate the dishonesty of your last post, I am going to show your statement with some quotes back to back:
          You:

          Bill, the sources I cited include clear statements that the evidence on the efficacy of acupuncture is at best inconclusive, and it’s quite possible that any positive results are caused by the placebo effect? Seriously? Do you really think I didn’t read my own sources (even though I directly quoted from them) so you could just BS your way through this? Get a grip.

          NIH:

          While there have been many studies of its potential usefulness, many of these studies provide equivocal results because of design, sample size, and other factors. The issue is further complicated by inherent difficulties in the use of appropriate controls, such as placebos and sham acupuncture groups.

          NHS:

          However, for the majority of conditions for which acupuncture is used, the scientific evidence is inconclusive or there has been no attempt to collect good-quality evidence. For a small number of conditions, there is evidence that acupuncture does not work.

          It is important to remember that when we use a treatment and feel better, this can be because of a phenomenon called the placebo effect and not because of the treatment itself.

          WHO:

          Since the methodology of clinical research on acupuncture is still under debate, it is very difficult to evaluate acupuncture practice by any generally accepted measure.

          THE SOURCES SAY EXACTLY WHAT YOU SAY THEY DON’T. I am flabbergasted.

          Please explain to me exactly what sort of mental gymnastics are necessary to turn these into, “Acupuncture doesn’t work, it’s complete bollocks.” I want to watch, it should be amusing.

          They don’t say that, they are your sources. They are merely equivocal and outdated. That’s why we provided more sources that do say this.

          Michael, “if positive results are claimed by CAM departments and not by traditional medical departments, we can’t conclude the results are real.” Really? You’re seriously trying to say that? How do you look yourself in the mirror in the morning? That’s like saying, “Well, the pediatrics department may say that x treatment is what’s appropriate for children 5 – 8 years old, but if it’s not coming from traditional medical departments we can’t conclude it’s real.”

          No, it’s like saying if a study funded by Komen finds that a surprisingly large number of people are affected by cancer, it is wise not to trust the results. CAMs are on tenuous footing and have clear and massive interest in getting positive results. Moreover, your “source” doesn’t give any results, it merely gives a very brief description of acupuncture from the point of view of their center. It is meaningless. Your only good source is the WHO article, as it is the only one that includes actual peer-reviewed articles and does not come with warnings that it is outdated or may be caused by the placebo effect. However, even the controlled articles it cites do not show real acupuncture to be any more effective than placebo.

          And if you aren’t going to claim that the NIH, NHS, and WHO have been taken over by idiots, crazy people, or the New World Order, then how exactly do you intend to discredit them? Hmmmmmm? Please, explain to me why the atheist echo chamber on the internet knows more about medicine then those world respected organizations.

          Are you five years old? Contain yourself. We are not questioning the value of these organizations, only the value of them speaking about this specific issue. I also wouldn’t say Susan G. Komen has been “taken over by idiots, crazy people, or the New World Order.”

          “You can’t just say that because poking people in the back has some physiological effects, acupuncture works. You have to prove much more than that.” Oh really? So since the luminiferous ether turned out not to exist, then all physics is nonsense and we should just toss it out the window?

          All of physics was not based on the notion of a hypothetical ether invented in the 19th century. However, any physics that was based on this ether did need to be “thrown out” (or explained by a different model).

          Acupuncture is not merely the claim that “poking people with sticks can heal stuff.” That idea is so vague, that you could argue acupuncture “treats” boils by lancing them. If you cast the net wide enough, you will inevitably catch fish. But by any sane definition, “acupuncture” must at least include the notion that specific needle points are necessary for the optimal effect, even if the traditional notion of “unblocking qi” is discarded.

          It’s painfully obvious at this point that you two have decided that anything labeled “alternate” or “spiritual” or “paranormal” or any other term you dislike the sound of must obviously be bollocks, and you’re both just too proud and stubborn to admit you might possibly be wrong, so you’ll abuse the facts in whatever way you have to to avoid having to make any such admission.

