Gullibility can be described as a failure of social intelligence in which a person is easily tricked or manipulated into a course of action for which there is no plausible evidence. To express it positively, gullible people are naively trusting and thus fall for nonsensical propositions. This renders them easy prey for exploiters.
On this blog, we see our fair share of this phenomenon, e.g.:
- people who are easily persuaded by anecdotes,
- who disregard evidence
- who fall for pseudoscience,
- who have irrational belief systems,
- who thrive on fallacies,
- who cherry-pick the evidence that fits their belief,
- who are unable to change their views in the face of evidence,
- who interpret even contradictory facts such that they confirm their belief,
- who have no ability to think critically,
- who would do just about anything to avoid cognitive dissonance.
Let me give you just three well-known examples from the realm of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM).
- Advocates of SCAM believe that natural means safe. Yet the therapies used in SCAM are neither natural nor devoid of risks.
- Advocates of SCAM believe that treatments that have a long tradition of usage must be fine. Yet a long history might just signify that the therapy in question is based on obsolete principles.
- Advocates of integrative medicine believe that, by adding unproven therapies to our medicine bag, we might improve healthcare. Yet it is clear that such a move can only make it less effective.
If I look back on 30 years of research into SCAM, I have to say that it very much looks as though a sucker is indeed born every minute.
It was reported yesterday that the district court of Schönau in Germany has issued an order to arrest Dr. Mathias Poland, a family doctor who used to practice in Zell. He is accused of issuing certificates of favor to opponents of wearing masks during the pandemic. The order of arrest was “against a doctor from the district of Lörrach” for “issuing false certificates”.
The fact, that some German doctors have issued false exemptions from wearing masks has been known for some time. Similar things have also been reported from other countries. Often, these physicians in question seem to be practitioners of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that a doctor has been arrested for such a crime.
So, what do we know about Mathias Poland?
His is what Dr. Poland tells us about himself (my translation):
I was born in 1958 and grew up in Stuttgart. From 1976 I studied medicine in Ulm, where I came into intensive contact with anthroposophy, which has accompanied me ever since. Further stations of my studies were Münster/Westphalia (D) and Poitiers (F). Doctorate in 1983 in Münster on a pediatric oncological topic. This was followed by further training as a specialist in general medicine in several clinics in northern Germany, acquisition of the additional qualification in homeopathy. Further training in anthroposophical medicine through numerous seminars. In 1990 I set up as a general practitioner and family doctor in Wehr/Baden (Germany) – in the following years I gained additional qualifications in Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture at the University of Freiburg (Germany).
Recognition as an anthroposophical doctor by the GAÄD.
I became the doctor in charge of the Kaspar Hauser School Schopfheim 1999 – 2006. From 2009, I took over a GP practice in Zell im Wiesental (D) with an additional focus on proctology.
… Since 1.9.2019, I have been the senior physician in general medicine at the Arlesheim Clinic …
Anthroposophic medicine is a form of healthcare developed in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) in collaboration with the physician Ita Wegman (1876–1943). It is based on Steiner’s mystical ideas of anthroposophy. Why do anthroposophical doctors issue such false certificates? As far as I understand it (and to explain it very simply), anthroposophical medicine teaches that infections should not be fought against but accepted and experienced. Why? Because they are important milestones that make us better and more whole as human beings.
And why do doctors believe in anthroposophical medicine?
Please take a moment to read this short letter by the ‘LIGA MEDICORUM HOMOEOPATHICA INTERNATIONALIS’:
As you know, the World Health Organization (WHO) is predicting that civilization faces a crisis of antibiotic-resistant diseases that may soon result in as many as 10 million deaths per year while pushing as many as 24 million people into extreme poverty.
We, the undersigned, are duly licensed healthcare professionals practicing homeopathy, with the authority to diagnose and treat disease, who have reviewed the extensive research literature demonstrating the clear therapeutic value of homeopathy. Each of us has had extensive clinical experience successfully treating hundreds of thousands of patients suffering from infectious diseases worldwide.
