Monthly Archives: March 2014

Misinformation in anti-milk propaganda

March-24-2013-19-20-10-GotMilk

A piece of anti-milk propaganda featured on the appropriately-named website “iwastesomuchtime.com” has started cropping up here and there. Its basic message is: don’t drink milk – it’s unneeded, unnatural, and bad for you. Naturalistic fallacy aside, the author(s) bring to bear on this message that a large proportion of the world is actually lactose intolerant. But in actual fact, when you look at the evolutionary history of lactose intolerance, this fact actually starts to sound like an argument from the other side of the fence.

Lactose tolerance is overwhelmingly more common in people who have pastoral (cattle-rearing) ancestry; for example, those of north-central European descent. It is rare in people who have non-pastoral ancestry, for example the Chinese. Population genetic studies tell us that the oldest genetic mutations associated with lactase persistence (the retaining of the enzymes necessary for digestion of lactose into adulthood) only reached appreciable levels in human populations in the last ten thousand years – in some populations, the frequency of the genes conferring lactase persistence have taken only 3,000 years to increase from negligible frequency to near-ubiquity. This rapidity, seen alongside other lines of evidence point to strong selection for an ability to digest lactose, and significant survival benefits for those who could do so, compared with those who couldn’t, when milk was available, in recent human evolutionary history. Most Westerners now live in a time of consistent nutritional plenty, so for this sample of the world’s population, generally the ability to digest lactose is no longer a matter of life-or-death. But seen in the light of evolution, the idea that drinking milk is “NOT NATURAL” falls through. And it renders the bulletin’s stats about China vs. Asian-Americans silly, because they correspond exactly to what genes and ancestry predict. Please do take a moment to read about the evolution of lactase persistance, if you are unfamiliar with it. It is a lovely demonstration of gene-culture co-evolution and a striking example of “niche-construction”. See, for example: http://lalandlab.st-andrews.ac.uk/niche/HumanSciences.html

One section in the bulletin reads: “cow’s milk is also the number one cause of food allergies among infants and children.” I’ve been to the source cited as a reference for this fact, and the maker of the anti-milk poster has in my opinion been fairly sneaky in its paraphrasing. The actual stat in the referenced document reads, “eight foods account for 90 percent of all (allergic) reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish”. It doesn’t say that these foods “cause food allergies” in the sense of triggering allergies to other foods, which is what statement printed on the bulletin implies, I would say.

I’ve followed all of the cited references at the bottom of the bulletin and can’t find any source to back up their assertion that 62,200,000 Americans are drinking milk even though they can’t digest it. Perhaps I’m not looking hard enough, or perhaps they got that figure using dodgy calculations. If anyone can shed any light, please do. In any case, it sounds unlikely.

The really irresponsible feature of this meme is the clear-cut picture it presents of milk and disease. It implies that higher milk consumption is known to increase risk of ovarian cancer when in fact the picture is not clear, with some studies finding an association between high milk-(and meat- and cheese-) consumption and increased risk of some cancers, and other studies finding the opposite effect. With complex diseases involving so many variables, it is notoriously difficult to single out individual causal relationships, and it is common for different studies to find conflicting results. A meta-analysis in 2005, which looked at epidemiological studies of ovarian cancer and milk consumption, did not find an association. High milk and/or calcium consumption may increase the risk of prostate cancer, but then, it is also seems to lower the risk of colon cancer. The relationship between diet, lifestyle and cancer is a crucial area of active research. See:http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/about-cancer/cancer-questions/does-milk-cause-cancer

The blue and white poster also implies that high milk consumption is known to increase your risk of type 1 diabetes and heart disease. It has been proposed that early exposure (in infancy) to cow’s milk (or lack of breastfeeding) may increase a child’s risk of developing type 1 diabetes – a disease which in most cases is inherited. But it’s not clear that this extra risk accrues to people without a family history of diabetes.

Various studies have looked at dairy and its relation to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. An overview of the available evidence in 2010 found a *reduced* risk of all-cause deaths, heart disease, stroke and T2D associated with increased consumption of milk and dairy foods.  The picture is complicated, unlike the one painted in the bulletin.

Going by the allusions to maltreatment of cows, it seems that really this is an agenda-driven campaign, whose net its author(s) have sought to widen by drawing from nutritional science, being willing to give an unchecked and distorted picture of what the science actually says in the process.

Notice, also, the complete vagueness of equating the saturated fat in “one serving” of milk to “one serving” of fries. How big’s a serving? And is it really all that surprising, and all that worrying, that ounce-for-ounce, milk has “about the same calorie-load as soda”? “Saturated fat” and “calories” are not terms synonymous with “bad”. This poster doesn’t centre around a solid stance or case. Its miscellaneous and dubious contents testify to a lack of quality control in its putting-together. The author(s) have clearly scanned the web for anything that can be framed to fit the anti-milk agenda, and ignored everything else.

Just for the record, I (the UK admin), can really get behind veganism (though this is not necessarily the agenda behind the bulletin) – I think it’s a very worth cause. But the broadcasting of misinformation for promotion purposes it is something that shouldn’t be accepted.

Epidural [guilt] trips and ‘natural’-birth bullies

The evolution of our big brains was costly. Compared to other mammals, including chimps (our closest living cousins), risk of maternal or neonatal mortality during or shortly after labour is enormous. The figure below, which shows infant head-size relative to the size of mum’s pelvic opening in chimps (left) vs humans (right) should make the anatomical basis of this excess risk pretty clear. Nevertheless, dogmatic labelling of “natural” birthing (occurring in the absence of analgesics or other medical interventions) as the “right” method continues to exert considerable pressure on expectant mothers’ decisions. Please know from the outset that we are not against home births or births given in the absence of medical intervention. We are advocates of women’s right to choose what they do with their own bodies, using good information (and not distorted propaganda), without the pressure of being made to feel guilty.

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Dr Kelly Brogan (who, despite her medical training, promotes pseudoscience, for example by writing pieces for “GreenMedInfo” with titles like “Why Vaccines Aren’t Paleo”), tells us that “when we “meddle with” labour, “we rob women of an opportunity for psychospiritual transcendence.” Judy Cohaine, also writing for “GreenMedInfo” asks – with the kind of sleaze that makes my skin crawl – “why so many women are taking the epidural trip”. She has this to say of anaesthesiologists:

“In many ways, epidurals are the drug trip of the current generation. Similar to street drug pushers, most anestheiologists in the delivery rooms maintain a low profile, avoid making eye contact and threaten to walk out if they don’t get total cooperation.”

It will not surprise you to hear that alongside atrociously bad analogy-drawing, loaded language and demonisation of medical professionals and mothers who choose “unnatural” births, the NB lobby also employs cherry-picked studies and a heavy slop of naturalistic dogma to “push” (sorry, I couldn’t resist) the view that the pain of childbirth is something women should accept – and gratefully  too – and that medical interventions are…BAD. This dumbed-down and blackened view of such an all-encompassing aspect of human life, and living it in the 21st Century, is a sadness.

The general safety of both C-sections and epidurals has been well established. While no medical intervention is risk-free, the risks are low and “natural” home birthing, which is painted by the NB crowd as the only truly virtuous approach to delivery, is certainly not risk-free either – that’s the very reason why these medical interventions exist in the first place. There is plenty of sceptical literature out there on the scientific data supporting them. See this, for example. Ultimately, though, a mother’s personal decision when it comes to the birth she is going to give is, well, just that – personal. Since each mother is different, these decisions should be the result of her own feelings, combined with individualised risk-evaluation. In other words, they should be made on a case-to-case basis, not on one of blanket statements, ideology, cherry-picked studies (or even crude statistics, for that matter). Despite the immense importance of context, arising from broad diversity in human physiology, desires and experience, as we see so often from the “holistic” camp (so often that the effect of the fantastic irony is beginning to wane), which claims to treat the “whole person”, “as an individual”, unfortunately, NB ideologists gloss over these individual differences and take the insensitive cookie-cutter approach that they claim to oppose.

The potential benefits of epidurals are not limited to pain-relief, but this effect alone is adequate to fully justify choosing to have one. You don’t need me to tell you that childbirth is associated with extreme agony! Some women find it easier than others – some women are in labour for 30 hours, others in 3. Different women have different pain thresholds. Different women have different psychological reactions to pain. Etc, etc.  Epidurals, as Amy Tuteur  points out, “as the most effective form of pain relief”, can “give women control over their own bodies and control over the way in which they behave. This allows women to represent themselves to others in the ways in which they wish to be seen, instead of pushing them into a “non-rational” space.”

Even if some scheduled C-sections are “based on fear”, as an NB advocate I know once argued, this fear is hardly unfounded. There are a host of specific risk factors, individual to each mother, that might in some cases compel some of them to opt for one. Being pregnant with triplets is one example. Having an infection that is more likely to spread to the infant via vaginal birth compared with C-section is another. Being of a very narrow build is another. And in any case, isn’t it perfectly “natural” to feel afraid of giving birth, even in the absence of these specific risk factors? Take another look at that picture. Countless millions of mothers throughout human history have died giving birth. This is not a fear that is instilled in women by the Evil Medical Industry – it’s a perfectly reasonable fear to have. C-sections circumvent some of the risks associated with vaginal births (such as tearing). Yes, they carry risks of their own. But different risks mean different things to different women. The heavy-handed idea that women “ought” to “transcend” the fear of vaginal birth in the absence of analgesics is philosophically unsophisticated, futile, and greatly lacking in empathy. It’s also hypocritical, if you’ll grant that being afraid of something that is painful and risky is “natural”.

