Facebook and YouTube have in the past been Eldorados for quacks who used it to promote their nonsensical products, false messages, and bogus treatments. A recent article in the Washington Post explained that this might be about to change.

Hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) persuade each other on Facebook that baking soda, apple cider vinegar, frankincense, apricot kernels, tiger bones, Essiac, bleach, homeopathics, Bach flower remedies etc. are cures that doctors don’t want you to know about. But recently Facebook announced that it is taking steps to limit the reach of false and sometimes dangerous therapeutic claims by treating them similar to clickbait or spam.

Facebook will “down-rank” posts that contain certain types of health misinformation, meaning those posts will appear in the news feeds of fewer users, and less prominently. The down-ranking process will use keywords and phrases that commonly appear in posts containing exaggerated or false health claims, but tend to be absent in posts containing accurate information on the same topics. Facebook’s News Feed algorithms will use those suspicious phrases, which the company has identified with the help of health-care professionals, to predict which posts might contain sensational health claims.

“Misleading health content is particularly bad for our community,” Travis Yeh, a Facebook product manager, wrote in a blog post. “So, last month we made two ranking updates to reduce (1) posts with exaggerated or sensational health claims and (2) posts attempting to sell products or services based on health-related claims.”

In a media statement, YouTube said: “Misinformation is a difficult challenge and any misinformation on medical topics is especially concerning … We’ve taken a number of steps to address this, including surfacing more authoritative content across our site. Our systems are not perfect, but we’ve seen progress within this space.”

Without question, these moves are a steps in the right direction. Whether they amount to more than a lip-service, whether they are able to out-smart the quacks, and whether they will make a real difference to the ubiquitous promotion of quackery, has to be seen.

94 Responses to Facebook and Youtube join the fight against quackery

  • How often do we have to be told that all this rubbish is being kept secret from us, I order that ‘Big Pharma’ can maintain its profits? If that’s true,they’re making a hopeless hash of it, since the Internet is jammed full of such nonsense.
    As with all people who are essentially making things up, they’re trying to have it both ways, and their arguments collapse with the first gentle breeze.

  • This may well have unexpected consequences. I think that it is fair to say that most people are not CAMists or sceptics. Most trust our institutions and health professionals to deliver the best system possible without campaigning for or against CAM. Therefore most people are ambivalent towards CAM. Suppressing CAM is only likely to flag CAM up with this majority group as this suppression gets publicised. This could easily arouse suspicion and encourage curiosity leading to more CAM interest. It is a huge risk to attack CAM in this way as it could easily backfire.

  • I can’t match Dendra’s eloquent comment, but to say I agree : it seems to me that despite a huge wave across media platforms denigrating or removing CAM , it is not disappearing.

    People make their choices in all areas of life. Some of us try something new and make a decision to continue or not according to the experience. I know two people who are terminally ill and have opted out of treatment (with their consultants’ support) – their personal choice, sadly not their family’s or friends’. The point is currently we can make choices (how long for is anyone’s guess.)

    In the past year I have seen an increase in Reiki healing and teaching interest, and it seems quite a few are also training in homeopathy.

    I don’t know how the active skeptics can stop the increasing popularity of CAM , but think Dendra is correct in saying it could all backfire.

  • Great news! I’m wondering however if the algorithm will be able to differentiate correctly posts advertising SCAM vs posts debunking SCAM. They use the same wording, after all.

    • exactly my thoughts!

    • I’m often confronted by this problem when I switch off the ad blocker in my browser: the vast majority of ‘personalized’ ads wrt healthcare that appear on my screen are pro-quackery. So apparently Google and the likes know that I’m quite interested in quackery, but fail to identify the correct type of interest.
      Also, I think that anti-quackery isn’t remotely as profitable as quackery, so far less ads are offered with ‘sceptic’ content.

  • You can report an unacceptable video to YouTube but there is no category for `misleading or not evidence based’. If they had such an option, the onus would pass to the public and look less like official coercion.

  • That’s nice and even surprising, since SCAM are part of cultural leftism and the couple “FaceGoogle” are strongholds of this.
    Now, when chemiophobic promoting videos will have the same approach?

  • Whatever happened to the theory/principle/idea that the truth will win out? Why arent we to be allowed to make our own judgement about what we take into our own bodies? Now we need the nanny-sites to protect us? Most people turn to CAM after the CONMEN (Conventtional Medicine) have failed us.

    • any evidence for your last assumption?

      • Just from my experience of working with lots of patients and talking with lots of people. The principle is that we can all decide for ourselves what is the truth at least when it comes to our own bodies. We dont need nanny-sites, govt hacks or shills for big pharma to tell us what the medical truth is.

        • Have you ever wondered if the development of knowledge, which gave us all we have, depended on this method of discernment that you state? Do you have any information on what scientific methodology is, how does it come about, for what purpose and what are the consequences of adhering to it? A little intellectual shame should prevent freedom of opinion from turning into debauchery.

    • What is truth Roger? Is it your subjective experience in a test of n=1? Or is it the result of years of careful testing by hundreds or thousands of people, in controlled experiments checked and re-checked by others?

      • Les Rose

        bah humbug…. there is more than one way to do many things in the life.

        If my experience tells me something different that your experience tells you, should I listen to your experience rather than mine ?
        More than that, if my experience with prescription meds tells me my doctor needs to run some test to determine how much the medication I’ve been taking is damaging me body, I don’t need to be a sheeple or a lemming, and come back for more punishment.
        Let me make one point here about prescription meds. Scientific evaluation or not, they are not effective for everyone, nor are the side effects the same on everyone.
        I dare remind people, even vaccines are only about 97% effective, and that not for a lifetime in most cases.

        Personally, I don’t want to use conventional doctors because they use prescription drugs as their primary source of treatment. I would have to be extremely desperate to do this – like, in constant excruciating pain. Much of the ‘science’ behind prescription drugs is untrustworthy and fraudulent, based on studies paid for and manipulated by the pharmaceutical industry for the sake of profit. There’s so many unnecessary, ineffective and even worthless drugs out there with horrible side effects – sold to treat conditions that could be cured with lifestyle and dietary changes. Start on one drug, soon have to add another one to manage the ‘side effects’ from the first one, eventually, you become an average American senior, filling 20-30 prescriptions a year. No thank you.

