Alt-med envy

I wish we could do this with creationists. A German court has ruled that a kook skeptic must pay up on his €100,000 challenge to prove measles was a virus.

A court in Germany has ruled that a prominent anti-vaccination advocate must pay a doctor the €100,000 prize money he had promised to anyone who could prove measles is a virus.

Biologist Stefan Lanka made the offer on his website (pdf) in 2011, but rejected the six scientific studies Dr David Bardens provided as proof.

Lanka argued during the Ravensburg district court hearing that measles was a psychosomatic illness, the local Suedkurier newspaper reported.

Bizarre. Erupting in painful, itching pustules and even dying are now psychosomatic illnesses? All I can say is…here is an electron micrograph of measles virus particles being spewed from the surface of an infected cell.


But now I’m thinking of all those people who have offered creationist challenges — Kent Hovind’s $250,000, Joseph Mastropaolo’s $10,000, Chopra’s million — and wishing we had a court capable of recognizing the scientific evidence for evolution and telling them to make good on their promises.


  1. Alverant says

    Even if you could get the court to recognize the evidence for evolution I’m sure those challenges have special conditions and loopholes written into them to keep them from paying out. And even if the courts called those conditions BS and ordered them to pay, there will be whines of religious persecution and suppression of religious liberty. After all, if you have to keep your word to heathens then you’re being oppressed.

  2. says

    Yes — Mastropaolo in particular has so many conditions and rules wrapped around his challenge — he appoints all the judges! — that there’s no way to win. You’d have to be crazy to accept it.

  3. Richard Smith says

    The question is, is Stefan Lanka a German measles denier, or a German measles denier?

  4. latveriandiplomat says

    @5 I know you’re kidding but for what it’s worth, the word in the challenge is das Masern-virus, which is the virus for plain measles. The German word for German measles (rubella) is die Röteln.

  5. John Horstman says

    I’ve actually seen a shocking amount of denialism concerning the germ theory of disease in my time on this planet, despite the fact that we can now take photographs of bacteria and virons and fungal spores, as above. It makes about as much sense as evolution denialism in the face of actual observed evolutionary adaptation.

  6. lorn says

    Woooaaa … you mean lying about stuff that might get people killed might lead to negative consequences for the liar?

    How the hell did that happen … and how can we get more of it?

  7. Sastra says

    The more common version of germ theory denialism is to agree that there are germs and they’re connected to diseases — but they can’t do anything unless there is some sort of spiritual weakness in a person’s Life Force. Vitalistic energy is what keeps us healthy as it flows through our bodies and it’s getting blocked, maybe by emotional trauma or the “toxins” of modern life. That’s the true cause of all disease. The germs are either opportunists or byproducts.

  8. Klaus-Dieter Fahnder says

    I’m glad this particular quack was forced to put his money where is mouth was, but it seems like a small victory.

    Quack medicine is huuuuge in Germany. Pharmacies are filled with the stuff. It is actually hard to find a doctor that doesn’t peddle it. I’m told some doctors don’t believe in it but offer because patients’ demand it and health insurers are willing to pay €,€€€,€€€s for to supply it (mine sent me a brochure last year showboating the fact that they now offer free homeopathic treatments). Some also truly believe it, and you have to be really careful with those folks; they will prescribe conventional medicine but with some crap on the top and in my experience they can screw up the conventional part and give you the wrong stuff.

    I once was too ill to travel across town to my usual “Science-Based” doctor and called in to a more local surgery that I thought wasn’t quack based. But the encyclopedias of Chinese medicine on the bookshelves gave that away. I had a nasty sinus infection. She proceeded to hit me about the head a bit (nice bedside manner), prescribed “ein Medikamente” without telling me what it was (I checked on the internet at home – antibiotics) and sat me in front of a machine I was told was Wärmtherapie. I was told to wear some goggles and place my head close to a plastic box. Weirdly I got this feeling of heat on my skin despite their being no heating element or lamp. Thanks to my physics background, in my feverish, sinussy daze I slowly work out what was happening: No obvious heat source, RF equiment, EM shielding….it was a goddamn microwave. Sorry, got to run, bye! They urged me to come back next day for more sessions on the mic…..I left and swore never to come back.