There is no doubt that many people have had beautiful, meaningful experiences giving birth at home. And that’s great for them. But pitting “natural” births against those that do not fit the bill, as if women who have their babies in hospital or with medical assistance of any kind are forfeiting the “true” beauty of giving birth, is a nonsense. The banal idea that the beauty of giving birth is tied to the ins and outs of the birth plan is curiously materialistic for such a transcendental crowd. It’s a bit like being under the impression that you can guarantee your dinner party will be a hit as long as you get the décor right. Everyone knows that really it’s the people you’re with, your state of mind and a bit of luck (oh, and the main course, of course) that makes an experience wonderful – not the fancy lights, the bad music you were playing, or even the Sheffield-steel cutlery. The implication that women falling into the “unnatural birth” category have somehow failed to fulfil themselves as people, and should feel guilty for choosing what feels or felt right for them is essentially bullying – baseless, immature and mean.

Which is unsurprising given its origins. The NB movement began when Grantly Dick-Read, a British doctor practising during the 1930s-50s, published Natural Childbirth and Childbirth Without Fear, in which he espoused the view that pain experienced during childbirth consisted in nothing more than the fear of childbirth itself. His (incorrect) basis for this claim was that “primitive” women didn’t suffer labour pains. “Overcivilization” had planted in the minds of women the myth that labour was painful, and women then fabricated the pain accordingly. Dick-Read, it should be noted, also argued that (white) women who limited the size of their family were committing “race suicide”. Woman, whom he dubbed “the factory”, “fails when she ceases to desire the children for which she was primarily made.” He also believed that measures should be taken to prevent “bad stock” from reproducing too much, and encourage “superior stock” to make up the shortfall.

Social Darwinism aside, imputing superiority to a practice simply on the basis of its being “natural” is not wise, but reckless. While some women do get through labour without pain-relief or medical intervention, many millions of others would never have lived to see their child if such interventions had not been available. As a short anecdote, just before I was due to be born, I managed to get the umbilical cord wrapped three times around my neck. You would not be reading this post if C-section had not existed at the time! Portraying “natural” home birth as “spiritually” superior is unethical because it may (and indeed is meant to) influence women’s medical decisions – to groom them into actively rejecting and resisting medical intervention. When this avoidance manifests as turning down professional medical advice to undergo a procedure, unnecessary risk will inevitably accrue.

Once can’t help but notice the parallels between NB lore and Judeo-Christian narrative. Many Christians believe that the heavier physiological burden women carry in reproduction is God’s way of punishing Eve for taking the first bite of the apple. As one nit-wit put it, “Pain is a natural and intended curse of the primal sin. Any attempt to do away with it must be wrong.” NB propagandists remind me somewhat of Mother Teresa and her conceited attribution of beauty and virtuousness to poverty – enjoyment of other people’s pain and suffering, conveniently concealed beneath a smarmy “congratulations”.

Literature of the kind that presents “natural” births as more morally advanced than others employs fear – the very evil it claims to thwart, to harvest cultural (and commercial) success. Don’t let dogma make your decisions for you! 

Further reading: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/childbirth-without-pain-are-epidurals-the-answer/

Andrew Norton Webber – Pissy Attitude.

Over the last few days, I have been embroiled in a bewildering debate about distilled water. I knew that there existed something of a distillation cult, but I had underestimated how deep the rabbit hole went. This blog post is an adaptation of a (very long) Facebook comment I posted as a response to a friend of a friend. He sells water distillation equipment, and seems utterly convinced that drinking distilled water (one gallon a day) will change your life in just one week by “cleaning out” all the terrible minerals in your body. I posted a link to Randy Johnson’s great website, which is the most detailed and comprehensive resource I’ve found on the subject of distilled water and the various opposing health claims that are made for and against it. Check out the section on distilled water, which unfortunately, my debating opponent didn’t find impressive enough to read.

In response, he directed me towards a character called Andrew Norton Webber,  whom he cited as the reason why he got started with distilled water. Since then, I’ve been doing some delving into the swirling vortex of pseudoscience that is Andrew Norton Webber’s brain. The majority of what follows is based on the first third of a three-hour interview he did – you can find it here or, alternatively,  just search for him on YouTube – he’s quite prolific. I want to make this clear before I begin: as I unpick the arguments laid out by him in the making of his case for distilled water (remember I listened to him for a whole hour), you may begin to think – why are you wasting your time on this?

Well, for one thing, he has garnered a non-trivial following. His videos have been seen by tens of thousands, and his name appears all over the “alternative” web. He presents himself as an expert, and speaks with such confidence that many will have been, and continue to be, tempted to use his existence as confirmation of false ideas that they’d like to be true (who wouldn’t be glad if distilled water were a cure-all), on the basis of a few clicks around his website, or a couple of minutes on YouTube. I think Facebook makes it clear just how gullible some people are, and just how seducable people are by names with a few thousand followers (we know, we get it all the time 😉 ).

It is my belief (and sincere hope) that most of the people who cite him and follow his advice won’t have actually realised how mind-frazzlingly incoherent and weird it all gets when you scratch beneath the surface. The over-all purpose of this note is not to berate or mock Andrew Norton Webber. As I wrote it I deleted and re-phrased things continuously in an active effort to soften the tone. But, as you will see, it turns out to be impossible to unpick his claims without automatically exposing the (I’m afraid) dumb-founding absurdities that constitute them. The main purpose of this note is to provide a reality-check for people like the person to whom it, in its original form, it was written to. For people who aren’t “retards” (as much as this word is thrown about as a means to dismiss people as not worth engaging with) and, whom, in any case, if indeed they were, wouldn’t therefore somehow “deserve” to just be left alone to fester in their own stupidity. If one of my friends came out with the kind of stuff we’re about to discuss (I do have some quite bizarre friends), I’d be just as blunt and forthright as I am in this article. I’d reckon that was a darn-sight more respectful than just looking the other way and letting them get on with it. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the highest possible respect I could pay to Andrew Norton Webber is the time and effort I have spent critically appraising his ideas, as an Oxford-educated English lass. Right, glad that’s out of the way.

Before we begin on the topic of distilled water pseudoscience and its (I now know) intimately related companion, urine pseudoscience (which is more common than you think, by the way), let it be known that in the third of the three-hour interview I’ve so far had the stomach to listen to, Norton Webber reveals himself to be a shining example of crank magnetism, proudly buying into chemtrail woo and antivaccionationism, believing that chemotherapy is purely a money-making ploy that does not save or prolong lives, trading in erroneous chemotherapy treatment statistics and painting all “mainstream” doctors and academics as deceitful and money-grabbing. He is under the impression that GMOs are akin to poison, reels off unfounded notions about the pineal gland (a pseudoscience favourite), is a germ-theory denialist, anti-fluoride conspiracy theorist, homeopathy-enthusiast and all-round conspiracy sponge. He also argues that cooked food has “lost its fuel” – that putting cooked food in your body is like burning gasoline before putting it in the car. (This audacious false analogy is topped off with the labelling of all cooked food as “pure death”.) He states as a given that cataracts, artery plaques, arthritis (and disease in general) are just “mineral deposits”. This is one of the (incorrect) assumptions upon which he bases his assertion that drinking distilled water (or urine) can free humans of disease. He also thinks that the kidneys filter 1000 litres of water. Wiki says 180.  And with full certainty, he asserts that a combination of bathing your tongue in urine after suffering allergic reactions (but not using any drugs) and drinking your own urine on a daily will “completely erase” all allergies (ie. Nut allergy-sufferers: throw away your epi-pens), and provide a full-proof antidote to *any* poison. Yes, that’s right, ANY poison.

Now that we’ve broken the urinary ice, I’ll be frank: Norton Webber is obsessed with drinking pee, which he says can cure any disease. He says one can (and seems convinced that indeed one really ought to) continuously cycle one’s urine, forever – “never taking water or food”. Within 3-5 days, Norton Webber claims, your urine, when cycled through you like this, will become “rainwater-clear”. I’ll just give you a moment to consider that. Now, to truly believe this necessitates one of two things: EITHER a complete and utter lack of understanding of elementary physiology, anatomy, chemistry or evolutionary theory, OR an astronomically bold rejection of science in its entirety – because the idea that we can sustain ourselves with our own urine (and be better off for it) is squarely at odds with each of them, on so many levels. If you keep drinking your urine, the water content will get ever-lower, as it is used by your body for metabolism, and evaporated in the form of perspiration. The pee will get further and further from “rainwater-clear”, and this behaviour will pretty quickly kill you.

No doubt Norton Webber would claim the latter of these two things – that he rejects, rather than fails to understand, science. Indeed, he does, superficially, reject science. His package is ostensibly anti-science. No doubt he would retort to scientific objection to the factual basis of his claims by saying that he doesn’t trust science anyway: his explanations and theory wouldn’t be accepted by doctors and those from “institutions”, because these people want to hide the truth and feed us misinformation. In fact, he advises that everyone cast all subtlety of thought out of the window and resolve to always look in exactly the opposite way to the one in which a given “institution” is directing you, because that’s where the truth will be. He refers to “collegitis”, which he says,

collegitisyz2“sets in when you have been to so much college that you only believe things which come out of ‘accredited’ institutions, corporations, brick and mortar buildings and silly white coats”.

But in actual fact, though he might like to reply that he rejects science, this retort is off-limits to him. His whole arsenal of assertions and claims revolves around ‘sciency-ness’ – a continual bastardisation of actual science  – ie. science that comes from a vast lineage of… institutions and… colleges. He discusses concepts such as “vaccines”, “blood pressure”, “cholesterol”, “hydrogen bonding” etc, etc, all of which came to be understood and labelled and explained by science.