        You can have your science based medicine

        • RG, you can deny science based medicine if you like, but you deny science as a whole. The controlled experiment is the basis of science and all that we know about the universe. The technology you use to post your comments is possible because of science, not because of anecdotes from personal experience.

          Science and medicine are not perfect. You are right, “prescription meds….are not effective for everyone, nor are the side effects the same on everyone”. But I would much rather rely on a 97% effective vaccine (actually that is very high, many are less effective) than on a 0% effective homeopathic nosode. When you have your heart attack, will you refuse science based medicine? Do you carry a card telling the ambulance paramedics not to give you thrombolytics or defibrillate you?

          I don’t say any of this in the hope of changing your mind, but for the benefit of other readers with more rational minds.

          • Les Rose

            As I’ve stated here many times, I subscribe to allopathic medicine when in need of acute care. I carry no card, except for my blood type.

            BTW- 97% is a good number. The majority of Pharma meds don’t come close to that, even with repeated consumption.

        • @RG: Me thinks you need to quit conflating ‘science’ and marketing. Certainly the marketing of some, or perhaps most pharmaceuticals is “untrustworthy and/or fraudulent”, IDK…. however the SCIENCE clearly is not. SCAM however has both untrustworthy (pseudo) ‘science’ and monumentally fraudulent marketing. With the addition of millions of captivated, gullible know-nothing’s begging to be proselytized the perfect trifecta results. Perhaps if you had any friends, or a child who pursued a PhD in chemistry, biology or pharmacology and dedicated their lives to real research and development of drug-therapies you may not talk out ya’ ass so capaciously.

      • I’ve got a n=1 experiment you can do to decide for yourself: Read up on a few homeopathic burn remedies. There are about a hundred but typically Canth, Caust, Urt-u, Ars would be a good choice. If you can tell from your past experience what your typical symptoms are, then you know which ones to have. Then have them on hand if you get a burn, or better yet give yourself a 1st or 2nd degree burn, say a sunburn or a kitchen incident. Try them out. You wont need a controlled experiment with a cast of thousands, with a ghost-writer to write it up and tell you what to believe.

        • Let’s say I followed your advice Roger, and whacked my arm with a hot pressing iron.It would hurt as hell of course, for some time, right? The skin would swell and turn red. Even blisters appear. I would take the remedy or remedies as per the instructions on the vial or your instructions… Then what?
          We know that the pain will subside without any intervention and such injury heals with time. How would I know that this particular time, there was any difference because I took a homeopathic remedy or two?
          How would you measure the result and compare it with the natural course that I would otherwise have experienced?

          Please tell us Roger how we can know homeopathy really helped in this case, without comparing it to cases with comparable injuries receiving no intervention and taking into account the effect natural variability and chance by using the scientific approach?

  • So RG, why is science OK for acute care but not for chronic care?

  • Les Rose

    I’ll admit, for the sake of expediency in argument, I use the term “acute care” loosely. Since acute care is the opposite of chronic care, it is specifically in chronic care I’m largely opposing allopathic means. For me the definition of acute carer also includes urgent care, immediate care and intensive care. Perhaps my definition is too loose.
    That is not to say that I agree with all uses of acute care either. That is to say that I would be more inclined to subject myself to allopathic methods in time of more urgent need. Urgent matters demand urgent measures… no ? That is also to say that if I were diagnosed tomorrow with stage 5 cancer, I might consider chemo/radiation as a stop-gap measure …. depending on what type of cancer was mentioned.
    There you have it, I’m not the anti-science nut you think I am.

    To your question, why not for chronic care ? …. because in the experience of myself, family and friends, I have found it to be largely unreliable. Allopathic care today for chronic conditions is largely is addressing symptoms of health problems, not the causes. Would we rather not treat the cause of the problem ?
    If I get hit by a bus, I definitely want to go to the hospital !

    • “I’m not the anti-science nut you think I am.”
      you could have fooled me!

    • @RG

      Are you trying to give us a laugh or are you just plain ignorant. Chris Kresser, the make-believe medicine man you refer to, is an acupuncturist anti-vaccine peddler of detox programs and inaccurate information and questionable advice on serious diseases. Try to learn how to identify credible sources.

    • RG, how convenient it is to be so selective with your definition of terms! But I must pick you up on this word `allopathic’. It is actually meaningless, a derogatory term coined by Hahnemann for anything that was not homeopathy. It belongs back in the 18th century where it started. Scientific medicine is not allopathic, it is based on some knowledge of the abnormality. Vaccination for example does not treat `like with different’, and even you agree that it works. You would be better replacing `allopathic’ with`real’.

      I followed the link you provided. The very first few lines are wrong. The point is that chronic disease is not shortening our lifespan, that’s the wrong way round. We suffer more chronic disease because we are living longer, as a result of better nutrition and scientific medicine. It’s important to realise that the writer speaks from a US standpoint, within a system that costs twice the UK’s and with no better health outcomes. Chronic diseases are not interesting for managed care companies. Kresser’s claims are somewhat tenuous, at least in part. He says that “The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) more than doubled from 2000 to 2010—and not just because of increased rates of detection”. The paper he cites in support actually says “It is likely that the rise in autism prevalence during the latter decades of the 20th century, based on epidemiologic studies, can be attributed largely to the expansion of diagnostic criteria and the adoption of the concept of autism as a spectrum of impairments (ASD) that occurred during this period”, and that “other factors, including improvements in screening and services for children with ASD and increases in specific risk factors for ASD (such as increases in the proportion of births to older parents) have also contributed to increases in the prevalence of ASD over time”. Implying that modern medicine is responsible is dishonest. For rational information about Chris Kresser go here: The usual stuff – anti-vaccination, paleo diet, functional medicine, and other dangerous advice (and it’s not just me saying that).

