I like skeptics; they have taught me a lot, and I am thankful for it.

At the same time, they occasionally irritate me when they comment on so-called alternative medicine (SCAM).

Why? Because, when they comment on SCAM, they are not rarely wrong or at least not quite correct.

I am referring to the typical scenario where a skeptic discusses a form of SCAM and explains that there is no evidence on it. Such statements are almost invariably false. There is evidence on almost all forms of SCAM; it may not be positive but it exists. To make statements to the contrary is demonstrably wrong.

Let’s assume that a skeptic discusses CUPPING (I am referring to an actual video that I recently watched). He explains its history, how it’s done, that there is no plausible mode of action, and that there is NO evidence on it.Pregnant Man Cartoons and Comics - funny pictures from CartoonStock

This is not correct!

In fact, there is a substantial body of evidence in terms of clinical trials and even systematic reviews (if you search this blog, you will find quite a bit; if you go on Medline, you’ll find even more). And there is some evidence about cupping’s possible mode of action.

Don’t get me wrong:

  • I am not a fan of cupping,
  • in fact, cupping is merely an example – I could have chosen almost any other SCAM,
  • I am certainly not defending therapists who practice cupping,
  • the evidence is far from convincing.

All that I am trying to say is this:

When you comment on a SCAM (or anything else), it is worth checking the evidence. More often than not, you will then find that there is quite a lot of evidence. You might conclude that:

  • the evidence is poor quality,
  • the evidence is negative,
  • the evidence is suspect,
  • etc., etc.

So, please comment accordingly. Just saying THERE IS NO EVIDENCE is not just wrong, it is irritating, because it gives the SCAM promoters the occasion to rightly point out that skeptics are just badly informed. And that surely is worth preventing!


10 Responses to Where skeptics often go wrong when commenting on SCAM, and what should be done about it

  • I think I believe that when a sceptic says, “there is no evidence”, he means, “there is no convincing evidence”. But it could be that a true sceptic does not believe me.

  • I usually include “convincing” or “quality” when referring to evidence in comments. The thing is that that is seen as an admission by believers that there really IS positive evidence or as a chance that the SCAM “might” or “could” work.

    One cannot post the content of your objection as it is not reduced to a quip that “sounds good” to the untrained mind.

    The difficulty in general of combatting SCAM claims is that it can’t be done in pithy phrases. All the adjectives you suggest simply create generous openings for doubt from believers. This is why most scientists do not “debate” cranks.

    BTW, how often to you actually see the language you describe and do you really think most believers really notice? I think they are ready with their standby response of “science doesn’t know everything”.

  • Skeptics mess up badly. Just take this video, published some days ago, with a smashing headline:

    Die Studie, die HOMÖOPATHIE zerstörte

    “The study which destroyed homeopathy”. Sounds impressive. But what is it about? The Shang METAstudy from 2005.

    Hey, that is 18 years ago! And it did not blast homeopathy away. It is only a metastudy on some studies on homeopathy. It does not even look under the hood of those studies.

    So, the headline is totally misleading. Let’s go on and view the video. If your stomach does not jump and call for fresh air. That video is one of the worst I ever saw. And about the real stuff in the Shang study? Nothing worth mentioning.

    The guy in the video, a hailed skeptic, acts like a clown in a toddler birthday party. Something to learn from the video: zero.

    In the last seconds one sees that this is not a really private video by someone who could not hold himself back. Looks like it is (at least partly) paid by the city of Vienna, Austria.

    How can the skeptics EVER think they can get a foot on the ground against the homeopathy mafia, when they mess up in this absolutely inexcusable way? This video is a shame to mankind. But skeptics already hail it. What for? Just for padding on each other’s shoulders?

    This video is a disaster. Not only because of its contents, but because it shows the whole misery of the skeptics. Real, effective, debunking? Where? Again and again they mess up. Always the same so boringly stupid mistakes. Just to name one: That in homeopathy “there is nothing in it”. For 20 years now we know that homeopathica manufacturers sell LOWLY diluted POISONOUS substances. Not over the counter, but they offer it. And when they do that that material IS produced. And it is produced because there is a market for it. There is a demand. Which means: It is used by naturopaths and homeopathic doctors. Skeptics ignore this part even when they are told about it.

    Even worse: Homeopathica are sold which contain undiluted mother tinctures. Some even contain nothing but undiluted mother tinctures. Now, don’t tell me that there is nothing in an undiluted mother tincture! But skeptics ignore that. They even ignore that the German homeopathica manufacturers with these (“complex”) homeopathica rake in more than half of the whole total sales volume!