Science is not some collection of answers from which we can select the ones we like and leave the rest. Science is a method of inquiry, and it is the method – the way we get to the answers – that makes something scientific. Not the jargon. Science does not demand unconditional trust (unlike Norton Webber and chums do) – indeed, science can only progress because people keep on questioning – but if you want to disagree with it, you must disagree using more science. That means you must disagree with the method, rather than simply reject the answers. If Andrew Norton Webber disagrees with the methods used to establish pretty much everything we know about the human body, including all the physics and chemistry that this entails, then what the bleedin’eck is he doing basing his “truth” on the very concepts established via these very methods? Add to this the fact that he fails to provide even one demonstration of his understanding of any of science’s methods (something he would have to possess in order to reject them – you’d expect him to be showing it off, not hiding it), and it starts to look verrrrrrry close to 100% certain that Andrew Norton Webber is… frontin’, girl. Derision of doctors, scientists and the “mainstream”, along with a sleazy, pseudo-maverick narrative, are used as a decoy and quasi-justification for his lack of knowledge (of the kind that one would acquire through long, hard hours of genuine study, usually via institutions).

As I asked about Ty Bollinger in a previous blog post, if Norton Webber doesn’t trust science and its chronic sufferers of collegitis, why on earth does he enjoin his readers to trust that these scientific concepts he keeps referring to and using to build his case, from science’s institutions, aren’t just deep layers of conspiracy construction, designed to function as a believable framework for all the lies “they” tell us, and that he so valiantly challenges? Perhaps it’s because, in reality, these science terms and concepts function as a convenient conceptual framework for readers to slot his lies (or delusions, or both, depending on your interpretation) neatly into. It makes them easily remembered and spreadable. One thing’s for sure: whenever we see such selective inconsistency, we know the motivation is something other than truth.

At this point, I feel I should stress again that tragic though his position is, and deserving of our sympathy though he surely is, Norton Webber is setting himself up in a position that squarely demands criticism. He is giving out not just medical advice but extreme medical advice which, given that it’s also the wrong advice, is dangerous. To give you a particularly good example of why he needs to be firmly challenged:

“We all have the most terrible times trying to quit our addictions, and I don’t care whether it’s smoking, drinking, eating lobsters every night or whatever your fancy is. Don’t try to quit those. That’s too hard. Just…add a NEW addiction. Add the gallon a day. Everything else from there will follow. You see, misery loves company. And when you’re full of garbage, there’s three layers of trash that happen inside the body, if you exist without cleaning it on a regular basis, which is basically the degradation we’re witnessing in society… is human bodies, or machines, that have never been cleaned. First a layer of dirt forms, and then there’s bugs, that start to live in the dirt, and then there’s parasites that start to live off the bugs. So, if you don’t clean those out, people just become totally wasted. They just become broken down machines. It’s like buying a car, and driving it out of the lot, without ever giving it oil. Oil is the lubricant to an engine – to a mechanical engine. Water is the lubricant, and the cleaner, to a human engine. The body.”

I’ll leave you to ruminate on that. I don’t know about you, but I find the undertones of religious purity, and guilty shame at our filth-accumulating bodies, particularly unsavoury.

Now seems a good moment to ask: whence cometh Norton Webber’s penchant for piss?

The, Bible, of course! He quotes this bit: “Drink water from your own cistern, fresh* water from your own well”, as is the custom for “urine therapy” proponents. He believes that the Bible is the infallible word of God. Do you, friend-of-a-friend? He is on record as saying “Don’t take the stories from the Bible as allegories. The Bible is truth”. Are you a Young Earth Creationist, like him? Surely not. [I never come across YECs in England.]

Incidentally, it seems more likely that “god” is recommending fidelity here, not piss-drinking, as those words are immediately followed by these ones: “Should your springs be dispersed abroad, /Streams of water in the streets? /Let them be yours alone /And not for strangers with you./Let your fountain be blessed /And rejoice in the wife of your youth. /As a loving hind and a graceful doe,/Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;/Be intoxicated always with her love.”

*In the King James bible, it’s “running water from your own well”, not “fresh water from your own well.”

So, how does drinking pee relate to drinking distilled water? Well, Norton Webber asserts that “the effects (of drinking urine and distilled water) are exactly the same. “It’s not just urine that is the miracle cleanser for the body” – the very reason urine is able to cleanse and heal and allow you live for hundreds of years like Moses and other Biblical characters is because of its distilled water content. In other words, “it’s not urine per se, it’s the pure water within it”. Let’s just be clear that (leaving aside that this contradicts one of his earlier assertions that the reason urine is good for you is probably because of its ammonia content), this makes … no sense. The defining feature of distilled water is that it contains no solutes. Urine is full of solutes – urea, chloride, sodium, potassium, creatinine and others. If we can temporarily suspend stringency just enough to entertain the idea that the “distilled water content” of urine is what constitutes the “vital force” that allows it to de-age you, there’s still the problem that continuously looping it directly would be like the opposite of the distilling process – your urine would contain less and less of this “vitality”, and more and more solutes.

Still on the same outbreath, Norton Webber seems to extend the argument another step – from urine to fruit , implying that you can get the same benefits from drinking fresh (NEVER pasteurised) juice. He seems to be implying, in his own, curiously jumbled way, that it’s the distilled water content of fruit juice that makes it good for you, just like it’s this that makes urine good for you. (Why not just stick with the fruit juice, then?) In this strange moment, he seems to imply that the “vital force” that is destroyed through cooking is in fact the distilled water content. I find it hard to think of a comment to include at this point.

His jumbled misunderstanding of water potential and osmosis (along with other vague bits and bobs) is what seems to lead him (and others) to the conclusion that distilled water can “clean” the body. Theoretically, the extra osmotic pressure applied by distilled water to a solute-containing solution the other side of a semi-permeable membrane allows it to absorb more particles from this solution via a type of diffusion process called osmosis and, in Webber’s world, thus “clean the body” when ingested. But the extra ‘sucking power’, (referred to as water potential) imparted to distilled water is only proportional to the quantity of particles removed from the water in the first place by distillation. Comparing distilled water to tap water becomes a pointless affair when you then compare how either will look when mixed with the contents of your stomach, which contains comparatively enormous quantities of solutes even when empty. It’s a drop-in-the-ocean scenario. Furthermore, even if distilled water were able to absorb significant quantities of substances from your body through the stomach walls (perhaps if one drank huge quantities and stopped eating), this absorption wouldn’t be specific to “bad” chemicals – it would absorb a proportionate quantity of important solutes – ones that are there as a result of millions of years of evolution, and ones that are pushed in pill-form by supplement marketers. (In fact, this flipside is the idea onto which our old friend Dr. Mercola has latched, and from which he constructs his fear-mongering about drinking distilled water, that, according to him “leaches” your body of important minerals. EARLY DEATH FROM DRINKING DISTILLED WATER is the way one character from the anti-distilled-water lobby puts it. See Randy’s page on distilled water for reasons not to take the fear-mongers’ bate on this.)

The idea that urine is good for us because of its distilled water content takes the invalidity of Webber’s philosophy/theory/approach (whatever, they all sound far too noble) to new heights. It is a fundamental inconsistency – a most fatal flaw in his theory. And, of course, it betrays, from another angle, the gaping holes in Webber’s grasp of science. To be rainwater-clear about this: the man advocating distilled water doesn’t actually know what constitutes distilled water.

Leaving all this aside (which seems a perverse thing to do, but no matter), where is this “evidence” that is said to exist to support the claim that distilled water “cleans” the body? Or, for the even more specific assertion, that the quantity of a gallon must be consumed for it to work? Where does Norton Webber get this information or that figure from? As I hope to have convinced you, there is no scientific plausibility working in his favour here.

My hunch is that of the people who find themselves on the fence about Norton Webber’s theory, those who decide to go and do some “research” on whether distilled water completely rids all humans of disease and is the answer to everything, (instead of just listening on until they’re convinced) tend to get sidetracked by “detox” chit-chat. “Information” on detox is everywhere. They kick themselves as it occurs to them that drinking distilled water or urine must be a cure-all, like Norton Webber says it is, because after all, detox is a thing. But detox is another deeply pseudoscientific idea – an ingenious marketing label though, my word. It is a formidable type of pseudoscience, because it sits atop the extraordinarily symbolically-rich concept of purity. “Cleaning” the body and/or the soul is a motif found deeply embedded in religions and mystical traditions throughout history and cross-culturally. This religious metaphor functions whether consciously or not as another means for Norton Webber to dodge the gaps in his knowledge about the very things he claims to be so clued up on, fogging up the picture with mystical smoke and mirrors.

Extraordinary claims, it must be remembered, require extraordinary evidence, with the burden of proof being, as always, on the claimant. Testimonials and anecdotes, despite incessant proclamations of their existence by subscribers and preachers, can’t count. (Indeed, testimonials are a well-recognised pseudoscience red flag.) There are plenty of explanations (aside from that little thing called “fibbing”) as to why people may perceive a certain behaviour as benefiting them. Regression to the mean, placebo, cognitive dissonance, and confusing correlation with causation are some examples – mix these up and pour over an underlying anti-science clique, and you have a recipe for unreliable testimony.

My debating opponent directs me to a page from Andrew Norton Webber’s website, “aquariusthewaterbearer.com”, that lists “doctors” and “experts” who supposedly have had “the courage to tell the truth about distilled water”. As I was fully expecting, it is wholly untrustworthy. I’ve looked up the first 14 entries. They each fall into one of three categories: 1) words of quacks and pseudoexperts who promote distilled water; 2) words that can only be found in copies of the actual document I am trying to verify; (ie, that can’t be independently confirmed and are therefore likely to be made up) and 3) words that are taken out of context and don’t specifically make a case for the health benefits of distilled water. Of course, as we’ve already seen, this is irrelevant because testimonies don’t count as evidence. The fact that someone is a doctor does not absolve them of burden of proof – they should face the same scrutiny as Norton Webber.

