MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

In these austere and difficult times, it must be my duty, I think, to alert my fellow citizens to a possible source of additional income which almost anyone can plug into: become a charlatan, and chances are that your economic hardship is a memory from the past. To achieve this aim, I [with my tongue firmly lodged in my cheek] suggest a fairly straight forward step by step approach.

1. Find an attractive therapy and give it a fantastic name

Did I just say “straight forward”? Well, the first step isn’t that easy, after all. Most of the really loony ideas turn out to be taken: ear candles, homeopathy, aura massage, energy healing, urine-therapy, chiropractic etc. As a true charlatan, you want your very own quackery. So you will have to think of a new concept.

Something truly ‘far out’ would be ideal, like claiming the ear is a map of the human body which allows you to treat all diseases by doing something odd on specific areas of the ear – oops, this territory is already occupied by the ear acupuncture brigade. How about postulating that you have super-natural powers which enable you to send ‘healing energy’ into patients’ bodies so that they can repair themselves? No good either: Reiki-healers might accuse you of plagiarism.

But you get the gist, I am sure, and will be able to invent something. When you do, give it a memorable name, the name can make or break your new venture.

2. Invent a fascinating history

Having identified your treatment and a fantastic name for it, you now need a good story to explain how it all came about. This task is not all that tough and might even turn out to be fun; you could think of something touching like you cured your moribund little sister at the age of 6 with your intervention, or you received the inspiration in your dreams from an old aunt who had just died, or perhaps you want to create some religious connection [have you ever visited Lourdes?]. There are no limits to your imagination; just make sure the story is gripping – one day, they might make a movie of it.

3. Add a dash of pseudo-science

Like it or not, but we live in an age where we cannot entirely exclude science from our considerations. At the very minimum, I recommend a little smattering of sciency terminology. As you don’t want to be found out, select something that only few experts understand; quantum physics, entanglement, chaos-theory and Nano-technology are all excellent options.

It might also look more convincing to hint at the notion that top scientists adore your concepts, or that whole teams from universities in distant places are working on the underlying mechanisms, or that the Nobel committee has recently been alerted etc. If at all possible, add a bit of high tech to your new invention; some shiny new apparatus with flashing lights and digital displays might be just the ticket. The apparatus can be otherwise empty – as long as it looks impressive, all is fine.

4. Do not forget a dose of ancient wisdom

With all this science – sorry, pseudo-science – you must not forget to remain firmly grounded in tradition. Your treatment ought to be based on ancient wisdom which you have rediscovered, modified and perfected. I recommend mentioning that some of the oldest cultures of the planet have already been aware of the main pillars on which your invention today proudly stands. Anything that is that old has stood the test of time which is to say, your treatment is both effective and safe.

5. Claim to have a panacea

To maximise your income, you want to have as many customers as possible. It would therefore be unwise to focus your endeavours on just one or two conditions. Commercially, it is much better to affirm in no uncertain terms that your treatment is a cure for everything, a panacea. Do not worry about the implausibility of such a claim. In the realm of quackery, it is perfectly acceptable, even common behaviour to be outlandish.

6. Deal with the ‘evidence-problem’ and the nasty sceptics

It is depressing, I know, but even the most exceptionally gifted charlatan is bound to attract doubters. Sceptics will sooner or later ask you for evidence; in fact, they are obsessed by it. But do not panic – this is by no means as threatening as it appears. The obvious solution is to provide testimonial after testimonial.

You need a website where satisfied customers report impressive stories how your treatment saved their lives. In case you do not know such customers, invent them; in the realm of quackery, there is a time-honoured tradition of writing your own testimonials. Nobody will be able to tell!

7. Demonstrate that you master the fine art of cheating with statistics

Some of the sceptics might not be impressed, and when they start criticising your ‘evidence’, you might need to go the extra mile. Providing statistics is a very good way of keeping them at bay, at least for a while. The general consensus amongst charlatans is that about 70% of their patients experience remarkable benefit from whatever placebo they throw at them. So, my advice is to do a little better and cite a case series of at least 5000 patients of whom 76.5 % showed significant improvements.

