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Feb 06 2012

Dear Jezebel

There’s a reason I promote atheism and skepticism coupled with feminism, and it’s not because I’m trying to foist a feminist ideology on skepticism. It’s because skepticism drives me to consider discrimination and injustice as wrong, not just in an abstract moral sense, but unjustifiable and invalid. If I am in any sense a feminist, it is because I am a skeptic, not vice versa. And I think the best way to achieve equality for women, and for minorities of all kinds, is to view the world rationally, empirically, and as objectively as possible. It’s the people who try to justify everything with their biases and gut feelings and falsified opinions that have gotten us in our current mess.

So it really pains me to see the website Jezebel take a big step backwards and publish a ghastly gullible bit of fluff that endorses nonsense, titled “Worth It: A Homeopathic Pain Reliever That Actually Works“.

Sorry, but it doesn’t.

The author thinks it does, but mild pain can be a highly subjective phenomenon, and a little delusion goes a long way in persuading someone to ignore a sensation. The stuff she was playing with is called Arnica, and it’s based on an herbal remedy that’s supposed to have pain-relieving qualities, similar to aspirin. homeopathic arnica has been tested in double-blind, controlled studies, and as you might guess, when the patient doesn’t have the preconception that the little pill will cure their pain, it doesn’t cure the pain. It’s indistinguishable from placebo.

These pills contain 30c arnica, lactose, and sucrose. 30c is the dilution: the arnica is diluted to one part in 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. This is the equivalent of 1ml of arnica dispersed into a cube 100 light years on a side. There ain’t no arnica in it. It’s a sugar pill.

The author also plugs arnica gel, which is not homeopathic, but it is a bit vague about the concentration; it’s a 7% solution of I-don’t-know-what. This could do something. Arnica contains thymol, which is fungicidal and antibiotic. It’s effect on pain has been tested in double-blind, controlled studies, with ambiguous results: one study finds a weak analgesic effect, but recommends it be used together with aspirin (which had a stronger effect). Another study found that arnica actually increased pain. This isn’t too surprising, either: “arnica” is a plant, the active agent, whatever it is, hasn’t been identified or purified, so what people are getting is a variable assortment of complex molecules in variable concentrations.

Maybe it actually works. I wouldn’t be surprised — after all, willow bark extracts were also found to alleviate pain. But science tracked down the active ingredient in that willow bark, acetylsalicylic acid, and have been able to work with the pure agent and also analyze the mechanism of action. Arnica? Who knows. Why people are willing to slather on a mystery mix of miscellaneous plant toxins, but get all squeamish at the idea of pharmaceutical chemicals, is a total mystery to me.

But that doesn’t matter. What we’ve got here is one author credulously and enthusiastically peddling a homeopathic nostrum on the basis of subjective personal anecdotes. An n of 1, no controls, no blind experiments, just one person pushing boxes of sugar pills at $8.29 each. And on top of all that, read the comments: lots of people are pushing back and explaining that homeopathy can’t work (excellent!), and others are complaining about “nasty comments” and “rude comments” and getting huffy that skeptics would have the effrontery to expect better analysis.

How do you like this excuse?

Oh for heaven sake. This is not Science, it’s Cassie telling us it works for her. I don’t care if homeopathy is a quack if it works for people and they are happy about it. It’s ain’t that easy making placebo these days. She’s not telling you to cure cancer with homeopathy (and even id she did – you know better don’t do it!) she’s telling us that this gel and pills work for her pain. It’s just popular advice .

Feminism is best served by embracing reality, by thinking critically, and advancing rational arguments. This sloppy Newage shit-slurry of ingenuous gullibility is pure poison to the cause.

Now that’s rudeness. There’s nothing even close in the comments there.

(via Templeton Koala’s blog)

(Also on Sb)

230 comments

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  1. 1
    Glen Davidson

    Sorry, if someone said that prayer is a “pain reliever that really works,” without any indication that it “works only for believers” (or whatever subset might buy it), it means that it works in general. And if it doesn’t work in general, then it’s BS.

    Atheists are subhumans to itsnobody, too. Should we call that anything but a disgusting prejudice?

    Glen Davidson

  2. 2
    evilDoug

    “sloppy Newage shit-slurry of ingenuous gullibility”

    Orac is going to be envious of that phase!

  3. 3
    evilDoug

    er, “phRase”

  4. 4
    Zeno

    No family gathering is complete without the women gathered in the dining room exchanging totally nonsensical information: (a) foot soaks that leach out “toxins”; (b) homeopathic cold remedies that are “safe” (that’s for sure); (c) acai berries and their miraculous “immune system strengthening” powers; (d) foods that reduce or prevent cancer (thank you, Suzanne Somers, for all of your idiotic books); (e) the dangers of “too many” vaccinations. It’s enough to make a sensible person run screaming from the room. Of course, it does me no good to go to the den, because all of the guys are in there either dozing or watching an over-loud sports program on television (at least it’s better than listening to them discuss politics, which is often as fact-packed as the distaff discussion of woo-meds). Arrrgggh!

  5. 5
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    It’s Jezebel. They’re not a feminist blog. They’re a Gawker blog. Their priority is page hits. Some of their articles are pro-feminist. On the other hand, there are articles like this notorious one from an American man in Paris on the joys of sexually harassing women.

    And let’s not forget they’ve hired Hugo Schwyzer to tell us ladies things such as that we’re empowered by letting men jizz on our faces. Any comments bringing up Schwyzer’s sociopathic RL behavior are banished to the “off-topic” thread, and the commenters are de-starred.

  6. 6
    a3kr0n

    It’s ain’t that easy making placebo these days.

    Oh ya? Ever see Two Girls And A Cup?
    I haven’t, but that’ what the comment made me think of…

  7. 7
    Anthony K

    This is not Science, it’s Cassie telling us it works for her. I don’t care if homeopathy is a quack if it works for people and they are happy about it.

    Oh, fuck the fucking fuck.

  8. 8
    Inaji

    Brownian:

    Oh, fuck the fucking fuck.

    Quoting because this pretty much sums up my reaction.

  9. 9
    summerminor

    Flame war in 3.2.1…

    I think calling out quackery is the right thing to do, end stop. I suspect, however, calling out such a large blog is going to stir up trouble. Someone will probably twist this post around and use it to claim you’re a hypocrite. Something along the lines of “He claims they want more women in science, but when we show up and speak he insults us and tells us to shut up.” I absolutely don’t read this post as that, but I can see how others might. People don’t like being called out for their bullshit, and too often tend to try to bite back.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t have said this. Its absolutely the reasonable and intelligent thing to do. Unfortunately, doing the right thing doesn’t always get the good results. *sigh*

  10. 10
    eigenperson

    Someone will probably twist this post around and use it to claim you’re a hypocrite. Something along the lines of “He claims they want more women in science, but when we show up and speak he insults us and tells us to shut up.” I absolutely don’t read this post as that, but I can see how others might.

    Those people need to adjust their goals.

    How about setting a goal of having more women in science, and fewer in beyond fucking-stupid quack pseudoscience.

  11. 11
    sambarge

    I’m a regular poster on Jez and it’s pretty hit or miss with the feminism and generally a miss on the skepticism. However, if you check out the comments on this post, you’ll see a string of commenters telling the OP that homeopathic “medicines” are nothing but placebos. The most supportive comments are from posters who think the reality based commenters are being too mean.

    I have been de-starred on Jez. I don’t know why but I suspect it was all my A-T-H-I-E-S-T talk. They no likey.

  12. 12
    sambarge

    Sorry for the double post. I meant to add that there are even a couple links to Minchin’s Storm.

  13. 13
    Seize

    /waves at sambarge

    Another Jez regular here. I was completely horrified by that post and tried to express my qualms.

    I think the biggest problem is that the Jezebel commentariat doesn’t seem to “get” how the anti-science crowd (with remarkably few exceptions) IS the anti-feminist crowd, or at least the vapid gender-essentialist crowd. There’s nothing wrong with being feminist first – you’ve got to start somewhere – but I am having difficulty arguing for a necessary bridge between feminism and skepticism to a skeptic-naive crowd.

    Anyway, Peez, thanks for the reaming. Hopefully it will at least garner some attention.

  14. 14
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    Every time a liberal website publishes something pro-woo, I feel very sad (or don’t go there at all, like HuffPo).

    Though it seems that all websites affiliated with Gawker are primarily concerned with making money, and not particularly activist in any way.

  15. 15
    feralboy12

    I don’t care if homeopathy is a quack if it works for people and they are happy about it.

    And if they happen to pay $8.29 for 20 cents worth of sugar, sold under false pretenses, that’s just groovy.
    Medicine–it’s all about making people happy.
    Killed By Fish

  16. 16
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    This is not Science, it’s Cassie telling us it works for her. I don’t care if homeopathy is a quack if it works for people and they are happy about it.

    Fundamentalist Islam works for people and they are happy about it. So no problem with that, either, I assume.

    ***

    Zeno:

    (thank you, Suzanne Somers, for all of your idiotic books)

    You know, I’ve generally avoided taking strong positions in the discussions about speech laws, but this is one area that’s been a problem for me. She tells her story – and some tellings have to be false because they aren’t consistent – and it involves her version of what doctors told her and their diagnoses. As Orac’s pointed out, her doctors can’t respond, and can’t even say whether she is/was a patient. So she and others who write this stuff can basically make things up and there’s no recourse for the doctors. This seems fundamentally unfair: people can’t fact-check on matters of importance to health, and the doctors can essentially be slandered/libeled (this is not an exagerration for the people who know or can find out who they are) without being able to set the record straight or defend themselves. I don’t know what the solution might be, but it just doesn’t seem right.

  17. 17
    Natalie Reed

    Well… once upon a time Jezebel was a feminist site, and a pretty good one, too, with their heart in the right place (and very inclusive).

    It’s just not the case any more.

    They still provide some good news stories every now and then that wouldn’t otherwise be reported, but unless you want your heart broken, you need to remember Gawker, and need to keep your expectations REAL low.

  18. 18
    Evader, the parasite-infested branch on the evolutionary tree

    Kind of reminds me of Bender’s response…

    Nikolai: “But wait, I’m supposed to give a speech at the UN tomorrow. Can I trust you to do it?”

    Bender: “You can trust anything.”

    Wonder how many times this is on the comments section:

    “You know what they call ‘alternative medicine’ that’s been proved to work…? Medicine”

  19. 19
    Marcus Ranum

    “sloppy Newage shit-slurry of ingenuous gullibility”

    It’s not the bottom, it’s the top!!!!! FTW!!!!

  20. 20
    Ichthyic

    he’s not telling you to cure cancer with homeopathy (and even id she did – you know better don’t do it!)

    wait…

    so, on the one hand, this person is saying there is no need to be critical of this product, and on the other hand, there is need to be critical of this product?

    How do people get so fucked up like this?

    just too much exposure to advertising?

  21. 21
    Ichthyic

    Well… once upon a time Jezebel was a feminist site, and a pretty good one, too, with their heart in the right place (and very inclusive).

    interesting pattern of degradation that is very similar to what happened to HuffPo…

  22. 22
    anat

    And if they happen to pay $8.29 for 20 cents worth of sugar, sold under false pretenses, that’s just groovy.

    Well, Dan Ariely got an Ig-Noble prize for demonstrating that expensive placebos work better than cheaper ones. When we pay for something we have a stronger need to believe it works or else we were suckered, and people don’t like thinking of themselves as suckers.

  23. 23
    Ichthyic

    “He claims they want more women in science, but when we show up and speak he insults us and tells us to shut up.”

    uh, where is the SCIENCE that is being critiqued here?

    there are no women doing actual science being told to curb their enthusiasm in this post, that’s for sure.

    so, if any people are actually dumb enough to conflate pseudoscience with science, then that’s their problem, and has fuckall to do with PZ, or the subject matter of the post.

  24. 24
    demonhauntedworld

    There is a disturbing (and unfortunate) amount of overlap in both academic and lay circles between feminism, alternative medicine and post-modernism, particularly where the latter is concerned with validating other “ways of knowing” and painting science as another form of oppressive Western colonialism. Sokal and Bricmont have numerous examples of this in their book Fashionable Nonsense, the most (in)famous of which may be Luce Irigaray’s quotes about E=mc^2 being a “sexed equation” and that fluid mechanics is understudied because it deals with “feminine fluids” instead of “masculine rigid mechanics.”

    Similarly, even well-intentioned efforts to make science more inclusive and appealing to women all too often fall-back on the use of stereotypes, often in the form of how women could bring unique perspectives to a field because they’re more sensitive or empathetic or “holistic” or in touch with Nature (qv Vandana Shiva).

  25. 25
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    SpokesGay at the physician’s office today, talking to the nurse before his annual physical:

    Nurse: What medications are you on?

    SpokesGay: Blah blah blah, blah blah interminable old-man-before-my-time-pharmacopeia at XX mg twice a day, no that one’s just two doses all at once, no I don’t take benzos three times a day. . what the hell is wrong with your meds-tracking software cuz we’ve been over this 6 times over the past year. . .

    Nurse: Taking an multi-vitamins or supplements?

    SpokesGay: Aside from the fish oil [prescribed by my cardiologist, and which appears to have some good evidence of efficacy for coronary artery disease} no. I put no stock in anti-scientific nonsense used to peddle worthless herbs, supplements, or other snake oil. I eat a balanced—

    Nurse: Well, if you eat a healthy diet you don’t need them! (tee-hee-hee).

    SpokesGay: Inside my head-(Oh my fuck. Did she not hear that I talked about unproven herbal treatments and supplements? Does she actually not know that—even considering that vitamins aren’t useful to the majority of patients—there’s a big difference between actual vitamins such as C and D and bullshit New Age herb poultices? Should I say anything?)

    SpokesGay: Mmm(smiley-smile). Thanks so much.

  26. 26
    Algernon

    Sooooo if it’s just one woman telling us it “really worked” for her, then what is wrong with us saying “it’s probably a placebo effect” then? After all, if I understand it correctly placebos “work” in some instances for people… or at least their perception of them working is real. However, that doesn’t mean that the “active ingredient” has any power at all other than whatever the person getting the placebo effect invests in it.

    I wish some one would get a placebo effect working on this neuralgia on my side. Damn.

  27. 27
    StarStuff, a soulless cunt

    Pseudoscience and quackery have been used against women in the past and in the present. Jezebel, Y U NO realize this???

    Slightly related: It always makes my head hurt a bit when someone likes to claim that “big pharma” is just out to make money, so instead of buying the 40 pill bottle of ibuprofen for $2.99 (which, you know, works and is safe), they buy the 20 pill bottle of sugarhomeopathic pills for $9.99 (which doesn’t work).

  28. 28
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    I hasten to add that my last encounter with Sympathy For Pseudoscience at the doctor’s office happened with a guy, a physician’s assistant (a position which can prescribe medicine in the US). On seeing a sign advertising classes in “reflexology, stress management through acupuncture”, etc., I said to him, “Why does this large hospital system promote nonsense that not only hasn’t been proven to work, but that has no plausible mechanism of action and which has a lot of evidence against its efficacy?”

    He stared at me scornfully, clearly indicating he thought I’d been incredibly judgmental (read: rude).

