Richard Rasker has been one of our most loyal commentators with hundreds of sensible contributions to his credit. And now he has published a book! “This book”, he writes in his introduction, “is perhaps best described as a kind of travel guide for exploring different worlds, some of which are probably familiar, while others may be completely alien to you. Some of those worlds only exist in the minds of people, while others are very real indeed, yet often go unnoticed or have unexpected things to offer. This journey is also my personal exploration, during which I try to look through the eyes of the inhabitants of worlds that are wildly different from my own, to try and understand why those people believe certain things, and why I myself believe different things.”

Richard is not a medic, he is a man who understands science and empathizes with the many people who try to make sense of the often confusing concepts of healthcare. In his book, he takes the reader by the hand and carefully guides him or her through some of the issues that are of concern to so many of us. The journey takes us to so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and beyond. At its end, the reader is wiser, more knowledgeable, and has learned the art of critical thinking.

Most chapters start with a story or anecdote that enables the reader to identify with the subject at hand. This serves the purpose of focusing the reader’s mind on the issue at hand which is then explained in full detail. The fact that Richard is not a medic turns out to be a strength of this book. Richard is not even tempted (as medics invariably are) to use jargon or to assume that the reader has prior knowledge of the subject. Instead, he starts from first principles and makes it impossible to get lost on the journey. What may seem complicated and confusing thus becomes clear and straightforward; what might have appeared to be dry and off-putting thus becomes lively and fascinating.

The range of topics that this book tackles is vast. It covers much of SCAM, of course. But it also includes topics that are way beyond SCAM, such as radiation and vaccination. In essence, the book deals with most things that people concerned about their health tend to worry about. Because Richard is a gifted writer who can render things simple without making them unduly simplistic, the book is a joy to read.

In my view, this book is a MUST-READ for anyone who wants to find his/her way safely through the maze of seemingly complex problems in healthcare.

24 Responses to A travel guide for exploring so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and beyond

  • Congratulations, Richard!

  • Congrats, Richard. Cant wait to read it.

    • Interesting cover. I won’t be a buyer; I’ve already read the equivalate of more than a book from Mr. Rasker. Good luck to you, you can always start a blog site to help push sales.

      • that’s fine – stay ignorant!

      • @RG
        I think you’d be pleasantly surprised if you would actually read it. At no point do I call people quacks or stupid, and I also address the failings of regular medicine, including the dubious role of pharmaceutical companies. In addition, I do my very best to understand why people believe in all sorts of alternative stuff, e.g. why reiki practitioners really think that they can feel ‘energy’ from their customers. To them, those sensations are quite real – but alas for them, there are also some quite good down-to-earth explanations for what they feel, without having to resort to esoteric and highly elusive ‘energy’.

        In all, I think I convincingly show that alternative medicine is mostly no good in actually treating conditions, so in that respect the book holds no real surprises for those who know me.

        • @Richard Rasker

          “I also address the failings of regular medicine, including the dubious role of pharmaceutical companies.”

          I have to admit being surprised at that, since you’ve never admitted to such here that I can recall. Ok…. perhaps I might be interested after all…. but I’m skeptical. Again, I’ve read your views here for years. I’ll hold off till I’ve read a few reviews.

      • @RG

        No one here expected that you’d run out and buy the book.

        You may have read Mr. Rasker’s comments on this website but you haven’t really read them. If you had, you wouldn’t still be an ignorant pro-disease troll.

        • @Talker

          Oh really ? … perhaps you could indicate to us just when and where Mr. Rasker has previously addressed here “the failings of regular medicine, including the dubious role of pharmaceutical companies.”

          I’ll wait patiently.

          • @RG
            This blog of course is dedicated to SCAM, so most of my comments here do not address regular medicine in any pertinent way.
            Then again, I recall mentioning in the passing that regular medicine isn’t perfect either, that regular doctors regularly misdiagnose conditions, prescribe the wrong treatment etcetera. And I most likely also addressed some known problems with pharmaceutical companies and their products, e.g. being responsible for the opioid crisis in the US. (And maybe even worse: they don’t appear to learn from history. This this is not the first time that this happened: from 1895, Bayer sold heroin (yes, the highly addictive opiate) as “a non-addictive substitute for morphine”. Over-the-counter sale of this drug was only restricted after intervention of the US government in 1914.)

            Also note that I don’t really need to criticize regular medicine – after all, that’s what we have people like you for. And, as the old adage goes: the fact that regular medicine isn’t perfect doesn’t mean that homeopathy (or any other type of SCAM) works.

          • @Richard Rasker

            And my reply to your post’
            @Richard Rasker

            “Wow Richard
            Thanks for that admission.”

            All to say that yes you did admit that MD’s are quite fallible…. I agree.

            And yes, I’ve been reminded here more than I want to recall… that carpet rides (no matter how appealing) are not a superior means of reliable transportation.

          • @RG
            It would appear that we finally agree on something!