          Repeatedly stating this does not make it so. I do not conclude that anything is “obviously bollocks” because of how it sounds. And far from being “too proud and stubborn to admit you might possibly be wrong,” I have stated several times that we cannot be certain, but we can still come to the best conclusions. You, on the other hand, have done nothing but make wild accusations every single post, misinterpret your own lousy sources, ask impossibly high burdens from us, while providing essentially nothing of your own, and change the subject.

          You’re using the exact same dishonest, BS rationalization and obfuscation techniques that you’d rightly excoriate a creationist or climate denier or someone like that for using.

          Again, making these spurious accusations without pointing out a single actual example is utterly worthless. What specifically have I “BSed,” “rationalized,” or “obfuscated?”

          • kessy_athena

            What have you BSed, obfuscated, and rationalized? Try these on for size. “There’s still research going on, therefore scientists aren’t certain, therefore I can ignore the evidence and believe what I want.” Or how about, “I can pick out statements expressing uncertainty from a scientific paper, about a subject, therefore that subject has been disproven.” Or, “There are some scientists who say things that sound like what I want to hear therefore my ideas have been scientificaly proven.” Do any of these sound at all familiar? I’m both amazed and disgusted by the level of intellectual dishonesty you’re displaying. You think you demonstrated the dishonesty of my last post? My gods, you have an amazing ability to read selectively. Every single one of those support what I’ve been saying, often explicitly by adjectives directly next to words that you yourself highlighted. What the hell is wrong with you? A few examples:

            Bill: “the evidence on the efficacy of acupuncture is at best inconclusive.” NIH: “many of these studies provide equivocal results.”
            Do you seriously not understand the difference between saying that the evidence is at best inconclusive and saying that many studies have equivocal results?
            NHS: “However, for the majority of conditions for which acupuncture is used, the scientific evidence is inconclusive or there has been no attempt to collect good-quality evidence.”
            Again, do you not understand the difference between the majority and the best?

            Bill: “it’s quite possible that any positive results are caused by the placebo effect?” NIH: “The issue is further complicated by inherent difficulties in the use of appropriate controls, such as placebos and sham acupuncture groups.” Other then both having the word “placebo” in them, these sentences are unrelated. Do you really think that bolding the same word in unrelated sentences proves something?
            NHS: “It is important to remember that when we use a treatment and feel better, this can be because of a phenomenon called the placebo effect and not because of the treatment itself.” This is obviously a general statement about the existence of the placebo effect, not saying that any particular results are the result of the placebo effect.

            Incidentally, speaking of the placebo effect, are you no longer denying that it exists?

            You evidently do not understand that researchers are using the term “sham acupuncture” to mean a specific kind of control test, and are not using “sham” in its colloquial sense. Deliberately confusing a word’s colloquial and technical meanings is exactly the same thing that creationists do when they say “But evolution is just a theory.” There’s that obfuscation again. Incidentally, if you’re arguing that sham acupuncture should be treated as a placebo, despite the fact that all the references make clear that sham acupuncture and placebo are different things, that would mean that the usual treatment is much worse then a placebo, which implies that the usual treatment is actively harming the patient. an implication you conveniently ignore – there’d be that rationalizing again. As for BSing, picking out a sentence or two from the body of text to try to imply that the paper says exactly the opposite of what is explicitly stated to be the conclusion by the authors certainly falls within my definition of BS. How about yours?

            “CAMs are on tenuous footing and have clear and massive interest in getting positive results.” Oh for crying out loud, read the fraking url. Or did you conveniently “miss” the nih.gov? We are talking about the The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the NIH Are you saying that you think the NIH has a clear and massive interest in getting positive results? You’re treading into NWO territory again. To quote the wikipedia article,

            “The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), formerly the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM), is a United States government agency that investigates complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) healing practices in the context of rigorous science, in training complementary and alternative medicine researchers, and in disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals.

            The NCCAM is one of the 27 institutes and centers that make up the National Institutes of Health (NIH) within the Department of Health and Human Services of the federal government of the United States. The NIH is one of eight agencies under the Public Health Service (PHS) in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).”