What? You don’t have such case series? Don’t be daft, be inventive!

8. Score points with Big Pharma

You must be aware who your (future) customers are (will be): they are affluent, had a decent education (evidently without much success), and are middle-aged, gullible and deeply alternative. Think of Prince Charles! Once you have empathised with this mind-set, it is obvious that you can profitably plug into the persecution complex which haunts these people.

An easy way of achieving this is to claim that Big Pharma has got wind of your innovation, is positively frightened of losing millions, and is thus doing all they can to supress it. Not only will this give you street cred with the lunatic fringe of society, it also provides a perfect explanation why your ground-breaking discovery has not been published it the top journals of medicine: the editors are all in the pocket of Big Pharma, of course.

9. Ask for money, much money

I have left the most important bit for the end; remember: your aim is to get rich! So, charge high fees, even extravagantly high ones. If your treatment is a product that you can sell (e.g. via the internet, to escape the regulators), sell it dearly; if it is a hands-on therapy, charge heavy consultation fees and claim exclusivity; if it is a teachable technique, start training other therapists at high fees and ask a franchise-cut of their future earnings.

Over-charging is your best chance of getting famous – or have you ever heard of a charlatan famous for being reasonably priced?  It will also get rid of the riff-raff you don’t want to see in your surgery. Poor people might be even ill! No, you don’t want them; you want the ‘worried rich and well’ who can afford to see a real doctor when things should go wrong. But most importantly, high fees will do a lot of good to your bank account.

 

Now you are all set. However, to prevent you from stumbling at the first hurdle, here are some handy answers to the questions you inevitably will receive from sceptics, this nasty breed that is never happy. The answers are not designed to convince them but, if voiced in public, they will ensure that the general opinion is on your side – and that’s what is paramount in the realm of quackery.

Q: Your treatment can cause considerable harm; do you find that responsible?

A: Harm? Do you know what you are talking about? Obviously not! Every year, hundreds of thousands die because of the medicine they received from mainstream doctors. This is what I call harm!

Q: Experts say that your treatment is not biologically plausible, what is your response?

A: There are many things science does not yet understand and many things that it will never understand. In any case, there are other ways of knowing, and science is but one of them.

Q: Where are the controlled trials to back up your claim?

A: Clinical trials are of very limited value; they are far too small, frequently biased and never depict the real life situation. This is why many experts now argue for better ways of showing the value of medical interventions.

Q: Professor Ernst recently said that your therapy is unproven, is that true?

A: This man cannot be trusted; he is in the pocket of the pharmaceutical industry! He would say that, wouldn’t he?

Anyway, did you know that only 15% of conventional therapies actually are evidence-based?

Q: Why is your treatment so expensive?

A: Years of training, a full research programme, constant audits, compliance with regulations, and a large team of co-workers – do you think that all of this comes free? Personally, I would treat all my patients for free (and often do so) but I have responsibilities to others, you know.

72 Responses to How to become a charlatan

  • and if you cannot explain how your therapy works then allude to “quantum effects” Because your therapy works on a sub-atomic level, remember?

  • I came up with what looked like a sure-fire winner a few years back. The technique:

    1. Has been used since ancient times
    2. Uses no harsh and harmful drugs
    3. Requires no complicated and expensive equipment
    4. Is widespread over many different cultures
    5. Is completely natural
    6. Has no side-effects
    7. Produces effects that are almost instantaneous and easily observable in “real life” situations
    8. Historically, the majority of its practitioners have been female
    9. It can’t be just placebo as it works on very small children and babies

    As far as I can see the only thing missing from “Mummy Will Kiss It Better” is a proper pseudoscientific foundation. At the moment it seems that anyone thinks they can use it without proper training or understanding of the ancient wisdom it is based on, which has made it impossible to commercialise. Some pointless handwaving is evidently needed. Maybe “Quantum MWKIB” is the way forward.