Furthermore, a few hundred testimonials is actually fairly unimpressive. Norton Webber has a downloadable .pdf  which apparently contains “500+ testimonials. Full book in progress”. There are billions of people in the world. If someone really had found a free, miracle cure for… everything; something that could “reverse the ageing process” and cure all disease, my best bet says that more people would be on board – news would have spread farer and wider, quicker. (Also, I’d wager that Norton Webber would look in far better shape – he cites Annette Larkins, who is apparently 70 years old but looks very young, as “living proof” that following a raw food diet and drinking distilled water reverses ageing. What about all the living disproof then? Why are there not many more like Larkins? This ability to ignore the misses and take note only of the hits is yet another signature of pseudoscience – known as “selective thinking”, or “confirmation bias”.

The idea that “nobody would benefit from funding” studies to show that distilled water has health benefits”, an idea proposed in the debate, is potentially misleading.  True, there is no incentive to spend money on such a study because, as I’ve touched on (and on which thousands more words could be written), there is a complete lack of any prior scientific basis upon which to suspect that drinking urine or distilled water could possibly have any of the health benefits that people like Norton Webber say it has. However, if the idea did have any prior scientific plausibility then of course there would be incentive to fund studies on it. From a mercenary perspective, huge savings could be made across the board  (speaking as someone with a free national health service) if it turned out that such a simple intervention could improve health and save lives.

The notion that Big Pharma is deliberately keeping us ill is untenable from every angle. It’s also massively insulting to all the thousands of people whose ongoing scientific research is dedicated to understanding the molecular intricacies of individual diseases in the quest to make ill people better. In teaching the New World Order conspiracy as truth, Norton Webber is dismissing the humanity and dedication of huge numbers of people, conveying their intentions to improve and save lives as cold, callous deception – without anything but imagination to back up his dismissal. This is called “slander”.

For the New World Order to be true, necessarily, every student of medicine (and anyone else associated with institutions) would have to be deeply ensconced in a vast web of lies; leading brilliantly well juggled double-lives, all in exchange for dirty Pharma payouts. As someone with many friends in medicine, some of whom I studied with at university, I find the perpetuation of this wild and capricious speculation as THE TRUTH not only absurd but supremely irresponsible, outrageous, and conceited.

And let’s not forget, either, that scientists don’t all work for pharmaceutical companies, and not only that but are fundamentally driven by reputation (associated with making significant contributions to science).The achievement every scientist seeks is the privilege of putting her or his name next to a revolutionary insight, especially if it means humanity benefits directly from such an insight. If distilled water (or urine) were a miracle cure, this would have been shown to be true, and the research group responsible would benefit through reputation – the currency of good science. There are such things as rich scientists. There are also such things as sponsors who want to have revolutionary scientists as their pin-ups. If I am a scientist and I demonstrate, using a well-designed study and good statistics, that distilled water has the benefits that Norton Webber and co. say it does (ie, that it can essentially cure all of mankind’s problems), my reputation as a scientist sky-rockets, and I probably make a fair bit of money in the process and as a result. But there’s no point in investing not just money but time and effort into a project one is confident will not bear fruit. For the record, sure, Pharma companies have a lot to answer for. Ben Goldacre is one of their fiercest critics. His book, “Bad Pharma”, is extremely revealing and unfavourable. I recommend it highly. The reality really is worth talking about and challenging, but it is a far cry from the kind of world that Norton Webber thinks we’re living in. If we want to build a good case against something, as Goldacre does, we need to do it reasonably, with evidence – not with recycled fictions and rumours.

In all, Norton Webber’s profile could function nicely as an illustration of practically every item included in Carl Sagan’s baloney detection kit which, if you haven’t read through, I would recommend as well. There are copies of it hosted at various places – here’s one.

Webber flies all the red flags of pseudoscience. His worldview is based on deep and fervently defended disconnectivity between what in reality are inextricably interlocked areas of this human life. He lives in a bubble – he thinks he is open-minded but in fact, he is anything but.  His mind has had to contort itself so much to house such a catastrophically illogical construct that he can in a single moment both condemn cooking because “no animals cook their food before eating it”, and endorse “continuously looping your own water”. (Incidentally, the Bible makes what would certainly appear to be references to cooked food, in the form of feasts and bread. Since god’s been (in his interpretation) so explicit about the wonders of drinking urine, you’d expect him to mention somewhere that cooking literally kills your food, turning it into “pure death”.)

Usually, when I say things like this, the comments that follow are along the lines of “science doesn’t have the answers to everything”. So, just to put it out there, I know it doesn’t. In the words of Dara O’Brien, “if it did, it would stop.” But just because it doesn’t have the answers to everything doesn’t mean that one can fill in the gaps with mumbo-jumbo. In any case – on this particular subject, science happens to know an awful lot. Andrew Norton Webber’s videos have been seen by tens of thousands of people.

*      *      *      *

In case you were wondering, my debate opponent called me judgemental and made some personal slurs on my character. He wouldn’t accept that testimonials don’t count, and he said that it was irrelevant whether the quotes from that list were genuine or not.

download (1)Finally, he said this: “We all have opinions – until we know. Then we don’t have opinions anymore. I am offering you a chance to have KNOWING  and not an opinion”, which was accompanied by the amusing illustration opposite.

LOL!

Heal Your Dental Cavities…Naturally?

We’ve had numerous requests for a post on the idea that dental cavities can be cured through diet. It’s a popular theme at Natural News, and Wellness Mama, along with many other websites offering “wake-up calls” and extolling the virtues of living “naturally”. From what I can gather, the enthusiasm with which the notion of “healing” cavities at home is currently being promulgated seems to be owed in large part to a book with the amusingly imperative title, Cure Tooth Decay, published in 2010 by Ramiel Nagel. It is loosely based on the work of Weston A. Price (on whom more later). All of the holistically-flavoured articles I’ve come to read on this subject mention Price, and most of them also draw from studies conducted by dentists Edward and May Mellanby. IFHP has received two or three messages from readers directing us to Natural News’  take on the subject (repeated verbatim at many other online locations). The sources it cites are: itself (twice), Wellness Mama and the Weston A. Price Foundation. Incidentally, regarding ‘wellness’, John E. Dodes, D.D.S., a dentist and outspoken critic of ‘holistic dentistry’, has noted that this is “something for which quacks can get paid when there is nothing wrong with the patient.” This note deals mostly with the claims made by NN, but also touches on some of those found elsewhere, on websites of the same bent.

So, first things first: I am not a dentist. While I have done everything I can to make this as accurate and comprehensive as possible within a reasonable amount of time, I would like to make it very clear from the outset that suggestions for improvement, particularly by dentists, are very much welcomed. First, here’s a brief word on the theory of tooth decay accepted by mainstream dentistry.

Tooth enamel is a dense tissue made mostly of hydroxyapatite, a molecule comprising calcium, phosphorus, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Being a-cellular, it is in fact a dead tissue, as is dentin – found directly beneath the enamel – which is also a-cellular.Enamel is is 96% minerals. (Dentin is 70%.) In the mouth, enamel is subject to constant cycles of softening and hardening. After eating foods containing fermentable carbohydrates such as sucrose, glucose and fructose, residues left in the mouth are broken down by oral bacteria, which produce lactic acid as a waste product. This local reduction in pH increases the solubility of hydroxyapatite, which begins to dissolve, in a process calleddemineralisation. However, once the sugar has gone and the pH has risen again, mineral ions suspended in the saliva are reuptaken by the tooth enamel. This part of the cycle is called remineralisation. Nowadays, the remineralisation process is enhanced by water fluoridation. Here is a useful article discussing fluoride’s multifaceted role in remineralisation: http://www.accessscience.com/studycenter.aspx?main=13&questionID=4858

The more frequently teeth are exposed to fermentable carbohydrates (particularly sucrose, see later) and acidic food, the less time the teeth have for remineralisation before they are subjected to the next round of demineralisation. As such, tooth decay (also known as ‘dental caries’) occurs when the rate of the latter exceeds that of the former, and lesions of softened, pitted enamel start to form. These weak areas represent the first stages of decay, and are sometimes known as ‘microcavities’. The good news (and herein lies our kernal of truth) is that, if treated properly with remineralising pastes, the development of these lesions can be reversed. However, once tooth decay has penetrated all the way through the enamel, forming a ‘true cavity’, this is irreversible. Why? because since enamel is a-cellular, it cannot grow. It is formed early in development by the ‘enamel organ’, which recedes by the time teeth erupt. Filling a true cavity is particularly urgent because, since the dentin is less mineralised (and therefore less resistant to the acid produced by oral bacteria), the decay process typically mushrooms out rapidly once it reaches the dentin, in a way that is sometimes described by dentists as a “cavity bomb going off inside the tooth”.

It should be borne in mind, then, that there is an important, qualitative difference between microcavities and the kind of cavities shown in this very popular picture (http://www.healthy-holistic-living.com/images/healcavities.gif), which accompanies many of the online articles in question. Later in this note, we’ll investigate the (misrepresented) source that has been exploited to gloss over this difference and promote the slap-dash notion that “cavities” can be “healed” at home.

Now for some direct quotations from Natural News:

 The world is slowly waking up to the fact that, when you give the body what it needs, it can heal things we previously thought were impossible. A fine example of what is often deemed as an incurable health problem is dental cavities, but extensive research is now becoming more public about the true nature of tooth decay and the fact that there are proven remedies that can remedy it.