            The MedlinePlus page and the Consensus Statement are both from the NIH. Yes, the Consensus statement is old – I explicitly stated when I first cited it that it’s from 1997. Oh, and that disclaimer at the top about it being old? did you conveniently miss the bit that says, “For reliable, current information on this and other health topics, we recommend consulting the National Institutes of Health’s MedlinePlus http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/.” Which ever so coincidentally happens to to be the homepage for the site with the MedlinePlus page I linked. Wow, you suppose that might have something to do with why I posted both links? And had you looked at the MedlinePlus page a little more closely, you might have noticed where it says, “Start here Acupuncture: an Introduction”? That links here? http://nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/introduction.htm And you might possibly notice that this page has a link back to the Consensus Statement? Gee, do you suppose maybe those two documents were meant to be complimentary? Like the Consensus Statement is the in depth study from some time ago, and the MedlinePlus page is just meant to bring what it says up to date?

            “The NHS source you cite is laughable. It says for most conditions, there is no evidence that acupuncture is effective or there is strong negative evidence. It does say for a small number of conditions there is some positive evidence.” That’s blatantly mischaracterizing what the NHS document says. Gee, might that have something to do with the fact that you didn’t directly quote it at this point? What it actually says is, “There is reasonably good evidence that acupuncture is an effective treatment for: (seven conditions) There is some evidence that acupuncture does not work for: (three conditions) For most conditions against which acupuncture is used, we do not have enough good-quality evidence on the effectiveness of acupuncture. More research is needed before we can draw conclusions on whether acupuncture is effective for the following conditions: (ten conditions)” That’s 35% reasonably good evidence it works, 15% some evidence it doesn’t work, and 50% not enough evidence to say either way. Which is pretty much exactly the opposite of the implication your spin gave it. And considering that your original claim that started this entire argument to begin with was, “Everything in OP has been proven ineffective.” That’s about as clearly dead wrong as you can get.

            “If you cast the net wide enough, you will inevitably catch fish. But by any sane definition, “acupuncture” must at least include the notion that specific needle points are necessary for the optimal effect, even if the traditional notion of “unblocking qi” is discarded.” Catching fish here is a metaphor for finding real, factual, reproducible information leading to treatments, correct? Isn’t that the entire point of medicine in the first place?? Are you saying that you think I’m casting too wide a net because it’s more important that your preconceived notions don’t get disturbed then finding new treatments and improving existing ones to help people? Cause that’s sure what it sounds like to me. It’s not a sane definition of acupuncture that requires such a restriction, it’s a definition that lets you continue to feel superior. Any time you do extensive research on a medical practice, you are going to find out new information about it that leads to changes, sometimes to the point that it’s barely recognizable. Consider the difference between modern surgery and its direct ancestor of two centuries ago. Of course research in acupuncture will result in changes from the traditional forms – that’s the point of doing the research in the first place!

            • Bill

              Again, you either misunderstand me or are intentionally trying to argue against a position I have not taken.

              “I can pick out statements expressing uncertainty from a scientific paper, about a subject, therefore that subject has been disproven.”

              If there is uncertainty within a scientific paper, then the subject has not been proven. It’s that simple. Until it is proven to be effective there is no reason to believe it is. That uncertainty is the reason I don’t believe it to be a viable medical treatment.

              Scientists don’t say “Well it hasn’t been disproven, and there are inconsistent studies that say it may have some effect, so it’s viable.” It just doesn’t work that way.

              If what your saying is: “The findings are inconclusive so it warrants further study,” fine. It seems to me study funds could be better used in other ways, but as a general rule I’m all for future study.

              That does not mean it’s viable. Nor does it mean that furture study will get the results you want.

              BTW – Your reading comprehsnsion – ability to decipher what words and sentnces mean – needs work.

            • Bill

              “Incidentally, speaking of the placebo effect, are you no longer denying that it exists?”

              Please point out where I denied that the placebo effect exists?

            • Michael

              What have you BSed, obfuscated, and rationalized? Try these on for size. “There’s still research going on, therefore scientists aren’t certain, therefore I can ignore the evidence and believe what I want.” Or how about, “I can pick out statements expressing uncertainty from a scientific paper, about a subject, therefore that subject has been disproven.” Or, “There are some scientists who say things that sound like what I want to hear therefore my ideas have been scientificaly proven.” Do any of these sound at all familiar?

