MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

I have repeatedly likened so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) to a cult – not a religious cult, of course, but to a ‘health cult’. A health cult is defined as a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator. So, are you a member of a health cult?

In case you are a proponent of SCAM, you might be in danger. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Is your SCAM based on dogma, such as ‘LIKE CURES LIKE’ or ‘SUBLUXATIONS ARE THE CAUSE OF DISEASE?
  2. Does the cult demand you accept its dogma or doctrine as truth?
  3. Is it set forth by a single guru or promulgator?
  4. Is your SCAM supposed to cure all ills?
  5. Is belief used by proponents of your SCAM as a substitute for evidence?
  6. Does the SCAM determine your diet and/or lifestyle?
  7. Does the SCAM exploit you financially?
  8. Does your SCAM impose rigid rules and regulations?
  9. Does your SCAM practice deception?
  10. Does your SCAM have its own sources of information/propaganda?
  11. Does your SCAM cultivate its own lingo?
  12. Does your SCAM discourage or inhibit critical thinking?
  13. Are questions about the values of your SCAM discouraged or forbidden?
  14. Do the proponents of your SCAM reduce complexities into platitudinous buzz words?
  15. Do they assume that health problems are the result of not adhering to the dogma?
  16. Does your SCAM instill fear into members who consider leaving?
  17. Do the proponents of your SCAM depict conventional medicine as ineffective or harmful?
  18. Are you asked to recruit new members to your SCAM?

Please try to answer these questions honestly and self-critically.

If more than a handful turn out to be positive, you have, in my view, a reason to be concerned. In this case, I would recommend you go to a library and start reading a few books that provide critical analyses of SCAM.

 

12 Responses to How do you know when you are trapped in a cult? Please check for yourself

  • I see what you mean, Edzard.

    Although there are other, better considered definitions of cult behaviour. “Cult” is after all a pejorative.

    So-Called Conventionally Accepted Medicine – the Pharma business model, in particular vaccinology, psychiatry and so-called “science based medicine” – are definitely a bunch of cults, demanding obedience despite sacrificing many (Pharma itself is the third leading cause of death in the US – Starfield report etc. – but covers up pretty well).

    Additionally, just like other major cults, there is an aim to establish a monopoly and to destroy competitors (using pseudo-skeptic follow-my-leader thinking – 12 – for their propagandising).
    Human market share. And will cast slurs based on lies, planting incorrect assumptions.

    – 3 – Each field in medicine seems to have a single “Father”.
    Semmelweis for example, Father of Hygiene and lost causes when confronted by the establishment.
    Von Behring, first Nobel laureate in medicine, Father of Immunology, supporter of the homeopathic view

    The baton is often passed to some “safe air of hands” to carry on with the project, planting dogma in mud and stultifying progress.

    Ah, but 4 – (Is your SCAM supposed to cure all ills?) .
    Pharma rarely claims to cure anything. They just don’t like other people doing it.

    • “So-Called Conventionally Accepted Medicine – the Pharma business model, in particular vaccinology, psychiatry and so-called “science based medicine” – are definitely a bunch of cults, demanding obedience despite sacrificing many”

      echolalia
      /ˌɛkəʊˈleɪlɪə/
      noun

      1. (Psychiatry) meaningless repetition of another person’s spoken words as a symptom of psychiatric disorder.
      2. repetition of speech by a child learning to talk.

      See also: tu-quoque fallacy.

      “(Pharma itself is the third leading cause of death in the US – Starfield report etc. – but covers up pretty well).”

      Yeah, no.

      The nice thing about CAM is that it makes so many wildly different and mutually contradictory claims that they cannot possibly all be right. And yet, it’s a big tent where all (caveat the odd personal spat) happily cohabit, unified in agreement that it’s conventional medicine which is Wrong.

      So here’s the thing: even if conventional medicine is wrong, it still doesn’t make any of them right. We know at least some of them must be incorrect (e.g. cancer is fungus…no, liver flukes…no, acidic blood) by simple application of logic. And the only way to determine which of them is incorrect is for their respective advocates to beat the holy tar out of them, doing their damndest to disprove their favorite modality; and whatever’s left standing at the end of that rigorous testing process can be accepted as provisionally not-wrong.

      That CAMists simply refuse to test which of their own claims are wrong, and permanently discard them, is what betrays CAM not as science or medicine but as religion; not what we say or do, but what they say and do themselves.

      BTW, conventional medicine is not responsible for disproving CAM; it’s too busy disproving its own medical hypotheses and products all the time. It spent two thousand years proudly peddling Galen’s humors, before belatedly realizing that everything it believed true about the cause of disease and how to treat it was utterly, lethally wrong. And it’s worked its ass off for the last two centuries to become a lot less wrong; and will continue doing so for many more.

      Until CAM is willing to walk the same road—to entertain the possibility that its own claims and products might be wrong and potentially useless/harmful, and proceed to test/discard from there—it hasn’t earned the right to lecture modern medicine or anyone else on what works and what does not.

      Which really only leaves two explanations for your reflexive big-tent CAM defense:

      1. You are cowards; too afraid to put your beliefs under test for fear they might topple, and your fat fragile egos with them

      2. You are frauds; knowing your claims are fiction but too wedded to the real-world social status and wealth they earn you.