Homeopathy works, does not cause further antibiotic resistance, is generally devoid of side effects, is inexpensive, and is good for health of the planet.
We are calling upon the WHO to encourage the international medical community to immediately begin training in homeopathy as an adjunctive therapeutic measure to avoid this catastrophic loss of life and would like a meeting with you or your representative to discuss the grave challenge of antibiotic resistance at your earliest convenience.
Thank you for considering this urgent appeal.
I stated above that this is a letter. In fact, it is more – it is a petition directed to the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to immediately begin training physicians in homeopathy as an adjunctive therapeutic measure to combat the looming crisis of antibiotic-resistant diseases.
The Liga Medicorum Homoeopathica Internationalis (LMHI) represents homeopathic physicians in more than 70 countries all over the world. The purposes of the association are the development and securing of homeopathy worldwide and the creation of a link among licensed homeopaths with medical diplomas and societies and persons who are interested in homeopathy. The LMHI is exclusively devoted to non-profit activities serving philanthropic benefits.
The LMHI might ring a bell for regular readers of this blog. A few years ago, I reported that its president advocates curing cancers with homeopathy. And in 2014, I reported that a journey to Liberia of leading homeopaths was co-organized by the LMHI; its purpose was to cure Ebola patients of their disease with homeopathy.
I find all of this seriously worrying – not because I fear that the WHO will now start training physicians across the globe in homeopathy. It is worrying, I feel, because it shows how hopelessly deluded homeopaths are. The fact that clinicians so far detached from reality treat ill and vulnerable patients frightens me.
Always on the lookout for so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) that we have not yet covered on this blog, I came across a really weird one. ‘Access Consciousness’ (AC) is claimed to be a form of self-improvement therapy based on the idea that you are not wrong, that you know, and that consciousness can shift anything. It gives you access to the possibilities that exist when you no longer stick yourself and no longer believe that you are stuck.  Gary Douglas ([pictured below] “bestselling author, international speaker and business innovator”) pioneered this set of transformational tools in the 1990s. His work is claimed to have now spread to more than 170 countries and is claimed to have transformed the lives of tens of thousands of people.
Access Consciousness allegedly empowers people to help themselves. The techniques of AC focus on your knowledge about yourself and the world around you. Part of what makes AC so different, according to its promoters, is that it is continuously being created.  AC promises to assist people with their health, weight, money, sex, relationships, anxiety, etc. It promises members, known as ‘Accessories,’ to become more conscious. To fully get it, Accessories should take part in classes. There they have 32 points on their heads lightly touched which is supposed to help them let go of all the thoughts, ideas, and emotions stored in any lifetime. Accessories are claimed to be able to “uncreate” memories of the past, or preconceived ideas picked up throughout a lifetime. As far as I can see, there is no evidence to suggest that AC is effective.
Some ex-members have alleged that AC is a “scam cooked up by a conman to rinse the vulnerable of their savings, a Scientology knock-off, and even a cult”. One ex-Accessory, for instance, claimed the group “programs its members to think like robots. It is very clever how it is done. Because it’s not like any other cult but it is mind control.”  In each 90-minute session, which costs up to US$ 300, 5,000 to 10,000 years of “limitations” are released, it is claimed.
My conclusion: there is no evidence that AC is plausible or effective and it is a SCAM and possibly also a cult.
THE GUARDIAN published an interesting article about vaccination hesitancy yesterday. Here is a short passage from it:
One major missing piece of the puzzle, currently under consideration, is a strategy that gets to the bottom of why 5 million people remained unvaccinated, especially those in communities with an ingrained distrust of authority.
No 10 even turned to an artificial intelligence (AI) company earlier in the year to determine the causes of vaccine hesitancy, but Whitehall sources acknowledge there is still a lack of understanding about how many of the unvaccinated remain so because of entrenched anti-vax ideology, misconceptions that could be turned around, a lack of time or transport to get to vaccine centres, or just apathy.