              No, because I didn’t say any of those things. See, that’s the difference between me and you: I quote you directly, while you twist my words into what you think they ought to be. This has gone so far beyond a strawman I expect it to receive a diploma from a wizard. Anyway, I haven’t “ignored” any evidence, but rather addressed every site you have provided, and I haven’t said that your studies–which are clearly worthless as their only conclusions are “further research is needed” (said fifteen years ago)–prove or disprove anything.

              Do you seriously not understand the difference between saying that the evidence is at best inconclusive and saying that many studies have equivocal results?

              No. Because Bill was referring to all three articles in general, not the particular ones you choose to line up this way. And anyway, the article nowhere says there is “conclusive” or even “sound” evidence for acupuncture, only that there is “some”. It even cites the lack of placebo controls. And you dropped the point that “promising” inherently means “inconclusive,” as it implies there has not beenn sufficient study. Again, saying there wasn’t enough study 15 years ago is not a useful argument.

              Again, do you not understand the difference between the majority and the best?

              I understand the difference, but even the “best” evidence is inconclusive. The article says that “There is some scientific evidence that acupuncture is effective for a small number of health conditions,” which suggests that even for these conditions the evidence is inconclusive, since it says there is merely “some” evidence, not lots of evidence or conclusive evidence. And this is “at best,” since for most conditions there is no evidence at all or only equivocal evidence. Furthermore, I directly addressed this in my post. You conceded that if you conduct many studies over a wide variety of conditions, a few will inevitably give positive evidence. Worse still, you completely conceded that even for the “positive effects” for which there is “some evidence,” the article says “we cannot draw positive conclusions.” What’s that word that means you can’t draw conclusions? Oh yeah, inconclusive.

              Bill: “it’s quite possible that any positive results are caused by the placebo effect?” NIH: “The issue is further complicated by inherent difficulties in the use of appropriate controls, such as placebos and sham acupuncture groups.” Other than both having the word “placebo” in them, these sentences are unrelated. Do you really think that bolding the same word in unrelated sentences proves something?

              Completely unrelated? Are you fucking kidding me? They say the exact same thing. The article says that there have been “difficulties” using controls, which means that the controls are not optimal. It says that they are not appropriately using placebos. Thus, the effect may be the placebo effect. It really isn’t that complicated.

              NHS: “It is important to remember that when we use a treatment and feel better, this can be because of a phenomenon called the placebo effect and not because of the treatment itself.” This is obviously a general statement about the existence of the placebo effect, not saying that any particular results are the result of the placebo effect.

              Right, of course. And they just happened to put a generic statement about the placebo effect on a page about acupuncture. No relation. In case you were wondering, the lack of good controls is what the NHS means when they mention “disagreements over the way acupuncture trials should be carried out.”

              Incidentally, speaking of the placebo effect, are you no longer denying that it exists?

              wat

              You evidently do not understand that researchers are using the term “sham acupuncture” to mean a specific kind of control test, and are not using “sham” in its colloquial sense.

              Right, it is a specific control. I agree 100%. Sham acupuncture is the ontrol, and that control was as effective as the treatment. Or do you not understand how controlled studies work?

              Incidentally, if you’re arguing that sham acupuncture should be treated as a placebo, despite the fact that all the references make clear that sham acupuncture and placebo are different things, that would mean that the usual treatment is much worse then a placebo, which implies that the usual treatment is actively harming the patient.

              No it doesn’t. If you actually READ what I said, you would see that there is no blinding between the test group and the “usual care” (i.e. nothing) group, but there is blinding between the test group and the control. That alone is sufficient to account for the observed difference. Positing preposterous ideas like “usual care” (which again, is basically nothing in this context) is directly harmful makes no sense here unless you intend to, once again, erect a strawman.

              We are talking about the The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the NIH Are you saying that you think the NIH has a clear and massive interest in getting positive results?

              Uh, no. I said the NIH CAM had an interest in getting positive results. Its continued existence depends on it. The NIH as a whole obviously does not. In the future, please think before making these sweeping judgments.