            If you are interested, I could send you (and others here) a free copy of the book. In return, I want to ask you to read it and give your thoughts on it – see my offer below.

    • @Talker

  • Here is a link to a Wired article on acupuncture. Gives an idea about how out of their depth someone un-schooled in Chinese medicine would be, trying to assess it.

    • @stan
      Your reasoning is flawed. You don’t need to be schooled in TCM to conclude that it does not work(*) – just like you don’t need to be a trained car mechanic to conclude that you just paid $2000 for a lemon at that obscure garage with that oh-so-friendly, attentive salesperson.

      *: Quite the contrary, actually: TCM education starts from the premise that it works, and then comes up with all sorts of intricate systems, rituals and techniques the only goal of which is to reinforce this belief that it is a viable form of medicine. So for for the overwhelming majority of students, getting schooled in TCM in fact means that afterwards, one could say that they know less about TCM than beforehand. For one thing, they don’t know that it doesn’t actually work.

  • Congratulations, Richard.

    Perhaps you can give an update in a while, if time permits, on how well sales have been and what comments and feedback (positive and negative) you have received.

    • Thank you! And if there’s anything to report on reception and sales, I’ll be sure to give an update. Maybe I should set up a Web site or blog page dedicated to this book, to enable easier interaction with readers, critics and other interested people.

  • @RG

    Richard already beat me to it. In any case, people come here to learn about SCAM, not regular medicine. People who criticize SCAM do criticize regular medicine and I sometimes see that in the comments section. Even EE sometimes blogs about failings of regular medicine, for example:

    All that said, this blog is primarily dedicated to SCAM and EE has decades of experience researching SCAM modalities, therefore his observations and opinions on the subject matters and we should be thankful for his blog. If you don’t like that, you are free to comment on some other blog that is dedicated to showcasing shortcomings of regular medicine, or you can even start a blog of your own. Criticizing the author and visitors of this blog for not discussing big pharma and medicine is like walking into a vegan restaurant and chastising the chef for not serving steak. In other words, what you are doing is a fool’s errand and we all know by now what you expect from you anyways.

    • I may add to this that the tone of my book is significantly milder (towards alternative practitioners and believers) and more respectful than some of my comments here.

      One important reason for this is that as a book author, I’m not contradicted or criticized every step of the way, and can take the time and space to present a far more thoughtful exposé of my reasoning, views and motivations. This allows for far more nuance than a discussion in the necessarily limited comments space of a blog page. Which, incidentally, is also why I’m not on twitter or any other type of volatile (in all meanings of the word) social media.

      Now of course I hope that the book sells well, but not just for financial reasons – I’m genuinely interested in any comments and criticism on my work. So as a token of my good faith in extending this request for comments, I’m willing to send a free copy of my book to the first 10 respondents here on this blog, wherever they may reside. This explicitly includes our resident critics of regular medicine and proponents of alternative medicine (to put it respectfully) – for whom I shall reserve 5 copies initially.

      In return I invite recipients to review or comment on the book (or part of it). There are some terms and conditions:
      – All correspondence goes via my own e-mail address (for now my business address: rasker at linetec dot nl ), NOT via this blog page or Edzard’s e-mail address. This includes applying for a free copy, submitting a postal address, and returning any reviews. Short comments are of course still welcome here as usual.
      – Any reviews and comments should reflect the respectful and thoughtful style of the book. Rants are diatribes will be ignored, which also goes for responses which are simply copy-pasted talking points from anti-vaccine groups or proponents of alternative medicine without proper scientific support or evidence.
      – I shall do my best to publish all comments I receive while of course leaving out any personal details – I’m exploring the options for setting up a separate Web page for this purpose. This Web page will also feature errata and other information about the book.
      – As soon as all 10 copies have been claimed, I shall mention this here.

      For those interested in receiving a copy: please have some patience, as I am still waiting for the arrival of the books myself.

      • Addendum for anyone wanting to claim their free copy: any received e-mail address and postal address will only be stored long enough to ensure that the book has indeed arrived at its destination. After that, these addresses and any other personal information submitted will be deleted by default to protect your privacy.

        Any reviews and/or comments that I receive will likewise be stripped of any e-mail addresses before publication, and I will only store these e-mail addresses for myself if a sender explicitly wishes to engage in a more prolonged discussion.

        (and oh, one typo correction: “Rants are diatribes will be ignored …” should of course read “Rants and diatribes will be ignored …”)

  • Our skeptic guy has growh publishing a book without peer reviewed process!
    Let me make some comments.

    Richard Rasker says in the book: “I also wish to thank Edzard Ernst for his encouragement to actually start
    writing this book, his proofreading, and for supporting me throughout the project” and “I am not a scientist. I am not a
    doctor. I do not even have any academic credentials. I am, in other words, not a recognized authority in any field.”

