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.

21 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 …”)

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