Yesterday, it was also reported in DER STANDARD that the Austrian Science Minister Martin Polaschek has commissioned a study from Statistics Austria, which for the first time was to look at the vaccination status of the population according to socio-economic characteristics.
The study yielded fascinating findings that might shed some light on the phenomenon of ‘entrenched anti-vax ideology’:
- Across all age groups, the proportion of vaccinated persons, including recovered persons, is 67%.
- Slightly less than four percent of the population are only recovered, and about 30% are neither one nor the other.
- There are no marked differences between men and women.
- The willingness to vaccinate is strongly related to the level of education.
- The vaccination rate in the group of 25-64 year-olds with a university degree is about 84% and thus significantly higher than among those who have only basic education (68%).
- In this age group, it also seems important whether someone has a job (76%) or not (69%).
- People employed in the information and communication sector (85%) and public administration (83%) are the most likely to be vaccinated.
- Workers in agriculture and forestry (67%) and construction (65%) are the least likely to accept vaccinations.
- Health and social services personnel have a vaccination rate of 79%.
- More than half of the 600,000 schoolchildren had already been vaccinated, and in the upper secondary school it was even 72%.
- The rate among teachers is also high, at 85%.
- 86% of the approximately 395,000 students at universities had been vaccinated.
- As 92% of all medical students were vaccinated.
- The vaccination rate among Austrian nationals, at about 70%, is clearly higher than that of people without an Austrian passport (52%).
- The difference between those born in Austria and those not born in Austria is only five percentage points.
- The willingness to be vaccinated is higher among people from Turkey (73%) than among those born in Austria (68%).
- Among Germans and Afghans, it is around 72%.
- People from Romania (43%) and the Russian Federation (45%) have the lowest vaccination rates.
- The percentage of vaccinated people is highest among those between 75 and 84 years.
Similar findings have, of course, been reported from other countries. However, what seems new to me here is the finding that vaccination rates are strongly correlated to the level of education: the anti-vax brigade tends to be uneducated and ignorant. If confirmed, this suggests that education might be a way to make them accept vaccinations.
Of course, correlation is not causality. But there seems to be a dose-response relationship between education and willingness to vaccinate. This makes a causal effect more likely.
THOSE WHO KNOW NOTHING MUST BELIEVE EVERYTHING
Conversion therapy has been banned last week in Canada. These therapies – also known as sexual orientation change effort (SOCE), reparative therapy, reintegrative therapy, reorientation therapy, ex-gay therapy, and gay cure – rely on the assumption that sexual orientation can be changed, an idea long discredited by major medical associations in the US, the UK, France, and elsewhere. The new law makes “providing, promoting, or advertising conversion therapy” a criminal offense. It will also be an offense to profit from the provision of conversion therapy. In addition, the bill states a person cannot remove a “child from Canada with the intention that the child undergo conversion therapy outside Canada.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed the law’s Royal Assent: “It’s official: Our government’s legislation banning the despicable and degrading practice of conversion therapy has received Royal Assent — meaning it is now law.”
Conversion therapy is the attempt to change an individual’s sexual or gender identity by psychological, medical, or surgical interventions. Often, informed consent is insufficient or lacking. In conventional medicine, numerous treatments have been tried for this purpose, some of them dangerous and all of them ineffective. In alternative medicine, approaches that have been advocated include:
- Homeopathy (see below),
- Spiritual healing,
- Eye Movement Desensitization,
- and others.