      I am extremely tired of this alt med trope that it treats the causes of diseases while real medicine treats only the symptoms. Let’s nail this right now – it is at best a careless use of language and at worst a lie. If real medicine only treats the symptoms, what is the use of a clinical laboratory? Or a radiology department? I had sudden severe back pain two years ago. If only the symptoms were to be treated, I would only have received analgesics. But I had a spinal X-ray within two days which revealed two fractures. I now take bisphosphonate and calcium for osteoporosis. I have had no further fractures, and bone density has improved. How is this only treating the symptoms? Please don’t insult my intelligence any more with this silly falsehood.

      Meanwhile alt med makes up all sorts of fanciful stories about the `root causes’ of illness, without the slightest evidence. Nobody has demonstrated acupuncture meridians, and the `vital force’ beloved of homeopaths and chiropractors does not exist. Nobody’s body is mapped via their feet. How is it that a plethora of alt med specialisms have so many disparate mechanisms of action? Can they all be right? If you ask 10 of them for a diagnosis they will all be different (this has been tested). One will say you have too much black bile, another will say your qi is stagnant, one will find a subluxation (which nobody else can see), and another will say your chakras are all over the place.

      I am somewhat exercised by this because denying real medicine is dangerous. It is well established that patients who discard evidence based cancer treatment and go for alt med die earlier. See That’s not to say that some of them, like yourself, are not lucky.

      • Les,

        “How is it that a plethora of alt med specialisms have so many disparate mechanisms of action? Can they all be right? If you ask 10 of them for a diagnosis they will all be different (this has been tested).”

        Crazy, isn’t it? That’s not just a problem with medicine, though. I needed a board replaced on my house, so I got some estimates. Seemed simple enough.

        But one person measured in metric, another in imperial. Yet another measured in shaku. One person used the width of his hand, and a pair of dividers. A very religious contractor measured in cubits.

        They all came up with different numbers. I wanted to find out who was right, so I had them all cut a board to fit. I watched them work, to make sure they didn’t cheat.

        The metric person used a powered table saw. Imperial used a push hand saw, shaku used a hand saw that you pulled. Hand/divider person used a bow saw, and the cubit nutburger had a stone lashed to a stick.

        I’m not very sciency, so I forgot to label the boards they produced. Since they’re all the same size…I can’t tell who did what. I’ll never know who had the right measurement, or used the right tool. Back to the drawing board, as they say.

        • JM

          I’ll make it much more vivid and to the point.

          A cancer patient visits ten different oncologist, here are the results;

          One will recommend surgery only
          One will recommend radiation only
          One will recommend chemo only
          Two will recommend surgery & chemo
          Two will recommend surgery and radiation
          Two will recommend surgery & chemo & radiation
          One will recommend surgery & radiation and thermotherapy

          all that recommend chemo will have their preferred but different chemo cocktail mix.

          If the patient is an oncologist, the formula is flawed because too many oncologists won’t accept chemo as a treatment.

          So much for the exact science

          • you are wrong!
            (s)he sets up a multidisciplinary meeting to discuss the details of the case with colleagues and determine the optimal course of action.
            [I don’t know where you live, but in most countries, this is what happens these days]

          • RG: “A cancer patient visits ten different oncologist, here are the results;”

            Your claim is simply not true. Can you cite a study which supports it?

          • Then thank you Edzard, you make my point. There is no exact science to it is there ?

          • medicine is no exact science, but this does not mean you have a point; you are quite simply bonkers!

        • jm: “I’m not very sciency”. No kidding?

          • Glad you picked up on that, Les. I put it in there for you to quote, so you wouldn’t have to deal with your ridiculous (and not very sciency) complaint that different med systems use different models. 🙂

          • jm, I don’t know what is unscientific about questioning `models’ of medical care that have no evidence. For example, it is well evidenced that renal artery stenosis causes hypertension (but not all hypertension). You will not find many doctors who propose other mechanisms. It is not evidenced at all that chakras even exist. This is not a matter of different `models’, it is a matter of making up fairy stories about how the body works.

          • Les,

            Chakras are part of a model mainly used for meditation practices, and they don’t exist any more than the center of a wheel exists (not as good as your chakra joke, but “chakras don’t exist” would be hard to top).

            You don’t think inches and centimeters really exist, do you?

            Could you re-word your hypertension example? Instead of a meditation model, use a traditional medicine model – whichever you prefer. They all have specific terms that would relate to what western models label as hypertension.

        • @jm

          I needed a board replaced on my house, so I got some estimates. Seemed simple enough.

          But one person measured in metric, another in imperial. Yet another measured in shaku. One person used the width of his hand, and a pair of dividers. A very religious contractor measured in cubits.

          They all came up with different numbers. I wanted to find out who was right, so I had them all cut a board to fit. I watched them work, to make sure they didn’t cheat.

          The metric person used a powered table saw. Imperial used a push hand saw, shaku used a hand saw that you pulled. Hand/divider person used a bow saw, and the cubit nutburger had a stone lashed to a stick.

          I’m not very sciency, so I forgot to label the boards they produced. Since they’re all the same size…I can’t tell who did what.

          Interesting. You asked a number of different handymen (or handywomen) and they all suggested a board the same size as the hole that needed patching. And whatever units they used, the hole, and therefore the board, was the same size. Clever, that.

          I tried asking a number of wellness practitioners.

          The homeopath suggested drilling another small hole in the board next to the hole that needs patching.
          The acupuncturist suggested driving nails into carefully selected random points on the wall.
          The reflexologist suggested gently massaging the house’s foundations.
          The iridologist looked carefully at the curtains in the front room and told me the back door needed repainting.
          The chiropractor suggested adjusting the house’s internal supporting wall.
          The reiki master just waved his hands about a bit.

          I still have a hole that needs patching.

          • Well, you can’t really fault the homeopath, acupuncturist, reflexologist, iridologist, chiropractor, or reiki master for that one…

            Good thing you didn’t consult a proctologist.

          • ‘The Reiki master just waved his hands a bit’ . For the purpose of clarity, Reiki practitioners are not instructed to hand wave.