              The MedlinePlus page and the Consensus Statement are both from the NIH. Yes, the Consensus statement is old – I explicitly stated when I first cited it that it’s from 1997.

              And yet you still included it. You included it, despite the fact that it told you it should only be used for historical purposes.

              Oh, and that disclaimer at the top about it being old? did you conveniently miss the bit that says, “For reliable, current information on this and other health topics, we recommend consulting the National Institutes of Health’s MedlinePlus http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/.” Which ever so coincidentally happens to to be the homepage for the site with the MedlinePlus page I linked.

              That’s funny, because the MedlinePlus page you linked is completely fucking worthless here, doesn’t cite a single study, and doesn’t say anything useful in its two short paragraphs. It does link to another NIH page, which never suggests acupuncture actually works, but does say the following:

              Although millions of Americans use acupuncture each year, often for chronic pain, there has been considerable controversy surrounding its value as a therapy and whether it is anything more than placebo.

              That’s 35% reasonably good evidence it works, 15% some evidence it doesn’t work, and 50% not enough evidence to say either way.

              What it describes as "reasonably good evidence" in that section, it describes as "some evidence" at the top. But anyway, it later gives the caveat that it may just be the placebo effect, as I already pointed out. So no, I did not mischaracterize it, and yes, I did use its exact words. Oh, and it also says this about the "reasonably good evidence": "this evidence does not allow us to draw definite conclusions." i.e. it is inconclusive. Deal with it.

              Catching fish here is a metaphor for finding real, factual, reproducible information leading to treatments, correct?

              No. It is clearly not. It’s referring to the fact that if you conduct studies on literally everything, some of those studies will produce positive results. That doesn’t mean you can trust them. That doesn’t mean the information is factual. And even if the information is factual, it only means acupuncture is effective if it shows it is more effective than placebo.

              Are you saying that you think I’m casting too wide a net because it’s more important that your preconceived notions don’t get disturbed then finding new treatments and improving existing ones to help people?

              No. I’m saying that getting a positive result with p = 0.05 one out of twenty times is not impressive. Indeed it is chance.

            • Custador

              Called in to see what was happening at UF. Stopped to fix your formatting. And HTML tags. And spelling. And grammar. You owe me ten minutes of my life back ;-)

            • Michael

              Agh! What happened to my post? Mods, help!

              (Incidentally, this forum could use an edit button.)
              Moderate me
              Moderate me
              Moderate me

              I hope this works, cause that post is fugly.

            • kessy_athena

              @Bill – that’s not how science works. Science does not deal in proof – it deals in preponderance of evidence. And if you don’t look at levels of uncertainty, sources of error, and what’s still in doubt you’re not doing science at all. It’s an essential part of the process. You are literally doing the exact same thing that climate deniers do when they try to say there really isn’t a scientific consensus. That’s literally the exact same thing that creations do when they say that evolution is just a theory.

              Sorry for being unclear, it was Michael who tried to deny the existence of the placebo effect, not you. That was in the “It must be quantum” thread, here http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unreasonablefaith/2013/03/its-probably-quantum/#comment-816910
              “…that’s bullshit; the “placebo effect” has more to do with confirmation and reporting bias than physiological effect.”

              @Michael: well, I suppose it’s a good thing scientists have you here to tell them what they actually found, since they’re clearly not competent to figure it out for themselves. And I guess the scientific method in general is only valid when it tells you what you want to hear. And it’s good to know that a “fucking useless” study is one that doesn’t support the conclusion you’ve already come to.

              You want pseudoscience? Look in the mirror. Science is a method, not a set of conclusions. Spinning data to meet your expectations is the very definition of bad science.

            • Bill

              “Science does not deal in proof – it deals in preponderance of evidence.”

              Do you even know what these terms mean? Preponderance of the evidence is a burden of proof. Something must be “proven” by “a prepoderance of the evidence” in order for that burden to be met. So yes, science does deal in proof by your definition.

              These are legal terms, and I’m not sure entirely applicable in the scientific setting, but for shorthand purposes let’s use them. Generally, the law regards something proven by a preponderance of the evidence when the proof supporting it is greater than 50%.