- Faith-based organizations or leaders
- Licensed healthcare professionals
- Unlicensed healthcare professionals
As previously reported, the German ‘Association of Catholic Doctors’ claimed that homeopathic remedies can cure homosexuality. Specifically, they advised that ‘…the working group ‘HOMEOPATHY’ of the Association notes homeopathic therapy options for homosexual tendencies…repertories contain special rubrics pointing to characteristic signs of homosexual behavior, including sexual peculiarities such as anal intercourse. And a homeopathic remedy called ‘Dr. Reckeweg R20 Glandular Drops for Women’ was claimed to treat “lesbian tendencies.” The product is “derived and potentised from fetal tissues.”
Several countries are now in the process of banning conversion therapy. France has already banned it and so has Germany. The UK government intends to introduce a legislative ban on the practice of conversion therapy. The consultation on how to best do this is open until 4 February 2022.
In 2013, Zuckerman et al. conducted a meta-analysis of 63 studies that showed a negative intelligence-religiosity relation (IRR). Now a new meta-analysis with an updated data set of 83 studies has re-addressed the issue.
The new analysis showed that the correlation between intelligence and religious beliefs in college and non-college samples ranged from -.20 to -.23. There was no support for mediation of the IRR by education but there was support for partial mediation by analytic cognitive style.
In 2012, Canadian scientists tested the hypothesis that an analytic cognitive style is associated with a history of questioning, altering, and rejecting (i.e., unbelieving) supernatural claims, both religious and paranormal. In two studies, they examined associations of God beliefs, religious engagement (attendance at religious services, praying, etc.), conventional religious beliefs (heaven, miracles, etc.), and paranormal beliefs (extrasensory perception, levitation, etc.) with performance measures of cognitive ability and analytic cognitive style. An analytic cognitive style negatively predicted both religious and paranormal beliefs when controlling for cognitive ability as well as religious engagement, sex, age, political ideology, and education. Participants more willing to engage in analytic reasoning were less likely to endorse supernatural beliefs. Further, an association between analytic cognitive style and religious engagement was mediated by religious beliefs, suggesting that an analytic cognitive style negatively affects religious engagement via lower acceptance of conventional religious beliefs.
Some time ago, I reported about a study concluding that a higher religiousness/spirituality is associated with a more frequent use of supplements or additional therapies in individuals with endocrinopathies or metabolic diseases. As so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) has been shown to be associated with worse outcome, addressing religiousness/spirituality which stresses the responsibility of the person for his life might offer an additional resource and should be further studied.
Finally, the findings of a recent study suggest that beliefs in an engaged God were associated with greater mistrust in the COVID-19 vaccine. This association was amplified for Hispanic and lower-educated Americans. The authors argued that beliefs in an engaged God may promote distrust of science, reduce motivation to get vaccinated, and derive comfort and strength by placing control over one’s life in the hands of a loving, involved deity.
There are, of course, other factors involved in the complex relationships between intelligence, religiosity, SCAM, and vaccination hesitancy. Yet, it seems clear that such links do exist. I agree that it is well worth investigating them in more detail.
Steiner (Waldorf) schools, like anthroposophical medicine, are the inventions of Rudolf Steiner. His followers have often been associated with rampant anti-vax sentiments. Yet, officially such beliefs are usually denied.
A few days ago, I came across this tweet:
Der Dachverband der anthroposophischen Medizin begrüßt Corona-Impfungen… & distanziert sich von Querdenken und Co. Steiner war selbst gegen Pocken geimpft und ließ impfen.
As it is in German, allow me to translate it for you:
The umbrella organization of anthroposophical medicine welcomes corona vaccinations… & distances itself from lateral thinking and co. Steiner himself was vaccinated against smallpox and had it vaccinated.
Almost simultaneously, it was reported that, after the Corona outbreak at a Freiburg Steiner school with more than 100 people infected, it is now certain: the certificates presented to the school for exemption from wearing masks were invalid.