            It has been corrected before, and however much I attempt to accept ‘skeptic knows best’ sometimes I can’t help myself: it is paramount in purporting to know about a modality, that the fundamentals are known.

            Deconstruct the paragraph to your hearts’ content, but think you get the gist: if any practitioner waves his hands at you (other than in a polite gesture) challenge them on their practise.

          • I think this looks like hand waving.

      • Les Rose

        I don’t think anybody is being denied “real medicine”. We make our choices, we live or die by them. NObody is being forced to do anything. or being denied anything.

        Les Rose said;
        If real medicine only treats the symptoms, what is the use of a clinical laboratory? Or a radiology department?

        I will take every advantage of a clinical lab if I need my blood tested. I also might require an x-ray now and then. I have used the radiology dept. recently. For this reason I do attempt to keep my radiation exposure via microwave oven, cell phone exposure, and airport x-ray systems (opting-out for the pat down) down to a minimum, so that when in need of an x-ray I may follow as needed.

        Les Rose said;
        ” I had sudden severe back pain two years ago. If only the symptoms were to be treated, I would only have received analgesics. But I had a spinal X-ray within two days which revealed two fractures. I now take bisphosphonate and calcium for osteoporosis. I have had no further fractures, and bone density has improved. How is this only treating the symptoms?

        Les, may I point out to you that if you had a sudden severe back pain which reveled two fractures. You had an acute care issue, not a chronic problem.

        • RG wrote:

          Les, may I point out to you that if you had a sudden severe back pain which reveled two fractures. You had an acute care issue, not a chronic problem.

          Wrong. Les had a chronic condition called osteoporosis. The fractures are in effect a sign of this.

        • RG, you are mixing up questions and answers. Let me straighten you out.

          I never claimed anyone was being denied real medicine. I cited research which shows that if people choose to discard real treatment for cancer, they die earlier. The patient is doing the denying, but dangerous quacks are misleading them.

          You claimed that “Allopathic care today for chronic conditions is largely is addressing symptoms of health problems, not the causes”. This is not true and I have explained why.

          You don’t seem to know the difference between X-rays and microwaves. X-rays have very short wavelengths and are ionising, hence can cause DNA damage. Microwaves are much longer and are not ionising. There is no evidence that they can damage cells, other than by heating as in your oven.

          You really don’t look below the surface of a question do you? A fracture is an acute trauma, the underlying osteoporosis is a chronic abnormality.

          • Les Rose

            It appears I’ve misdiagnosed you health problem…. I apologize to you. I’ll stand corrected, you had a chronic problem.
            Sorry to hear you are more sickly than I knew.

            I was aware that from time to time some chronic diseases go undetected, but your the first I’ve heard of to be breaking strong bones without injury, or knowing you had a weakness.
            Nice to hear you found the right remedy. Hmmmm, and I thought scientific medicine was worthless, shame on me.

            See, I learn sumpthin new everyday.

            BTW- I’ve done my research on electromagnetic wavelengths, I believe otherwise to you. It’s a complicated subject that is best left for another forum. When I mentioned cell phones, I generalized and should have specified more clearly that WiFi is more specifically to the root of the problem. If you keep your phone on your person, I advise turning your WiFi off when not needed.

          • “I’ve done my research on electromagnetic wavelengths.”
            where is it published?

          • Edzard

            Where you fail to recognize the potential issues with the RF spectrum exposure is in the range of severity of effects on humans. I do NOT attempt to make an argument that all or most RF exposure is cancer causing. However, I will argue that there are potential exposure risks that are of lesser significance. Ill effects as simple as disturbance of sleep patterns (just to name one), which happens to be a serious health problem for many people today.

          • so, you have NOT done research into this subject, but read a few papers about it.

          • ohhhh… I see

            I’m required now to conduct my own scientific research to have an opinion on the subject ?

            Gotcha !

            Where did you conduct your RF research, and where is your study published ?

          • “I’m required now to conduct my own scientific research to have an opinion on the subject ? ”
            I was merely inquiring whether your statement ‘I’ve done my research on electromagnetic wavelengths’ is correct.

          • Doubt what you will, I have my doubts about you also.

          • If you keep your phone on your person, I advise turning your WiFi off when not needed.

            Interesting. What is the difference between the GSM and WiFi signal that justifies this peculiar recommendation?

          • Bjorn

            It’s actually more complicated than that.

            I’d rather not open a can of worms here as unless the forum moderator says it’s a conversation topic worthy of this site.
            I could give you a good many website links, many that are I think to to keep unbiased and impartial. We’ll see what EE says.

            You may or many not be aware of Specific Absorption Rate (SAR).

            Exposure is a metric of time, distance and shielding. We won’t talk about shielding since it would be an extreme. That said, the dose strength can also vary from device to device. In the UK, the Specific Absorption Rate (SPR) allowances are much lower than allowed in the USA. I love the EU controls.

            There is no evidence that cell phones are linked to cancer or tumors….yet. However, the verdict is still out, France has banned Wifi from nurseries and nursery schools. For sure there is suspicion of other types of body disturbances, especially in young humans.

            We do know that there are people that that are extremely sensitive to EMF/RF, to the point of making them sick. These people live in special communities with no electricity. Perhaps there are various levels of human sensitivity that are not as extreme, sensitive on a lesser scale, yet till suffering from the effects of RF to a lesser degree.

            Wifi-RF could be potentially more OR less hazardous than a GSM signal, there are too many variables to give a straight answer on that. My point was that if you don’t need to have a present Wifi signal, just turn it off on your device. To turn off your GSM signal you need to turn off your phone… so what have one ? Not having it on your person, as in setting the device down near to you is an option. It’s mostly precautionary at this point. Personally I don’t keep my cell phone in my bedroom. That said, some AC alarm clocks emit high levels of RF also.

            I keep ten feet away from my microwave oven when in use, I’ve tested the RF and it’s quite strong. Many websites I’ve read suggest that one meter should be a sufficient safe distance when operating microwave ovens. I doubt mine is in compliance, which means the manufacture didn’t comply, the shielding is insufficient, or it leaks through the seal more than when manufactured. Regardless, I stay away when in use.