              Your sources and arguments – at best – indicate acupuncture may possibly have some effect in some instances. That does not meet your burden. Not even close. So where is the evidence? Persuade me by a preponderance of the evidence. Don’t call me a new world order conspiracy theorist, actually present evidence.

              “You are literally doing the exact same thing that climate deniers do when they try to say there really isn’t a scientific consensus. That’s literally the exact same thing that creations do when they say that evolution is just a theory.”

              No I’m not. And this argument is in bad faith.

              Please show me the “scientific consensus” for acupuncture. Don’t cite articles that equivocate. Don’t direct me to sources that say the benefit of acupuncture appears to be as great as a placebo. Don’t tell me “it hasn’t been disproven so there must be something to it.”

              The reason I believe global warming and evolution are real is because the evidence supports it. Until I see evidence – actual evidence – supporting acupuncture I will continue to disbelieve it. But I am open to persuasion.

              The problem is you’ve failed to present evidence.

            • kessy_athena

              Hi Custy, welcome back – we missed you. :-) Sorry you had to walk into another shouting match. BTW, is there a faq or something that explains the basic formating and html tags?

            • Michael

              To be clear, I am not disputing the existence of the placebo effect, but the cause. The best and most recent analyses have concluded that at least in most cases (if not in all), placebos do not have clinically relevant effects. I am in particular talking about this study.

              Of course, there is a substantial effect on patient-reported outcomes, but that may simply be the result of confirmation bias or a desire to meet expectations, as I said. There is also a so-called “nocebo” effect, which produces the opposite outcomes, which may be explained by performance anxiety.

              When you think about it, this is a much more plausible explanation than that the body more actively heals itself when you think it should.

              But anyway, the debate over this is far from decided and it is neither here nor there.

              @Michael: well, I suppose it’s a good thing scientists have you here to tell them what they actually found, since they’re clearly not competent to figure it out for themselves. And I guess the scientific method in general is only valid when it tells you what you want to hear. And it’s good to know that a “fucking useless” study is one that doesn’t support the conclusion you’ve already come to.

              What the fuck are you talking about? I never said any study was useless. I said a page that you linked to which didn’t cite any studies was useless. These are not even remotely similar statements.

              In fact, I am fucking done here. You have mischaracterized literally every single post I have made, unfailingly, without exception. You continue to try to paint me as some prejudiced antiscientific asshole, and twist my words (when you even quote them at all) to do so. You have shown you have no relevant scientific knowledge and no understanding of how to pick out good sources or follow good arguments.

              I’m tired of wasting my time on this nonsense.

              Sorry for putting you through all that work, Custy.

            • kessy_athena

              @Bill – yes, they are legal concepts, and no, they’re not really applicable in a scientific context. Look, if you’re looking for scientific articles that don’t equivocate, you’re not going to find them. About anything. If it doesn’t equivocate, it’s not science. Science never arrives at certainty, it never considers any question completely closed.

              I’d remind you that the terms of the debate were set by Michael and others claiming that everything in the OP has been proven to be ineffective, not by me. I think I’ve pretty definitively shown that is not the case for acupuncture. I’m not and never have been arguing that acupuncture is a completely proven and understood – that’s patently not the case. There is pretty good evidence that acupuncture is effective for treating some conditions. NHS’s words, not mine. And there’s an awful lot more that there just isn’t enough evidence to say one way or another yet. That’s a long, long way from being proven to be ineffective.

            • Bill

              “Look, if you’re looking for scientific articles that don’t equivocate, you’re not going to find them. About anything. If it doesn’t equivocate, it’s not science. Science never arrives at certainty, it never considers any question completely closed.”

              I’ve avoided this term because it seems to be a hot button issue with you, but you are goalpost shifting. Not once have I said I need a certainty. I said I need to see evidence. Enough evidence that we can say acupuncture is effective. And certainly there exist scientific articles on other topics more persuasive and closer to providing actual evidence than what you provided in this thread.

              “I’d remind you that the terms of the debate were set by Michael and others claiming that everything in the OP has been proven to be ineffective, not by me.”