Starting with a sweeping statement that implies all illnesses result from not giving the body “what it needs”, is an obvious red flag. Even if it were theoretically true that all disease could be prevented by feeding the body in such a way as to match supply perfectly with demand, with the ingestion of nutrients in exactly the right measurements, at exactly the right times, not enough is known about minute-to-minute body chemistry to put such a regime into action. And that’s before considering that every human body is different. This attitude, moreover, is implicitly dismissive of congenital diseases such as cystic fibrosis, a very serious condition caused by the unlucky pairing of two dodgy mutations from mother and father, and which requires an arduous daily schedule of treatment with drugs and mechanical intervention to prevent childhood death. This opening statement is redolent of willful ignorance and unconditional distrust in medicine, and we should probably expect what follows it to be flavoured with an antiscience bias, even if it originated somewhere other than Natural News.

 The lies perpetrated about tooth decay:

According to the American Dental Association, the reason we have tooth decay is as follows:

“[Tooth decay] occurs when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as milk, pop, raisins, cakes or candy are frequently left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids as a result. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay.”

There are a few problems with this theory, including:

  • Groups of indigenous people who had fermentable carbohydrates stuck on their teeth all the timethat did not brush or floss were mostly or completely free of tooth decay.

This is a reference to the work of Weston A. Price, a dentist who has inspired a lot of praise, particularly in ‘holistic’ circles (see http://www.westonaprice.org/) and a fair bit of criticism, too. See, for example:

The Quackwatch article is arguably a little harsh, and it is important to note that Price’s work has often been pilfered and warped by others to promote dodgy theories that actually bear little resemblance to his own research. The Wiki articles on him (and the dubious foundation inaugurated in his name) are worth a read.

In Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (1939), Price gives an account of his observations of “primitive” peoples from various indigenous populations around the world, reporting that they were remarkably free of diseases afflicting Westerners, including dental caries. One of his conclusions was that Western food preparation methods were stripping away nutrients, resulting in deficiencies which, he proposed, explained tooth decay (and other diseases). During his research, Price observed that these indigenous groups, when they moved towards more Western diets, began to develop dental caries, interpreting this as support for his theory.

Price did in fact believe that sugar was a significant cause of dental caries, but hypothesised (incorrectly) that its cariogenic (tooth decay-inducing) action was to reduce the amount of minerals absorbed by the body. It wasn’t until the 1940s and 50s that the actual role of sugar in tooth decay was discovered, so this was a valid hypothesis at the time. Full appraisal of Price’s work is far beyond the remit of this note but, in short, it seems he did some interesting research which perhaps fell short on scientific and quantitative rigour. Some quick points:

  • Malnourished people, overrepresented in Price’s subjects, get fewer dental cavities, as they experience longer periods of time without dental exposure to food.
  • The serious increases in tooth decay experienced by indigenous people who then gained access to Western foods could be explained by overindulgence, by virtue of sugary foods being a novelty to them.
  • Archaeological evidence tells us that tooth decay is not exclusive to Westernised society. For example, here is recent study finding caries in humans from more than 13,700 years ago. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24332237
  • Price’s research was conducted before the time of vitamin-fortification of Western processed carbohydrates, before the time of water fluoridation, and during a time when tooth decay in the Western world was almost at its highest in history (it reached a peak during the 50s and 60s). For a full-text review of the history of dental caries, published by Nature,see http://www.nature.com/bdj/journal/v191/n9/full/4801214a.html
  • Despite the controversy surrounding Price’s work, it is actually compatible with a sugar-centric theory of tooth decay.
  • I have not been able to give the time it would take to read Price’s entire book, but after the research I’ve done around this subject, it seems unlikely that he claimed his subjects “had fermentable carbohydrates stuck to their teeth all the time”, as reported by Natural News.

Here is a link to an e-version of Price’s book, which is now in the public domain: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200251h.html#ch1

  • Bacteria do not consume processed sugar or flour because of the lack of nutrients in them

This is a bizarre statement, made, Naturally, without any supporting reference. There is ample evidence that sucrose, the molecule constituting refined sugar, is eaten by bacteria in the mouth. De-germed (processed) flour contains less (though not nothing) in the way of vitamins, minerals and protein, but is full of polysaccarides, which can be digested by oral bacteria. In any case, the mouth contains a multitude of essential nutrients with which bacteria can supplement their diets. Here are a few references to support the role played by sucrose in caries-formation:

Krasse B, Edwardsson S, Svensson I, Trell L. Implantation of caries-inducing streptococci in the human oral cavity. Arch Oral Biol 1967;12:231–6

Minah GE, Lovekin GB, Finney JP. Sucrose-induced ecological response of experimental dental plaques from caries-free and caries-susceptible human volunteers. Infect Immun 1981;34:662–75.

Sheiham A. Sucrose and dental caries. Nutrition Health 1987; 5: 25–29.

Van Houte J, Upeslacis VN, Jordan HV, Skobe Z, Green DB. Role of sucrose in colonization of Streptococcus mutans in conventional Sprague-Dawley rats.J Dent Res 1976;55:202–15.

Another, related angle of attack (not included in the NN article) comes from Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagen. It is repeated in various online articles similar to the one from Natural News. It goes like this:

[Mainstream theory of tooth decay] further dissolves because white sugar actually has the ability to incapacitate microorganisms since it attracts water. In a 20% sugar solution, bacteria will perish. Yes, bacteria are present as a result of the process of tooth decay, but a lot of sugar at once will destroy them. If dentistry is correct about bacteria, then a high sugar diet should eliminate them.

Nagen clearly reckons he’s delivered a real blow with this one. To somebody who has never studied biology, perhaps it sounds like the kind of simple, razor-sharp idea that seems so obvious when voiced that everyone says, “why didn’t I think of that?” Only, this idea is toosimple. It’s one thing to plonk a blob of bacterial cells into a beaker of sugar solution and leave them there, out on a limb, floating around in an abyss with nowhere to hide. As long as the percentage of solutes in the liquid contained inside the cells is lower than the percentage of solutes contained outside them in the external solution, osmosis will ensure that the cells’ watery insides are sucked out, desiccating the little blighters as molecules strive towards equilibrium from both sides of their outer membranes. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osmosis) But this lab situation is completely different from the one going on in the human mouth, which doesn’t have smooth glassy surfaces, for one thing. The bacteria in the mouth are established residents. They’ve worked their way into all the nookiest nooks and the cranniest crannies, living in gooey bundles, all huddled up together, nice and cosy. They nuzzle between teeth and ensconce themselves under the harbourage of the gum-line. They squelch around in a caggy spread on the rough, grainy surface of the back of the tongue. Most importantly of all, to help them nuzzle and congregate thus, oral bacteria manufacture an extrapolysaccharide (EPS) slime, also known as a biofilm, using broken-down sugar. This EPS acts as a protective sheath against dessication, holds them together, and keeps them glued to their terrain. Biofilms are why dentists stress the importance of mechanical cleaning with brushes and floss – your antibacterial mouthwash might have “kills 99% of oral bacteria” printed on it, but this kill-rate is likely based on tests with bacteria unprotected by biofilms. When a host human chomps up a cake, the sugary, masticated stodge might feasibly break through some patches of bacterial biofilm, in a similar way to a toothbrush, displacing some of the unlucky bacteria on the outskirts of the huddles, and dragging them, stomach-wards, down the oesophagus. But once the cake-eating eating has stopped, the plentiful remaining bacteria will of course begin spreading over the fermentable residue, digesting it and multiplying afresh.

  • Foods that bacteria like to eat, such as milk, vegetables, meat, fish and fruit, are not commonly implicated in causes of tooth decay.

 Lactose does not appear to be as cariogenic (decay-inducing) as other mono- and di-saccarides. It also tends to be consumed in the presence of other food components such as proteins, fats, and minerals from milk and other dairy products, which act as a buffer, minimising its carious impact. Milk and other dairy products also contains calcium phosphate and casein, both of which aid in the remineralisation process. Fruit, which contains fructose, glucose and some sucrose, doesn’t seem to be a major player in tooth decay, though its acid content can be a cause of tooth erosion, particularly in juice-form, which can increase susceptibility. Something not acknowledged in the NN statement above is that people who eat lots of fruit also probably tend to eat fewer doughuts, meaning that their overall sucrose-intake may be lower. It’s worth pointing out, also, that there is a staggering diversity of bacterial species, some of which have even evolved to digest radioactive material. The phrase “bacteria like to eat” fails to acknowledge the fact that different species of bacteria have different tastes. A class of bacteria called the mutans streptococci represent the main culprits in tooth decay. Of these species, S. sobrinus and S. mutans are the most highly associated with carious lesions on the teeth. The reason sucrose (not found in high concentrations in milk, vegetables, meat, fish, or even fruit) is the biggest dietary factor in tooth decay is because these bacteria specifically rely on it to manufacture sticky, long-chain molecules called glucans, the main ingredient of EPS, discussed above. Thus, the idea that some “foods that bacteria like to eat” are not implicated in tooth decay is not at odds with the modern theory of tooth decay – none of the foods listed in this bacterial tasting menu, à la Natural News, are particularly high in sucrose. See the following papers for further reading on the cariogenicity of lactose and fruit.

http://www.nature.com/bdj/journal/v193/n10/full/4801628a.html#B18 (free full-text article)

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0958694611002482

 

So if the modern explanation of tooth decay is not accurate, what is actually the cause of tooth decay?

What actually causes tooth decay

Tooth decay, as researched by Dr. Weston Price and other dental pioneers, boiled down to three factors:

  • Not enough minerals in the diet.
  • Not enough fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) in the diet.
  • Nutrients not being readily bioavailable, and your intestinal system not properly absorbing them.The presence of phytic acid largely influences this factor.

Over a period of time, if your diet lacks vitamins and minerals from a poor diet and/or contains high levels of phytates (from grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes), the blood chemistry and the ratio of calcium and phosphorous become out of balance, which results in minerals being pulled from bones, causing tooth and bone loss.