    • The pseudo Skeptik technique:

      1. It is impossible according to the laws of physics and chemistry acutales.
      2. Hahnenamnn was crazy and delusional.
      3. Homeopathy in 200 years has provided no evidence.
      4. All clinical trials that prove homeopathy are saying that they have serious methodological flaws.
      5. Penelope Dingle was killed by homeopathy and died not think critically.
      6. In 2010 the Committee of Sciencia and Technology of the House of Commons sentencion that homeopathy is placebo.
      7. In 2005 the prestigious journal Lancet published a study that says that homeopathy works beyond placebo,
      8. There is no physical or chemical study demonstrating the memory of water, there was only one study in Nature that said show an effect and was a fraud.
      9. The guru of homeoptía Edzard Ernst published an article in Nature confessing that homeopathy does not work.
      10. Nobody could replcar the Benveniste hallzagos or the same.
      11. Montagnier’s study does not speak of homeopathy and has nothing to do, also was in a magazine publicaoda low quality.
      12. Benveniste was a charlatan and dedicated in his final days writing books of pseudoscience and paranormal things.
      13. FASEB published a study showing that homeopathy does not work and the memory of water is fraud.
      14. Wiegand’s study (2004) is not valid because it was paid by Boiron.
      15. In 2002 Horizon showed that homeopathy does not work.

      • Rubbish! I hate to read this cynical way of discourse!
        Of course charlatans exist. In every field of healing and consulting.
        Homeopathy, however, does work!
        And I know people who work on a political level against homeopathy and at home they use it for themselves, their partners and their kids. Friends in other countries have private insurances that cover this kind of treatment, and it is very much appreciated. Why would these people who can afford any kind of treatment choose homeopathy or other holistic treatments over “conventional” medicine?

        • Amanda_Go4it sayid:

          Homeopathy, however, does work!

          Yep! That convinces me.

          No. Wait. it doesn’t.

          What’s your best reason for believing homeopathy works??

          • Says who does not know the difference between a blind study and a study prospectivol!:

            http://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e6184?tab=responses

            Alan H., your reviews are like a placebo! Your reviews are totally placebo. David Eyles gave an excellent answer.

            In my country has given us laugh, because a guy nicknamed Olivaw Daneel (pseudoescéptico Argentina) repeated your objections in Spanish!

          • Ah! Cuba and so called homeoprophylaxis for leptospirosis…now there’s a story. One of the homeopathic world’s greatest success stories, so they tell us. Except it’s not, of course; but you’ll have to be patient to find out the true story behind that nonsense.

      • Hahnenamnn was crazy and delusional.

        No, Hahnemann was wrong. As is your habit you are confusing this statement with a personal attack.

  • I like the fact that every numbered point is numbered “1.”, a la Gary Zukav, though I suppose it was a cut-and-paste accident.

  • Rick: you have super-natural powers! you guessed correctly

  • Numbering now fixed!

  • I’m reminded of a few attractive sounding therapies Crispian brought to light a few years ago…

    http://crispian-jago.blogspot.co.uk/2009/05/trick-or-treatment-2-more-alternative.html

  • Mrs Dr A and I have often joked about setting up in the quackery business. With her medical degree and clinical experience, and my scientific credentials and knowledge of Alternative nuttery, we reckon we’d make wheelbarrow-loads of cash. As yet, though, we haven’t come up with exactly the right bogus therapy. Though who knows, the way things are going with Universities and with the NHS, we may soon both be in need of new ways of making a living.

  • Focus on homeopathy: Funny Edzard and seudo skeptiks!

    a) You say it is fantastic and, b) Has a fascinating history are anecdotes suggesting, c) As a way of ensuring that the invention is to tell the person that there are Nobel laureates and Universities, d) Has seniority, e) As their proponenete say it is a panacea, e) Dealing with skeptics, f) proponents cheat with statistics, g) And suggests that proponents defend themselves against the removal of pharmaceutical, h) And finally asserts that ask a lot of money.