  9. photoreceptor says

    to klaus @10, France is just as bad. One medical insurance company for sure (maybe others) boasts about 100% reimbursement for homeopathic medicine, and the french believe overwhelmingly that it works (merci placebo effect). I got a sore throat and asked a pharmacist for something off the shelf, she recommended some dilute herbal stuff and I told her I didn’t believe in alternative medicine, to which she replied “but it works…”. So that proves it.

  10. Rich Woods says

    @Klaus-Dieter #10:

    showboating the fact that they now offer free homeopathic treatments

    At least they’re selling it at its true value.

  11. mordred says

    Klaus@10: That sounds really familiar! This didn’t by chance happen in Marburg?

    It’s just that in that town I ended up with a doctor having some Chinese medicine stuff around when my usual doctor was on a holiday who treated my blocked frontal sinus with microwaves and annoyed the hell out of me by insisting my condition was chronic because of stress (which she diagnosed by looking at my tongue)! I’ve had the problem for about 12 hours at that point!

  12. blf says

    photoreceptor@11, Yeah, fear of that sort of shite is one reason I dread going to many pharmacies here in France. Having said that, I haven’t actually had any bad experiences — perhaps because I put on my “I can’t speak Français hat” (which isn’t that hard!) — and also try to avoid any which I can see selling the stuff (which is fecking near impossible, so I just try for the one with the smallest display…).

  13. dannysichel says

    Take a $20 bill. Rub it against a square of toilet paper.

    Rub that square of toilet paper against a second roll of toilet paper. Take a square from the second roll, rub it against a third roll, repeat until you’ve done ten rolls.

    A square from the tenth roll is homeopathic money.

  14. Lofty says

    Homeopathic medicine works!!!11!
    >>> Quite well for the pushers of the stuff, thank you very much.

  15. David Marjanović says

    Right now a private German health insurance is advertising that it covers acupuncture.

    A few years ago I bought aspirin in a pharmacy in France. Apparently the only kind they had was aspirin with vitamin C!

    The question is, is Stefan Lanka a German measles denier, or a German measles denier?

    A German measles-denier, or a German-measles denier?

    (I am become Death, destroyer of jokes.)

    What use are measle parties if measles don’t come from viruses?

    Measles parties are specifically American woo; I’m sure Stefan “Biologist” Lanka has never heard of them.

  16. David Eriksen says

    I’ve mentioned here before that I work within the US military health system. As far as I know, we’re the closest thing the states have to socialized medicine. The woo is invading us as well. Mostly in the form of chiropractic but I also see fliers for Reiki and healing touch, as well. Homeopathic medicines are available in most military exchanges.

    It makes me want to scream when I go to briefings and the CO talks about the importance of science based medicine and then segues into holistic medicine.

  17. Rich Woods says

    @David Eriksen #20:

    I work within the US military health system. As far as I know, we’re the closest thing the states have to socialized medicine.

    You goddamn commies!

  18. says

    I guess second best, regarding Kent Hovind anyway, would be a court finding him guilty of contempt of court, likely resulting in another two to three years in prison.

    Oh, wait, that just happened last week…

  19. rietpluim says

    @David Marjanović #18 – From what I’ve heard, measles parties are happening in Germany too.

  20. pyrion says

    There is nothing wrong about holistic medicine, as long as it is really medicine. The tendency to see everything isolated in the different body parts can often be a problem itself, so give me that holistic doctor anytime, as long as his/her methods are scientific.

  21. says

    @David Marjanović #18 – From what I’ve heard, measles parties are happening in Germany too.

    That’s actually a criminal offense.
    Big problem with measles vaccination is all the unvaccinated adults like me* who have to beg their GPs to check whether they need the shot or not.

    *I have full immunity having had the measles (blood test a few months ago). I also remember having the measles. I must have been a genius, having read and understood the medical dictionary so I could sport the exact psychosomatic symptoms I was supposed to have a year before starting school.

  22. rietpluim says

    @Giliell #25

    That’s actually a criminal offense.

    It is? Good. It should be. Do you know if anybody was ever prosecuted?

  23. says

    Measles parties are specifically American woo;

    From what I’ve heard, measles parties are happening in Germany too.

    Similar reports have come out of California, but there is little evidence that they have actually happened (Snopes classifies the claims as false), so I would be skeptical of it happening in Germany too. As for being illegal — I don’t believe there is a law banning such things. I guess it could fall under more general child endangerment laws, but public statements from health authorities are sticking to warning against them as being very bad ideas.