    “Well, how do you know it doesn’t help some people?”

    What? What? I have to explain to you what a double-blinded trial and a report in your own medical journals means as compared to this bullshit?

    Brought to you, I discovered today, by the same hospital system that is now passing out cards on E Cigarette Usage Indoors On Our Campus. The cards note that “while the exhaled vapor appears to be safe,” it “hasn’t been proven to be safe“, so therefore using an e-cigarette anywhere on the grounds is forbidden. The back of the card urges smokers to sign up for their Quit Classes which use nicotine gum and patches, both of which have been shown to have a miserable success rate (as compared to e-cigarettes, which are just beginning to be studied rationally). So, don’t use your e-cig, use our shitty gum. And don’t suck on it indoors, outdoors or in the parking garage, god forbid. We’d rather have you plotting how you’re going to get away from the ward to smoke tobacco.

    Science and patient care for the win.

    Both the nurse and my doctor hadn’t even seen these, and joined me in belly-laughing when I noted how unenforceable that bullshit is because I’d already puffed on my e-cig repeatedly in the bathroom in the waiting room. How in the hell can you enforce a ban on something passers-by can’t even smell?

  29. 29
    Ing

    It’s ain’t that easy making placebo these days.

    What.

  30. 30
    James Goetz

    PZ, I fight discrimination by promoting egalitarianism. Anyway, if I correctly understand you, then skepticism drives you to see that discrimination and injustice are wrong.

    Your view drives me to curiosity about your moral theory. As far as I know, atheistic moral theory is mostly (1) error theory or (2) something along the lines of “accidental” moral realism.

    I’m relatively new to a philosophical approach to moral theory so I wouldn’t be surprised if your approach is something else. Regardless, How do you determine if something is injustice or morally wrong?

  31. 31
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I wonder how long it’ll take for some idiot to insist that since you’re not a woman, you can’t possibly have a legitimate opinion on the topic, and/or that this is just another example of “men telling women what to do.” >.>

  32. 32
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Your view drives me to curiosity about your moral theory. As far as I know, atheistic moral theory is mostly (1) error theory or (2) something along the lines of “accidental” moral realism.

    I’ve been reading atheistic arguments on morality for years and I’ve encountered neither of those terms. Explain?

  33. 33
    Ichthyic

    I wish some one would get a placebo effect working on this neuralgia on my side.

    yeah, that’s a tough one. My pop got neuralgia from a combination of type II diabetes and a shingles attack.

    I spent some time researching the issue a few years back, and it looked like we’re still at least a decade away from direct treatments to repair nerve cells damaged in this fashion.

    …and the current treatments of either nerve severing (actually cutting the trunk nerve to prevent pain response) or just treating it analgesically are both severely limited.

    I empathize.

    For others that haven’t thought about neuralgia before, here’s some tips:

    if you are at risk for diabetes, get checked regularly and catch it early, so you can control it with diet easily. DON’T WAIT. nerve damage as a secondary effect of diabetes is not reparable, and the pain just might last you the rest of your life.

    If you have ever had chicken pox, and are over the age of 50, make SURE you schedule an appointment to get the vaccine for shingles. You’ll be tremendously glad you did. Also, be aware of what the symptoms of shingles ARE (things like a rash that only appears on one side of your body), and AS SOON AS YOU SEE THEM, go immediately to your doctor for anti-retroviral meds. If you catch it within the first 3 days of an outbreak, you have a decent chance for the antivirals to reduce the impact tremendously, and thus avoid the potential for neuralgia. Also, make sure that you get the best pain treatment you can at the same time, as that too will help to avoid neuralgia.

    I’m dead serious about all of this.

    I watched my pop suffer for years with this shit. It’s very likely to have cut at least 5 to 10 years off his life, just dealing with the unending pain.

  34. 34
    robro

    Ichthyic #21 — Isn’t it interesting. A very similar thought went through my poor old brain. Although I have my suspicions of Ariana Huffington’s “radical” cred, given her entry into the public domain, when HuffPost was fairly new it seemed reasonably thoughtful. It might still if I could bare it. But, there was so much junk “news” and “stories,” I quit checking it. I guess they’re there to fill pages and, you know, click, click, click. The irresistible allure of AdSense. I need a drink of Herbert Marcuse.

  35. 35
    Ing

    Regardless, How do you determine if something is injustice or morally wrong?

    Sigh. Ok look I know there’s three post rule, but I’m already getting my cranky pillow out to sit on and settle in for a nice long game of “let me try to convince you that you have no ground to be moral” soliphcism.

  36. 36
    Inaji

    Josh:

    He stared at me scornfully, clearly indicating he thought I’d been incredibly judgmental (read: rude).

    “Well, how do you know it doesn’t help some people?”

    The quackery infesting hospitals these days is absurd and shameful. Thankfully, there’s little of it at Medcenter*, around here, it’s the Catholic hospital that’s seriously soaking in the woo.

    *Not to say that it isn’t there at all, it is. Fortunately, most of the people I’ve encountered there don’t like it, don’t believe in it and roll their eyes over it.

    Among a lot of the doctors though, there’s this automatic respect given to herbology, chiropractic, acupuncture and the like. I find that odd and baffling.

  37. 37
    Ichthyic

    Among a lot of the doctors though, there’s this automatic respect given to herbology, chiropractic, acupuncture and the like. I find that odd and baffling.

    I suspect they envy the fact that woomeisters have much cheaper, or even nonexistent, malpractice insurance.

  38. 38
    Inaji

    Ichthyic:

    I suspect they envy the fact that woomeisters have much cheaper, or even nonexistent, malpractice insurance.

    I’d dearly like to believe that’s what it is, but I don’t think so. It’s the respect of another professional, a colleague – like they are actual doctors. It’s weird and discomfiting.

  39. 39
    rebekahhuseby

    As much as I hate woo remedies, I do have to say that I tried them all to relieve menstrual pain. Chiropractic, Reiki, acupuncture, herbs – you name it! Why? because I was in.pain. Lots of pain. Curled up and laying in bed crying 2 days a week pain. Don’t touch me pain. I can’t keep food down because I am in pain. I will use up all my sick days just for a monthly event in pain.

    Too see something like this – well, in the past I would have tried it because it *might* have worked (in my mind at least).

    It took 7 doctors later to find just ONE MD to go wow – that’s quite a bit of pain – here is a prescription of a narcotic for 3 days a month just to be on the safe side, see you in a year.

    I got sick of hearing it was in my head, that I needed to toughen up, that I really was just a junkie, that I needed therapy because I couldn’t embrace being a woman and that is why I was in pain (and yes – all from MDs!). The woo folks never judged or told me that – they took my hand, sympathized, listened and then took my money and gave me fake remedies. Who is the better practioner in this scenario?

    THAT my friends is why women will try fake remedies and woo pushers – because the hard science folks – MDs – will completely dismiss us until we become desperate for someone just to listen. I wonder how many women go through the same thing?

  40. 40
    Ichthyic

    because the hard science folks – MDs

    your GP is not a scientist, never was, never will be.

    they are for diagnostics and triage.

    while you’re correct that it’s often hard to find a GP who is even a decent diagnostician any more, this has nothing to do with the science of medicine.

    don’t conflate the two issues.

  41. 41
    Ing

    The woo folks never judged or told me that – they took my hand, sympathized, listened and then took my money and gave me fake remedies. Who is the better practioner in this scenario?

    The ones who didn’t take your money and give you bullshit?

  42. 42
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    As much as I hate woo remedies,

    Do you? Because you say:

    The woo folks never judged or told me that – they took my hand, sympathized, listened and then took my money and gave me fake remedies. Who is the better practioner in this scenario?

    OK. They held your hand. They didn’t “judge” you. But they didn’t exercise any clinical judgment either. They didn’t prescribe you anything that could actually help your physical pain. Oh, yeah, because they can’t.

    A kind hand-holder is essential in many situations. Lord knows I would have been lost without the nurse who gripped my hand and held me while I cried in fear during my heart attack. She stroked me like my mom would.

    But it was “cold”, Western, scientific, uncomfortable-and-undignified sticking a wire into my crotchal artery and up into my heart to clear out the plug that saved me. Not hand-holding.

    That cardiologist, my friend, was “the better practitioner,” if you insist on conflating compassionate empathy and empirical medical intervention as if they were a zero-sum game. Why would you do that?

    I know women’s medical complaints have been routinely dismissed and ridiculed by the medical establishment in the US and the UK. That doesn’t make woo more effective or more likely to heal women or save their lives. The solution is not to turn to bullshit New Age Earth Mother con women (no, I don’t give a shit whether they’re sincere or not and neither should you) but to work to elevate consciousness in real, actual medicine about both women’s pathologies and the need of patients for emotional support.

  43. 43
    andyo

    On a related topic, I just got talked about this $2700 vacuum cleaner (“Rainbow”) which as it turned out, looks like an elaborate pyramid scheme. The thing works, and if it cost like, up to $300, I would probably buy it. Spare me the woo demonstrations (where they put a wet napkin on one of the exhausts or some such, and it’s supposed to be your “lungs”).

    _____________________

    I suspect, however, calling out such a large blog is going to stir up trouble.

    Um, welcome to Pharyngula?

    I don’t expect this to be worse than when PZ called out the “futurologist” with the brain upload thing whose name escapes me and I care less than googling it, which was posted at Gizmodo. IIRC the Pharyngupost even got cross-posted at Giz.

  44. 44
    andyo

    Although, really, I wouldn’t buy a $300 vacuum cleaner, but you get what I mean.

  45. 45
    Therrin

    This is the equivalent of 1ml of arnica dispersed into a cube 100 light years on a side.

    That’s an awfully large pill to swallow.

  46. 46
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    My mother used to work as a doctor’s receptionist. He told her that it didn’t really take brains or intelligence to become a doctor, just the ability to memorise a fair amount.

  47. 47
    Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion

    I can see why the woo can appeal to women vulnerable to the whole newage ‘empowering spirituality’ gimmick, but how they can’t see the whole thing for the anti-feminist bullshit it is makes me seethe.

    See, I’ve got this hypothesis that attributing a strange, mystical (yet utterly harmless) power to an ‘other’ we can’t quite understand but feel superior to is a convenient way of effectively silencing both that group and making them feel less threatening. That’s… uh, badly put. Sorry. An example is the ‘magical foreigner’ trope – from the eastern mystic through the Indian fakir to the Haitian witch-doctor and so forth. By dismissing any real investigation into these practices and simply holding it aside from everyday life, the colonialist (read one who feels superior) mind manages to somehow concurrently devalue, marginalise and at the same time place these people on an insubstantial pedestal.

    The problem with this sort of mindset is that the person doing the marginalising/devaluing sees the attribution of the ‘powers’ as being empowering and elevating for the group. They can continue to feel superior to these people, continue to perpetuate and encourage the magical thinking so as to keep the marginalised group in a repressed, even subservient position. It is, basically, stunting the mental growth of a population by assuming they cannot or will not want to play science with the grown-ups.
    People do this to women ALL THE TIME. Especially women! Ads on TV for washing powder cite the expert opinions of the mystical mum. Ads for natural remedies show women doing yoga and eating natural, organic yoghurt. “Psychic development” ads and things like that, as well as the newage wiccan and pagan imagery show mystical, “empowered” women, often tied in with the “magical” powers of childbirth and motherhood.

    We know none of these things are anything but biological. The attribution of magical powers to anything like this just serves as a means of keeping women and other “foreign things we don’t really understand and don’t want to” firmly chained to the realm of woo where they can’t use any sort of real power to change the status quo. BLARGH.
    The fact it’s swallowed hook, line and sinker by most of the population (male and female alike) is genuinely sickening.

  48. 48
    bromion

    That 100 light year cube equivalent actually made me laugh out loud. :()

  49. 49
    bromion

    Great story, rebekah. For those who didn’t get it, her point is that the medical profession does disservice to patients and drives them to quackery when patients are treated with disrespect. In her story, neither group were the better practitioners — neither the condescending doctors nor the quacks cured her pain (except the last doctor she mentioned) and both took her money.

    Of course, none of this is a defense of quackery — it’s just an indictment of the medical system in some circumstances.

  50. 50
    Aratina Cage

    Arnica is not cheap, and I will be happy if I never see that shit ever again in my entire life because it has long been the quack-panacea of choice for people close to me who really ought to know better but are in extreme denial. Arnica might trick people into thinking they are getting better, but all it is really doing is bleeding those people dry.

    It always makes my head hurt a bit when someone likes to claim that “big pharma” is just out to make money, so instead of buying the 40 pill bottle of ibuprofen for $2.99 (which, you know, works and is safe), they buy the 20 pill bottle of sugarhomeopathic pills for $9.99 (which doesn’t work).–StarStuff

    QFFT. It’s maddening to see this in action and be helpless to stop it because the poor fool buying the sugarhomeopathic pills “knows” they work! (They work my ass! They work in the same way that prayers work, or magical incantations, or asparagus divining, etc.)

  51. 51
    Therrin

    Shit, I’m out of straw.

  52. 52
    Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion

    Doctors and woo peddlers are in the business for different reasons. Sure the woo-mongers will make you feel WONDERFUL – that’s how they make their money! If they can make you feel good temporarily, like reiki practitioners who do nothing more than let the person have a nice relaxing lie down and maybe comfort from body heat depending on their *cough* technique *gag*, you are much more likely to come back wanting more… treatment.
    In general, doctors don’t want to make you feel immediately better. They’re there to fix problems inside the machine of your body, not to tell you you’re special and give you a nice, comfortable, expensive hour long nap.

    I’ve been to plenty of doctors who either couldn’t find the cause of my pain/illness or wanted to subject me to horrible tests (I have an intense phobia of needles. No, not just a bit scared, a genuine phobia. Trying to get any medical person to acknowledge that is a battle and a half EVERY time.) but at least I know that behind the detatched, clinical, sometimes unsympathetic exterior is a mind trained in critical analysis trying to figure out what the problem is and fix it. People are fallible and our understanding of medicine is incomplete. At least doctors are honest about it.

  53. 53
    rorschach

    I’m involved in a pain trial at the moment, and I can tell you that vitamin pills are way cheaper than sugar pills, as far as placebo goes.

    As to Arnica, I remember it poured over and into open wounds as a disinfectant, and onto insect bites as anti-itch. Funny smell, too. And even more funny that I should remember the smell 40 years onwards.

  54. 54
    ikesolem

    It’s worth noting that homeopathy historically originated as a response to pre-modern medical practices. For example, here’s a medical report from 1841:

    …he was directed to take, calomel [mercurous chloride], three grains, jalap, five grains, at once, and an enema of oil of turpentine, half an ounce…

    Faced with that regime, taking the homeopathic ‘cure’ (water) would be a better choice of action for the patient. It’s a case of doing less harm, but only in the 19th-century context. Your immune system stood a better chance of winning without the mercury, turpentine, leeches, cupping, bleeding, etc. Check out this account of George Washington’s death – they gave him the works, and he then expired.

    Today, the water-as-drug approach is mostly unjustified. Modern medicine has generally abandoned those 19th-century toxic dose approaches – with the exception of eager pharmaceutical companies hushing up negative clinical trial results in order to sell more pain relief product, see for example Vioxx/Celebrex, Merck, GSK, – all with the help of the FDA, too.