    Yes, that is true. And the skeptics simply deny it. Now, who lives in a dream world, the homeopathy freaks or the skeptics?

    And, think of it: This is just one of many examples.

    I will show you a second one:

    Der irre Schorschi und die tägliche Idiotie der Homöopathen

    You for sure have seen claims by homeopaths that homeopathy was effective in past epidemics. And they advertise homeopathy as the medicine against Covid-19. They even have a number of examples, and the best one is about homeopathy being so successfull in the influenza pandemic 100 years ago. Did anyone of you look at the details? WE did. And our findings are groundbreaking: The whole claim by the homeopaths worldwide is based on the lies and forgeries committed by THREE homeopaths 100 years ago: McCann, Dewey, and Pearson.

    We have a large collection of pieces of proof. Indisputable real pieces of proof. Original material by the homeopaths themselves, found in American library archives. In our forum thread we show them. We even did some magic to make a readable OCR transcription of the 100 years old papers to get usable ASCII text.

    Looking at the date of the forum thread, you will see, when we did all that: in March 2020, three and a half years ago. Now: Did even a single one of the skeptics look at the material or even write about it? No. The only one, who did something, was Aribert Deckers, and he is no skeptic! He made an English translation, linking to our forum thread:

    Homeopathic mass fraud concerning claimed efficacy of homeopathy in epidemics

    This English text is online since May 2020. Did anyone of the skeptics even mention it? No.

    So we can conclude (we did that long ago) that the best supporters ever of the homeopathy mafia are the skeptics. They now even act like monkeys in their videos, so horribly, that the homeopaths really can’t do anything else but to applaud, and say “Thank you for the fish.”

  • The sceptic campaign against homeopathy in the UK was very effective coming from such a small group. These well organised guys got what they wanted which was eliminating homeopathy from the NHS, PSA and deconstructing homeopathy research in the UK. Homeopathy became ridiculed by some contemporay comedians.
    This all sounds like it should have been the end of homeopathy but all these ‘victories’ did was to somehow drive homeopathy at grass roots level.
    How did such a successfull campaign against UK homeopathy ended up backfiring so badly? Far from being the end of homeopathy in the UK, it is now has been booming at grass roots level for several years.
    Maybe sceptics shouldn’t have just so arrogantly dismissed the experiences of so many people but then in science anecdotes dont equal data. For most people however anedotes and their experiences are what seems to matter so maybe this is a factor as to why homeopathy has increased in popularity instead of declining as was expected by many ten years ago.

    • “homeopathy has increased in popularity instead of declining as was expected by many ten years ago”

      • I have no evidence at all apart from many anecdotes which of course means nothing in your world.
        I am very happy for you to dismiss the statement and mock it if you wish as fair enough a claim was made without supporting evidence. Maybe though you will get your evidence sooner or later.

    • The skeptics are hopping around like nuts. Their key mistake is to use the wrong rhetoric. Aside of not understanding how the fraud homeopathy works, of course.

      ONE CAN NOT fight against an army of fully trained demagogues with some shabby studies. Studies not only are useless, studies are worsening the problem, because studies give the impression “When there is a study made, this shows, that there IS something okay with it.”

      We by now have a real industry of “research”, one being by the fakers and forgers at HRI in UK, another on in Austria, where Peithner, a homeopathica manufacturer, gives prizes for the “proof” that homeopathy is evidence-based medicine. The “works” even are honoured with doctor titles by universities.

      Just see what we found about Tournier, one of the key persons at HRI:

      Did anyone of the homeopathy mafia criticize Tournier for his fakes? I never heard anything like that. Why not? Because the inner consensus of the esoteric mafia says “DO KEEP QUIET! DO NEVER CRITICIZE AN ESOTERIC!” This way all kinds of new fraud are invented each ear, and there is not a single voice of critic against it.

      And worse: The homeopathy mafia undermined academia very effectively during the last decades. In Germany there even is a University in Witten-Herdecke pushing it. And what do these people there do? MAKE STUDIES!

      The real key to debunking homeopathy is by showing the public, HOW the fraud works, HOW the foul rhetoric works. This can be done very effectively. We know that because we do it. We show the world how to debunk medical frauds. Look into our forum at installed in 2005 by our first dominatrix. She and her successors wrote thousands of texts on that topic. It is about the best source in the whole WWW on rhetoric against medical fraud.

      It is a war with language, and we do fight with language. And we are damned good at that.

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