          • “France has banned Wifi from nurseries and nursery schools”
            should be easy to provide evidence for this and other statements. please do!

          • @RG
            No it is not complicated and no the verdict is not still out, even if there are still people out there pampering their paranoia on this matter. Very reliable organisations and public health authorities of most developed countries agree that cell technology and wireless home systems are completely safe, under normal circumstances of course.

            You are right, this topic is to my knowledge not within the scope of this blog and we should not delve further into it.

            I am very familiar with radio communications technology, its physics and its possible medical implications. I have studied the field extensively and even took a Ham-operators license to learn more.
            I must say you are mildly speaking way out of your depth in this field. You seem to read the usual conspiratorial nonsense and select information that seems to support an anti-technology/anti-scientific attitude.
            The fact that some[sic] political authorities in some[sic]countries have elected to succumb to and even pamper a totally unnecessary paranoia against WiFi and similar technologies does NOT mean it is deleterious to health. The technobabble you parrot here is wrong in so many ways. Reliable information is hard to find on the internet among all the vapid misinformation and conspiracy mongering that you seem to have a predilection for.

            As I said, this is not a subject for this blog so let’s put it aside. I will NOT reply to more comments on this here.

          • Bjorn

            You speak as if you are a moderator on the forum. I heard nothing from EE

            Edzard made a statement that it should be easy to prove what I stated about Wifi being removed from public institutions with children present. Only for this reason I posted the links. What your opinion is carries no more validity than how certain governments choose to govern their public education.

          • @RG
            You did not provide evidence, only opinion. You should try to learn the difference.

          • Bjorn and other doubters


            I’m not letting it die, you’ll thank me later

        • Björn- I know you are always right but if the example you show of a Reiki treatment proves that hand waving is happening, i am missing the meaning of waving. Do enlighten me – what exactly is happening? What I see is hands off (just above body) or hands on. I didn’t watch it all but it looked good to me. But maybe at the end the practitioner waved her client off (or maybe she developed a hand waving tic) . Who knows? Feel free to be correct – it goes with the Skeptics’ territory. ?

  • Bjorn

    You said;
    “Try to learn how to identify credible sources.”

    And Bjorn, may I bid you the same. I’ve been doing this all my life, now in my mid sixties, I’ve sharpened my skills. You don’t seem to understand… I’ve been there and done that already. Why do you think I’ve sought out other sources for good health ? Do you find that Pharmaceutical companies are reliable sources ? hmmm. Do you think that doctors blindly following AMA protocol to protect themselves from lawsuits is good medicine ? Do you think that doctors ongoing medical learning and retraining should be coming from the Pharmaceutical companies ? I don’t, but this is what goes on.

    The sources I listened to for years (allopaths), gave me the most convincing proof of all…. failed medicine. They schooled me face to face that I need put my trust in them, all the while taking my blood in an attempt to examine how much damage they may have already done so they could prescribe more pills. LET THAT SINK IN
    That was a valuable lesson in life, follow the money. The pharma industry is not without motivation. It’s not a complicated plan. Sell pills, and beyond that sell the latest and greatest for more profit than the old pills. Hmmm, You think they might design the studies to come out in their favor ?

    Missed diagnosis, failed medication, botched unneeded surgeries, pill poisoning etc… .who needs it ? I’m doing much much better since I changed my ways.

    The large majority of illnesses today are preventable chronic illnesses…. period… end of statement.
    Therefor the majority of good health should be in preventative medicine… as in making good choices in the life.

    Not that I subscribe to the CDC. but since you probably do.

    • @RG
      When you stop frothing at the mouth and your heartbeat becomes regular again, I recommend you actually read the article (the one from CDC) and contemplate why many diseases are called chronic and how that would change when and if effective cures were found. Chronic diseases are by definition long standing and difficult to treat. We all know how important prevention is and health authorities all over the world struggle to improve preventive measures and public education about lifestyle factors. But while the rights of soda and junk-food manufactorers are superior to chronic disease prevention, thisis a Sisyphean task.

      If you had a personally bad experience with health service, that is deplorable. But that does not translate to all modern medical services being bad. Some doctors (a small minority, luckily) are incompetent, modern medicine is incomplete and some modern medical or surgical interventions fail. These facts do not mean, however, that you should or could replace medicine with make-believe medicine such as homeopathy or acupuncture. Not any more than flying carpets can replace aeroplanes.
      It also does not mean that improved lifestyle could altogether replace pharmacological drugs even if it certainly has been proved to lessen the need and may prevent many chronic conditions.
      Bad lifestyle is not the only cause of chronic diseases, as many seem to think. The main causative factor for most chronic conditions is not lifestyle but increasing age, which we all want, right? The other main factor is genes, then comes lifestyle, which is a factor we can do something about. Further down the list is environment, but let’s leave it at that and go have some breakfast 🙂

      • Bjorn

        I appreciate the tone of your recent posts.
        I try to remind myself as I remind others that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
        That said, we still disagree at large.

        I don’t think I said I wouldn’t use any modern medicine, on the contrary I have stated otherwise. Nor do I promote acupuncture. I tried acupuncture and it wasn’t effective for me, so I leave it alone. That said, I do adhere to the TCM that teaches about body meridians. There is still a few things about the human body that medical science can not explain. I have a feeling science attempts to compartmentalize and separate different organs and systems to a fault rather than view the body as a whole.

        As for our genetic makeup determining our entire life, I think if you look around you will find there is a change in thinking on this topic…. by the scientific community. Genetic makeup having a lesser influence than previously believed. Many now maintain that the predisposition of genes only are a factor when all the other factors you mention are already in place. In other words, we can determine our outcome by our choices. I might be predisposed to have lung cancer. However, if I don’t smoke tobacco, don’t live in a city with unhealthful air, and I don’t work in a polluted environment, I have a very good chance of not contracting lung cancer in my life.