During circus performances at the Steiner school in Freiburg, more than 100 people had become infected with the coronavirus in October: among them pupils, teachers, and contact persons. Therefore, the school inspectorate of the Freiburg Regional Council examined the certificates that freed people from the obligation to wear masks at school for health reasons. Heike Spannagel, a spokeswoman for the Freiburg Regional Council, called the results surprising. There were 55 certificates, 52 from pupils and three from teachers – and all of them were invalid. Heike Spannagel added that the school will no longer recognize any of the certificates. Those who cannot present new certificates that are more convincing will therefore have to wear the mask, Spannagel said.
It was noticeable that many certificates came from (far remote) private clinics in Bavaria or Berlin. In addition, a Freiburg doctor had exempted pupils from the obligation to wear a mask with identical justifications. According to the regional council, however, justifications must be individually tailored. In the meantime, the public prosecutor’s office in Freiburg has requested documents from the regional council in order to initiate an investigation.
So, what has been going on?
To me, it looks like the Steiner school was tolerating or even encouraging the use of dodgy certificates. This contrasts somewhat with the tweet cited above. And, in turn, this seems to indicate that proponents of anthroposophy say one thing about COVID and then do something entirely different. This suspicion was strengthened by a tweet that appeared a little while later as a response to the tweet cited above:
Alle Anhänger der Anthroposophie, die ich kenne, sind nicht geimpft. Es ist ja schön, wenn diese Verbände das öffentlich so verkünden. Die Praxis sieht leider anders aus.
Allow me to translate again:
All the followers of anthroposophy that I know are not vaccinated. It is nice when these associations proclaim this publicly. Unfortunately, the practice looks different.
The ‘International Chiropractors Association’ (ICA) has just issued a statement entitled “International Chiropractors Association Affirms Policy on Health Freedom“. On the background of the fact that US President Biden, issued a series of Executive Orders related to mandating federal employees and federal contractors to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the ICA try to explain their position regarding vaccinations. Here are a few passages from this statement:
…In a world of public health that promotes evidence-based decision making, we see the importance of natural immunity being ignored and replaced with a totalitarian approach of compulsory vaccination. At a time when the Surgeon General says misinformation has become an urgent threat to public health, misinformation is now being used in an attempt to discredit the chiropractic profession, the International Chiropractors Association, and all chiropractic patients who desire to focus on improving health naturally. After enduring 18 months of shutdowns, lockdowns, flattening the curve, masking, limitations of speech on social media; and a cancel culture environment that threatens the basic freedoms our country was founded upon in 1776, ICA will not compromise on the importance of protecting health freedom…
The ICA Policy on Immunization and Vaccination has remained unchanged for almost 50 years and clearly states:
“The International Chiropractors Association recognizes that the use of vaccines is not without risk and questions the wisdom of mass vaccination programs. Chiropractic principles favor the enhancement of natural immunity over artificial immunization.
The ICA supports each individual’s right to select his or her own health care and to be made aware of the possible adverse effects of vaccines upon a human body. In accordance with such principles and based upon the individual’s right to freedom of choice, the ICA is opposed to compulsory programs which infringe upon such rights.
The International Chiropractors Association is supportive of a conscience clause or waiver in compulsory vaccination laws, providing an elective course of action for all regarding immunization, thereby allowing patients freedom of choice in matters affecting their bodies and health.”
The International Chiropractors Association maintains that all healthcare interventions, including the chiropractic adjustment, are associated with some level of risk and that every individual is entitled to be informed of those risks, no matter how insignificant. All individuals must retain the freedom to accept or reject any healthcare product, procedure, or medication including vaccinations. The International Chiropractors Association therefore strongly opposes the use of medical mandates that violate personal sovereignty, violate the principles of informed consent, and constrain the rights of patients to make their own health care choices…
The ICA encourages the recognition that natural efforts to enhance the innate immune system ability to adapt to novel viruses are grounded in science and rejects the notion that the patients’ freedom to rely on naturally acquired immunity is not based upon unscientific beliefs.