      Remember: some CAM claims must be wrong. We do not have to test any CAM claims to know this; merely compare them to each other and note where they contradict each other. Which they do.

      So either you accept and acknowledge that, yes, at least some of CAM is wrong, or you discard the rules of logic and insist on 1+1=3; either way it leaves you with a major unresolved problem that isn’t going away until you put on your big-boy pants and deal with it as a grown-up.

      Because people’s lives are on the line, and they deserve no less.

      • I find it wryly amusing that Will hyperlinks to the front page of SBM, as if that proves any of his assertions. Perhaps if he’d hyperlinked one or more articles there with which he has a specific problem, and dissected them with evidence-based refutations, he’d be onto something. Funny enough, today’s SBM post is a book review by Dr Hall (no stranger to recent dustups herself). And from the comments below that article, a particular testimonial to CAM:

        Semi-Anonymous Coward • 4 hours ago

        My mother had been taken in by SCAM. She used to be one of those busybodies about health and wellness and whatnot and would harangue anyone who would listen about whatever health fad she might have heard about. I have no idea how long she had that suspicious lump in her breast but she finally told me about it because she needed help quietly finding a surgeon who would remove the tumour. She browbeat me into keeping her condition a secret from everyone, and well, with decades of motherly authority behind her I went along with it. After the mastectomy, the surgeon urged her to see an oncologist, but with an irrational fear of possible chemotherapy, she refused, despite my entreaties. Instead she went through her alt-med contacts and found a ridiculously expensive nostrum that she felt was helping. In retrospect, I should probably have spilled the beans to at least one of my aunts at this point to help convince her to get proper treatment, but unfortunately I still had the good son’s reflexive instinct to obedience…

        She tried to continue work as usual and had even taken an assignment to China (she worked for our country’s diplomatic corps), where she worked for another year. Then my father suffered a stroke (this also thanks to his trust in TCM over science-based medicine, but that’s another story) which had her come back home. By then the deterioration of her condition was such that it was obvious to everyone that she was very sick, and only then was I finally able to convince her to see a breast cancer specialist and come clean with her condition to the rest of our family. The cancer had by then progressed to stage four, with spinal metastases that were very painful. Her doctors then found out that chemotherapy might not have even been necessary since her cancer was ER-positive and could have been treated with hormone therapy…had it been done earlier. As it was, it was a few years too late, and so she spent the last three years of her life in a lot of pain.

        Let no one try to tell me “what’s the harm” when it comes to alternative medicine. My mother’s dithering with alt-med caused what was likely a fatal delay in her seeking of proper treatment.

        If CAMists want to kill themselves in pursuit of their beliefs, that’s their right; but the moment they wish to propagate those claims to anyone else they should first stop and take every possible measure to ensure they are not wrong before proceeding any further. To treat other people’s lives so lightly and freely as so many CAMists do, with so little responsibility or consequence when it all goes wrong, I suspect is an indicator for paranoid, narcissistic, and psychopathic personality types, and they should be dealt with accordingly.

  • The interesting thing is that many of these could be applied to some who are anti-CAM.

  • The Cult of Conventional Medicine
    1. We have been Conned in CONmed into the dogma that genes are the driver of health for 70 years. Oops, now they start to realize not so much. Through all that time it was demanded that we believe that drivel.
    2. The Dogmas of CONmed are put forth by the ghostwriters and lackies of the pharmaceutical industry. Any deviation is sanctioned heavily.
    3. The CONMed scam asks you to believe there are no cures for chronic illness; you have to keep taking their expensive nostrums until you die of their side effects.
    4. The CONmed con-artists ask you to only look at THEIR evidence. Don’t look at what is hidden from your view. They pretend that no one else has any other evidence to present.
    5. The CONmed con asks you to believe that diet and lifestyle are mostly irrelevant; just take our nostrums and you will be fine.
    6. CONmed con is the biggest driver of bankruptcy in the USA because they have almost a complete monopoly over how it is administered, by who and how much we pay.
    7. CONmed follows whimsies and fads (like “low fat diets”) for years until someone points out how they are killing and injuring people.
    8. & 9. CONmed is run by deception: the regulatory agencies (FDA,CDC, etc) are captured by the pharmaceutical industry they are supposed to regulate; the medical societies and medical schools are captured by the same industry; they cooperate to pump out propaganda dressed up as science both in medical journals and in the popular press.
    9. CONmed doctors talk in Latin lingo that doesn’t explain but purely obfuscates.
    10. CONmed Doctors are forced to follow “standards of care” that prevents critical thinking.
    11. CON-med doesn’t have any values except perhaps to grow and maintain its monopoly over health care. Is suppressing symptoms a value?
    12. See #9 above
    13. CONmed doesn’t understand their own huge role in causing health problems because of a narrow minded focus on specialties and mechanistic thinking about the body. If one treatment triggers side effects, well, the next doctor can treat those side effects with another treatment..
    14. Ask anyone who has cancer whether CONmed tries to scare them away from leaving and going to some other form of medicine. Almost universally they would agree it does. Same for many other diseases.
    15. CONmed journals and observers admit that it is harmful.
    16. CONmed is constantly inflating their claims and recruiting new dups by claiming the miracle cure is just around the corner. Just give them more time and money and the miracles of mechanistic thinking will bring the next cure.

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