    Let’s see …

    a) And b) are ad-hominem and I must add that are stuffed with straw and b) is also a contradiction in his own speech (cite anecdotes as Whats the harm or the other site that mentions why Skeptikcat eg if you cite the “I do not work”).
    c) Actually that’s true, if homeopathy in various universities in the world (Mexico, Brazil, India, USA, Spain, UK, Germany, Russia, France, Italy) .. Nobel Prizes?? Brian and Luc Montagnier Joshpeson. So your excuse is irrelevant.
    d) Homeopathy in systematic form has around over 200 years and? Not appealing to ancient culture as does acupuncture or reiki.
    e) Course deals with the skeptics. But Truzzi had warned of corruption in the CSICOP (CSI) and interestingly it repeated in 2002 at the Horizon and false reproduction 1999 study by Sainte Laudy and M. Ennis being a pan-European study. The statesman John Martin Bland was apparently unaware that they were making a real reproduction (Of couese even Wayne Turnbull and James Randi playing after bamballin´s). Lancet in 2005 and with the pathetic defense of Paul Winston in Homeopathy (2008). In 2009 returns to the fray with Adrian Gaylard and copy paste even taking out of context the study of Teixeira (2007) and making a ecelente cherry harvest. In 2009 Mario Wolters try “analyze” the data from a study of thermoluminescence of Bosman and VanWijk, where ironically has a bad metodolog, made by Maria Wolters.
    f) Funny, generally systematic reviews of Edzard Ernst et al. statistics are totally lacking. Visions usually are narratives with a greater potential for bias. Coupled with that many of them are totally subjective where the main excuse is the alleged implausiblidad Ernst (see below),
    g) This e overgeneralize. That there are people who make the whole thing is a conspiracy, that researchers do in general is very different. Edzard, yours is an ad-hominem,
    h) This is an ad-crumenam.

    Eventually Edzard ensures that homeopathy “is implausible”. In fact in a “study” published in Biologist (Who the hell accept and review this with the peer review?) Said it was “implausible” that ensures repeating the same thing in Trick or Treat, or in their reviews “systematic”. Frankly it has not given a single argument that says that is implausible. Edzard <>. I wonder Homeopathy contradicts the law of gravity, or Snell’s law, …..?
    Edzard lying.

    • Focus on homeopathy

      There has been no mention of homoeopathy until this. Why do you bring it up? Do you think it is on-topic here, given the subject matter of the post you are commenting on?

      • Just kidding? Ernst says:

        “Did I just say “straight forward”? Well, the first step isn’t that easy, after all. Most of the really loony ideas turn out to be taken: ear candles, homeopathy, aura massage, energy healing, urine-therapy, chiropractic etc. As a true charlatan, you want your very own quackery. So you will have to think of a new concept.”

        In Spain speaks this trick is known as “bate mixing.” Is similar to that of the table did irrational elements, whether any of all and each one out of context. So if esertinente mention homeopathy.

    • what is this all about???

      • Mr. Ernst Oh no joke … sure if you know. Unless Biologist publish a paper accepted his Who have been the reviewers?
        Mmmm .. we can expect if David Grimmes physical and are able to publish articles in FACT magazine full of ad-hominem …..

    • Eventually Edzard ensures that homeopathy “is implausible”.

      No, Sam Hahnemann did that a couple of hundred years ago.

      • Err … I am referring to Ernst. Understand?
        And then you think you do not take the quotes out of context …

        • Yes, you are referring to Ernst, and I am pointing out that you are wrong. Ernst didn’t invent the remedy preparation methods that ensure that homoeopathy is implausible. That was done by Hahnemann.