    Of course, such behavior results in widespread distrust of pharmaceutical corporations and their paid-off lackey doctors and FDA bureaucrats – and that gives the ‘alternative medicine’ con artists their openings, right?

    What you really have here are greedy little pill-pushers, coming from all directions. Don’t trust any of them, and always get a second – or third – independent opinion. A degree in biochemistry is helpful, too.

  55. 55
    John Morales

    [OT]

    Sophia, needle phobia?

    I saw a news item not long ago that might hearten you: Queensland researchers are trialling a painless nanopatch that uses 100 times less vaccine than a needle and syringe.

  56. 56
    John Morales

    [ADDENDUM]

    Um. Sophia, you may wish to only read the transcript — the video shows injections occurring.

  57. 57
    Amphiox

    The woo folks never judged or told me that – they took my hand, sympathized, listened and then took my money and gave me fake remedies. Who is the better practioner in this scenario?

    The MDs by a country mile. They at least did not deliberately try to cheat you.

    You do realize that the sympathy, listening, taking of the hand, etc, is all part of the scam to take your money? Classic con-man behavior.

  58. 58
    Amphiox

    It’s worth noting that homeopathy historically originated as a response to pre-modern medical practices. For example, here’s a medical report from 1841:

    Reminds me of an old Punch editorial cartoon from that era:

    Physician and homeopath are coming to blows atop a (terrified)
    hapless patient.

    Physician: If he takes YOUR remedy, he’ll DIE OF HIS DISEASE!
    Homeopath: And if he takes YOUR remedy, he’ll DIE OF THE CURE!

  59. 59
    Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion

    @John Morales – possibly the best news I’ve heard in years! The amount of sedative it takes to get me into a chair anywhere near someone holding a needle is becoming ridiculous. I don’t even have to be the recipient of the needle, I was visiting my brother-in-law in hospital when the phlebotomist came in to take his blood. I was hiding around the corner sobbing! Utterly illogical madness!
    Thanks for the heads-up too, I can’t even watch FAKE needles happening on TV or in movies, my husband has become very good at prompting me to look away if he knows one’s coming up :)

    Phobias are hilarious. Crippling, but hilarious.

  60. 60
    Amphiox

    …and the current treatments of either nerve severing (actually cutting the trunk nerve to prevent pain response) or just treating it analgesically are both severely limited.

    We don’t really have many (or any, depending how you define “good”) good analgesics that work for neuropathic pain. The mechanism of pain generation is quite different from the other types of “regular” pain.

  61. 61
    Alex

    Therrin says:

    “This is the equivalent of 1ml of arnica dispersed into a cube 100 light years on a side.”

    That’s an awfully large pill to swallow.

    Good news! It’s a suppository :D

  62. 62
    chimera

    Thank you thank you thank you a thousand times for this.

    It’s bullshit articles like the one referenced above that made me leave Jezebel for good. The site was quite an oasis for me for a while. I was so happy to have found an online forum where identifying yourself as a woman did not immediately result in you getting dismissed, shouted down, or issued rape threats. I learned a lot from Jezebel’s commentariat, most memorably about privilege and kyriarchy. I learned not only about how and why I was oppressed, but how I was an oppressor myself, and learned about ways to recognize my privilege, as well as ways to mitigate it. It was my favorite site… until I noticed a shocking amount of obnoxious woo-tolerance. I gave it a pass for a while–after all, it was a (dubiously, in retrospect) “feminist” site, and did not claim to be focused on skepticism specifically. But the bullshit (from the authors and the comments) just kept getting worse and worse–cultural relatavism being thrown around left and right, heated arguments of subjective morality, that it just got to be too much. Honestly, I didn’t even catch any of the Hugo Schwyzer shitstorm that someone mentioned above because I had already left at that point.

    Of course, atheist and skeptic sites are generally no walk in the park for me, as they tend to feature all the misogyny and rape culture bullshit that I was trying to escape by reading Jezebel.

    So, not to be a kiss-ass, but I am INCREDIBLY happy and grateful to have found PZ’s blog (as well as Greta Christina, Crommunist, and others). I don’t comment too much–most of what I am thinking has already been said by other commenters, and to be honest, most of them are far better writers than I. But just know that I REALLY appreciate and enjoy my new-found corner of internet sanity.

  63. 63
    John Morales

    [meta + OT]

    Hi, chimera.

    (Good delurk!)

  64. 64
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    SC #15:

    She tells her story – and some tellings have to be false because they aren’t consistent – and it involves her version of what doctors told her and their diagnoses. As Orac’s pointed out, her doctors can’t respond, and can’t even say whether she is/was a patient. So she and others who write this stuff can basically make things up and there’s no recourse for the doctors. This seems fundamentally unfair: people can’t fact-check on matters of importance to health, and the doctors can essentially be slandered/libeled (this is not an exagerration for the people who know or can find out who they are) without being able to set the record straight or defend themselves. I don’t know what the solution might be, but it just doesn’t seem right.

    If you make public any account or depiction of your interaction with your physician, you are considered to have waived your doctor-patient privilege by making such an interaction public of your own accord, and the doctor is thus allowed to present their version of events in order to avoid defamatory claims?

  65. 65
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Erp. That was comment #16 I was responding to, not 15.

  66. 66
    chimera

    @John Morales #63:

    *takes a bow*

  67. 67
    Deen

    It’s ain’t that easy making placebo these days.

    Guess all the skeptics pointing out that they’re fake nowadays takes away some of their magic.

  68. 68
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    “He claims they want more women in science, but when we show up and speak he insults us and tells us to shut up.” I absolutely don’t read this post as that, but I can see how others might. People don’t like being called out for their bullshit, and too often tend to try to bite back.

    And that would be justified if he attacked her for being a woman with an opinion, called her a cunt and added something like “and that’s why women aren’t taken serious in science”.
    Which hasn’t happened.
    The attack is on the position which is simply wrong, independently of who utters it and be it a nobel-prize winner.

    The woo folks never judged or told me that – they took my hand, sympathized, listened and then took my money and gave me fake remedies. Who is the better practioner in this scenario?

    I see the problem.
    Both sides actually did nothing to really adress the problem.
    Both side charged money for doing nothing.
    But one side at least believed you (or gave the genuine impression of doing so).

    There are studies about how much the result is influenced by the fact whether you thought your MD treated you well and adequately or not and I think that real medicine would improve if we could let go of dualism and understand that there’s always a full person who needs to be treated. It’s not like your computer where you have either a hardware problem or a software problem (I know I’m overgeneralizing, just let it pass for the picture).
    That’s where woo is so succesfull: They give you the impression that they treat you as a whole person.

    There’s also a good reason why woo is mostly marketed towards women. It’s not because they’re dumber or less educated in science, it’s because usually healthcare-decisions fall in their responsibilities, from “what’s for dinner” to “what vaccination should my child get”.
    There’s no use marketing the new homeopathic cough supplement for children towards daddy if mummy is the one who goes to the pharmacy.
    If you know any family who’s not heavily involved in skepticism, ask the parents about what vaccination and meication their kids get, see who answers. In most cases it’s the mother. In many families women even make sure that their husbands take their own medication in appropriate dosages.

  69. 69
    scottjordan

    This is sort of like advice my father gives me if I am unable to open a twist-top bottle of beer.

    “Turn the bottle, not the top”, he’d say, meaning that when I hold the bottle with one hand on the cap and the other hand around the wide part of the bottle, I should hold the cap still as I twist the bottle.

    I told him that it makes no difference – the exact same force is still applied to both hands. I’ve tried it myself, and it doesn’t work. He responded by saying “Maybe you’re right, but if it seems to work for me, why not do it?”

    *sigh* Whatever.

  70. 70
    sabazinus

    While helping to start up an herb business (culinary herbs) I went to a number of workshops on gardening and herbs. Arnica came up in discussion a number of times and we were told that it was frequently used as a topical pain reliever (basically you mash up the plant into a poultice and place it over the ache). However, we are also told explicitly, that arnica should not be ingested as it was toxic. In fact, one presenter said to avoid growing it as customers might try to ingest it anyway and not use it correctly. Imagine my surprise when I start seeing arnica in pill form (granted it is diluted to such a degree as to be harmless, I would hope). The little herb farm I helped start didn’t end up growing arnica, but we raised tons and tons of basil.

  71. 71
    Kimpatsu

    It’s effect on pain has been tested in double-blind, controlled studies…
    Aggghhh!!!! Apostrophe abuse alert! PZ, how could you?

  72. 72
    Alex the Pretty Good

    @ Algernon, 26

    After all, if I understand it correctly placebos “work” in some instances for people… or at least their perception of them working is real. However, that doesn’t mean that the “active ingredient” has any power at all other than whatever the person getting the placebo effect invests in it.

    I’ve actually heard people using this argument to tell skeptics to shut up about the ineffectivity of homeopathy and other woo-treatments.

    If we point out that the emperor has no clothes (in this case the water has no active component) the magic is gone and it no longer works. So every time a person becomes too skeptical of woo, that’s another person “who can no longer be helped and who will continue to suffer all because of you!” (read: “who we can no longer bleed dry by peddling more snake-oil.”)

  73. 73
    Deen

    It’s pretty much the equivalent of what atheists hear all the time: “how dare you take away their false hope by pointing out that it is, in fact, false!”

  74. 74
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    However, we are also told explicitly, that arnica should not be ingested as it was toxic.

    And apparently the less of it you ingest, the more potent it is. One patient, it is reported, forgot to take her arnica pill one day and died of the overdose.

  75. 75
    DLC

    This sloppy Newage shit-slurry* of ingenuous gullibility is pure poison to the cause.

    (*Santorum ? )
    I blame PZ. the above caused a spit-take on my part.
    But, I also award PZ one (1) Internet, to go with the others on his mantle.

  76. 76
    Jafafa Hots

    If you think the medical field has been infested by quacks, you should take a look at the psychiatric and mental health field.

    I’ve been to many therapists over the years for my PTSD, and NOT ONE has been free of the quack virus. NOT ONE.

    The best that can be said is that I did find one that was very smart and generally helpful, she was the only one who was any help actually, but even she trotted out the EMDR idea and said she was certified in its use. I shot that down right away and she wisely steered clear of any mention again and we used traditional (in the sense of proven and real) therapy which was helpful for me.

    There is so much “you choose your own reality, so you just need to be convinced to choose to see yourself as not having PTSD and that’s all it takes” BS out there.

    Then there was the PHd who wanted to try a therapy, the name of which I forget, but it came with glossy pamphlets from the person who COPYRIGHTED this approach and “certified” his students, etc.

    The way it worked was, it posited that your brain, which controls your arms of course, is unable to resist “truths” as well as it can resist falsehoods.

    So you stick your arm out, your “therapist” pushes down on your hand and you resist. She then starts listing ages, then relationships, then possible upsets, etc… and each time your hand dips a little, she’s found a “truth.”

    All of which has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she presses HARDER at some questions than others, because that might suggest she was imposing her own preconceptions. No, it only FEELS that way because your mind can’t resist the “truth.”

    Off the bat I knew this was bullshit but I said nothing, thinking “well, at least this might be funny and I might get a blog post out of it.”

    Using her system she discovered that I was depressed over a failed love affair that happened when I was 22.

    This came as a complete shock to me considering the fact that I was under the impression that I wasn’t IN a relationship at age 22, or before, or after… because of the effects of what I THOUGHT was my problem (as did other docs) – that I had been repeatedly sexually molested as a pre-teen and later, and that there was a serial killer living in my house who was later executed, and that I’d been severely injured, almost killed, in an accident.

    Man, I was CONVINCED that shit must have had something to do with my problem, but no – it was a failed love affair that I couldn’t even remember having.

    But hey, she was a PHd, so she must know.

    I saved that glossy pamphlet for kicks. Wish I knew where it was, because I’d like to know what that BS therapy is and expose it.

    Meanwhile though, anyone can look into the history of EMDR, one of the other BS treatments that is actually PROMOTED BY THE GVT for use on combat veterans with PTSD.

    My LAST therapist who I quit seeing almost a year ago fucked my head up so much that now I need to find a therapist to help me deal with the damage from the previous one. That is, if it were possible to actually find one. You have to devote weeks if not months to “auditioning” a therapist, reciting your (now boring to you) list of life events and traumas before you can even tell if the person is going to be able to help, or will just metaphorically hand you a “Hang In There Baby” cat poster, or worse – tell you you’re full of shit and to shut up and quit whining.

    Sorry for the rant. :(

  77. 77
    Jafafa Hots

    After thinking a bit about EMDR, I’ve just come up with a new therapy to combat infection. I just came up with it in the same way the inventor of EMDR came up with that. I pulled it out of my ass. She invented EMDR while on a walk through the park. I invented my therapy while sitting on the toilet. Both situations being very amenable to contemplation.

    EMDR is “whosawhatsits,” layered on top of traditional behavioral/cognitive therapy. Studies have shown it’s as effective as traditional behavioral/cognitive therapy. In fact, the inventor now admits that EMDR is so effective that you can totally drop the EMDR aspects and just go with the cognitive therapy and EMDR will STILL WORK. Amazing stuff.

    So I’ve invented “Napoleon’s Hat Therapy” for chronic bacterial infection.

    You put on a facsimile of Napoleon’s Hat, and then take antibiotics. I’m positive studies will show that it’s at least as effective as antibiotics alone.

    Similarly to EMDR, I am copyrighting Napoleon’s Hat Therapy, and only I can legally teach it for the low fee of $5000 per session – and you must, as in the case of EMDR, sign a contract prohibiting you from reteaching it to others. Only *I* can teach valid NHT.

    I need to get some pamphlets printed up.

    (oh man, this is going to be a rant day, I just know it. Sorry in advance.)

  78. 78
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Therrin

    This is the equivalent of 1ml of arnica dispersed into a cube 100 light years on a side.

    That’s an awfully large pill to swallow.

    Good news! It’s a suppository.

  79. 79
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    If you make public any account or depiction of your interaction with your physician, you are considered to have waived your doctor-patient privilege by making such an interaction public of your own accord, and the doctor is thus allowed to present their version of events in order to avoid defamatory claims?

    Hmm…

  80. 80
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    If you make public any account or depiction of your interaction with your physician, you are considered to have waived your doctor-patient privilege by making such an interaction public of your own accord, and the doctor is thus allowed to present their version of events in order to avoid defamatory claims?

    I don’t have anything off the top of my head to refute this, but in the US I’m pretty sure HIPPA refutes this. I’ll try and go back and find a citation / link for this later when I have more time.

  81. 81
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    sorry that’s HIPAA

  82. 82
    Mr. Fire

    This is the equivalent of 1ml of arnica dispersed into a cube 100 light years on a side.

    It’s the pill that made the Placebo Run in over twelve parsecs!

  83. 83
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I don’t have anything off the top of my head to refute this, but in the US I’m pretty sure HIPPA refutes this. I’ll try and go back and find a citation / link for this later when I have more time.

    It wasn’t a claim about the existing situation. I was asking about possible “fixes” for a problem, and it was a suggestion.

  84. 84
    markr1957

    Maybe it’s just me, but I always thought the alternative to medicine was being sick and/or dying. I take sugar with my coffee several times a day but that never cures me of anything.