    The most funny thing:

    “The Verdict on Homeopathy In all, there are many, many problems with homeopathy. It has all kinds of inconsistencies and contradictions, and makes wildly implausible claims that are not confirmed by science or even casual observation. It would appear that homeopathy cannot possibly work as claimed, and this is further confirmed when we look at it from a scientific point of view. If homeopathy would actually work, this would mean that a lot of our scientific knowledge in the
    field of chemistry, physics, and medicine must be wrong.”

    Then the guy that is not an expert in any field and not a scientist says that homeopathy “can not work”!

    “What the Science Says Science and homeopathy have never really been on friendly terms, and with good reason. Homeopathy is considered a pseudoscience, by claiming to adhere to scientific principles, but in actuality violating many of those principles.”

    What are the “many of those principles”, Richard?

    “Proving Disproved
    The Nuremberg salt test of 1835 was a major scientific milestone, as it was probably the first so-called double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial in history”.

    This guy only cited one old proving, and not any of modern double blinded provings published in peer reviewed journals!

    • “Well, of course, this is just the sort of blinkered philistine pig‑ignorance I’ve come to expect from you non‑creative garbage.”
      — The Architects Sketch, Monty Python’s Flying Circus

    • @RG “Funny”
      Ah, it appears we have a satisfied customer!

      Then the guy that is not an expert in any field and not a scientist says that homeopathy “can not work”!

      Yes, good isn’t it? 🙂 Even complete laypeople can recognize homeopathy for the silly nonsense that it is! And, of course, you don’t have to be an expert to conclude that e.g. a car without fuel won’t run, or (to stay closer to homeopathy) that an empty plate will not satisfy your hunger – no matter how much food that plate has held at any previous time.

      What are the “many of those principles” [that are violated by homeopaths], Richard?

      – Basing homeopathy on completely unproven assertions straight from fantasy instead of existing scientific principles
      There is NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE AT ALL for Hahnemann’s “law of similars”. There is NOT ONE peer-reviewed paper that explores this (hahaha) ‘law’, let alone that there is any evidence showing its viability.
      There is also NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE AT ALL for Hahnemann’s “law of infinitesimals” – and this (hahaha) ‘law’ even flies in the face of basic chemistry, which says that substances generally have less effect the more diluted they are. And there is NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE AT ALL that a completely absent substance can still have an effect – something that homeopaths routinely claim, but have never actually shown to be true. There is not a single homeopathic preparation 12C+ that has been shown to have a consistent effect in independently repeated experiments. NOT ONE.
      – Flat-out ignoring possible confounders as well as simpler explanations for observations made, and rejection of the notion that they may be wrong.
      This is one of the reasons why homeopathy is a pseudoscience: I have seen only very few homeopaths who admitted that they might be wrong about homeopathy, when confronted with evidence to that extent – and most of those people (e.g. Natalie Grams) eventually realized that they were indeed wrong, and abandoned their belief in homeopathy. Most homeopaths, however, cling to their belief like grim death, and defend it not with any compelling evidence like proper scientists, but with arrogance, hubris and even aggression – probably because they have no good evidence at all.

      This guy only cited one old proving, and not any of modern double blinded provings published in peer reviewed journals!

      Well, maybe you can point me to those ‘modern double blinded provings published in peer reviewed journals’? I have not succeeded in finding anything credible. PubMed turns up just 58 results over the past 75 years, the vast majority of which don’t even describe actual provings. So I guess like most homeopaths, you are using a rather diluted concept of ‘truth’ here (to put it mildly).
      Homeopathic ‘proving’ may well be the best evidence yet that homeopaths are unscientific bumbling imbeciles who believe in magic – yet pretend to ‘do science’:
      – ‘Proving’ does not involve real patients at all, but healthy people.
      Which means that the best that a ‘proving’ can show is if a homeopathic preparation is harmful or not (which, luckily, is usually not the case). It doesn’t say ANYTHING AT ALL about possible therapeutic properties. If regular pharmaceutical companies were to ‘test’ their drugs this way, they would be forced to shut down immediately.
      – ‘Proving’ involves a few dozen people at most.
      This is far too small a sample for any reliable results, especially given that the (hahaha) ‘symptoms’ recorded are both very weak as well as quite subjective.
      – Homeopaths involved in a ‘proving’ sometimes claim that they can feel effects of the homeopathic preparation even when they did not ingest it themselves.
      This is very convincing evidence that homeopathy happens exclusively in the mind of homeopaths, that it is all make-believe, and has nothing whatsoever to do with medicine at all.

      And there are many, many more science-based reasons why homeopathy including proving is silly nonsense – just one of which is the notion that Natrium Muriaticum (i.e. endlessly diluted table salt) can have any special effects, given that each of us already have several hundred grams of the stuff in our body.

      But feel free to come up with proper scientific, peer-reviewed evidence for any of the points discussed here! (And with peer-reviewed I mean peer-reviewed by scientists, not homeopaths – who are generally unable to recognize science even if it bit them in the arse<.)

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