          • I never said that Ernst invented these remedies or procedures in homeopathy. What I have said is that Ernst says that homeopathy is “implausible” in several of his works. His justification? a) “serious” methodological flaws, b) contradicts everything we know about physics and chemistry (which repeats Biologist).
            I think it should be noted Ernst which are all those laws of physics and chemistry that homeopathy contradicts. Is it that contradicts the law of propagation of light? Contradicts the law of gravity? Contadice all laws of thermodynamics? Perhaps contradicts a law of psychology? Perhaps contradicts any law of toxicology (Does the linear model with or without threshold? Calabressse, Jonas, and VanWijk have already responded to these objections). Perhaps contradicts the Avogadro constant? (according to Cickramane seems rno). Or is that contradicts any concept in anthropology, sociology or history?
            I think that the work of Ernst are poor in their counterargument.

          • I never said that Ernst invented these remedies or procedures in homeopathy. What I have said is that Ernst says that homeopathy is “implausible” in several of his works.

            No, what you said is “Eventually Edzard ensures that homeopathy “is implausible””, as anyone can see by reading your post a little further up the page. You can only ensure that something is implausible by making it that way. As I pointed out, the person responsible for this is Sam Hahnemann. Ernst is not responsible for the implausible claims of homoeopathy.

          • As you like to change the semantics. You say this:

            “Ernst did not invent the remedy preparation methods Ensure That That homeopathy is implausible. That was done by Hahnemann.!

            I did not say anything. Hahnemann did not invent anything, if anything it systematized. That soborenatural believe in is irrelevant when evaluating what your beliefs are not theological, but its empirical contributions. It is clear that the offense is repeated as Ernst did Maddox, L. Park, Gardner and Randi saying things like “contradicts everything we know about physics and chemistry.” I ask again: is that homeopathy contradicts the law of gravity, Snell law, Doppler sound law, Maxwell laws, Kirchoff laws, Robotics “laws”?
            If Ernst bases its judgment on that premise, it is clear that his work can not be taken seriously beyond the prejudice and lack of understanding that is polluting his writings with pseudo skeptical jargon.

            Here your hero says that and more:

            http://www.societyofbiology.org/newsandevents/news/view/402

            In this paper Ernst says (without citing a single reference):

            “Homeopathy is a form of popular but implausible medicine (?). Contrary to many claims by homeopaths, there is no conclusive evidence highly dilute homeopathic remedies. That are different from placebos “and … It is based on two Axioms: the ‘like cures like principle’ (as in the definition above) and the notion that ‘potentiation’ (serial dilution with vigorous shaking) renders a medicine not less and less but more and more powerful. THUS, many homeopathic remedies are Diluted beyond Avogadro’s number (6.0225! 10 23) where the likelihood Approaches zero That a single molecule of the original substance is contained in the remedy. Axioms Both are scientifically implausible. The results of basic research seem to support occasionally some concepts of homeopathy “

            Trends in Pharmacology science

            Were systematicallyomitted Critical texts, and issues Such as the biological implausi-bility of homeopathy Were almost entirely excluded

            http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2042-7166.2012.01160.x/abstract

            Clearly not cite Ernst VanWijk work, Calabresse, Jonas, Khuda Bkuhs among others that belie their claims.

          • Yes, but the reason that homoeopathy is implausible is not what Ernst says; it is the way Hahnemann designed it. Ernst is just reporting the inconvenient facts.

    • Nobel Prizes?? Brian and Luc Montagnier Joshpeson. So your excuse is irrelevant.

      Did “Brian and Luc Montagnier Joshpeson” (whoever they are) win the Nobel prize for work that had anything to do with homoeopathy?

      • I did not say that they won the Nobel Prize for homeopathy.
        You notice minimal errors. David Brian Joshepson It was a typo in my text. Funny is that errors accuse me of “finger”.
        As you know, both the work of Montagnier (Yes, criticized by Lewis and others) if supported homeopathy. Joshepson did not forget that the preface to a book of Benveniste. Perhaps more appropriate talks about his work, opinions and post-Nobel lectures.