So, the long-standing belief that sugar causes tooth decay is true, but as a result of it depleting nutrients from the body, not because bacteria eat it and produce acid that ruins your teeth.

cavities_in_dietary_groups(2) “Other dental pioneers” appears to be a reference to Dr. May Mellanby and Dr. Edward Mellanby (who discovered vitamin D). These two doctors did a lot of work on the effect of vitamins on tooth structure and decay. The graph, which comes from (http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.co.uk/2009/03/reversing-tooth-decay.html) has been reproduced in a large number of other online articles making claims similar to those made by Natural News. I must have seen it in at least six or seven articles. It is based on the summary of Dr. May Mellanby et al’s series of experiments done on children in hospitals, and, as far as I can tell, seems to be an accurate representation. Except for one crucial ambiguity. The graph uses the word “healing” (unqualified), in the context of “cavities”, neglecting to mention the difference between microcavities (lesions of softened, demineralised enamel) and true cavities – actual holes in the enamel. While softened and weak enamel can remineralise, it cannot grow back, as explained earlier in this note. I will say it again: this crucial difference between the early and late stages of tooth decay is something that is systematically ignored by all the web pages advising readers to ditch the dentist in favour of “natural” cures for “cavities”, a term which they fail to qualify. Some points on the Mellanby studies:

  • Supplementation of vitamin D (which is needed for absorption of calcium, a major component of teeth, as discussed above) was indeed found to have an ameliorative effect on dental caries, and the recommendation is made, in the concluding summary, that sufficient vitamin D and calcium should be consumed by mothers during pregnancy and by offpring from birth.
  • But the amelioration should not be, and was not, described by Mellanby simply as the “healing” of cavities, as it is in all these over-zelous articles. The improvements seen in Mellanby’s experiments were:
  1. hardening of carious lesions on the enamel (ie. remineralisation of microcavities, something accounted for uncontroversially within mainstream dentistry) – the word “healing”, out of context, is misleading, especially when the picture presented at the top of the NN the article (and others) is one of multiple, plainly visible, gaping holes in the enamel surfaces of a set of teeth.
  2. The laying down of tertiary protective dentin (dentin being the calcified tissue just below the enamel) in cavities that had already penetrated the enamel. Again, the observation that this response can occur in teeth, arresting the development of caries, is encompassed by modern dental theory. However, there is still debate surrounding how commonly and under what circumstances this occurs. This ‘laying down’ of new dentin, when it occurs, is achieved by the living pulp (remember, dentin is dead tissue). However, this new dentin does not extend very far, and is irregular in structure and far less dense than primary or secondary dentin*, so extremely vulnerable to further decay.
  • Whereas, across all the other diets studied experimentally by Mellanby, carbohydrate content was kept constant, carbohydrate content was considerably lowered in the cereal-free (low phytic acid) diet. Now that we know about the role of fermentable carbohydrates in tooth decay, this should be flagged up as confounding factor in the experiment’s results and the author’s conclusion regarding the detrimental effect of phytic acid on teeth, an idea which is so popular in current-day articles on natural “healing” of tooth cavities, as well as in “paleo” circles. Phyates are now not considered to have a detrimental effect on teeth. (In fact, when isolated from foods, they have even been found to have an anti-caries effect, though this doesn’t carry through to when they are eaten as an intrinsic component of food.)
  • Mellanby herself was clear in pointing out that, even on a high-vitamin D diet, “caries is not arrested in all children”, saying that it “appeared that there might well be dietic factors apart from vitamin D influencing the carious process”, and recognising “that some local chemico-parasitic condition in the mouth might explain the continued activity of caries at some points”. She was right, of course – “chemico-parasitic” being a rather apt way to describe the condition imposed by the presence of lactic acid-producing bacteria.
  • Again, this work was done during a time before vitamin-fortification of cereals and processed carbohydrates, before sugar was identified as the main causal factor in tooth decay, before water fluoridation, and during a time when, accordingly, tooth decay was rife.

The full text version of the report on all four experiments conducted by Mellanby et al. on tooth decay progression in children, from which the graph is taken, can be found here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2520490/?page=3. In fact, all of the Mellanby articles are available online in full.

 The food remedies that can heal cavities and tooth decay

In order to restore the ratio of calcium and phosphorus in our blood, and to enable minerals to bond to our teeth, it is not enough to just avoid eating too many sweet or processed foods. We must also eat health-building foods, containing copious amounts of minerals and vitamins that will build a glassy hard tooth structure.

Foods to focus on are:

  • Coconut oil, grass-fed organic dairy (especially butter), grass-fed meats, seafood and bone broths.
  • Organic cooked vegetables (soups with bone broth are ideal).
  • Organ and gland meats, like liver.

Limit foods that are high in phytic acid, like grains, beans, nuts and seeds, as well as limiting processed food intake full of processed flours and sugars that upset blood sugar balance.

Supplements to consider are:

  • Fermented cod liver oil – very high in fat soluble vitamins A, D and K.
  • Magnesium – required to use calcium and phosphorous effectively.
  • Gelatin – if you don’t have time to make bone broth, this is a good alternative and is great for gums and digestion.

Now go get your pearly white smile back.

 The idea that every one of us needs to be working to “restore” the ratio of calcium and phosphorus in our blood has no basis. Aside from being the conclusion of an article deliberately based on anachronistic theory from the 1920s and 30s (and loosely, at that), in general, people who eat reasonable diets based on standard dietary recommendations have no reason to believe that they are suffering from nutritional deficiencies or inbalances. Claims that modern dentistry dismisses the importance of nutrition for healthy teeth are false. Evidence points to the importance of nutrition in the pre-eruptive stage, when teeth are forming, and deficiencies in (for example) vitamin D and A, as well as protein energy malnutrition, have all been linked with poor enamel composition (enamel hypoplasia), which increases susceptibility to tooth decay (see following reference). Furthermore, other nutrient deficiencies are recognised to interfere with saliva composition and quantity (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/4/881S.full), minimising its protective effect. But in healthy people who eat a normal, balanced diet, in the post-eruptive stage, by far the most important cause of tooth decay is sugar consumption. The authors of the articles addressed in this note offer dental advice but, in so doing, clearly demonstrate that they are neither qualified nor equipped to do so. When seeking out advice on how to maximise the health of your teeth, be sure to check for accreditation by dentists. If you think you’re at risk of being subjected to unnecessary drilling and filling, ask your dentist whether remineralisation with fluoride therapy is a possible alternative. If you still suspect him/her of ‘over-enthusiasm’, go and get a second opinion. But don’t abandon dental appointments in favour of diet regimes invented in the 1930s, before the era of food fortification, water fluoridation, or an understanding of sugar’s role in tooth decay.

For a full-text read on teeth and nutrition: http://www.nature.com/bdj/journal/v193/n10/full/4801628a.html#B18

See also: http://www.smilesbypayet.com/category/dental-philosophy-of-care/holistic-dentist/

*These experiments were conducted in the 20s and 30s. At that time, what is now called tertiary dentin was then known as secondary dentin. The new category reflects the greater understanding dentists now have of tooth structure and function. Thanks to dentist Adrian Stewart, who provided the following explanation in a comment: Secondary dentin is laid down on the inner wall of the dentin throughout the life of the pulp. Dentin is tubular in structure (diameter of approx. 1 micron) with an ondontoblast (the cell that makes dentin and secondary dentin) at the interface of the pulp and he dentin tubule, with a cell process extending into the tubule. Decay entering the dentin leads to death of this ondontoblast, which is replaced by a prto-ondontoblast from pluripotent stem cells within the dental pulp. These then lay down irregular tertiary dentin, which is nowhere near as dense as primary or secondary dentin but acts as a basic defense against the decay process.

Ty Bollinger’s Cancer(un)Truth, AKA: cancertruth.net

Over the past couple of months, we’ve been seeing some FB adverts for cancertruth.net, a crank-magnet hub of cancer misinformation run by fanatic Christian Ty Bollinger, an all-round quack who makes public examples of sceptics who question his claims and motives by calling them “lowly Pharma trolls” from the “medical Mafia”. This kind of name-calling is a well-documented trick of the trade, as anyone who has ever confronted a quack will know. For those of you who haven’t ever had the pleasure, this type of response is called an ad hominem argument.

Bollinger has written a book called “Cancer: step outside the box”, which you can buy for 20 quid or 30 bucks and which he says is the product of several years of “medical research”. In reality, it is the product of equating anything-goes conspiracy junk à la Mike Adams with credible medical literature, combined with years of religious indoctrination. (Indeed, for Ty, cancer is ultimately a result of sin, and your only real chance of being saved from it is by seeking redemption through Jesus Christ. But we’ll leave that aside.) As a sceptically-active adult who can usually smell bullshit before having read the first word on a webpage, it is very easy to get it into one’s head that only stupid idiots are fooled by people like Ty Bollinger and his unquestioning embrace of all and any pseudoscience the Internet has to offer. But this is a mistake. Harnessing the skill of detection takes practise and prior knowledge. It hurts me to imagine how many bright young minds, as we speak, are discovering Ty’s world of “InfoWars” and “What ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Hear”, and revelling in the false knowledge that they are fast-tracking themselves into enlightenment by fuelling their brains with the cutting-edge. Equally, it’s a tragedy to me that Ty Bollinger’s “thousands of hours” spent “researching” were in actual fact thousands of hours spent willingly applying his brain-power to the task of rooting around in humanity’s intellectual dustbin.

Ty-Bollinger2For a sense of how difficult it would be for any conscientious 16-yr-old biology student to debunk Ty’s homepage article on the question “What is Cancer?”, consider standing with a small, empty wicker basket in the heart of an untouched apple orchard in Devonshire, on an early-autumn afternoon of a particularly good year for apples. 

Of course, Ty could always say, HA! Text-book biology is just what ‘they’ want you to see anyway.

