MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Several national organisations of sceptics give annual awards to people and institutions who do outstanding work and those who do the opposite. Later this week, I will travel to Vienna, for instance, to give away one of this year’s ‘GOLDENES BRETT’, a negative prize for the most outrageous BS of 2017. Such things are good fun but also important tools in fighting nonsense. I probably will report about it when I am back.

Earlier this year, the UK sceptics awarded Gwyneth Paltrow with the well-earned RUSTY RAZOR. The ‘Bent Spoon’ is a similar type of prize. It has just been awarded by the Australian Skeptics to the proponent of the most preposterous piece of pseudoscientific or paranormal piffle of the year. Past winners have included Pete ’Paleo’ Evans, the CSIRO’s head Larry Marshall, the ABC, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, the University of Wollongong, and a psychic dentist.

This year’s nominations are listed here. The winner of the 2017 Bent Spoon is the National Institute of Complementary Medicine at the University of Western Sydney. “When they were nominated last year they said they’d have a closer look at their site,” said Eran Segev, president of Australian Skeptics Inc. “But they’re still promoting unproven treatments and now also involved in a project to establish a clinic for Traditional Chinese Medicine on the campus of the University of Western Sydney. The 2017 winner’s involvement is described as ‘clinical trials’, but the University acknowledges that the TCM clinic may be opened to the public – a highly dubious pseudomedicine given the imprimatur of university ‘research’. “

On this blog, we have discussed several of the NICM’s papers. An interesting article about the NICM can also be found here. To give you an additional flavour of their research, here are the conclusions of just 5 of their recent articles:

CONCLUSION: In our study of acupuncture for menopausal hot flashes, higher expectancy after the first treatment did not predict better treatment outcomes. Future research may focus on other determinants of outcomes in acupuncture such as therapist attention. The relationship between smoking and hot flashes is poorly understood and needs further exploration.

Conclusion: There is a clear need to understand breast cancer survivors’ needs for physical and psychological support as they aim to regain control over their life through their experience of illness. More studies are needed to measure and evaluate these outcomes and to help identify breast cancer survivors’ healthcare seeking behaviours, during and after the acute treatment stage that addresses their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. These results aim to inform future research design and evaluate and develop support services that are patient-centred and focus on whole health outcomes, shared decision-making, and quality of life.

CONCLUSION: These results are important for healthcare providers as they work with patients to identify life experiences, including ‘loss/potential loss’ and ‘the need for preservation’, that have personal significance. Some patients may realize that ‘enough is enough’; something needs to change. These intrinsic motivating factors may also be the impetus for eventual recovery for some individuals.

CONCLUSIONS: 16 weeks of Bikram yoga significantly improved perceived stress, general self-efficacy and HRQoL in sedentary, stressed adults. Future research should consider ways to optimise adherence, and should investigate effects of Bikram yoga intervention in other populations at risk for stress-related illness.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that long-term acupuncture treatment has targeted regulatory effects on multiple brain regions in rats with Alzheimer’s disease.

The ‘Bent Spoon’ was awarded mostly, I think, because of the persistently misleading claims made on the websites of the NICM. Go and have a look – I am sure you will agree: they are highly deserving winners.

In my opinion, these awards deserve our support. They are an effective means of fighting charlatans and promoting progress. They should be publicised much more widely.

 

18 Responses to The most preposterous piece of pseudoscientific piffle of the year

  • In conventional thinking, the world is not energetic. There is no energy out there. The space between “You” and “I” is empty. Also, there is no way that our thoughts, feelings, and emotions can affect other people. If people wish to believe that, in spite of all the evidence and scientific research, that’s their right. (Please don’t reply: “Prove it. Where is the scientific evidence?” I hear this often. It’s available and easily found on the internet. Kindly look for it yourself.)

    In China there are medicineless hospitals, which treat people when conventional medicine cannot. They succeed because ancient Chinese medicine is based on the energetic nature of our world. New Science has verified this ancient knowledge, which is hard for conventional thinkers to accept. The US Military, the Russian Military, and the Chinese Military alone have been exploring this area for decades. It’s old science, which is applicable to medicine.)