        • I did not say that they won the Nobel Prize for homeopathy.

          Why, then, did you bring up their Nobel Prizes?

          • Oh good question:

            “It might also look more convincing to hint at the notion That Top scientists adore your concepts, or That whole teams from universities in distant places are working on the underlying Mechanisms, That the Nobel committee or have recently been alerted etc.”

            Although Ernst says the Nobel committee, it is clear that Joshepson and Montaigner are laureates. They are two, but those two are important. I think the other Nobel Prizes, outside Charpak and other who are against homeopathy, most of it is unknown.

  • Excellent article! I’ve used some of these steps in developing my own bogus therapeutic system – NEARNESS THERAPY™ – which I describe in one of two flavours to friends when asked to illustrate why so much altMed is crackers.

    I offer two versions of nearness therapy: Scandinavian, or Oriental. Lets look at the latter…

    NEARNESS THERAPY™ is a revolutionary new synthesis of ancient healing traditions, examining the essence of what makes these valuable and heretical practices so potent. The founder, Dr Friedman Paul Erhardt , had for many years a successful practice in Craniosacral Therapy . After a elective period of study and spiritual retreat in Zhengzhou Dr Erhardt learnt of the universal truth – the quantum vibrations that are found in all living things, and the subtle disturbances of these vibrations that can lead to disharmony and ill health.

    NEARNESS THERAPY™, or NT, is a revolutionary and remarkable new system by which the therapist uses their own quantum vibrations to interact with those of their patient’s, and by almost imperceptable adjustments return them to normality and full health. A typical first session will last 60 minutes, taking place in the cool and exotic oriental surroundings of a therapy centre. The therapist will talk about all aspects of the patient’s life, not just the physical, but also the emotional, spiritual and artistic. This information will better help the therapist interpret their “Field Reaction” in subsequent sessions.

    What follows is between 6 and 12 60 minute sessions where the therapist will sit quietly next to the patient, sometimes with their eyes closed seemingly ‘asleep’, making subatomic adjustments to the dysharmonies. Patients will often leave with a sense of deep calm and relaxation, but others may experience nothing, or even a worsening of their symptoms – this is to be expected, as turbulence of the Quantum Vibrations can in turn disrupt normal homeostasis.

    To finish, sprinkle with some crackers anecdotes.

    I’ve done this exercise a few times, and I’ve had some people request referral.

  • There’s a lot of money to made by charlatans. I keep thinking about setting myself up as a homeopath. I guess I can bulk buy sugar pills and little bottles. Think of the margins!

  • I meant to ask scientists on here – how many tons of homeopathic remedy needed at 30C to get one molecule present?

    • According to Jay Shelton’s book “Homeopathy: How It Really Works” (Prometheus Books, 2004, p. 58), it would take an amount of pills “nearly one billion times the mass of the Earth”. That works out to something around 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons, I think. For liquid remedies it would involve a volume of remedy equivalent to about ten billion times the volume of the Earth.

      Rather a lot, really.

      • that’s why we find homeopathy so hard to swallow!

      • Its a metaphor. Understanding now?

        • Oh, so it’s not really a treatment then but a metaphor?
          Metaphors are certainly easier to come by and most definitely cheaper than homeopathic treatment. Plus you can certainly find some Nobel Prize laureats in this field as opposed to homeopathy. So how come no one promotes reading metaphors (or listening to them) as an effective cure if homeopathy is just one of them?

  • Neil,

    Wikipedia has this partially answered already: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathy , under DILUTIONS

    For a single molecule to be present, you’d be looking at 10^41 pills. If you assume a single pill to weigh 100mg (numerous sites suggest this) then you’re talking about 10^34 metric tonnes of tablets.

    To help mentally visualise this, the sun weights approximately 2 x 10^27 tonnes (from Solar mass, wikipedia), so basically about 10 million suns.