…And you might be stumped for a millisecond, but then you’d recall that his entire website revolves around scientifically-established, text-book concepts like pH, respiration, trans-fats, antioxidants, mutation, immune function, radiation, cholesterol, and so forth, and so forth. (He just doesn’t know what they actually mean.) If he doesn’t trust science, why on earth does he enjoin his readers to trust that these scientific concepts aren’t just deep layers of conspiracy construction, designed to function as a believable framework for all the lies ‘they’ tell us, and that he so diligently exposes? Perhaps it’s because in reality, they function as a convenient conceptual framework for readers to place his lies neatly into. It makes them easily remembered and spreadable. One thing’s for sure: when we see such selective inconsistency, we know the motivation is something other than truth.

I will go through his answer to the question “What is Cancer?”, bit by bit. The entirety of his original text is quoted, but feel free to observe it in context at his website, via donotlink, here.

Please note that I go into more depth on the kind of misinformation Bollinger spreads, and give an explanation of what cancer actually is (without assuming any prior knowledge), in this blog post. I’ll indicate if one of Ty’s claims is dealt with directly in it, and which paragraph to look at. Here is the first section of Ty’s piece on the question “What is Cancer?”

“Conventional medicine defines cancer as a colony of malignant cells, or a tumor. If you have a tumor, then the conventional oncologist will try to cut or slash it out via surgery. After they cut you, then they typically recommend chemo to try to kill any remaining cancer cells with toxic poisons. And they will finish off with radiation, to burn whatever cancer cells remain.”

Firstly, notice the use of loaded, repetitious language (“cut or slash”, “burn”, “toxic poisons”). What follows, this strongly suggests, is so reliant on unsubstantiated claims that he feels the need to poison the well by doubling-up on nasty words before he can let people read on, to inflame their emotions and make them less likely to go and do some fact-checking. The use of the snide expression, “they will finish off with radiation” is another, more subtle example of the same ploy – immediately planting in the mind the image of a gang of sadistic doctors toying with your body for their sport. Furthermore, look at the term “conventional oncologist”, which implies that some oncologists (the unconventional ones) think more like Ty than others. They don’t. To be an oncologist, you have to have studied cancer genetics and cell biology and passed some long, hard exams. Practising oncology means treating patients on the basis of what you learned for those exams. ‘Alternative oncologist’ is a meaningless term, used only to set up a double standard.

More importantly, Ty’s description of the transition from diagnosis to treatment is ridiculous. And it implicitly makes one of the most fundamental oncological oversights, as seen in cancer quackery across the board: failing to distinguish between a benign tumour and a malignant tumour. A malignant tumour is one that contains cells which have gained the ability to break away from the tissue that holds them together. Before a tumour has started shedding cells into the blood lymphatic system, or ‘metastasised’, tumours are ‘benign’, and can in many cases be removed (or “cut or slashed”) out via surgery without complication. When possible, it is preferable to use surgery as the only treatment, because of the side-effects that are associated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, unless there is good evidence that the tumour has not yet started to shed cells, it is often recommended that surgery is combined with other treatments, to give maximum confidence that all the cancer has been killed. If a patient is diagnosed with metastatic cancer, treatment must be tailored to the particular kind of cancer they have. This will be the result of careful analysis of the particular genetic traits of the cancer. At this point, I should say: cancer is NOT a disease, it is an remarkably diverse CATEGORY of disease. No two cancers are the same. Different tumours in the same body can have very different genetic profiles. In fact, even within the same tumour, cells may be different in this way. Likewise, chemotherapy isn’t a drug, it’s drug category. The drugs that are recommended as part of a patient’s course of chemotherapy will reflect their individual case. Radiation therapy works locally, targeting a specific area of the body, whereas chemotherapy and oral medication (Ty doesn’t mention pills) work on the whole body. Broadly speaking, these differences, combined with the patient’s profile, determine the treatment approach.

“This is why I, and many others, refer to “the Big 3” protocol as “Slash, Poison, and Burn.” Alternative medicine sees cancer as a multidimensional, systemic total body disease. The cancer tumor is merely a symptom and the purpose of the alternative cancer treatment is to correct the root causes of cancer in the whole body.”

So, after reiterating his fondness for loaded language, he tells a lie. In reality, the opposite is true. A one-dimensional, dumbed-down view of cancer, and the ignorant portrayal of the [category of] disease as predictable that is what defines cancer quackery – not the ‘individualised’ approach they claim to take but actually are incapable of taking because of their lack of even the most basic understanding of cancer, DNA, and human physiology. Saying that the “root causes of cancer” are “in the whole body” is, again, meaningless. Massive oversight number 2 from Ty Bollinger: the difference between proximate and ultimate causes, which, when it comes to cancer, is crucial. Please see paragraph 1 of the section entitled “Miracle cure for cancer?” in the blog post I mentioned above, for more on this. The causes of cancer, both ultimate and proximate, are as diverse as cancer itself. The claim that “the cancer tumor is merely a symptom”, which is false, is discussed later.

“The fact is we develop cancer cells throughout our bodies throughout our lives.”

This is kind of true, but not really. Cells are called “cancer cells” when they’re part of a cancer. Cells do spontaneously mutate, and Ty is correct in saying that “normally”, our bodies “are able to find [these cells], identify them, and destroy them before they are able to grow uncontrollably” (ie, before they become cancer, and thus, before they come cancer cells).

“It is a normal occurrence, which is constantly taking place in a healthy body.  It is only when the healthy body becomes unable to mount its normal defenses and the cancer cells are allowed to reproduce at an uncontrollable rate that cancer becomes life threatening.  This is a failure or breakdown of our normal immune system. The immune systems breakdown, and its cause, needs to be treated in conjunction with the cancer, in order to assure the best possible outcome for the patient.  Any treatment that does not address underlying causes for the breakdown of the immune system will be palliative at best, and life threatening at their worst.”

It’s just not true that this mechanism (find, detect, destroy) will not fail if you are “healthy”. The word “healthy” is, in any case, spectacularly broad in meaning and impossible to define without including more and more words. Here we see Ty’s complete ignorance of the probabilistic nature of cancer, which arises from the fact that any copying system has an inherent error-rate. We see it in all copying systems, not just in DNA-replication. Cancer can occur in people who are in very good physical shape. This doesn’t mean that the immune system has no role in cancer. Far from it. But sometimes, even in a fully-functioning system, something slips through the net. Ty fails to mention hereditary cancer predispositions, some forms of which will result in a person getting cancer very early in life, and dying. Try Googling famililal adenomatous polyposis, or Li-Fraumeni syndrome, for example. Please see paragraph 3 of “Some background information” for more on this. Now, be prepared, this is where it all kicks off…

It’s important to remember the basic physiology of all cancer cells. Whether it be breast, prostate, renal or lung, there are many facets of their physiology that will remain constant.  Glucose is taken in as a primary food; lactic acid is excreted from the cancer cells into the blood.  The blood carries the lactic acid to the liver, where it is converted back into glucose to feed the cancer cells.  This occurs in all known cancer cells.  It has been well documented in many studies, that, many years ago serum glucose levels were used to monitor the progress of the disease.  It was well established that as the disease progressed, serum glucose levels would rise.

Yes, there are basic elements of physiology that all cancer cells share. They’re the ones that all non-cancer cells also share. There is a lot more *unshared* physiology going on in cancer cells than there is in normal cells. Glucose? Taken in as a primary food? Yes, by all cells, including the healthy ones! It’s testament to the mental tragedy I was talking about earlier on that after several years of what Ty thought was “medical research”, he’s managed to miss the fact that all cells require glucose for cellular respiration…..which, of course, renders the rest of that last paragraph moot. Oh, and the whole of the next paragraph.

“Knowing this, the wisdom of removing simple carbohydrates and sugars from the diet becomes obvious.  The ignorant use of glucose I.V.’s in cancer patients also becomes painfully obvious.   The object is to make it difficult for cancer cells to reproduce.  Why fuel them with a primary requirement?”

…Because you can’t stop fuelling them with a primary requirement without also cutting supply to healthy cells.

“They are unable to efficiently use protein or complex carbohydrates for food.”

Actually, proteins and complex carbohydrates can both be converted to glucose just fine by the liver and the pancreas.

“The healthy cells of our body and immune system are able to use these as fuel and for repair.”

And so are the cancer cells.

“Adapt the patient to a diet that includes protein and complex carbohydrates and eliminate the rest.  This is a simple change that can make a huge difference in the final outcome of the disease process.”

Forgetting for a moment that complex carbohydrates and proteins are both routinely converted into glucose by the body, where’s his evidence that eliminating everything but complex carbohydrates and protein “can make a huge difference in the final outcome of the disease process”? Even if his premise were correct, which it is not, this would still need to be supported by controlled studies.

“It’s also important to remember that a large number of cancer cell types have receptor sites for opiates.”

So do healthy cells. And just because a cell has opiate receptors doesn’t mean that opium helps keep them alive.

“In other words, opiates used to fight pain will actually increase the cancer cell’s growth rate.”

No, this does not follow.

“The quick shrinkage of tumors that is sometimes seen in chemotherapy or radiation therapy is not a sign of recovery from cancer.  It is a complete shutting down of the normal immune response.”

This is not true. Cancer is made of tumour mass. If the tumour shrinks, the patient has less cancer. Tumours aren’t “symptoms” of an underlying disease, they are the disease, and their growth into surrounding structures causes a host of symptoms (say, difficulty breathing if they grow in towards a patient’s wind-pipe). There is absolutely no basis for the claim that tumour shrinkage, when it occurs after chemotherapy or radiation (but presumably not if it were to occur in someone who eschewed “conventional” treatment for cancer), is the “complete shutting down of normal immune response”.