The ICA rejects the premise that the chiropractic profession’s long history of promoting health freedom and supporting conscientious exemptions is based upon unscientific or non-mainstream beliefs…
I find this statement clear as mud and have the following questions:
- Do the ICA recommend vaccinations?
- In particular, do they encourage their members to get vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccines?
- Do they advise to recommend COVID-19 vaccinations to their patients?
- Or do they think that natural immunity is preferable and advise their members and patients accordingly?
- Do they believe that spinal manipulation enhances natural immunity?
- Do they think that spinal manipulations are an effective alternative to COVID-19 vaccinations?
- Do they believe that scientific evidence trumps dogma or vice versa?
- Which of the two should, according to their conviction, must influence the decision-making processes in healthcare?
- If the ICA object to misinformation about COVID, why do they not stop their members from promoting it?
- What makes them think that information about the possible adverse effects of vaccines upon a human body is unavailable?
- If the ICA recognizes the risks of spinal manipulation, why do they not inform the public about them regularly and objectively?
- If the ICA knows about the importance of informed consent, why do not all of their members adhere to it?
- And finally, why do the ICA insist on the term ‘international’ in the name of their organization, if they purely deal with the US situation?
I do not expect the ICA to give me the answers to these questions. But perhaps their Wiki page goes some way towards answering some of them: “… The ICA supports the efforts of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC). The NVIC is known for promoting false and misleading information about vaccines, in particular the discredited claim that vaccines cause autism.
The ICA’s annual conferences have featured anti-vaccination propaganda. In 2018 Guest Speaker Beau Pierce (Pierce co-produced a series entitled Vaccines Revealed) hosted a session entitled Vaccines Revealed., and Jeff Hays, known for producing the anti-Vaccine propaganda Vaccines Revealed, was invited to host a session the 2017 ICA Council on Chiropractic Pediatrics Annual Conference. In 2016 the widely discredited anti-vaccination propaganda film VAXXED was shown at a conference sponsored by the ICA’s Council on Chiropractic Pediatrics …”
SAY NO MORE!
Germany seems to have a significant problem with anti-vaxxers. Today, only 68% of the population has had a COVID vaccination. In the UK and France, these figures are 72% and 75% respectively.
This study investigated the willingness to vaccinate of parents of minors and people without children who are minors. The investigation was based on a random sample of Germans (telephone survey, n = 2,014, collected between 12 November and 10 December 2020). The evaluation is primarily based on the sub-sample of people with minors in the household (n = 461).
Parents of minors consistently show a lower willingness to be vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine than respondents without minors (54.1% vs 71.1%). Fathers show a stronger willingness to be vaccinated than mothers. Furthermore, men are more willing to get their own child vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine than are women.
The authors concluded that among parents and especially mothers, a considerable misrepresentation of vaccination risks and frequent beliefs in vaccination conspiracy theories can be observed. Clear and easily understandable information on the effects and side effects of vaccination with a COVID-19 vaccine by relevant institutions and physicians is recommended.
And what has this to do with so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and homeopathy?
In the results section of the paper, the authors report interesting additional findings (my translation):
In the total sample, a significantly higher willingness to vaccinate is associated with the rejection of “alternative healing methods”. There is also a significant correlation between the attitude towards homeopathy and one’s own willingness to vaccinate: if homeopathy is supported, the willingness to vaccinate is lower. This correlation between the attitude towards homeopathy and willingness to vaccinate is also evident in the sub-sample of parents. Among parents, it is again women who significantly more often have a positive attitude towards homeopathy than men, who more often do not think anything of it.
The authors also report that the parents were asked: “If a vaccine against the coronavirus is approved in Germany, would you get vaccinated?” CERTAINLY NOT was the answer of:
- 41% of homeopathy fans
- 10% of people who thought nothing at all about homeopathy
- 15% of participants who were not fully convinced by homeopathy
Yes, Germany seems to have a problem with the anti-vaccination brigade but it seems that at the heart of it is a problem with a homeopathy cult.