    How will the deniers of the energetic nature of this world account for what they see in this video? Perhaps it would be beneficial, if Big Pharma practitioners would open their minds to the treatment possibilities offered by changing their worldview and applying it to their treatments. It would be bad for Big Pharma’s business, of course, if they concurred with this though.

    Please don’t reply: “Oh, it’s a fake video.” because you know in your heart that it’s not. You can’t see the technique being used by the doctors, but if you are familiar with Chigong, you will know how they are using thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and transferring energy to the woman, who incidentally, is awake as her cancerous tumour disappears within 3 minutes.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCEQqGAyL2o

    • Oh, Peter! Peter! You really are a masterpiece of gullibility. You post comments here, are greeted with a heavy dose of reality, but — like a rubber bath toy — you keep surfacing for more.

      Here are a couple of links to other videos you should enjoy as much as the one you link to above. You can add them to your file of ‘evidence’.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXanG7YSqmU
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfjE6wY23x4

    • Peter, are you asking to be nominated for one of next year’s awards?

    • So, a couple of “enlightened” individuals peddle highly implausible crap, and thousands of scientists have worked hard to establish a large number of irrefutable facts that make up modern science. And you choose to ignore the countless established facts that are based on empirical evidence and observations, for a small number of firecracker-bomb incredible assumptions by a minority.

      What is going on in your mind Peter? Why don’t you believe in science? Why are you so willing to believe in magic?

    • No, Peter. There is no such “conventional thinking that the world is not energetic. There is no energy out there. The space between “You” and “I” is empty.” There are different energies everywhere. But there are no such “energies” which somehow can affect our physical bodies but in otherwise are absolutely undetectable for finest measurement devices and don’t affect anything else. Kind of conundrum for me. It supposedly affects me but can’t be measured with anything.

  • Sorry to say but there is no “energy” or “meridians” in old Chinese medical systems. The association of Chinese medicine was terminated liquidated and dissoluted by the old Chineses doctors in the 1920ties.

    There was an invention of the term TCM under Mao tse dong for his barefoot doctors after the Chinese revolution which was adopted in the 1970ties in this form as alternative medicine from western physicians and is nowadays a big business for China to get foreign currency.

    As long as there are no scientific oriented meta-levels and standards in medical history to compare industrial and pre-industrial health systems in their historical and old social contexts there will always be a tendency from quackery to use techniques like “acupuncture” (also a wrong translation of a Chineses word) and herbal decocts mixed up with ICD 10 definitions and speculative magic.

    Prof. Paul U. Unschuld and the late Prof. Manfred Porkert from Munich did a lot of work about this problem.

    A similar problem exists with Ayurveda which is regulated by law as an indigenious medical system in India.
    Besides Susrhuta and Charaka Samhita which are translated into English with faults there are no translations of the original Ayurvedic texts from Malealam or from Tamil into any other language at all. Northern India Ayurvedic tradition is different and is more related to the Arab medical history and therefore related to the use of heavy metals which tradition later was adopted by the alchemist Paracelsus.

    So how could good studies with scientific standards be done at all if the systems themselves are not understood in their context nor translated by now. (Ayurvedic Wellness has nothing to to with the indigenious medicine).

    So the use of Old Chinese Healing Systems and of any other pre-industrial medical techniques and decocts and nutritionall advices out of their societies and without any scientific understanding and proper research
    in an ICD 10 context is dangerous and might cause more harm in our societies.

  • “But they’re still promoting unproven treatments and now also involved in a project to establish a clinic for Traditional Chinese Medicine on the campus of the University of Western Sydney. “…..another university accepting folding money for opening departments to push this stuff – I have mentioned here before that the University of Barcelona has done so. What is going on?

    • besides the problem that the tradition of old Chinese medical knowledge was officially interrupted from 1920 where the traditionsl schools (which is not mentioned in Wiki at all) were closed up to 1966 and a personal training from person to person didn’t happen there are other problems for scientific researches.

      As a pre-industrial health system based on the paradigmata of agriculture there have been no researches to fix a standard of the amount of incredients and contents of each herb for the decocts in a modern way of understanding.
      As it is always a problem with herbs the exact incredients of herbs of each harvest is different and even the drying and preparing is difficult to understand in the broken tradition. The Chinese do not care about that very much. So the https://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditionelle_chinesische_Medizin in Germany started to produce herbs in good quality.