    OTOH drinking tap water means you probably consumed a fair amount of medication without intending to – though the odds are whatever you imbibed isn’t good for what’s ailing you.

  85. 85
    Tualha

    … the arnica is diluted to one part in 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

    PZ, you’re a scientist, and most of your readers are scientifically literate. Scientific notation is your friend. We can has exponents?

  86. 86
    Forbidden Snowflake

    If you make public any account or depiction of your interaction with your physician, you are considered to have waived your doctor-patient privilege by making such an interaction public of your own accord, and the doctor is thus allowed to present their version of events in order to avoid defamatory claims?

    Alice announces to the world that she had her pap smear and lies that it came out negative, and thereby gives her obgyn the right to publicly disclose the truth?

    People do legitimately give others partial accounts of their adventures in medicine, and sometimes lie to keep secrets they consider embarassing private, with no woo in mind.

  87. 87
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Alice announces to the world that she had her pap smear and lies that it came out negative, and thereby gives her obgyn the right to publicly disclose the truth?

    Hm. Yeah, the solutions themselves – including any I’ve been able to come up with – seem to be riddled with problems. But the issue remains: I don’t like the idea that Alice could publish a book saying that she’d been diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer and that either the doctors were incompetent or the cancer was cured with homeopathic arnica, when that might well not have been the diagnosis she received. This just seems unfair to doctors and contrary to public health.

  88. 88
    paleomom

    Arnica is actually quite effective as a topical treatment for bruising/sprains/strains. Visible reduction of swelling almost immediately. It works so well that you have to be careful that there is no break in the skin- I have a divot in my leg from using arnica on my shin when I hadn’t realized the tree branch pierced my skin. (I had a goose egg the size of a goose egg and growing- 5 minutes after the arnica the egg was almost gone).
    Kinda tired of skeptics being such asses that they toss out the baby with the bath water.. your loss.

  89. 89
    Rumtopf

    @85
    I think the visual of the numbers trailing off the side of the page made a good point c:

  90. 90
    Rumtopf

    @88
    Yeah bruise creams were my introduction to arnica, when I worked at a vets. I understand that the rubbing motions help the most in breaking down the haematoma so it can be reabsorbed faster, the arnica doesn’t do diddly squat(I can’t remember if the creams we had actually contained any arnica, whether they were homeopathic or herbal extracts). Homeopathic remedies have been banned from use by UK vets since I stopped nursing, that really pissed off the alt med crowd here.

  91. 91
    Luc

    @5 Wait a second. I thought cumshots were considered super feminist and totally not degrading on Pharyngula? That’s what I was told last time I commented about it (I think the topic was that “feminist” porn looks pretty much like the mainstream, with which people disagreed).

    Have things changed around here?

  92. 92
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    On things that work, that people weren’t sure how. Apparently some scientists have done research on massages that indicates it actually does contribute to the activation of cells to release some things that reduce inflammation and others that increase muscle growth or repair.
    http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2012/02/massages-feel-good-because-it-changes-your-gene-expression/

    I am Not A Biologist or doctor so opinions from people with knowledge in the area?

  93. 93
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    Well, I’m not an MD type doctor…

  94. 94
    Forbidden Snowflake

    I thought cumshots were considered super feminist and totally not degrading on Pharyngula?

    Jebus, why do consensual sex acts need to be divided to feminist and unfeminist? Is it really impossible to criticize the cumshot’s disproportional ubuquity in porn without turning it into a judgment of people private sex-lives?

  95. 95
    Anthony K

    Kinda tired of skeptics being such asses that they toss out the baby with the bath water..your loss

    And you thought the best method to counteract that was to share a personal anecdote?

    They say ignorance is bliss. So, how’s abject stupidity working out for you? Would you say better or worse than arnica?

  96. 96
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    The most supportive comments are from posters who think the reality based commenters are being too mean.

    Reality is a harsh mistress.

  97. 97
    johnchalmers

    Willow bark does not contain acetylsalicylic acid or aspirin-Aspirin is a synthetic compound. What willow bark does contain is salicin, a glycoside of salicyl alcohol (SA). When chewed, an enzyme is released which hydrolyses the salicin to SA and a sugar. The SA then autooxidizes to salicyl aldehyde, then to salicylic acid, the active ingredient. Salicylic acid tends to irritate the stomach, so the acetate ester was made and found to be a superior drug. Aspirin has rather complex activities, IIRC, beyond those of free salicylic acid.

  98. 98
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    Jafafa Hots @ #76: Oh god, seriously. I was lucky enough to have one psychologist who wasn’t woo-infected for my PTSD/all the rest of the crazy and he was my main therapistup until I was I got my metaphorical “sane” stamp. But my GP wanted to confirm via a psychiatrist that that PTSD/major depression was actually all of it. A second opinion, which I think is reasonable, seeing as I was showing some seriously fucked up symptoms (conversion disorder, holla!). The first one, after I told him about my suicidal ideations which included always knowing the exactly right hanging drop for my weight, having a rope properly knotted to that length and a plan, showing him my shredded-up sides that I did the day before, determined I just had a touch of mild depression and would be okay because I was a vegetarian. Yes, really. The next decided that because I was wearing makeup, I couldn’t be that crazy. So we scrapped the second opinion and stuck with the apparent only non-quack mental health professional in town.

    I do sympathize a bit with the commenter who went through all the stupid woo just to have her menstrual pain acknowledged. It seems there’s a lot of weirdness surrounding that particular issue, and being in pain all the time can make you pretty desperate. I stuck it out with medical doctors for mine, and after only 11 years since the pain started, I get to have some surgery this month that will hopefully help. And I’ve had access to drugs that help for the past month making me borderline-productive (haven’t been able to work in a year, beginning to go crazy from hausfrau cabin fever).

    Luc @#91: Are you planning to derail this thread into your sexual crusades as well? I’d rather you didn’t. Also, is that a g-string on that strawman you built?

  99. 99
    Q.E.D

    Dear but-hurt Jezebel commentators:

    When a columnist is wrong about factual claims in her article, and this is pointed out to her, there is a protocol. The professional, honest, writer’s response is to check the facts, learn something, come back, issue a retraction and apology.

    All the sturm und drang from Jezebel commentators about the tone of the criticism comes from people who appear to think that hurt feelings are more dangerous than bad medical advice.

    “You hurt my feelings” is not a useful response to the statement “you are wrong about x”. This still holds true even if you have been told “you stupid arsehole, you clearly did no fact checking or you would know that homeopathy is quackery. Who lets you write this pile of shit? Do you have an editor? Is she as stupid and ignorant as you are?”

    See? that might legitimately have hurt your feelings. And yet, it’s still true.

  100. 100
    chigau (違う)

    Jafafa Hots #76
    arm pushing is
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applied_kinesiology
    .
    not to be confused with
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinesiology

  101. 101
    kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith

    THAT my friends is why women will try fake remedies and woo pushers – because the hard science folks – MDs – will completely dismiss us until we become desperate for someone just to listen. I wonder how many women go through the same thing?

    I have gone through the same thing, both for incapacitating menstrual pain as well as for crippling migraines. Which I get since I’m a child.

    The thing is, it was not only MDs who dismissed them. My family also did it first. And it was them who suggested the stupid, inefficient woo remedies first. I tried a lot of them, got my hand held, got “understood”. Didn’t change the fact that still I spent many days of my life as a vomiting pain-crippled migrainous zombie. As an hormonally unstable young teenager, I wouldn’t have even a single migraine-free week. Some weeks it would be an unrelenting head-pounding nightmare, relieved only by short stretches of sleep. It was bad enough to actually think about killing myself.

    I got actual treatment when as an adult, I kept bothering my MD. It’s still the MD who was the better practitionner here since he got me the stuff that freaking worked. I do not think that people who hold your hand and pretend to understand me poor emotional weak woman while taking my money are actually good for anything else than propagating the poor emotional weak woman stereotype. But then I prefer raw honesty to comforting lies.

  102. 102
    NightShadeQueen, resident nutcase

    @scottjordan

    “Turn the bottle, not the top”, he’d say, meaning that when I hold the bottle with one hand on the cap and the other hand around the wide part of the bottle, I should hold the cap still as I twist the bottle.

    I told him that it makes no difference – the exact same force is still applied to both hands. I’ve tried it myself, and it doesn’t work. He responded by saying “Maybe you’re right, but if it seems to work for me, why not do it?”

    My physics-fu might be failing me, but I think maybe that twisting the bottle “works better” ’cause the bottle has a larger radius than the cap. Thus, despite the fact that the force is the same, the torque of “turning the bottle” is higher.

    (Or perhaps not. The other half of my physics-fu is claiming that it shouldn’t matter ’cause you’re applying the same forces to the top and the bottle ’cause you have to either stabilize the top or the bottle, depending on which one you’re turning.)

  103. 103
    Anthony K

    My physics-fu might be failing me, but I think maybe that twisting the bottle “works better” ’cause the bottle has a larger radius than the cap. Thus, despite the fact that the force is the same, the torque of “turning the bottle” is higher.

    (Or perhaps not. The other half of my physics-fu is claiming that it shouldn’t matter ’cause you’re applying the same forces to the top and the bottle ’cause you have to either stabilize the top or the bottle, depending on which one you’re turning.)

    My rotational physics-fu is weak as well, but assuming you can use something solid to stabilise either the cap or the bottle, turning the bottle will be easier than the cap as it has a greater radius, since torque equals force times the radius (τ = r × F). Consider the gears on a bicycle, or the rudder wheel (or hatch cover wheels) on ships for intuitive examples of where the size of the object being rotated matters.

  104. 104
    kristinc, now with added ventilation

    I told him that it makes no difference – the exact same force is still applied to both hands.

    Might it actually *not* be the exact same force? Martial artists, dancers and craftspeople have known for a long time that the exact position of various muscles can make a difference. Maybe for some reason your dad works his muscles in a subtly different way and applies more torque when he focuses on holding the cap still and turning the bottle.

  105. 105
    What a Maroon, oblivious

    Isn’t it even more effective to turn both the cap and the bottle at the same time? My physics-fu is weak, but it seems like you’d have more force if both hands are moving (in opposite directions, of course).

  106. 106
    Luc

    @94, if you don’t stop at that sentence but keep reading the comment, you’ll discover I provide the context in which that was said, which, lo and behold, happens to be porn :)

    Anyway, it’s not about whether it’s consensual, it’s about whether it’s degrading. You don’t think working in a factory 20 hours a day for 5 dollars is totally not degrading to you as a worker if you take the job, do you?

  107. 107
    Cipher

    Anyway, it’s not about whether it’s consensual, it’s about whether it’s degrading. You don’t think working in a factory 20 hours a day for 5 dollars is totally not degrading to you as a worker if you take the job, do you?

    Do you really think the thread about a popular feminist website’s promotion of homeopathy is the best place to discuss porn?

  108. 108
    carlie

    Do you really think the thread about a popular feminist website’s promotion of homeopathy is the best place to discuss porn?

    Well, you know, it’s important to him, and he’s trying to score a point off of it somehow, so of course it is!

  109. 109
    Forbidden Snowflake

    @94, if you don’t stop at that sentence but keep reading the comment, you’ll discover I provide the context in which that was said, which, lo and behold, happens to be porn :)

    Duh. I mentioned porn precisely because I am familiar with the original context.

    Anyway, it’s not about whether it’s consensual, it’s about whether it’s degrading. You don’t think working in a factory 20 hours a day for 5 dollars is totally not degrading to you as a worker if you take the job, do you?

    Hold the non-sequitour! You really think that work in the conditions you described would be consensual?

  110. 110
    fifilamour

    Eh, Jezebel, it’s nominally “feminist” at this point…more a girlie mag of the Cosmo type than anything that resembles feminism (though, Cosmo was actually sort of revolutionary in its time, despite the devolvement into quizes about how to please your man…but that was, what, 40 years ago). As pointed out already by another poster, their ongoing promotion of a manipulative, pseudo-feminist, born again Christian male narcissist (a narcissistic personality disorder is a personality type that is highly linked to violence against women – this guy tried to kill his ex-girlfriend and paints himself as the victim) much more problematic. Also, ultimately much more dangerous than arnica woo.

    In my experience, just as many men are into medical woo as women (I’ve worked in a pain clinic, as well as having observed this socially). I often see “women, post-modernism, new age” linked and thrown around in an unthinking and hostile way. (Granted, I’m a woman and my background is art and culture so I’m sensitive to this but post modernism doesn’t propose that physical reality doesn’t exist or that physical reality is whatever you wish it to be – it’s just like how calling something “science” doesn’t actually make it science. I’m coming to suspect that quite a lot of people, both those who claim to be post modernists and people who throw it around like an insult, don’t fully understand the difference between objectivity and subjectivity, on a personal and large scale, and then are arguing for their personal subjectivity or belief in their personal objectivity. Granted, I find a lot of people also use the term “modern” without really understanding what it means in cultural terms and why we’re now in a “post modern” era.)

    All that said, obviously Jezebel should be called out on all their various kinds of uncritical thinking – whether it’s giving a platform to an abusive sociopathic man who claims to be a feminist despite acting like an abuser or promoting facile medical woo. Just perhaps think about how when it’s a guy promoting or falling for woo his gender doesn’t get brought up as part of the issue. Granted, you are talking about Jezebel in this post so it is relevant here but this “silly women” trope does get thrown around a lot regarding medical woo in a way that has no “silly men” equivalent.

  111. 111
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    Bottle openers work better than holding the bottle or cap.

  112. 112
    Ichthyic

    And you thought the best method to counteract that was to share a personal anecdote?

    indeed.

    How many times have we all seen that exact same thing:

    “Well, I’m a great supporter of science, but THIS happened to ME, so of course my anecdote takes precedence!”

  113. 113
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Isn’t it even more effective to turn both the cap and the bottle at the same time? My physics-fu is weak, but it seems like you’d have more force if both hands are moving (in opposite directions, of course).

    The problem I’ve found is usually getting a solid grip on the cap, particularly with sticky substances like honey. Then I wrap the middle finger of the left hand, starting with the tip, around much of the cap as possible. I then use the right hand below to turn the jar/bottle. If done right, the cap feels like it tightens down on my middle finger. Then the question of how much torque can be applied before injury is done.

  114. 114
    Ichthyic

    Willow bark does not contain acetylsalicylic acid or aspirin

    good point, John.

  115. 115
    Ichthyic

    I don’t like the idea that Alice could publish a book saying that she’d been diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer and that either the doctors were incompetent or the cancer was cured with homeopathic arnica, when that might well not have been the diagnosis she received. This just seems unfair to doctors and contrary to public health.

    indeed, but…

    If there indeed was no scientific evidence to support her claim, then isn’t just pointing out it’s anecdotal sufficient?

    she doesn’t even have to be lying, deliberately or not, for that to be effective.

    That said, there ARE exceptions to non-disclosure, especially if the patient is considered dangerous to the public at large.

    -extremely infections pathogens
    -evidence that the patient intends on committing a felony involving harm to the public
    -many others

    so, I suppose you might try stretching that idea into saying that someone deliberately lying about a diagnosis, that ends up resulting harm to someone, and the doctor involved KNOWS she is lying and will cause harm, might have a duty to report that under the law.