              Again, you’re arguing against arguments that weren’t made. What people have said – repeatedly – is that there is insufficient evidence to believe these rememdies work. You have not persuaded otherwise. And not because of any preconceived prejudices of those you are arguing against, but because your evidence is lacking.

              “And there’s an awful lot more that there just isn’t enough evidence to say one way or another yet”

              And here you are conceding that your opponents are right. This is all we’ve been saying. Well this combined with a statement that it seems unlikely that it will be proven to be right becuase it is unscientific. Until it is proven to work though – say by a “preponderance of the evidence” – there is no reason to believe it is anything but the woo it’s described as in this post.

              So by all means, go out and get funding for a national double blind decade long study on the effectiveness of acupuncture. Please have your findings peer reviewed by credible scientists and published in an actual medical journal. If it turns out the science shows sticking needles in your back actually cures headaches, I’ll gladly concede the point.

            • kessy_athena

              @Bill: You accuse me of moving the goalposts and then turn around and insist that people didn’t say what they said. You say that finding that a procedure is effective in treating 7 conditions, ineffective at treating 3, and there’s not enough data to make a determination in 10 more means it’s been proven to be woo. you claim that studies that are convincing to the NIH, NHS, and WHO somehow don’t say what those organizations say they say. You say you’ll gladly concede the point once I provide the sort of evidence I already supplied in my first post about acupuncture. bill, you’re not even making sense on your own terms anymore.

            • Bill

              And now – like others – I’m done qith you.

              You have not provided what you claim to provide, and you insist on misrepresenting the positions of others. You’re not debating in good faith.

              I’m fairly sure at this point you’re just trolling.

          • Bill

            “Clinical trials of acupuncture for chronic low back pain have shown higher rates of symptom improvement with either acupuncture or sham acupuncture than with usual care.”

            Do you realize what this means?

            It means that a placebo was as effective as acupncture? That means acupuncture doesn’t work for the claimed purpose. It’s simply a placebo effect.

  • Noelle

    Qi helps people play Scrabble.

    • Len

      One of the best comments on the thread (and one that I can understand).

      • Noelle

        You’re welcome.

        • Len

          I guess that when you focus the Qi energy properly, the universe gives you better letters because of the quantums.

          • Michael

            To test this, we pit qi up against a placebo, chi. We find that while qi helps Scrabble players immensely, chi barely helps them at all. We conclude that the effects are specific to qi.

            • Len

              Q.E.D (qi erat demonstrandum)

          • Noelle

            I would rather accept it than explore any scientific or mathematic reasoning for the phenomenon. I don’t want to ruin the magic.

  • thrutch

    Okay not to be a kill joy but there are a few things on there that shouldn’t.
    Aromatherapy can be used to trigger memories and certain smells and pollen have instictual reactions to our body. But the essential oil stuff is boollocks, the psychology side is distancing itself rapidly from the alternative stuff, but we mustn’t forget its roots as pcychological practive still utilized.
    Acupuncture utilized in the practice of releasing acid from the muscles is proven. Needle goes in, they wiggle it, new blood rushes to the area flushing out the lactic acid. Similar effects can be done with massage.
    Detox it depends on the type of detox. Drug and alcohol detox are sometimes necessary. I detox myself after drinking to much. I drink lots of water, eat foods, sleep, pee, drink a complex drink, sleep, drink water, eat complex carbohydrates, drink more water, probably pee again, go for a swim or excercise. Go to Pub repeat, a friend of mine used to spend a wknd every month or so in a detox tank with the police service, hosing off was optional.

    Like a lot of things we tend label by majority. If something has 10 parts, 7 are false, 2 are inconclusive and 1 true, we label it as a failure, myth, untrue or illogical. Ignoring the aspect which is true we actualy demean something which is beneficial. If we are to be truly truthful, we must state what aspects of something are postive in negaitve, citing both quantititavly and qualititatively.

    • Bill

      Do you have a citation to support any of these statements?

  • Dehydration Station

    The newest version (now 3.1) of the 5-set Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense can be found here: http://imgur.com/a/knILO


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