    Happy to have my maths corrected here.

  • GAH! 5 million Suns. Maybe Homeopathy isn’t that implausible.

    • Wikipedia used to have another example for 30C remedies: that it would need two billion doses per second to be given to six billion people for 4 billion years to deliver a single molecule of the original material to any patient. It wasn’t sourced, but I think the maths worked out.

      • That is totally irrelevant, is a metaphor. And if the same skeptical “scientists” say it is due to the memory of water is even more irrelevant. NO is fitting to quote your absurd example.
        How many times have to repeat the same thing?
        Does Wikipedia? Clear why escepricas guerrillas are excellent to cite references which suit them …

        • Hi Magufo,

          I would like to understand what you are trying to say in response to Mojo & I. What do you mean when you say that the calculation we have provided is a metaphor? You recognise the absurdity of the dilution, yet seem to use this as a reinforcement to your argument.

          Also, escepricas guerillas – please explain/translate. I suspect you intended ‘Skeptic Guerillas’, perhaps that the contributors to this forum are engaged in some kind of attritional war against a majority that use altMed, picking our battles wisely and citing our evidence selectively.

          Lets keep things simple then – what figure would you provide in answer to Neil’s question?

          • Homeopaths know that a 30CH dilution violates the Avogadro constant. That is not disputed.
            But to say that:

            “That it would need two billion doses per second to be Given to six billion people for 4 billion years to deliver a single molecule of the original material to any patient. It was not sourced, but I think the maths worked out. “

            In fact (if not bad memory) the same Mojo told me it was a metaphor in the blog of Andy Lewis. As a metaphor applied as if it were real, we have a false analogy.

            Guerrilas skeptical: View Wikipedia and pseudoskeptiks control in all themes “pseudoscientific”.

          • P.D:

            By the way: I did not say that the calculation is a metaphor …

  • Fun with pseudoskeptiks and ad-hominem attacks:

    http://www.amazon.com/Homeopathic-Philosophy-Theory-Doctrines-compilation/dp/1480055379/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1349970181&sr=8-2&keywords=saurav+arora

    Anarchy tea… writting:

    “Since homeopathy is merely a form of magic that has no real therapeutic effect beyond placebo, I would advise taking this work on a long trip into the country, where it can safely be used to light a fire, as a soporific when sleep eludes you, be thrown at passing wild animals, or even, if dire need arises, replace the traditional large dock leaf.”

  • There is something important missing from the list but other have hinted at it. Inventing a therapy is one thing but becoming a successful CAM therapist requires considerably more. Why are some CAMsters more successful that others? Why do some CAMsters live in nice houses and have big cars whilst others struggle to find clients?

    I think about the role of personal qualities such as charisma, showmanship and empathy.

  • One point is missing in Edzard’s list:

    (10) Find a way to explain that anything that ever can happen to the patient proves that your new treatment is effective.

    If the patient improves then this proves success because… (should not be too difficult)
    If the patient deteriorates then this indicates success because…
    If downright nothing happens then this indicates success because…

    The last two may be a little bit tricky. But you may get some good leads in referring to a professional tool like
    http://www.erikandanna.com/Humor/bullshit_generator.htm
    Of course, this is a top management version (they have longer experience there), just get the idea on how to proceed.
    If you want it not to sound too quacky, you can get some ideas from here as well:
    http://www.cognitrix.com/pages/tips-hints/jargon-generator-medical-research.htm

  • Norbet Aust wrote:

    “If the patient improves then this proves success because… (should not be too difficult)
    If the patient deteriorates then this indicates success because…
    If downright nothing happens then this indicates success because…”

    That’s similar to ‘The Blue Dot Cure’. Click on this link and scroll down for the cartoon:
    http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/tooth_fairy_science_part_2/

  • I was going to invent copromancy, but McKeith beat me to it.