    I’d say it’s probably pushing it though.

  116. 116
    demonhauntedworld

    Granted, I’m a woman and my background is art and culture so I’m sensitive to this but post modernism doesn’t propose that physical reality doesn’t exist or that physical reality is whatever you wish it to be – it’s just like how calling something “science” doesn’t actually make it science. I’m coming to suspect that quite a lot of people, both those who claim to be post modernists and people who throw it around like an insult, don’t fully understand the difference between objectivity and subjectivity, on a personal and large scale, and then are arguing for their personal subjectivity or belief in their personal objectivity

    And yet there is a subset of postmodernists who claim that science is just another “way of knowing” and that we can’t dismiss any claim, no matter how ridiculous, because it’s tied to a specific cultural context. In other words “works for me” becomes a valid statement about reality.

    See my comment #24.

  117. 117
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    If there indeed was no scientific evidence to support her claim, then isn’t just pointing out it’s anecdotal sufficient?

    she doesn’t even have to be lying, deliberately or not, for that to be effective.

    Hm again. I don’t think so. Because it’s not just about the woo, but about claims that involve other people, and medicine. It would be like if you did a study and then some celebrity could publish a book completely lying about or misrepresenting your findings, analysis, or recommendations (in a way that would allow some to know who you are) or those of your field, especially in such a manner as to present you as incompetent vs. some AGW-denialist hack marine biologist, and you couldn’t even confirm that yours was the work mentioned or state that it had been misrepresented.

    A situation in which one party can publicly lie about what another person said or did without being required to produce evidence and the other person can’t set the record straight just seems totally unfair. Of course I don’t want any messing with privacy protections, but it seems like publishers should face some sort of consequences for publishing books like Somers’, with no independent confirmation of the facts and if the celebrity refuses to name the docs and allow the release of the relevant supporting evidence. The situation as it stands allows for a kind of dangerous libel.

  118. 118
    Ichthyic

    It would be like if you did a study and then some celebrity could publish a book completely lying about or misrepresenting your finding

    ah, but if you were a doctor in that situation, it would not be abusing privacy issues to publish your own book suggesting that there is no basis to the idea published in the other book.

    if one person is abusing your position to misinform, there is nothing that says you can’t correct the misinformation.

    IOW, if a patient of mine says that I told her that her cancer would be curable by imbibing ground mexican jumping beans, I don’t have to come out and say she is lying.

    Instead, I can simply publish a book indicating that mexican jumping beans do not cure cancer.

  119. 119
    Ichthyic

    A situation in which one party can publicly lie about what another person said or did

    also, if that directly impacted one’s career, I don’t see why the impacted person couldn’t sue in court for slander, regardless of privacy issues.

  120. 120
    Ichthyic

    …probably easier to do in say the UK than the US, but I think even the defamation laws in the US would allow for the filing of a case under the circumstances you describe?

    should be a lawyer or two perusing this thread that could really more accurately comment on that.

  121. 121
    Ichthyic

    …and, of course, since there are no federal defamation laws in the US (really???), then it would depend on the individual state in which the doctor’s practice existed, etc.

  122. 122
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    ah, but if you were a doctor in that situation, it would not be abusing privacy issues to publish your own book suggesting that there is no basis to the idea published in the other book.

    if one person is abusing your position to misinform, there is nothing that says you can’t correct the misinformation.

    IOW, if a patient of mine says that I told her that her cancer would be curable by imbibing ground mexican jumping beans, I don’t have to come out and say she is lying.

    Instead, I can simply publish a book indicating that mexican jumping beans do not cure cancer.

    Huh? We might be talking past each other here. I’m talking about claims made about the diagnosis – that these people were actually diagnosed (or misdiagnosed) with what they say they were.

    also, if that directly impacted one’s career, I don’t see why the impacted person couldn’t sue in court for slander, regardless of privacy issues.

    As I understand it, the patient doesn’t even have to name the doctor or facility, even if people can easily discover who/what it was, and the doctors can’t even confirm that they were the person’s doctor, let alone comment on their diagnosis or recommendations without the parient’s permission. They couldn’t sue without violating privacy.

    …I’m thinking that there’s probably no way to address this sort of abuse legally that wouldn’t have worse overall consequences than benefits. Probably the best people can do is push for a culture that keeps at the celebrities to give permission to the doctors to identify themselves and the relevant records to be released or their claims won’t be taken seriously, and shames the publishers of unsupported, dangerous books like these.

  123. 123
    Ichthyic

    Huh? We might be talking past each other here. I’m talking about claims made about the diagnosis – that these people were actually diagnosed (or misdiagnosed) with what they say they were.

    right. that patient X lied about a diagnosis from doctor Y in order to make a false claim about the efficacy of product Z.

    is that not correct?

  124. 124
    Ichthyic

    They couldn’t sue without violating privacy.

    actually, I think you can, provided that the person you are suing violated the essence of privacy first.

    barring that, I also think you can sue under a closed hearing type proceeding, but in that I’m totally reaching.

  125. 125
    Ichthyic

    …gotta go; meeting up with a mate of mine I haven’t seen for a few months for beers at the local pub.

    catch up later.

  126. 126
    Ichthyic

    …parting thought on all this:

    ask Orac for his input!

  127. 127
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    actually, I think you can, provided that the person you are suing violated the essence of privacy first.

    No, that isn’t the impression I have from reading Orac’s posts on this at all. (As you said, an expert could help here.) The protection is purely for the patient. It’s totally unbalanced, as it should be, but that allows for this sort of abuse. Like I said, I think the best relative remedy peobably involves hectoring these people about giving permission for the release of the doctor’s name and their records to support their claims, and making it clear that no one should think they’re being truthful if they don’t.

  128. 128
    fifilamour

    demonhaunted world – “And yet there is a subset of postmodernists who claim that science is just another “way of knowing” and that we can’t dismiss any claim, no matter how ridiculous, because it’s tied to a specific cultural context. In other words “works for me” becomes a valid statement about reality.”

    Indeed there is a subset of “postmodernists” that don’t understand science or postmodernism, there is also a subset of doctors and scientists that promote woo and pseudoscience. That doesn’t invalidate science or medicine or make pseudoscience science, the same is true for cultural theory. Like I said, the whole modernism=objectivity vs postmodernism=subjectivity is a distortion of both modernism and postmodernism from both “sides” (the “sides” thing does tend to make it more of a battle about each party’s subjectivity). One of the things I’ve noticed in academics that are very hostile to postmodernism is that they’re often also hostile to taking a look at their own biases (and seem to believe they don’t have any!). To me, at least, this comes off – to all practical extents and purposes – to arguing that one’s own subjectivity is objective (lots of pots and kettles yelling about how black the other pots and kettles are). I’ve often found people’s inability to understand objectivity and subjectivity a bit puzzling – but then I grew up in a medical science family and went into art and culture so I’m aware that I got much broader exposure to both art and science than many people do (and art, science and technology intersections). I just accept that my own perception of the world can’t be anything but subjective (it’s one of the reasons why I love art, I get to explore other people’s perceptions of the world and being alive), which is why we have the scientific method (which attempts to minimize bias/subjectivity but isn’t magical objectivity either).

    Anyway, I my main point was that I often see “women/new age/postmodernism” linked together in a way that I find derogatory towards women and that misrepresents postmodernism in the same way that pseudoscience misrepresents science. I’m used to it but it does make it clear to me that someone is promoting a cliché belief and personal bias. Most importantly, since we’re talking about feminism and woo, I think this is derogatory (if unintentionally), as well as a misrepresentation of women.

  129. 129
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    ask Orac for his input!

    I think this was where the problem first came to my attention:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/10/suzanne_somers_fishy_whole_body_cancer_s.php

    (In the ensuing thread he launched into some stupidity about PZ and Mooney, so I’m not sure if I bothered to comment, but this issue really aggravates me.)

  130. 130
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    That cardiologist, my friend, was “the better practitioner,” if you insist on conflating compassionate empathy and empirical medical intervention as if they were a zero-sum game. Why would you do that?

    I think the point she was making was that for the first 6 MDs she tried, she didn’t get EITHER. And that’s not an endorsement of woo, but it’s a big fucking problem. And that 1/2 is bad but better than 0/2.

  131. 131
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    Cosigning what you just said there @130, Azkyroth.

  132. 132
    SallyStrange

    Well! I am very happy to see a lot of Jezebel commenters here! As it happens, I used to be a regular and prolific commenter there, under the name of Valkyrie607, until the format redesign took place, and somebody wrote that horrible, horrible article about Christine O’Donnell, and I realized the place was going down the tubes. That precipitated my move to Pharyngula, and I haven’t looked back since. I really, really enjoy commenting in an atmosphere where feelings are understood to be important, but not so important that one shouldn’t state the plain truth as one sees it. I hope some of y’all stick around. (I do still occasionally comment there as Valkyrie607, and dude! I still have my star. Probably only because my commenting is so infrequent. Heh.)

  133. 133
    demonhauntedworld

    Anyway, I my main point was that I often see “women/new age/postmodernism” linked together in a way that I find derogatory towards women and that misrepresents postmodernism in the same way that pseudoscience misrepresents science.

    Your analogy doesn’t fully work because pseudoscience isn’t a subset of science, whereas cognitive relativism is a very real subset of postmodernism.

    My point is that the overlap between academic feminism and academic dismissal of science as a tool of the patriarchy is actually real and to a certain extent causal, and ironically some of those promoting ecofeminism are actually being demeaning towards women in a completely different way by using essentialist arguments. Butterflies and Wheels has a great post about this.

  134. 134
    fifilamour

    “There is a disturbing (and unfortunate) amount of overlap in both academic and lay circles between feminism, alternative medicine and post-modernism, particularly where the latter is concerned with validating other “ways of knowing” and painting science as another form of oppressive Western colonialism.”

    The problem is that medicine has been used as a “form of oppressive Western colonialism” and this hasn’t been entirely fixed yet in medicine and science – it’s ultimately still us very human people practicing and talking about science and some people (and institutions) are still sexist, homophobic or racist and try to use science to prop up their biases. It can be incredibly hard to actually be aware of one’s own cultural biases – fish in water and all that – and if one’s personal identity/ego is wrapped up in that bias, then it becomes even more resilient to evidence (or more prone to cherry picking). These issues tend to get discussed much more in areas of cultural study like anthropology or art theory/history, or study within medicine about cross cultural communication within medicine (which is a pretty new research area). Our cultural biases can more easily be seen in terms of things like talking about pain and attitudes towards pain that come from family culture, culture of origin and/or the larger culture and also often from gender culture (men don’t cry, women are hysterical, etc…though perhaps gender cultures would be more accurate since different cultures have different models of gender) – which is why quite a few of the anecdotes people have shared here have to do with not having their reports of pain taken seriously. (A lot of woo flourishes in the areas where there’s uncertainty or no cure that medicine can offer – pain, colds, cancer, etc.)

    All in all, quite a bit of this kind of contemporary damage to the integrity of medicine is being committed by pharmaceutical companies (but not without the help of some doctors) and for-profit medicine – the recent controversy regarding drug tests in India is a pretty good example of this. Now, none of this devalues the scientific method to me and it was a doctor that blew the whistle on other doctors participating in these unethical drug trials in India, but it is one of the reasons why Western medicine and colonialism/exploitation of the less powerful are still relevant topics to discuss vis a vis contemporary medicine. In the US, you also have for-profit medicine, which obviously clouds the waters even more (as well as being one of the main ways that woo makes its way into hospitals, which is only going to make it more credible to many lay people). Which is not to say universal healthcare can’t be corrupted too, but that’s usually done by politicians that ultimately want to privatize universal healthcare systems or allow corporate entities access to exploit them.

  135. 135
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    The MDs by a country mile. They at least did not deliberately try to cheat you.

    The issue wasn’t that they were unsympathetic but helped her. The issue is that they contemptuously dismissed her complaints. They were unsympathetic and didn’t help her.

  136. 136
    demonhauntedworld

    The problem is that medicine has been used as a “form of oppressive Western colonialism” and this hasn’t been entirely fixed yet in medicine and science – it’s ultimately still us very human people practicing and talking about science and some people (and institutions) are still sexist, homophobic or racist and try to use science to prop up their biases.

    No argument there; the problem is when people go beyond that to arguing that Ayurvedic medicine (to pick one) actually works because how dare we impose “Western” standards of evidence upon it.

  137. 137
    fifilamour

    Sure the analogy works, if the NIH funds “scientific studies” on all kinds of woo and hospitals offer woo treatments, pseudoscience is now an institutional subset. It doesn’t make it actual science or medicine but it is an institutional subset.

    And, yes, I agree that there’s plenty of woo regarding women in the whole Gaia/mother earth goddess thing. I’ve debated with quite a few men who call themselves “feminists” while they’re busy putting women up on pedestals as “goddesses” (nothing brings the ick like some guy claiming to be a feminist that wants to worship your yoni). These people may call themselves “feminists” but they’re not – they don’t see women as people or equals so they’re not feminists, women are still being seen as objects of their sexual fantasies and not as individuals. Just because something or someone claims to be something, if their actions and beliefs contradict their claim then their claim is bogus. This is equally true of pseudoscience that claims to be science (inside or outside or outside of institutions or academia), as it is of new agey beliefs that claim to be post modernism, or guys who claim to be feminists but don’t see women as individuals and get pissy if you’re not into the yoni worshiping woo that they hope will get them laid. Also, I have little patience with people who push the whole “noble savage” thing while claiming they’re anti-colonialist postmodernists – they obviously understand neither colonialism nor postmodernism if they’re promoting the very colonial noble savage trope instead of just seeing people as people. It’s a romantic idea of nature and aboriginal people that’s very much a part of a European Christian cultural heritage that arose during colonization.

  138. 138
    demonhauntedworld

    These people may call themselves “feminists” but they’re not – they don’t see women as people or equals so they’re not feminists, women are still being seen as objects of their sexual fantasies and not as individuals. Just because something or someone claims to be something, if their actions and beliefs contradict their claim then their claim is bogus.

    This is treading awfully close to a “No True Scotsman” territory. I’m sure Vandana Shiva, Riane Eisler, and Luce Irigaray would bristle to be accused of not being true feminists and/or not true anti-colonialists.

  139. 139
    fifilamour

    “No argument there; the problem is when people go beyond that to arguing that Ayurvedic medicine (to pick one) actually works because how dare we impose “Western” standards of evidence upon it.”

    Oh, I agree. It’s also very silly and, from my perspective, quite racist since there are plenty of Indian medical scientists. However, I think at least part of this also comes down to lies being fed to people for profit. I’ve found it very effective to discuss with people how the profit motive is just as much at play in pseudoscience as it is for pharmaceutical companies, so they shouldn’t trust blindly trust either. And, well, just like there are skeptics that are unwilling to unpack and look at their own biases (which I always find a bit more reprehensible since they should know and do better), there are plenty of people whose identity or world view is wrapped up in believing certain things no matter the evidence. I really do think a lot of this has to do with people not really understanding bias, subjectivity and objectivity very well (as well as ego/identity issues)…hence you get things like people believing that because our own internal models of the world are subjective that this means that the physical world doesn’t exist and is just an illusion (an idea taken from religion, not what postmodernism proposes). A little bit of knowledge, without any real understanding, can be a dangerous thing in the wrong mind! ;-)

  140. 140
    demonhauntedworld

    Sure the analogy works, if the NIH funds “scientific studies” on all kinds of woo and hospitals offer woo treatments, pseudoscience is now an institutional subset. It doesn’t make it actual science or medicine but it is an institutional subset.