        The age factor you mention, I want to agree but I won’t. Of coarse it’s a factor as youths are healthier than the aged. However, the growing incidence of chronic illness among young people. Added to the repeated use of pharma medication being given our youth is alarming. Something very serious happening there. There seems to be other variables effecting the outcomes now.

    • Les Rose on the contrary this sort of pedantry is most helpful with regard to Reiki.

      I can only conclude you have never been involved in Reiki: the practitioner moves along the client’s body either touching or hands just above. I want to capitalise (but that’s rude) : no hand waving takes place. After all we don’t want to be wafting energy around! ? . Another correction – Reiki practitioners treat clients, not patients, as we are not medical.

      Now because of your lack of knowledge of the above, I can’t take seriously your other ideas about Reiki I.e. there is no evidence the practitioner can detect anything and there are no effects on the patient (ie the client.)

      It’s tedious I know to repeat this: Reiki is used in hospitals, hospices, support centres for cancer and indeed more and more conventional medical professionals are training in it and using it to help patients; there are increasing numbers of paid Reiki practitioners in hospitals. There are trials being conducted at a leading London teaching hospital, which I am sure if you were seriously wanting to increase your knowledge of Reiki, they would be happy to share their findings so far.

      I am not daring to say I know everything about Reiki even though I have been involved in practising and teaching it for 20 years. However, my post is based on knowledge, and ,you know, that old chestnut of actually listening to clients’ and students’ experiences.

      So if controlled trials have shown that you are correct in your assumptions (I say assumptions because you seem to know little about Reiki) there is something not quite matching what happens within the Reiki community.

      • Angela, please resolve my ignorance by citing one randomised controlled trial which shows that reiki has any intrinsic effects. But wait, you will say that RCTs are not appropriate for testing reiki. If you say that then you deny science as a whole.

        I think I know more about reiki than you know about treatments that work.

    • Björn- spoken like a grown up. But just for the record there is no expectation of respect on this blog – history shows otherwise.

      If speaking up for something that I see is being denigrated when mine and millions of others’ experiences are positive offends you, I can only suggest you ask the good Professor to not publish my posts.

  • Les Rose – we could ping pong around for a few more posts, but it’s hardly worth the effort.

    I know nothing about RCT’s and you know nothing about Reiki. I leave the trials to those who know what they are doing (I assume!): I am too busy hearing clients’ positive experiences with Reiki.

    I guess that’s it really: if your RCT’s and my positive feedback on Reiki fail to match, I think you and I are out of our depth. Or we can live in hope that the London hospital triaIs’ findings I mentioned in previous post inform us sometime in the future. Meanwhile i am sure those who benefit from Reiki will continue to do so. Best wishes

    • One last try Angela. Do you think that a powerful pharmaceutical such as tamoxifen (for breast cancer) should be marketed on the basis of patient testimonials and other anecdotal evidence? If not, then why is anecdotal evidence enough for reiki? You will say that reiki is harmless, so we can use lower standards. But alternative medicine is not harmless – see

      It’s very dangerous to use the false equivalence fallacy. You are saying that your anecdotal evidence is as good as RCTs, yet you say that you know nothing about RCTs. Why don’t you read up about them? It’s not complicated, eg I have similarly read up about reiki so it’s not fair to say I know nothing about it. I’m not a practitioner (why would I want to be?), but I can read the research papers and practitioner websites as well as anyone can.

      • Les Rose – one last try Angela. One last try at what? Brainwashing me? The fact that you have posted a couple of times to me ‘you will say…….’ tells me you are assumptive with a capital A and quite frankly with a gift like your’s knowing what others are thinking, you should be a world leader or a clairvoyant givimg readings at the seaside.

        Now I don’t want to be rude, so I won’t. Maybe I can deconstruct your comments to me regarding Reiki: I don’t expect or indeed want you to change your mind, it is an exercise in putting the record straight.

        This discourse started when I noticed in a post that stated Reiki Masters do hand waving. They don’t, but a few of you insist they do. So be it. I have, as someone who knows Reiki, attempted to advise the truth : skeptics aren’t interested.

        Bjorn wants me to raise my mode of conversation above pre school level. I have worked with pre school age kids alongside other age kids, and what’s wonderful is they are open minded ready to soak up the world, and all it has to offer, But if Bjorn sees this as a put down So Be It.

        You : you are saying your anecdotal evidence is as good as RCT’s yet you say you know nothing about RCT’s. Mm I have not said anything about my anecdotal evidence is as good ad RCT’s. It is not my remit to carry out RCT’s so I know nothing about the protocol. However, I would be more than pleased if invited to be a part of one. There have been many RCT’s I guess (and I did mention the one taking place in a hospital with medical professionals.)Now I don’t know but my guess is these people are pretty busy doing the great job of caring for patients, so they must see some value in trialling Reiki. Seriously interested? Contact the CHNC – it acts in the public interest regarding complementary therapies.

        You say – do you think that a powerful pharmaceutical such as tamoxifen ….should be marketed on the basis of patient testimonials and other anecdotal evidence? You think I am saying anecdotal evidence is enough for Reiki? There is a bit of conflation going on here. You are comparing say a light bulb with a black out blind. It won’t work. Reiki is not a drug, it’s a complementary therapy, and a popular one, especially in hospitals etc,

        For reassurance : if a client came and told me they had breast cancer but didn’t want to take tamoxifen and rely on Reiki for a cure, I would urge them back to their oncologist for proper treatment.

        If a client came who had Breast Cancer, taking their medication and wanted Reiki I would willingly do so. Reiki Practitiners are not allowed to promise any cure. Interestingly (but not Cancer ) I have had feedback many times of something being cured, however, I never promise such. If you don’t believe me So Be It.

        If you have read that Reiki is harmful, I urge you to take it up with the pre mentioned regulatory body. First and foremost we are taught Reiki does no harm. If you disagree So Be It.

        I am not the one raising the questions around and denigrating something that is widely popular and helpful for many people. If you want to think of Reiki as ‘hand waving’ which is where this started So Be it.