  • 1. Find an attractive therapy and give it a fantastic name

    With most of the good therapies taken, the future charlatan would do better to find an obscure plant and promote it as a super-food that cures everything. Give it an evocative name, preferably unpronounceable. Take some photos showing smiling brown children playing in the jungle, or mountains or wherever, and claim it’s what makes their tribal elders live to be 120 with rampant erections daily until they are 119.

    • “Side-effects include impotence in 119-year-old men…”

    • I was going to suggest “umbilicology”, but googling reveals that someone already invented it before me, so you’re right, it’s hard to find something nobody else has thought of.

      Superciliology perhaps?
      Diagnosis via eyebrow analysis – left side for psychological problems, right side for physiological ones. Disease is caused by misplacement of individual hairs, though there is not a fixed position for any symptom/organ/younameit, it’s the unique combination of the patient’s hair-placement (‘pattern’) that is to be taken into acount – a very holistic approach. It’s not an easy-to-learn technique and success of treatment is highly dependent on the practitioner’s skill and experience. Treatment is individualised – if a hair is in the wrong place, it may need to be removed, if a hair is missing, placement of needles (similar to acupuncture) may be the right treatment. Typically, about 10 to 20 treatment sessions are needed for a good result, but sometimes there’s drastic improvement after the first or second session. Superciliology does treat the whole person, so the symptoms you originally came for may not be those that need to be “fixed” first, hence it can take a long time to heal your whole body with it, but it’s all natural and chemical free.

      To all the ladies: please, for your own health, stop plucking your eyebrows, you don’t know what you’re doing! The damage you cause in young years may, over time, cause great harm and unfortunately, the illnesses caused by chronic removal of important hair patterns aren’t treated easily. Shaving may be acceptable, but you should still consult a superciliolgist first.

      I know, the concept still needs a bit of work, but I think it has the potential of making me rich and famous. Just think about how much I could earn through book sales, special equipment (no, standard tweezers won’t do) and training courses!

  • You forgot to suggest that you write research articles. Which are of course just extended anecdotes. That you gather these into a self-published journal. That you edit it with your friends on the board. Your friends papers quote your papers and you reference theirs. Before you know it your journal is climbing the ranking systems and away you go towards respectability.
    Oh and remember to invest in, sorry donate to, the important political party in your region. Who knows when that support will be needed.

  • I was a victim of a charlatan who twisted my neck like a chiropractor and denied it when I wrote to the massage board. I’m livid. I’m suing. I have a bill for a $1600 (after insurance) MRI sitting on my desk, not to mention the doctor visit and the radiologist’s bill, etc. to say I’m livid is an understatement. He uses religion and speaks with an air of authority of a cult leader. What you wrote made me laugh because it describes him to a “T”.

  • This game can even be played by Big Pharma.

  • A witty article, and many witty responses. Nothing combats charlatanism like humor mixed with common sense and a few facts. Charlatans don’t laugh at themselves. In fact, that’s their giveaway characteristic.

    I confess I took three levels of Healing Touch, all weekend workshops. I got into it because of a volunteer job I was doing in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. The nun who founded her drop-in center offered Healing Touch. It seemed a good way to connect with the clients.

    Like Therapeutic Touch, Healing Touch was invented by a nurse and banks (pun intended) on the nurse-as-warm-mummy vs doctor-as-cold-a**hole vibe. But non-nurses have taken over to a large extent. In HT, there’s a bit of fact and some good intentions mixed in with what I see as purest quackery. I got sick of rationalizing the woo-woo parts as the b.s. flew thicker and faster. I felt embarrassed by performing some of the techniques (anything with hands waving above the body). I resorted to humor, such as quipping, “Now I’m cured of cancer!” after a fellow student, supposedly guided by angels, waved her hands over me.

    Then I got out.

    In my opinion, the most disturbing part of charlatanism is the lack of professionalism. I saw what I considered to be a lot of lying, manipulation, greed, and arrogance cloaked as spiritual superiority. This should be obvious, no?

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