    We must have different operational definitions of pseudoscience. Using scientific methods to study outrageously implausible treatments isn’t pseudoscience. Pseudoscience comes in when you’re interpreting those results, or when you set up an obviously faulty trial in which you assume that which you’re trying to prove. Both of which may or may not be happening in the case of the NIH, but I’m not going to prima facie say that the existence of the studies themselves constitutes pseudoscience.

  141. 141
    fifilamour

    I’m sure all kinds of people would bristle at being told that their actions/words don’t live up to their claims and most people aren’t very comfortable with looking at their personal biases (particularly if they’re deeply embedded in identity/ego) – I think elevatorgate and the avalanche of hate proved that quite well. That doesn’t change the fact that if you’re promoting the highly colonial trope of the “noble savage” you’re actually promoting a colonialist idea and not treating people as equals. Or that a man professing to be a feminist who then proposes that women are goddesses so he can get him some yoni, isn’t actually a feminist. Sure you can call yourself something but it’s the actions that count. It’s like pseudoscience, just because it claims to be science doesn’t mean it actually is. Labels can be misleading, it’s always best to actually look at the contents because that’s what actually defines what something or someone is (and a bit of context is often very useful too).

  142. 142
    demonhauntedworld

    Oh, but it’s not just individual people, it’s an entire movement (or at least a portion of it). One major school of thought in ecofeminism is based on the essentialist notion that women have an inherent connection with nature. Another school (of which Vandana Shiva is an adherent) holds that women have this special connection for social rather than essentialist reasons.

  143. 143
    Ing

    I think the point she was making was that for the first 6 MDs she tried, she didn’t get EITHER. And that’s not an endorsement of woo, but it’s a big fucking problem. And that 1/2 is bad but better than 0/2.

    My doctor for a chronic arm pain (carpral tunnel) insisted I wasn’t actually feeling pain. Even AFTER getting diagnosis from a specialist. They were very offended that I disagreed and decided to revoke their recommendation for physical therapy half way through so that my insurance wouldn’t cover it.

  144. 144
    fifilamour

    The point was that you said the analogy wasn’t correct because of post-modernism’s institutional/academic position, I was just pointing out that in quite a few medical institutions (especially American ones) that pseudoscience is being funded and promoted. Not just the NIH but in lots of hospitals. Not only that, we also have treatments that were later proven to be purely placebo that were routinely taught and used for years (knee surgery, some chronic pain treatments). I don’t say any of this to devalue medicine (and certainly not to promote woo!), I just think it’s important to not be blind to how medicine is actually practiced or the history of medicine. I’ve often found it useful to explain the scientific method and how it’s designed to mitigate biases as much as possible. Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical industry has done a lot that’s created (justified) distrust amongst a lot of people because they equate pharmaceutical companies with science and the scientific method.

  145. 145
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Butterflies and Wheels has a great post about this.

    Yes, it does. That’s not it, though. That’s a laughable piece by a Cato hack that it’s sad to see on Ophelia’s site.

  146. 146
    demonhauntedworld

    Yes, it does. That’s not it, though. That’s a laughable piece by a Cato hack that it’s sad to see on Ophelia’s site.

    Huh. I had no idea. That piece seemed entirely reasonable to me. Most of the specific critiques about Shiva in that piece come from Meera Nanda, and I don’t know enough about him/her to judge whether those critiques are fair and justified or not.

  147. 147
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Huh. I had no idea. That piece seemed entirely reasonable to me. Most of the specific critiques about Shiva in that piece come from Meera Nanda, and I don’t know enough about him/her to judge whether those critiques are fair and justified or not.

    Virtually all of them do, and they’re not very specific (the interpretation of them even less so, to the point of being ridiculous at times). I do know enough about Shiva to know that the general characterization of her arguments there is not fair or justified (which is not to say, of course, that I agree with everything Shiva says). I don’t really understand Nanda’s hostility – if she still has it – to Shiva. Nanda’s latest book, The God Market*, is very critical of neoliberalism and in that sense in agreement with a lot of what Shiva’s talking about.

    B&W really does have a very good article about gender essentialism amongst some feminists that someone here just linked to recently, but I can’t find it right now. As was pointed out in that discussion, it shouldn’t be discussed without reference to the gender essentialism that has historically characterized and continues to prop up patriarchal society, much of which masquerades as dispassionate “science.” It’s just the mirror image of that: women’s essential attributes are good rather than bad.

    *Of which I’ve only read excerpts, since there’s no Kindle version, it’s expensive, and it’s out of stock anyway.

  148. 148
    fifilamour

    Well you have a whole movement of global warming “skeptics” too, or the whole Menz movement that tries to use evolutionary science to justify sexism (that said, it’s pretty clear that the mainstreaming of atheism and skepticism via the media has made some people with no real critical thinking skills or understanding of bias take on the identity of “skeptic” without actually practicing real skepticism). Or there’s Deepak Chopra, one of the high profile MDs that sell woo and conflate it with science. It seems to me that for some men in science and skepticism the feminism/new age/post modernism trope has obviously become some kind of bogeyman – particularly to the Menz movement obviously (to be clear, I’m not labeling you as one of the Menz). Anyway, thanks for the discussion – it’s always good to unpack and air out dirty laundry even if we end up still not seeing eye to eye on all items.

  149. 149
    demonhauntedworld

    I think I just found several hours’ worth of distraction over at B&W by searching for essentialism, e.g.:

    In the following essay, I shall offer a critique of the Foucauldian postmodernism of Judith Butler, the Baudrillardean postmodernism of Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, the feminist postmodernism of Donna Haraway, and the posttranssexualism of Sandy Stone and Kate Bornstein. I shall argue that these approaches are deeply flawed for a number of significant reasons, perhaps the foremost of which is their endemic culturalism, both issuing from and also leading to a perfunctory attitude towards science, particularly biology. In addition, I shall demonstrate that postmodern approaches to gender, sex, and sexuality frequently take the form of vague critiques favouring obfuscation or hyperbole (sometimes both) to clear and reasoned argument, and adopt either an unjustified level of epistemological scepticism leading to radical conclusions that are not supported by any substantial evidence, or to the production of facile rhetoric and jargon-filled texts that constitute ‘a sort of masturbation fantasy in which the world of fact hardly matters’ (Chomsky in Sokal and Bricmont 1998: 278), if at all.

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2004/postmodern-approaches-to-gender-sex-and-sexuality-a-critique/

  150. 150
    fifilamour

    Obviously I needed to say obviously a lot…obviously! Sorry about that.

  151. 151
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    fifilamour, I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but I’ve linked to it a few times lately. (I think Chas Peterson originally pointed it out, probably to his later regret. :))

  152. 152
    demonhauntedworld

    It seems to me that for some men in science and skepticism the feminism/new age/post modernism trope has obviously become some kind of bogeyman.

    It would also seem a mistake to dismiss it as a mere bogeyman without acknowledging that it has a very real basis in truth.

    I guess what I’m arguing here is that I think the (eco)feminism/post-modernism/anti-science connection is much deeper and more contingent than the relationship between Chopra and medicine or global warming skeptics and climatology, and should not be minimized just because some people might use it as a cudgel to bash all of feminism.

  153. 153
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I guess what I’m arguing here is that I think the (eco)feminism/post-modernism/anti-science connection is much deeper and more contingent than the relationship between Chopra and medicine or global warming skeptics and climatology,

    What does this even mean?

  154. 154
    fifilamour

    I’d just like to add that I’m not adverse to critiquing feminism or postmodernism – I think internal critique and discussion is vitally important – which is why I welcome PZ’s post and this discussion.

  155. 155
    demonhauntedworld

    What does this even mean?

    Look at Fifilamour’s post #148.

    I’m saying the analogy anti-science is to post-modernism as the global-warming skeptic movement is to climate science or Deepak Chopra is to modern medicine are strained (and inaccurate). Anti-scientism is a logical (?) extension of postmodernist theory, not a random offshoot of it.

  156. 156
    fifilamour

    Thanks for pointing me to that Salty Current – it’s a great piece.

  157. 157
    ChasCPeterson

    I think Chas Peterson originally pointed it out,

    Nope, I’d not seen that. Though I read it with interest. It moves C MF Fine’s book up in the queue.

    All I’ve read is the part about..you know…that ‘v’ word. I wasn’t persuaded.

    How about them Giants?

  158. 158
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    In any movement, regardless of how legitimate – and this includes environmentalism, feminism, gay rights, antiracism, anti-neoliberalism – there are going to be some people with wooish views. The B&W piece you quote above (from a quick glance it has some serious problems) in that segment quotes from Chomsky in Sokal and Bricmont. I’ve read this book and many other works by all three through the present. They’re all on the (far) left, and none would argue that any woo in segments of ecology, feminism, or “postmodernism” is a serious issue in 2012. In comparison to religious, state, and corporate woo, it’s virtually nothing. (Not to mention the bogus “science” connected to racism and sexism.) Still woo, still to be fought like any other woo on epistemic grounds, but the attention paid to these forms of wooish and antiscientific thinking – often dredging up works from the ’90s – is disproportionate to any influence they have in the movements and the world and serves to paint the movements themselves with this woo brush in the interests of the Right. I am deeply suspicious of this attention.

  159. 159
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Jebus, why do consensual sex acts need to be divided to feminist and unfeminist? Is it really impossible to criticize the cumshot’s disproportional ubuquity in porn without turning it into a judgment of people private sex-lives?

    It’s very possible. You just have to not be a useless, tedious anti-sex purity troll.

  160. 160
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Nope, I’d not seen that.

    Hrm. I’m almost positive you linked to it here. You said something like “Some people here might be interested in this.” I remember because I was surprised.

    pleasedontmakemegofindthelinkbecauseyouknowiwillandidontfeellikeit.

  161. 161
    'Tis Himself

    How about them Giants?

    How ’bout them PYGMIES + DWARFS?

  162. 162
    fifilamour

    No “antiscientism” isn’t the logical extension of post modern theory – if by “antiscientism” you mean being anti-science (if that’s not what you mean, please explain). Questioning of power and structures of authority and cultural biases are all logical extensions of post modern theory, as well as questioning the myths of personal objectivity and the heroic Modernist individual a la Ayn Rand. A person whose identity/ego is wrapped up in believing they’re personally objective and free of bias, or who really wants to be an unquestioned authority, will feel very threatened by postmodernism. (Nah, none of them rise to positions of power in medical science or academia…ahem.) Modernism is intrinsically tied in with industrialization, just as postmodernism is intrinsically tied into post-industrial/introduction of a radical new technology. Anyway, pharmaceutical companies are doing more to drive public mistrust of medicine than any postmodern ecofeminist or quantum theory spouting engineer. You want to protect the integrity of science? Then go after the people with real power that are doing the most damage – whether that’s PR departments in universities (where most outrageous claims that end up in the media start), pharmaceutical companies that are giving both doctors and patients bad science (and harming the doctor/patient relationship by doing so), the politicians that are beholden to corporate lobbying, for-profit medicine that welcomes woo into the hospitals, etc.

    It’s always worth remembering that the scientific method is our best attempt to be objective but it’s not perfect either.

  163. 163
    demonhauntedworld

    In any movement, regardless of how legitimate – and this includes environmentalism, feminism, gay rights, antiracism, anti-neoliberalism – there are going to be some people with wooish views.

    This is what Fifilamour and I have been going back and forth about. She (?) says that it’s just a few nutty individuals; I’m saying that it’s a significant part, if not a cornerstone of both the ecofeminist and postmodernist movements. Things may not be as bad in postmodernism as they were during the “Science Wars” when I was an undergraduate, but essentialism in ecofeminism appears to be alive and well. That being said, I’m not sufficiently well-read on the current literature to say whether it’s widespread or not.

  164. 164
    demonhauntedworld

    No “antiscientism” isn’t the logical extension of post modern theory – if by “antiscientism” you mean being anti-science (if that’s not what you mean, please explain). Questioning of power and structures of authority and cultural biases are all logical extensions of post modern theory, as well as questioning the myths of personal objectivity and the heroic Modernist individual a la Ayn Rand.

    It seems perfectly logical once someone perceives science and the scientific method as a “structure of authority.” Then it’s just a matter of what you mean by “questioning.” For some, “questioning” means that local ways of knowing are just as valid as the “structure of authority” that we would call empirical evidence.

    It’s a very small leap from examining cultural biases to declaring that those biases make the knowledge obtained within that biased framework invalid. It’s a matter of degree, not kind.

  165. 165
    Ing

    Are there even enough “ecofeminists” for anyone outside of Futurama to even care about?

  166. 166
    fifilamour

    Gah, so thinking critically about institutional structures of authority and identifying biases is going to end science? Seriously – you might want to think about that a bit more deeply. Not identifying biases and fighting to keep cultural biases institutionalized, while claiming that “science proves it” – is much more harmful to science than questioning the biases of institutions. It actually very severely undermines the authority of science, just as the corporate agenda of profit before evidence does. It’s not very long ago that medical science claimed that homosexuality was deviant (along with a bunch of homophobic woo) and it took a lot of activism (and a new generation of scientists) to get rid of that bit of cultural bias. The history of women and people of colour and medical science is littered with these kinds of totally unscientific cultural biases (and some pretty horrific “treatments” and experiments – long after the scientific method was being used) and it also took activism by non-scientists for these cultural biases to start being dropped (though there are still some scientists fighting for them tooth and nail, fortunately they’re more the exception than the rule). Now, none of this invalidates the scientific method for me, what it does is make me aware of how many different people try to use science to affirm their personal or cultural biases rather than because they’re curious about the world and how important it is to the integrity of the scientific method to be able to unpack your personal and cultural biases.

  167. 167
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Anyway, pharmaceutical companies are doing more to drive public mistrust of medicine than any postmodern ecofeminist or quantum theory spouting engineer.

    See, for example,…my blog. :)

    ***

    This is what Fifilamour and I have been going back and forth about.

    I don’t think so.

    She (?) says that it’s just a few nutty individuals; I’m saying that it’s a significant part, if not a cornerstone of both the ecofeminist and postmodernist movements.

    Even if it were a significant part or cornerstone of the “postmodernist movement,” the postmodernist movement, if such a thing ever existed, is not a significant social force warranting sustained attention in 2012. The danger of antiscientific views that fall under the postmodernist umbrella is primarily that they have aided the obfuscation of the powerful science denialists of the Right.

    Things may not be as bad in postmodernism as they were during the “Science Wars” when I was an undergraduate, but essentialism in ecofeminism appears to be alive and well.

    You’re saying that based on what? A piece from B&W from 2003 that you’ve acknowledged you’re too ignorant to evaluate? And you think even if this were true it would be in any way comparable to the antiscience of corporate-funded AGW-denialist ideology or industrial agriculture? And it’s not true. Essentialism and antiscience are not cornerstones of ecofeminism. There’s a great deal about ecofeminism (not to mention ecology and feminism separately) in action that’s not essentializing or antiscience.

