[EDIT: I really shouldn’t have to say this but here it is anyway. This article is verrrrry old by now. Tons of research has come out since, so while the central ideas of this article might still be worth reading if you’re interested in medical research you need to look at recent research. For example the case on homeopathy is now closed. It is total bullshit, all of it. And acupuncture seems to only provoke a very strong placebo effect. Please keep up to date with current research and keep evolving your opinions as new evidence emerges. Thank you.]
Ok, enough fucking around.
I am very critical of the blind acceptance of mainstream science but recent events have convinced me that I need to reassert my loathing for non-Science that tries to pretend that it is Science.
Especially since some pseudo-Scientists seem content to watch their clients sicken and die from controllable diseases, just so they can make a fast buck.
I am referring of course to Matthias Rath. He sometimes calls himself “doctor” because even though his doctorate was in ‘Research Methodology’ he knows that it never hurts to have people assume you are a medical doctor, even when you’re not.
Rath is one of a group of AIDS denialists who think that the disease isn’t real, but that they can heal it (even though it isn’t real) by giving you vitamin supplements (for a modest fee, of course).
I don’t want to spend too much time talking about why Rath’s ideas are bullshit so I’m just going to mention one study about AIDS:
Scientists took one group of lab rats and injected them with HIV. Those lab rats developed AIDS and died. The lab rats that hadn’t been injected did not develop AIDS, and did not die.
HIV causes AIDS, end of story.
But being incredibly stupid and willfully ignoring evidence that proves you wrong is not sufficient to provoke my loathing.
No, the reason I hate Matthias Rath is because he convinced a group of poor South Africans who were HIV+ to stop taking their ARVs and take his vitamins instead. He claimed that this “study” was a great success even though it only lasted a few months and even though only a small percentage of his test subjects completed the vitamin course.
The “success” of the study prompted Rath to convince a bunch of other poor, South Africans to stop taking their ARVs and instead buy expensive vitamin pills from Rath.
Let’s take a step back and think about this. Matthias Rath convinced a group of impoverished people, living with HIV, to stop taking the medication that was keeping them alive. And he did it to make money.
But hating those money-grubbing assholes and then not also hating Matthias Rath with precisely the same intensity makes you a hypocrite, and an insensitive one at that.
Rath is making a mint selling his vitamins to people he can swindle, who will then get more and more ill as HIV turns into AIDS and kills them.
Which brings us to my new worst enemy: Patrick Holford.
Patrick Holford is also a supplement peddler, which is fine, and many of his products are unproven, which is also fine.
But then I saw this:
“AZT, the first prescribable anti-HIV drug, is potentially harmful and proving less effective than vitamin C.” – Patrick Holford.
Patrick…let me say this plainly, in the hopes that you might read this at some point:
If people follow your advice and stop taking their ARVs they will sicken and die and it will be your fault!
Yes, the side-effects of ARVs are horrific but AIDS kills you within 6 months.
How long can someone who is HIV+ go on ARVs before developing AIDS? Well, we don’t know. But since Magic Johnson is still alive, even though he was infected with HIV over twenty years ago I think it’s safe to say that ARVs are better.
I’ve personally met many people who are living relatively healthy lives with HIV thanks to them sticking to the ARV regimen, so he is in no way an outlier either.
And I haven’t even mentioned the mountains of research on ARVs that show that, as horrible as they for you, they are so much better than dying of AIDS that it isn’t even an issue any more.
And as for alternative medicine as a whole let’s check the scoreboard shall we?
1. Reflexology: no evidence to support it, although some people say it really helps just as a massage.
2. Chiropractics: confusing evidence. It has some sort of positive effect but the skill of the practitioner doesn’t seem to make a difference so what they’re actually doing is unknown at this time.
3. Acupuncture: confusing evidence. It does seem to have an effect of some kind but that effect persists even if you put the needles into the wrong points so what’s actually happening is anyone’s guess.
4. Yoga: the evidence says it’s awesome. Whether as a meditation, a stretch or a workout Yoga has tangible health and wellness benefits, if done correctly.
5. Aromatherapy: the evidence needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis. Some of the oils have shown to have effects, some have not. This makes sense if you think about it because Aromatherapy is basically a collection of substances purported to have medicinal effects. Some of them do, some of them don’t. You need to check the research.
6. Homeopathy. In some countries “homeopathy” has come to mean all alternative medicines but if you mean the homeopathy that involves small vials of liquid containing highly diluted trace amounts of “medicinal substances” then it’s mostly all bullshit. Homeopathy’s dogma is such that they believe that the more diluted a medicine is the more effective it is. So “really powerful” homeopathic medicines are so diluted that the statistical probability of their being any “medicine” in the teaspoonful you drink is negligible. It’s like taking a sip of tequila and expecting to get the worm, it’s nonsense.
Homeopathic vaccines, on the other hand, work in a similar fashion to normal vaccines. The only difference is that they are not as tightly regulated as normal vaccines and so might have a higher chance of giving you the disease they are trying to prevent, or not work at all.
(Btw: these are all based on the most recent time that I looked at the literature, things may have changed. Look at the literature yourself.)
7. St. John’s Wort: Subjected to sustained and brutal assault by the avatars of mainstream medicine until the evidence became irrefutable that SJW does indeed help with mild Depression.
8. Vitamin supplements: Sadly, modern diets do often leave us lacking in certain vitamins and minerals, so supplements can be a good idea, but more doesn’t mean better. If you are taking hundreds of times your RDA then you are probably damaging your liver. Moderation is key. Also: vitamins do not magical cure certain diseases, unless that disease is scurvy.
9. Omega fatty Acids: Omega 6 is contained in many food oils so we tend to get far too much of it, and should probably cut down. Omega 3 is found mostly in fish and, as a rule, we do not get enough of it. Also, Omega 6 makes the symptoms of Depression worse, and that includes CLA (which is an Omega 6 fatty acid).
10. Reiki: don’t even get me started. The only reiki practitioner I ever saw spent far too much time “balancing the energy” around his female clients’ asses for my liking, so I’m biased against it.
11. Chi-Kung: I’m biased again because all of my experiences with Chi-Kung have been positive and as a meditation it definitely works. As a wellness practise, I have no idea. I’m not aware of much research into it and the Wikipedia page for it is a blasted wasteland, scarred by many battles, so who knows?
So what’s my point?
Well, it’s a two parter:
1) Just because the Big Pharmaceutical companies are evil, manufacture bad science as if it was cookies and kill people for profit does not mean that all medicine is bad or that all research on the planet is biased. Independent research is all over the place, you just need to have the guts to look at it with an open mind.
2) Just because many alternative medicines have been shown to be complete bullshit doesn’t mean they all are. We need to conduct real, independent research (and that means independent from all the people who are trying to sell you something whether it’s the pharmaceutical companies or the alternative health companies) to find out which ones are valuable (as well as the how and why) and which ones are not.
And we also need to harass Matthias Rath like the very vengeance of hell itself. We need to be a plague on him, never letting him rest, not even for a moment, until he stops his campaign of terror against the HIV+ population, and gets a real job.
[Standard Disclaimer: this post was entirely my own opinion and was not paid for in any way, directly or otherwise, by anyone or anything that stands to gain in any way from the ideas expressed herein.]