“This is as indisputable fact, yet the pharmaceutical companies are allowed to use it to get their chemotherapy approved.  Under optimal conditions, tumors will enlarge as they become engorged with CD-cells and macrophages.  These cells identify the cancer cells, kill them and then devour their remains.  This is an inflammatory response and results in the tumor growing slightly as it becomes engorged with these cells.  If the tumor shrinks quickly from chemotherapy or radiation therapy, the ideal healthy response of the body to controlling cancer does not have a chance to occur.”

Whoah, Nelly. Ty starts that paragraph by saying that something anyone who has ever studied cancer would dispute is undisputable. He then uses this as the basis for the idea that chemotherapy doesn’t work, but pharmaceutical companies are selling it anyway. (I invite you to read that first sentence again just in case you missed that he inadvertently implies that pharma companies are using *his* absurd interpretation of tumour shrinkage to sell their drugs. We are dealing with a seriously impaired thinker here, folks.) Let’s not forget that for this to be true would entail that every single oncological researcher, many of whom have come out of the best universities in the world, are willing to forfeit all semblance of scientific integrity for dirty pharma payouts. In principle, as someone who studied cancer as part of their degree, and who has friends in cancer research, I find this insulting. In practise, I had to get over that a long time ago when I realised that people like Ty are all over the place, and that taking offense doesn’t get you anywhere.

Let’s avoid the false dichotomy that says you have to be in love with pharmaceutical companies to confront pseudoscience. In the words of Ben Goldacre, one of pharmaceutical companies’ most vocal critics (from his book, Bad Pharma):

“Alternative therapists […] have no role to play in fixing these problems. These business people often like to pretend, with an affectation of outside swagger, that their trade somehow challenges the pharmaceutical industry. In reality, they are cut from the same cloth, and simply use cruder versions of the same tricks, as I have written many times elsewhere. Problems in medicine do not mean that homeopathic sugar pills work; just because there are problems with aircraft design, that doesn’t mean that magic carpets really fly.”

“Never confuse rapid tumor shrinkage with beating the cancer.  It is just the opposite.”

Yeah…no.

This is the last bit:

“CT scans and PET scan show inflammatory responses, not just cancer. Since the normal and healthy body response are CD-cells infiltration and consuming of cancer cells is also an inflammatory response, they are often confused by radiologists untrained in cancer fighting agents that work with the immune system to facilitate both increases in CD-cells and at the same time being cytotoxic (selectively killing cancer cells).”

Here’s a definition of “inflammatory response” from Wiki: “part of the complex biological response of vascular tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants.” As we might expect, on the basis of this definition, cancer certainly does cause inflammation. As tumours grow and displace surrounding tissue, cells are damaged. Tumours also secrete a variety of substances which could act as harmful stimuli or irritants. A trained oncologist would never confuse inflammation for a tumour, let alone to the point where the patient would be referred for a PET scan. The two things look completely different. If on the off-chance such a rare error of judgement were made one the first consultation (very unlikely), further consultations with other doctors (they don’t work alone) would expose the mistake. A biopsy, for example, would show unmistakably that the lump was not cancer. Inflammation is generalised fluid swelling, redness, and heat – not a mass of cells. In a PET scan, a radiologist is looking for areas where more energy is being expended – ie, where more glucose (from blood) is being demanded. PET scans are expensive, and usually aren’t used to diagnose cancer in the first place but to ascertain where the cancer has spread to, or whether treatment has been effective. No patient would ever be referred for a PET scan because of inflammation.

Bollinger throws around the term “CD-cells”. The fact he seems to think that “CD-cells infiltration” is what the “inflammatory response is” demonstrates as clear as day that he he is using the term because he thinks it makes him sounds clever. “CD” stands for “cluster of differentiation“, and is always followed by one or more numbers. That’s because there are a LOT of different types of CD cells. The CD number is the name given to a specific protein on the surface of a cell. Many CD cells (for example, CD4, CD8, CD20), are not involved in inflammation. It would have been good if Ty had read up on the topic he’s taken it upon himself to use as a basis for pushing his medical delusions on cancer sufferers.

So, what would a radiologist *not* “untrained in cancer fighting agents that work with the immune system to facilitate both increases in CD-cells and at the same time being cytotoxic” look like? Let’s see. Well, on paper at least, they’d have to look a bit like Ty Bollinger. Because they’d have to believe, like Ty, that glucose is the primary source of fuel for cancer cells but *not* the rest of the cells in the body. And they’d have to believe that increasing CD cell-numbers was the holy grail of cancer treatment. It’s not. The only thing CD cells necessarily share is that they are all involved the immune system. The immune system is mind-blowing in its degree of organisational complexity. Its many subsystems interact in an exquisitely specific manner and there is no reason to think that increasing all of a patient’s CD-cell levels should result in tumour-shrinkage. In fact, sending someone’s whole immune system into overdrive would probably be a very, very bad idea. Here’s an article on why “boosting” the immune system (which is what I think Ty is getting at) is (another) meaningless concept, and probably dangerous in the sense that Bollinger seems to be inadvertently endorsing through his ignorance. In other words, then, this kind of “radiologist” would actually have to be a quack who, like Bollinger, lacked any medical qualifications. If they were caught using this term to describe themselves, they’d be in serious trouble.

The selectivity problem (which, through an amazing feat of learned stupidity, Ty seems to think he has solved) is the central and most difficult problem in cancer treatment research. It is discussed briefly in paragraph 3 of the section called “Miracle cure for cancer?” of the note. There are promising avenues of research currently being pursued, which aim to overcome the problem of singling out cancer cells, but the majority of current cytotoxic (cancer-killing) drugs can affect the whole body, being fatal to rapidly-dividing cells like cancerous ones, those from the gastrointestinal tract, hair follicles and early blood cells in the bone marrow. Cancer treatment is not perfect, but it does save lives.

As a final word on this dense cacophony of ignorance: perhaps the most badly thought-out element of Bollinger’s piece was his singling out of “a radiologist” as the the crux of the problem. Radiologists diagnose or confirm diagnoses of disease (not just cancer). When the disease is cancer, science-based medicine requires a pathology specialist (for example, breast, lung, prostate or renal) to ascertain the invasiveness of the cells. Then a group of surgeons will work together to figure out the best way to achieve the best possible outcome, hopefully with complete removal of the tumour, causing the smallest amount of damage. Next, oncologists (plural) will use the data from the pathologists (data that describes the profile of genetic over- and under-expression of in the tumour cells) to decide which drug(s) will be most effective against the particular case of cancer the patient has. In short, medicine is a team effort.

Nothing in Bollinger’s statement stands up to the most basic medical science or current medical practice. He starts with the typical and tiresome premise of denigrating science, then fails to provide any scientific argument whatsoever, instead backing up his utterly unfounded and impressively stupid statements by impersonating science – its language and its terminology, its concepts and its techniques.

Science is not some collection of answers from which one can pick and choose what one likes. Science is a method of inquiry, and it is the method – the way in which we seek the answers – that makes something scientific, and not the terminology or the answers themselves. While science never demands our ultimate trust, it does demand that, if you want to disagree with it, you must disagree using more science. That means you must disagree with the method, rather than simply reject the answers. And to disagree with the methods used to determine scientific answers, you need to…ahem…understand the methods, and the answers, that you are disputing.

All this got me thinking about how formidable a beast the “alternative” healing/pseudoscience/conspiracy scene is. It can sometimes feel (if you’ll allow me to get into the spirit) like a giant conspiracy against reason and human emancipation from mental slavery.

People competing for recognition in the “alternative” world seek to obtain the things “they” MOST don’t want you to see. This compels to hunt the Internet for the most cracked out, far-fetched, hare-brained articles and “nuggets” (Ty’s preferred term for the misinformation he emits from his little cyberspot on the World Wide Web) that they can possibly find. It sort of reminds me of football or Pokémon cards. There are some that you find in every packet. And there are some that are really hard to track down and that only a few people have ever got hold of. THOSE are the ones people are after. “Alternative” suppliers stock the collectables – the articles and interviews and pictures with words under them, and the pressure is on to be the website or FB page that has the rarest, most STUNNING NEW INFO to provide its consumers with, to increase their page rankings so they can earn maximum dosh from advertising or selling their rubbish. But whereas football and Pokémon cards (or medicine) correspond to a finite number of characters (or available treatments), as a crank you don’t have this limitation. You can simply invent stuff. It doesn’t have to be stuff that’s true, or even stuff that people might be able to point out with irrefutable evidence is not true. It doesn’t have to make sense, or be good for people. There are no rules. And the more recognition you get, the more people you can hire to pluck bullshit from their arses and convert into (just) readable prose, and the crazier the people you can employ, so your posts are always on the forefront of Cutting-edge Crap. Oh, you like that effect? Check out the title of Ty Bolinger’s most recent book, “Monumental Myths of the Modern Medical Mafia and Mainstream Media and the Multitude of Lying Liars That Manufactured Them”, with a preface by Mike Adams. He’s got alliteration down to a tee. We can at least say that about Ty.

In Bollinger’s world, there is no reality-check. He just keeps going. His readers gotta catch ‘em all – all of those lies, all the conspiracy theories, all the cheap bunk that the human mind can produce when released from the onus of fact-checking. Writing this article reminded me of what I just found out is called “Rule 34” which, in the form I heard it, goes something like this: if you can think of a sex fetish, no matter how weird, someone has already thought of it. It’s been done.

See for yourself. Think up some pseudoscience – pick an object or concept and see whether some whacko out there on Google has spun some junk from it. In my experience, they usually have.

To conclude, all the evidence you need to ascertain that Ty Bollinger is a dangerous quack has been provided to you by his own words, and his astonishing ability to confuse broadcasting his ignorance with providing credible refutation of medical theories.