  168. 168
    demonhauntedworld

    Gah, so thinking critically about institutional structures of authority and identifying biases is going to end science?

    Now you’re just putting words in my mouth. :|

  169. 169
    demonhauntedworld

    You’re saying that based on what? A piece from B&W from 2003 that you’ve acknowledged you’re too ignorant to evaluate? And you think even if this were true it would be in any way comparable to the antiscience of corporate-funded AGW-denialist ideology or industrial agriculture? And it’s not true.

    Tu quoque fallacy.

    Essentialism and antiscience are not cornerstones of ecofeminism. There’s a great deal about ecofeminism (not to mention ecology and feminism separately) in action that’s not essentializing or antiscience.

    Saying that there’s a “great deal” that is not essentializing doesn’t mean there’s also a great deal that is essentializing.

  170. 170
    Ing

    Even if it were a significant part or cornerstone of the “postmodernist movement,” the postmodernist movement, if such a thing ever existed, is not a significant social force warranting sustained attention in 2012.

    According to SO, the academia seems to had gotten bored of pomo a decade or so ago.

    Not that it isn’t there but the big swell of enthusiasm for pomo critique and theory has died down

  171. 171
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    It seems perfectly logical once someone perceives science and the scientific method as a “structure of authority.” Then it’s just a matter of what you mean by “questioning.”

    No, it’s a matter of what you mean by “once someone perceives science and the scientific method as a ‘structure of authority’.”

  172. 172
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Just because something or someone claims to be something, if their actions and beliefs contradict their claim then their claim is bogus.

    Can I quote you on that the next time whats-his-face starts in on me?

  173. 173
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    This is treading awfully close to a “No True Scotsman” territory. I’m sure Vandana Shiva, Riane Eisler, and Luce Irigaray would bristle to be accused of not being true feminists and/or not true anti-colonialists.

    Yes, they probably would. And a “true vegetarian” who gets called out for eating beefsteak might bristle at it, too.

  174. 174
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    fifilamour, I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but I’ve linked to it a few times lately. (I think Chas Peterson originally pointed it out, probably to his later regret. :))

    Skimming now. I had a thought earlier: solving a few equations in several thousand unknowns seems really, really easy when you “KNOW” the answer’s supposed to be “girls suck are different in ways that are TOTALLY not inferior but just happen to make them totally unsuitable for math, science, leadership, or anything else that’s prestigious or pays well.”

  175. 175
    demonhauntedworld

    No, it’s a matter of what you mean by “once someone perceives science and the scientific method as a ‘structure of authority’.”

    If you don’t think it’s easy to go from a position that starts from merely questioning the biases in science and ends at the position that science itself isn’t a credible way of looking at nature, we’re going to have to agree to disagree.

  176. 176
    demonhauntedworld

    ^- Crap, the blockquotes are backwards on that one.

  177. 177
    fifilamour

    Crazy as it seems, lady doctors and scientists (and quite a few men) have been question the biases of medical institutions and medicine, and the larger culture, for quite some time now without actually rejecting the scientific method and it’s actually resulted in getting rid of medical woo. You really might want to look more closely at what you believe to be “logical” and why you think examining cultural and institutional biases would result in the rejection of a methodology that’s designed to mitigate those biases.

  178. 178
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    You really might want to look more closely at what you believe to be “logical” and why you think examining cultural and institutional biases would result in the rejection of a methodology that’s designed to mitigate those biases.

    Would you acknowledge that there’s a danger of people using “examining cultural and institutional biases,” consciously or otherwise, as a stalking horse to preserve and protect their own biases by fallaciously dismissing contrary views?

  179. 179
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Tu quoque fallacy.

    Oh, FFS. I’m talking about the very common tendency on the Right to focus on inexistent or minor examples, real or imagined, in order to divert attention from the exponentially greater threats they themselves embody. No one here has denied that you can find essentialism and antiscience in these movements. If you’re not prepared to have a reasonable discussion with some sense of proportion, then stop wasting my time.

    Saying that there’s a “great deal” that is not essentializing doesn’t mean [there isn't] also a great deal that is essentializing.

    If I am right, which I am, then your claim about its being a cornerstone of the movement is not right. Anyway, you’ve provided no evidence for your argument other than a 2003 post you’ve admitted you’re ignorantly ill-equipped to evaluate.

  180. 180
    demonhauntedworld

    If I am right, which I am, then your claim about its being a cornerstone of the movement is not right. Anyway, you’ve provided no evidence for your argument other than a 2003 post you’ve admitted you’re ignorantly ill-equipped to evaluate.

    From a 2010 paper (emphasis added):

    Sherilyn MacGregor has labeled such talk “earthcare” or “ecomaternalism” and finds it to be pervasive in the literature, such as in Shiva’s proposal that we retrieve the “feminine principle”; Merchant’s hope that women’s daily caring and communal practices will help to sustain our connections to nature; Mellor’s vision of “women’s experience, a WE world” (MacGregor 2006, 19–33; Shiva 1989; Merchant 1996; Mellor 2000; see also Plant 1989; Diamond and Orenstein
    [...]
    While these examples suggest that ecofeminists ought not dismiss
    ecomaternalism categorically for its real or apparent essentialism, my own view is that they should nevertheless be prepared to jettison it if and when it loses its utility. But Sherilyn MacGregor would argue that that time is now. For the danger she sees in grounding ecofeminst activism in an extension of women’s “private” roles (as mothers and nurturers), as opposed to in their public and civic identities, is that it
    legitimates “women’s entry into politics in an apolitical and nonthreatening way” (MacGregor 2006, 71). That is, to say “it’s time for women to mother earth” rather than “it’s time for citizens to take action to preserve our shared world,” is to appeal to an “unquestioned position of maternal authority,”
    1990).

    Journal of Religious Ethics
    Volume 38, Issue 4, December 2010, Pages 616-637

  181. 181
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    If you don’t think it’s easy to go from a position that starts from merely questioning the biases in science and ends at the position that science itself isn’t a credible way of looking at nature, we’re going to have to agree to disagree.

    WTF. This doesn’t respond to what I said. Sokal talks about the different and related levels/meanings of “science” and what’s involved in questioning and criticism at each one. I don’t think he’s thorough enough (though he might be in the latest book), but this is the sophistication with which we have to approach this. Suggesting that people who question corporate “science” or recognize science as an authority structure in any way are automatically on their way to dismissing scientific methods as merely another “way of knowing” is facile.

  182. 182
    fifilamour

    Azkyroth, my experience is that quite a lot of people (whether they are ecofeminists or scientists) will use anything they can get their hands on to protect a bias if that bias is part of their personal identity or confronts a deeply held conviction about themselves. It’s a human thing :-) You’re potentially disrupting not only their idea of who they are but also often a worldview – people will fight to the death for that shit (and do so pretty regularly).

  183. 183
    demonhauntedworld

    Suggesting that people who question corporate “science” or recognize science as an authority structure in any way are automatically on their way to dismissing scientific methods as merely another “way of knowing” is facile.

    Now you’re putting words in my mouth. Nowhere did I say it’s a necessary outcome. It may, however, be sufficient.

  184. 184
    demonhauntedworld

    And can we please stop throwing out the red herring of Big Pharma in this discussion? Thanks.

  185. 185
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    From a 2010 paper (emphasis added):

    So you quote from a paper (from the Journal of Religious Ethics [!]) that argues that some other woman claims that “earthcare” or “ecomaternalism,” which is supposed to be inherently essentializing, is pervasive, and the two words quoted from Shiva are from 1989. I have read some of Shiva’s books and interviews with her. Again, I don’t agree with her about everything, but I have not found her work to be suffused with gender essentialism; quite the contrary. And I certainly hope that those two words from her aren’t being used to place her with those who ground “ecofeminst activism in an extension of women’s “private” roles (as mothers and nurturers), as opposed to in their public and civic identities.” That would be fucking absurd. If you know anything about her or the movements with which she’s involved. Which you don’t.

    So maybe you could stop googling and start reading.

  186. 186
    fifilamour

    Soooo, you’re using an paper from The Journal of Religious Ethics as your evidence of this terrible danger to science from postmodern ecofeminists? Google gold!

  187. 187
    demonhauntedworld

    So you quote from a paper (from the Journal of Religious Ethics [!]) that argues that some other woman claims that “earthcare” or “ecomaternalism,” which is supposed to be inherently essentializing, is pervasive, and the two words quoted from Shiva are from 1989.

    It wasn’t “some woman”, it was Sherilyn MacGregor in a 2006 textbook. And it wasn’t Google, it was Web of Science. Now, do we want to start a citation war?

    That would be fucking absurd. If you know anything about her or the movements with which she’s involved. Which you don’t.

    So maybe you could stop googling and start reading.

    Enough with the condescending bullshit already.

  188. 188
    fifilamour

    Oh please, stop using “red herring” and similar things as a means to deflect.

  189. 189
    demonhauntedworld

    Soooo, you’re using an paper from The Journal of Religious Ethics as your evidence of this terrible danger to science from postmodern ecofeminists?

    Words in mouth, again.

  190. 190
    demonhauntedworld

    Oh please, stop using “red herring” and similar things as a means to deflect.

    Deflect? You mean the way you keep saying “yes, but Big Pharma is so much worse”?

  191. 191
    fifilamour

    Dude, you give out condescending and you’ll get it back eventually.

  192. 192
    fifilamour

    *le sigh* I’m outta here but thanks for the great link Salty Current, and the discussion demonhaunted.

  193. 193
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Now you’re putting words in my mouth. Nowhere did I say it’s a necessary outcome. It may, however, be sufficient.

    What the hell is your argument? Could you maybe make it and provide some evidential support for it? Is it something beyond “there’s woo in some feminism and environmentalism, and there was a lot of ‘fashionable nonsense’ in academe a few years ago”?

    ***

    And can we please stop throwing out the red herring of Big Pharma in this discussion? Thanks.

    Ah. Well at least I know I don’t need to take you seriously. Someone who thinks the second most profitable industry on the planet, with an army of lobbyists and a strong hold over entire academic disciplines and fields of research, is a red herring in discussions of science, scientific authority and epistemology, and health is obviously clueless.

    So thank you.

  194. 194
    demonhauntedworld

    Dude, you give out condescending and you’ll get it back eventually.

    Please point out where I’ve been condescending in this discussion.

  195. 195
    demonhauntedworld

    Ah. Well at least I know I don’t need to take you seriously. Someone who thinks the second most profitable industry on the planet, with an army of lobbyists and a strong hold over entire academic disciplines and fields of research, is a red herring in discussions of science, scientific authority and epistemology, and health is obviously clueless.

    It’s sure as hell a red herring in the context of a discussion about whether essentialism is widespread in ecofeminism.

  196. 196
    demonhauntedworld

    What the hell is your argument? Could you maybe make it and provide some evidential support for it? Is it something beyond “there’s woo in some feminism and environmentalism, and there was a lot of ‘fashionable nonsense’ in academe a few years ago”?

    Trace the discussion back to its roots. My argument is/was that essentialism and cognitive relativism are far more embedded in ecofeminism and postmodernism respectively than fifilamour’s counter-examples of Deepak Chopra and climate deniers in mainstream medicine and climatology, respectively.

  197. 197
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    My argument is/was that essentialism and cognitive relativism are far more embedded in ecofeminism and postmodernism respectively than fifilamour’s counter-examples of Deepak Chopra and climate deniers in mainstream medicine and climatology, respectively.

    [You're the only one who's used "cognitive relativism" here, so I'm going to assume you mean something by it.]

    I’m still at a loss as to what your argument is.

    essentialism and cognitive relativism – ecofeminism
    essentialism and cognitive relativism – postmodernism
    Chopra – mainstream medicine
    climate deniers – climatology

    Not seeing it, and this seems like a mish mosh. You’re going to need to spell it out.

    My point is that the overlap between academic feminism and academic dismissal of science as a tool of the patriarchy is actually real and to a certain extent causal,

    Why the “academic” here I don’t know, but you appear to be claiming that feminism is inherently antiscience. If not, please remedy and state your actual claim.

  198. 198
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    OK. I’m done for the night. Will check back in tomorrow.

  199. 199
    John Morales

    [meta]

    demonhauntedworld:

    The first occurrence of ‘ecofeminism’ is in comment #133.
    Your original claims were about feminism without qualifiers.

    (So you’ve conceded your initial claim, already)

  200. 200
    demonhauntedworld

    You’re the only one who’s used “cognitive relativism” here, so I’m going to assume you mean something by it

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_relativism

    I’m still at a loss as to what your argument is.

    essentialism and cognitive relativism – ecofeminism
    essentialism and cognitive relativism – postmodernism
    Chopra – mainstream medicine
    climate deniers – climatology

    The first two are mine. The second two are fifilamour’s. Thus, I’ll only speak to mine.
    1. Essentialist arguments are common within ecofeminism. This may be on the wane, but it seems premature to say it’s water under the bridge.
    2. Cognitive relativism is common within postmodernism. Postmodernism doesn’t seem to be quite the shitstorm it was back in the ’90s, but it hasn’t gone away either.
    3. There’s a lot of overlap between (eco)feminist and postmodernist schools of thought.

    Why the “academic” here I don’t know

    “Academic” as in within the literature and among those people who study and extemporize on these subjects within an academic setting.

    but you appear to be claiming that feminism is inherently antiscience. If not, please remedy and state your actual claim.

    No, that was never my claim. I said that there was a significant overlap between feminist and postmodernist thought and between postmodernist thought and cognitive relativism. I couldn’t give you the actual % overlap, but I will venture that there’s a nontrivial Venn diagram to be made there.

    All of which ties back to PZ’s original post:

    Feminism is best served by embracing reality, by thinking critically, and advancing rational arguments. This sloppy Newage shit-slurry of ingenuous gullibility is pure poison to the cause.

    and to subsequent comments like this:

    Pseudoscience and quackery have been used against women in the past and in the present. Jezebel, Y U NO realize this???

    Slightly related: It always makes my head hurt a bit when someone likes to claim that “big pharma” is just out to make money, so instead of buying the 40 pill bottle of ibuprofen for $2.99 (which, you know, works and is safe), they buy the 20 pill bottle of sugarhomeopathic pills for $9.99 (which doesn’t work).

    and this:

    I can see why the woo can appeal to women vulnerable to the whole newage ‘empowering spirituality’ gimmick, but how they can’t see the whole thing for the anti-feminist bullshit it is makes me seethe.
    [...]
    People do this to women ALL THE TIME. Especially women! Ads on TV for washing powder cite the expert opinions of the mystical mum. Ads for natural remedies show women doing yoga and eating natural, organic yoghurt. “Psychic development” ads and things like that, as well as the newage wiccan and pagan imagery show mystical, “empowered” women, often tied in with the “magical” powers of childbirth and motherhood.

    We know none of these things are anything but biological. The attribution of magical powers to anything like this just serves as a means of keeping women and other “foreign things we don’t really understand and don’t want to” firmly chained to the realm of woo where they can’t use any sort of real power to change the status quo. BLARGH.
    The fact it’s swallowed hook, line and sinker by most of the population (male and female alike) is genuinely sickening.