        So,you have read up about Reiki and think if I read about RCT’s on Wikipedia I will be similarly knowledgable. I beg to disagree. I am not a medical professional or scientist so reading about RCT’s isn’t going to cut the mustard. Learning about Reiki takes many years (if Reiki is taken seriously) so reading about it is not the same as attending courses and practising., so respectfully your Reiki knowledge is lacking. If you disagree So Be It.

        I have done my best to share my knowledge ( but if you want to continue my thoughts and posts for me So Be It.) and I am done. Quite frankly having a room full of students is a doddle compared to dealing with the inaccurate assumptions on this blog.

        • Angela

          “Methinks she doth protest too much”. The length of a post sometimes betrays its lack of substance. So I’ll try to keep this short and to the point.

          I am not trying to brainwash you. I am just trying to explain what evidence is. Don’t be put off learning about the scientific method, it’s basically simple. Firstly there has to be a plausible mechanism for something that we have observed. Reiki falls at this first hurdle. There is nothing that we know about the universe to suggest that there is any transfer of energy or information across the gap between the client’s body and the practitioner’s hands. The most we could expect would be infra-red (heat) radiation, but as both parties are at the same temperature (unless one of them has a fever) there would be nothing to detect. Studies have tried to detect this connection and have shown nothing.

          Scientists are very open-minded, and despite reiki’s lack of plausibility RCTs have been done. As we have agreed, they show no effects.

          I am baffled as to why you direct me to the CNHC with regard to RCTs. The CNHC does not even require its registrants to verify their therapeutic claims with evidence. It’s not a regulator, it’s a CAM support group, and does nothing related to research.

          You underestimate yourself, you can understand what an RCT is in an hour’s reading. You would need far more training to run an RCT, of course, but that’s a different thing. Similarly I can understand what reiki is by reading. I simply read what people claim about it, and the evidence from research. Is there anything else that I am missing? But at risk of upsetting you again, years of training in nonsense will not change it into sense.

          • Les Rose says ‘methinks she doth protest too much’ the length of a post sometimes betrays its lack of substance. I almost feel sorry for all the lengthy posters on this blog: how about professor Ernst installing another banner: short posts only please?

            I think ‘methinks ‘ is wrong : it’s comnentary about broadening your knowledge of Reiki. I think it’s telling that you think you can understand Reiki by reading about it, yet you denigrate an organisation which might give you a broader outlook. Currently your understanding of Reiki is the size of a postage stamp.

            You say ‘ there is nothing about the universe to suggest there is any transfer of energy ….’ there are many scientists who would disagree with you.

            ‘Is there anything I am missing’: yes I am afraid a whole spectrum of facts around Reiki. You say many years of training in nonsense will not change it into sense: you have your view: but surely the fact that Reiki is popular and effective or people wouldn’t return for it ( yes I know the terms: gullible, charlatans, loons, insane etc) tells you there is more to it than what you read.

            Not upsetting at all Les Rose ( I think we must both agree that when we have reached this ripe old age, we are circumspect about what we allow to upset us : this blog and its skeptic posters don’t come anywhere near)

            If your best put downs are ‘protesting too much and getting upset’ I suggest you re read The skeptics’ Manual. Some of your fellow skeptics have a language all of their own.

            Best wishes and good weekend to all.

          • You should understand that science is not a popularity contest. What organisation am I denigrating Angela?

          • @Angela

            You told Les Rose: “If your best put downs are ‘protesting too much and getting upset’ I suggest you re read The skeptics’ Manual.” I’m wasn’t sure I’d heard of that one, so I googled “The skeptics Manual” (with the lower case on the ‘s’ of skeptics, exactly as you wrote) …

            …and got zero hits!

            I re-googled on ‘sceptics manual’ (spelt with the more common UK version of the word ‘sceptic’). Result? once again, zilch. The title that kept coming up in the hits was ‘Skeptics Handbook’. Is this the volume you mean?

            You refer to the red banner that now pops up as a header on all pages of this blog. “Please remember, if you make a claim in a comment, support it with evidence.” You have grasped the basic concept of this idea — you refer to a publication (?) that I presume contains evidence for your claim that “Some of your fellow skeptics have a language all of their own.” But you neither provide a link to this material (if it’s electronic) or accurate publication details (if it’s not).

            We all can (and do!) make typographical errors, but the frequency with which proponents of Big Snakeoil misspell comple mentary medicine as ‘complimentary medicine’ often makes me wonder how many folk turn up at Harley Street clinics offering SCAM expecting to be treated free of charge.

            And, by the way, skeptics don’t have a monopoly on having a language all of their own: just look at the way you abuse the word ‘energy’.

  • From all Alternative Medicines I feel Reiki is most bakwaas (bunks)

    • Frank – the reference to The skeptics’ Manual was facetious, for which I apologise; as I also do for wasting your time googling or whatever.

      As you say everyone makes typographical errors: the small ‘s’ was such. But that’s the very critique ie punctuation, grammar etc that historically abounds on this blog by skeptics. Les’s accusations towards me are mild compared to those received in the past.

      You raise the comple and compli spelling. I have not noticed that mistake frequently by CAM supporters on this blog but you have . As we know the most intelligent beings can be remiss in their written language. 45 years interacting with various CAM personnel and none think they are performing complimentary therapies. But then again none of them personify Big Shake Oil : and it’s all those denigrative remarks that so many of your skeptic group use that made me wonder if there was a manual, albeit momentarily; but it was a ‘tongue in cheek’ comment I didn’t think would be taken seriously. . Do hope you managed a cup of tea or similar whilst wasting your time looking.

      My interpretation of energy is not just mine by the way. But as we have demonstrated in discourse before Frank there is no common ground. Of course those against CAM on this blog think they are always right. I know that but sometimes something is posted that is so wide of the mark(ie Reiki – that’s where this started) that I try and put it right. Have a good day.

      • @Angela

        It’s Big Snakeoil, not Big Shake Oil.

        You can’t have an ‘interpretation’ of energy. It’s a property defined consistently in physics since the nineteenth century. It can be measured accurately in all its forms. And misused by people who’d prefer to bypass all that dreary concern with precision that makes physics the outstanding science it is.