      There are a lot of other problems to get the old Chinese medical approach up to the standards of western herbal standards in medicine and to understand it before scientific researches can help to do call that what nowadays is called TCM a medicine. Up to now the post-revolutionary new “TCM” seems to be a mixture of everything that sells as alternative medicine and quackery from a very simple “psychological approach” to “energy” and from “meridians” to “organ-clock”… to use it right now as an “alternative” to medicine and to sell a B.Sc. or M.Sc. for that is dangerous.

  • It’s very difficult for people who have been brought up in the paradigm that essentially only pills and the knife are cures to illness; and also in the old science that everything is solid; to accept the New Science. For people who have spent their whole working life in this obsolete paradigm, it means that they would have to admit and accept that they are not only now climbing the wrong ladder, but that they have been doing so for most, if not all, of their working life. Hence their opposition to the existence of non-conventional treatments.

    I don’t expect my fans to accept the existence of the “Medicineless Hospitals” in China, which use energy (chi) to cure so called incurable illnesses, but they exist and they seem to be doing very well. If you had taken the time to look into the story behind the video, which I referred to, you would know that the woman had Stage 4 cancer, and had been told by conventional hospitals that she could not be treated. Her cure was carried out in less than 3 minutes as you will have seen.

    Thought energy and heart field energy are old science, even if you have never heard of them or can’t accept them. The effect of thoughts, feelings, and emotions on the human body are easily filmed and photographed. Their use in healing goes back goodness knows how many centuries as ancient cultures can attest. Their use in healing goes back goodness knows how many centuries as ancient cultures can attest. Intention energy experiments over large distances are old hat now, even if you can’t accept the evidence.

    In your eyes I am a lunatic, but what do I care? The seeds of doubt have already been planted in your hearts and minds, and in time they will flourish because the world is changing rapidly, and established paradigms are being dismantled continuously.

    • Peter, there is no New Science or any science behind these energy quacks. They say that they use energy and you just blindly believe.

      • Markko, no disrespect intended, but I don’t think that you understand what energy healing involves and how it is done, or even wish to know. If, however, you also deny that prayer healing is effective, in spite of all the evidence over millennia, then we will just have to accept that we are and will remain poles apart. Prayer healing is another form of energy healing.

        I, too, learned in school that atoms are solid and that everything is made up of solid atoms. But science has moved on from those days. Indeed, those “new” days started in 1925. There are branches of science called the Energy Sciences because of the discoveries about the energetic nature of the universe. The New Science is now looking at the effect of consciousness on our lives and the world around us.

        But modern medicine is rooted in the old thinking. Who promotes that old thinking? The corporations, which make huge profits from it. The same people who claim that, if you have cancer, diabetes, autism, Alzheimer’s, etc., come to us and we will cure you with our pills. But you know that they can’t. Alternative medicine provides natural, non-chemical ways to be cured, which conventional medicine doesn’t, and among these treatments I include food and energy healing, which are far more effective than people realize. Big Pharma would not want you to know about food healing. For example, they can’t patent coconut oil, but they know that it helps to reverse Alzheimer’s, so they are trying to create treatments, which include it.

        People on this Forum seem to be terribly close-minded in a prejudicial way without the desire to investigate. But that’s fine. I do wonder, though, what people here would do, if they find that they are ill and that conventional medicine doesn’t help. If they had cancer, would they really go for chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, when they know that they have a 2.7% chance of being cured (according to statistics I’ve come across)? Watch that video and you can see how even cancer can be cured energetically in minutes. Why? Because everything is made of energy, including the human body.

        • Yes, Peter, I know what energy healing involves. It involves deceiving people and nothing more. You also can’t show that it includes some energy because this mysterious “energy” is undetectable by any means. I am also not close minded or prejudicial. I just don’t blindly believe all crap what others tell me without any evidence. Same goes to prayer healing which does not have any evidence contrary to your blind belief. You can preach all you want about energy and prayers but all you can bring forward as evidence are anecdotes, tell and folk tales and youtube videos. Its just not convincing in any way.

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