    Michael Shermer actually summarized what I’m trying to say quite well in his review of Alan Sokal’s 2008 book Beyond the Hoax:

    “Once you believe that science holds no privileged position in the search for truth, and that it is just another way of knowing, it is easy to pull out of an article like Mr. Sokal’s additional evidence that supports your belief.”

    http://www.nysun.com/arts/fight-for-the-life-of-the-mind/76744/

  201. 201
    demonhauntedworld

    The first occurrence of ‘ecofeminism’ is in comment #133.
    Your original claims were about feminism without qualifiers.

    (So you’ve conceded your initial claim, already)

    No, I’m willing to stand by the initial claim that there is and was a lot of cross-pollination between feminist thought and postmodernist thought. However, ecofeminism in particular is definitely a better lens through which to view the reaction of some of the Jezebel commenters. Things kind of went downhill from there. :|

  202. 202
    demonhauntedworld

    Addendum: But yes, I will gladly concede in light of the later discussion that “feminism” without some kind of qualifier (whether “eco” or “post-modernist”) is too broad of a brush.

  203. 203
    John Morales

    demonhauntedworld, you also claim that “ironically some of those promoting ecofeminism are actually being demeaning towards women in a completely different way by using essentialist arguments.”

    You’re adducing the use of essentialist arguments as evidence of postmodernist influence?

  204. 204
    demonhauntedworld

    You’re adducing the use of essentialist arguments as evidence of postmodernist influence?

    No.

  205. 205
    John Morales

    demonhauntedworld, right.

    So, are those who in promoting ecofeminism are actually being demeaning towards women in a completely different way by using essentialist arguments actual ecofeminists (cross-pollinated with postmodernist thought as you claim that movement is), or are they no true ecofeminists?

    (If the former, it seems more than ironical: it seems paradoxical)

  206. 206
    Ichthyic

    Now, do we want to start a citation war?

    actually if a science portal and a textbook are your primary sources… you probably shouldn’t be so eager for a cite war.

  207. 207
    Ichthyic

    1. Essentialist arguments are common within ecofeminism.

    can you provide a specific example?

    2. Cognitive relativism is common within postmodernism.

    can you provide a specific example?

    3. There’s a lot of overlap between (eco)feminist and postmodernist schools of thought.

    does this necessitate they are correlated? Not to my mind.

    you’ll need to prove your case here, or at least support it…

    with examples.

  208. 208
    Ichthyic

    “Academic” as in within the literature and among those people who study and extemporize on these subjects within an academic setting.

    are you involved in an academic setting yourself?

    A department of sociology or philosophy?

    or are you just projecting?

  209. 209
    Ichthyic

    No, that isn’t the impression I have from reading Orac’s posts on this at all. (As you said, an expert could help here.) The protection is purely for the patient. It’s totally unbalanced, as it should be, but that allows for this sort of abuse.

    ah, maybe we need an expert in the legal field instead of the medical practitioner field.

    there must be something docs have developed to protect their practices from patients who commit libel?

  210. 210
    demonhauntedworld

    actually if a science portal and a textbook are your primary sources… you probably shouldn’t be so eager for a cite war.

    Uh, where else would one start a citation war but using a literature database?

    can you provide a specific example?

    How would providing a specific example prove how common it is?

    are you involved in an academic setting yourself?
    Yes – not philosophy or sociology, but I’m in a cross-disciplinary unit with sociologist and anthropologists. Are you?

  211. 211
    demonhauntedworld

    ^- Whoops, blockquote fail again.

  212. 212
    demonhauntedworld

    John Morales:

    So, are those who in promoting ecofeminism are actually being demeaning towards women in a completely different way by using essentialist arguments actual ecofeminists (cross-pollinated with postmodernist thought as you claim that movement is), or are they no true ecofeminists?

    I wasn’t the one using the “no true ecofeminists” argument, so I’m afraid you’ll have to clarify what you’re getting at here.

    Ichthyic:

    does this necessitate they are correlated? Not to my mind.

    you’ll need to prove your case here, or at least support it…

    with examples.

    What, the very existence of a discipline called “post-modern feminism” isn’t good enough evidence in itself?

  213. 213
    Ichthyic

    Uh, where else would one start a citation war but using a literature database?

    the PRIMARY literature would be a better start than a textbook.

    don’t you think?

    or, maybe you don’t?

    still not completely clear.

    What, the very existence of a discipline called “post-modern feminism” isn’t good enough evidence in itself?

    if I said that professional basketball and car racing were correlated because there existed a professional basketball player that raced cars, would that mean that basketball and car racing are correlated?

  214. 214
    Ichthyic

    I’m hypothesizing that you have nothing but projection here.

    I have yet to see any direct evidence supporting any of your contentions yet.

    and I really can’t even see what your overall point even is.

    are you always this vague?

  215. 215
    demonhauntedworld

    the PRIMARY literature would be a better start than a textbook.

    You said a “science portal” would be a bad place to start. That’s where I started. Which led me to a paper from the primary literature, which led me to a textbook that in turn cites . . . the primary literature.

    if I said that professional basketball and car racing were correlated because there existed a professional basketball player that raced cars, would that mean that basketball and car racing are correlated?
    If there was a sport called car racing basketball, I would be justified in saying that there is indeed a subset of basketball players concerned with car racing.

  216. 216
    demonhauntedworld

    ^- Dammit, I keep forgetting to close my blockquotes.

  217. 217
    demonhauntedworld

    I’m hypothesizing that you have nothing but projection here.

    I think you’re confused about what projection means.

    I have yet to see any direct evidence supporting any of your contentions yet.

    You mean apart from quoting articles from other blogs, an article from the primary literature, and a textbook, all of which have been summarily dismissed for apparently arbitrary reasons? What is this, Calvinball?

    Fashionable Nonsense did a pretty good job of making this case back in the ’90s, so as far as I’m concerned, the onus is on those asserting that things have changed to demonstrate this.

    and I really can’t even see what your overall point even is.

    are you always this vague?

    I’ve explained it several times. I’m not going to explain it again.

  218. 218
    Ichthyic

    You mean apart from quoting articles from other blogs

    opinion and tertiary data.

    an article from the primary literature

    where?? I see a lot of links to wiki articles and newspaper articles. No journal articles? must have gotten lost in the fluff.

    I think you’re confused about what projection means.

    nope, I’m quite sure you’re projecting your own opinons onto the issue, and not actually supporting it, or hell, even DEFINING WHAT IT REALLY IS.

    I’ve explained it several times. I’m not going to explain it again.

    five bucks says nodody else here really understands what your point is either.

    does that mean it’s our problem, or yours?

    if it’s ours, you might as well give up.

    If it’s yours, you might want to think about why you are failing to communicate.

    You said a “science portal” would be a bad place to start.

    where did I say that? I implied you would lose to someone actually citing primary literature from journals themselves, instead of a science news portal, wiki, or a fucking textbook.

    I’ve changed my mind.

    you’re nothing but a subtle troll.

    Since you actually HAVE no position of your own to defend, but instead just keep refering to random blog articles where we can supposedly figure out what the fuck you’re on about, I suppose I’ll just go read them, and can safely ignore you entirely.

    bye.

  219. 219
    Ichthyic

    Which led me to a paper from the primary literature, which led me to a textbook that in turn cites . . . the primary literature.

    …that you’ve never read, but like to pretend you have.

  220. 220
    demonhauntedworld

    where?? I see a lot of links to wiki articles and newspaper articles. No journal articles? must have gotten lost in the fluff.

    Post 180.

    instead of a science news portal, wiki, or a fucking textbook.

    Holy shit, do you even know what Web of Science is? How about Scopus?

    five bucks says nodody else here really understands what your point is either.

    So far, you seem to be the only one having an particularly difficult time with it.

  221. 221
    Amphiox

    Anyway, pharmaceutical companies are doing more to drive public mistrust of medicine than any postmodern ecofeminist or quantum theory spouting engineer.

    The actions of the pharmaceutical companies are just a symptom of the underlying malais, which is the US healthcare “system” (or lack thereof). The pharmaceutical companies seek to maximize profit, as all companies do (and must do, if they wish to continue to exist), but the means available to them to do so are produced by the framework of that system. The system both provides incentives, overt and hidden, that guide them into acting in certain directions, as well as allowing/failing to stop them from acting in certain other directions.

    Change the system, and the corporations will change their behavior accordingly.

  222. 222
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    1. Essentialist arguments are common within ecofeminism. This may be on the wane, but it seems premature to say it’s water under the bridge.

    You’ve provided no significant evidence of this, but it doesn’t much matter if they are. There are elements of woo of one sort or another, again, in pretty much any social movement. Essentialist arguments have propped up patriarchy, racism, and imperialism for centuries and millenia. It should be no surprise that some people fighting these systems have themselves adopted essentialist thinking and just turned the value judgments around. But that doesn’t make essentialist thinking an inherent feature of these movements, as it is of the systems of oppression they fight.

    You brought up Vandana Shiva and then mentioned her more times, although you apparently know next to nothing about her. I have read her more recent work, and was actually doing so with an eye towards woo because of the criticisms I’d read. She might have made some essentializing statements in the ’80s (though I wouldn’t conclude that from two words quoted out of context), but her more recent stuff is just not particularly wooish. I’m criticial of her work in the same way I’m critical of anyone else’s, which means not dismissing it because of some weaknesses. Her arguments are fairly common anti-neoliberal and anti-corporate ones, and her agricultural vision is shared in large part by the IAASTD and UN reports. She’s a real threat to corporations, and they have every interest in misrepresenting her and inventing or exaggerating aspects of her work to get people to ignore or dismiss her. You’re falling for it.

    2. Cognitive relativism is common within postmodernism. Postmodernism doesn’t seem to be quite the shitstorm it was back in the ’90s, but it hasn’t gone away either.

    This last is a telling sentence. There was a shitstorm about certain academic trends in the ’90s, but even at the time it didn’t necessarily reflect the influence of these fashions. Certain people on the Right were happy to enter the fray to condemn all criticisms from the Left as antiscientific, but Sokal and Bricmont repeatedly made it clear that they were only talking about one portion of science scholars and not even “postmodernism,” however you define that (you haven’t), generally. Sokal has also been explicit, repeatedly, in pointing out that it isn’t a major issue now. The biggest threats to science, according to Sokal:

    Which brings me to the last, and in my opinion most dangerous, set of adversaries of the evidence-based worldview in the contemporary world: namely, propagandists, public-relations hacks and spin doctors, along with the politicians and corporations who employ them – in short, all those whose goal is not to analyze honestly the evidence for and against a particular policy, but is simply to manipulate the public into reaching a predetermined conclusion by whatever technique will work, however dishonest or fraudulent. [my emphasis]

    You can read about this and more at my post about it from back in 2009 (which also, incidentally, appeared on B&W). Using a review from Shermer, who has such a transparent agenda that it mars his book on Holocaust denial so much that I can’t recommend it in its entirety despite the fact that it’s otherwise excellent, is not necessary. Listen to Sokal.

    People on the Left (like Sokal and I) can and do recognize and criticize the wooish and antiscientific views of others on the Left all the time. When people take those criticisms out of context and blow them up, focusing on them rather than all of the correct aspects of the critique of corporations or governments and the antiscience efforts of the powerful, insinuating that feminism, ecoagriculture, or other movements of the Left are somehow at root antiscientific, well, their purpose appears fairly clear.

    3. There’s a lot of overlap between (eco)feminist and postmodernist schools of thought.

    It’s also telling that you keep putting “eco” in parentheses like that, so as to imply that anything you insinuate (but don’t show) about ecofeminism is really true of feminism in some general way. It’s such bullshit.

    You failed to understand or respond to fifilamour’s original point, which was a good one. It was that, while it makes sense on this thread to complain about woo and a woo-friendly atmosphere amongst some feminists, we should not fall into lazy “feminism is woo-soaked” or “women are wooish” thinking, especially insofar as this ignores the antiscience of patriarchy and the fact that there is no inherent connection between feminism, or leftwing criticism of science or self-proclaimed science, and antiscience or woo. Quite the contrary. And indeed the notion that there is itself generally rests on essentialist views.

  223. 223
    Ichthyic

    Holy shit, do you even know what Web of Science is? How about Scopus?/i>

    do you know what Current Contents is?

    how about the Science Citation Index?

    …because neither of them is actually a cite to an individual article, idiot.

    So far, you seem to be the only one having an particularly difficult time with it.

    ah, I see, you’re fucking delusional.

    nevermind.

  224. 224
    stripeycat

    Oh Sophia! I’m with you on the embarrassing, yet funny, yet debilitating nature of phobias. My personal worst are heights and frogs. I’ve got stuck standing on a stool before. And I once ended up hiding on the upper story of the house, with all the doors and windows locked, getting drunk, because there was a frog in the garden. (My dear, darling boyfriend caught said frog and relocated it to a park with wetlands on the other side of town, bless him!)

    If a phobia is causing you problems with medical treatment, you have my sincerest sympathy.

  225. 225
    fifilamour

    If people think this is a case of just one bad egg (oh, wait, at least two that have been identified so far, only one has stepped down), then you’re buying into charity woo. Charity woo is wrapping an illness up in sexist marketing fluff and pink in a way that eradicates the very real experiences of women with breast cancer, using pink ribbons to market “beauty products” with potentially carcinogenic ingredients Sure little non-profit charities Seriously, if you’re worried about woo entering into medicine, and potentially harmful things being sold with the marketing association of “curing breast cancer” and “non-profit” charities where at the top of the pyramid people make up to $500,000 a year.

    http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.comments&orgid=4509

    Think pink ribbon – from peachy grassroots to corporate pink washing…here’s the history of how breast cancer went corporate…
    http://thinkbeforeyoupink.org/?page_id=26

  226. 226
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    22: “Man is not a rational animal. Man is a rationalizing animal.”

    (Sorry, it’s from before the inclusive “Humanity.”)

    Other studies have shown that the same wine in fancier bottles is judged to taste better; the same cakes on fancy plates are judged moister and more delicious; and the same person in fancier clothes or upper-class posture is more trusted. Its probably why Scientology charges so much for their claptrap.

  227. 227
    judyburns

    NICHOLA

    Back on topic, I tried Arnica homeopathic gel and it worked just as the article described. I doubt it was placebo effect as I tried other remedies I expected to work and had bascially given up. I was surprised at the extent to which the pain subsided. I had the same problem as the author, allergy to Advil.

    Homeopathy is much more accepted in Europe, and a large percentage of physicians prescribe same, while adhering to the scientific method in other areas. If they don’t see the problem, what is the problem??

  228. 228
    Cipher

    I doubt it was placebo effect as I tried other remedies I expected to work and had bascially given up.

    Ah, an anecdote and “you doubt it was placebo effect!” Compelling science you’ve got there.

    If they don’t see the problem, what is the problem??

    Is that a real question?

  229. 229
    chigau (違う)

    Homeopathy is much more accepted in Europe [citation needed], and a large percentage[citation needed] of physicians[citation needed] prescribe same, while adhering to the scientific method in other areas[citation needed]. If they don’t see the problem, what is the problem??

    (hi CC(C),OM)

  230. 230
    A. R

    This is a month old thread!

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