        But you just don’t get it at all, so I’ll leave you to enjoy your world of make-believe.

        • Frank,

          “It can be measured accurately in all its forms.”

          1. the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.
          “changes in the levels of vitamins can affect energy and well-being”

          How is vitality in the realm of mental activity normally measured?

          • @jm

            You can best find the answers (plural) to your question in textbooks of physiology. Guyton & Hall is a highly recommended choice – only 1120 pages filled with explanations of vital energy. Medical students actually read this during their preclinical years, we had to read the whole thing and learn all about metabolism, ATP, Krebs cycle and all that jazz. The section on brain metabolism starts on page 743, but in order to understand it you need to read from the beginning.
            You may find it a bit more complicated than the mention in the Oxford Dictionary that you quoted.


          • Bjorn, if you can’t explain it simply…you don’t understand it well enough.

          • Yes “jm”, that applies very well to your understanding of medicine and health care.

          • Bjorn, I think that would apply to pretty much everything, don’t you think? Meanwhile, maybe Frank understands measuring mental vitality well enough to explain it simply to both of us.

          • @jm

            There are two definitions of ‘energy’ in your on-line dictionary. The one you mention is the one that relates to subjective feelings, and is perfectly valid for its limited subset of applications. Take a look at the list of synonyms provided for it and you’ll see what I mean. “vitality, vigour, life, liveliness, animation, vivacity, spirit, spiritedness, fire, passion, ardour, zeal, verve, enthusiasm, zest, vibrancy, spark, sparkle, effervescence, exuberance, buoyancy, perkiness, sprightliness”.

            In common with all subjective experiences, vitality in the realm of mental activity is formally measured by questionnaires. These have been honed and refined for many years to the point that the ‘short form 36’ (SF-36) questionnaire is used to cover eight areas of subjective responses which seem to allow a reasonable base for comparison of clinical interventions, including mental vitality. (Google “Short form 36 questionnaire” to get started with the evidence.)

            The second on-line dictionary definition of ‘energy’ that goes with the one you do list is the all-embracing scientific one. “power derived from the utilization of physical or chemical resources, especially to provide light and heat or to work machines.” That explains the tagline in your definition no. 1: “changes in the levels of vitamins can affect energy and well-being”.

            As can many other things. Bjorn gave you a perfectly respectable response, with the warning that — as with many things in science and medicine — it all becomes very complicated. But there is zero evidence that subjective energy, however it’s measured, can be transferred from person to person by touch or close presence.

          • “Short form 36 questionnaire” – thanks Frank!

          • I have had a look at your link, written by Lauren Weiler who describes herself as “Entertainment writer for The Cheat Sheet”. Does she really find it surprising that a drug designed to interfere with blood clotting can cause bleeding, or that an anticonvulsant (which basically damps down brain activity) is dangerous in overdose? And do you really think that she is a reliable source of health advice?

            A better source of information is the standard patient information leaflet found in every packet of drugs where all the known side-effects are listed, together with how common they are, and also instructions for what to do if you experience the more important ones.

          • Julian,

            “A better source of information is the standard patient information leaflet found in every packet of drugs…”

            Wouldn’t an even better source be the prescribing physician? Or are they not legally allowed to discuss known side-effects, how common they are, and instructions for what to do if you experience the more important ones with patients?

            I’ve heard that sometimes pharmacists will discuss that information – but one would assume the physician has a better understanding of the patient’s’ specific situation.

            It would seem that the patient in need of drugs/medications might not be in the best state to digest such important information from a leaflet.

          • @jm

            For once you raise points I fully agree with.

            Wouldn’t an even better source be the prescribing physician?

            Indeed; and the prescribing physician would be deeply irresponsible not to take their detailed knowledge of a patient’s other, possibly interacting medication into account when prescribing a new drug. How well a patient can take in and deal with all the information they are given in the short time they see a prescribing physician is an important question, however.

            I’ve heard that sometimes pharmacists will discuss that information – but one would assume the physician has a better understanding of the patient’s’ specific situation.

            Yes indeed, but in view of my caveat above — essentially about the problem of information overload — isn’t information provided in less stressful settings than a doctor’s surgery or a hospital bed, e.g. a friendly pharmacist’s premises, useful reinforcement?

            It would seem that the patient in need of drugs/medications might not be in the best state to digest such important information from a leaflet.

            I think you may have missed the beauty of the package insert. (But two out of three points agreed is not bad on our past records.) That irritating to unfold, closely printed piece of paper, that always seems to be pushed in the box as to make the medicine more difficult to get at, is effectively a third line backup, required after visits to the doctor and the pharmacist.

            When you’ve completely forgotten what the prescribing physician told you, and you’ve only half-remembered what the friendly pharmacist said you should note, you can sit down for some light reading with the package insert. It’s all there in black and white and it’s all intended to give you the best information relative to your particular situation. (But that last bit’s where — IMHO — the package insert still has its problems, despite many, many years of attempts to find solutions to comprehensibility.)

          • Frank,

            “I think you may have missed the beauty of the package insert… is effectively a third line backup, required after visits to the doctor and the pharmacist.”

            Didn’t miss the beauty – that was pretty much the point. I come from a system where written info is meant as a reminder, or support. Instruction is oral, and it’s considered quite important to use all the cues & clues available to gauge comprehension.

            I’d bet that’s how the “leaflet” started. Shame that it’s strayed so far.

        • Frank O – I quite like Big Shake Oil. That naughty little h impersonating an n.

          So I don’t get energy. Ok Frank. Thank you for leaving me to enjoy my world of make believe – very generous. I was a little bored waiting for my nail polish to dry, hence this response.

      • I am sorry Angela if you think I am accusing you. I am simply asking for evidence, and trying to explain what evidence is. I am not just dictating this, I am referring to the consensus of science which places RCTs way above anecdotal reports:

        You keep saying that I know very little about reiki. I have read what the practitioners claim, and I have read the evidence from fair tests. What am I missing?

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