Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Wonderful World of Woo

Hot button Hot button issue...I haz one.

Some of you can probably guess. Class? Anyone?

No, not Sarah Palin and the fruit flies, but it's somewhat related. Nothing gets me het up like anti-vaxxers. I've written about it before (I'm too lazy right now to find the post, but if you're dying of curiosity, you can just search my blog for 'anti-vaccination' or 'Jenny McCarthy.' You should find the entry/ies that way.), and I've made it abundantly clear that I am firmly on the side of science on this issue. I should actually say 'non-issue,' since numerous studies have shown no link between vaccines and autism.

I generally try to stay away from lengthy Facebook arguments about anything these days. It just takes up too much time, it makes me too agitated, and it raises my blood pressure. But every so often, I'll be in just the right mood, and something will hit me the wrong way. Then it's Game On.

That happened last night. Someone posted an update about all the vaccines that kids get now, all the "new illnesses" that we're hearing about, all the drugs that are pushed upon the populace. While I don't disagree that we are a pill-popping society, antibiotics are important, as are vaccines. Both save lives. So I started on the vaccine thing. It turned out I'd entered a hornet's nest of new age, holistic, alternative medicine, holding hands, "quantum healing" (I'm not kidding), and basically thinking that Western medicine is bad and Eastern medicine is good. (Guess they missed that part about the numerous parasitic infections that occur in many Eastern countries.)

I tried to stay respectful and factual as long as possible, but I was unable to sustain it. When I dared to question the efficacy of prayer, said I'd take medical treatment over it any day, I was told that someone would "pray that I get my head out of my ass." [laughing] I'm always so impressed when I find those kind of caring, Christian people, aren't you?

There was the lady who asserted that vaccines were made by infecting cows and then harvesting the pus (or as she put it, "puss"--haha) from the "blisters" and making the vaccine out of that. When I said that no, we make vaccines under controlled, sterile conditions now, she said I was wrong...that she'd seen it on TV.

Then there was the lady who talked about colloidal silver as an alternative to current treatments like antibiotics. Before antibiotics, that was a possible treatment, because it does kill a lot of organisms. Including the good ones. It can also cause some pretty serious side effects, and colloidal silver can turn you blue. I'll have Bactrim instead, thank you very much! The same woman told me to investigate how an alkaline environment is toxic to bacteria. (It's also kind of toxic to people, but apparently that wasn't a concern.) I said, oh, not so, there are many bacteria that can survive in an alkaline environment. She said yes, but those are good bacteria. I said that is simply wrong. Bacteria like Staph aureus, E coli, Clostridium sporogenes (it causes gas gangrene), Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Strep pneumo can all survive in alkaline environments. At that point, I said she didn't know what she was talking about.

Snake oil There was more, and the discussion continued the following morning when the owner of the page read all of this and told me that I was being condescending and angry. My friend Darren (a mutual friend of this person) chimed in with his own thoughts on the subject, and was also told that he was being angry and "mean-spirited." Apparently disagreeing with someone who ignores the facts and ignores scientific research is seen as "being angry."

Did I get sarcastic? Definitely. How can I not when someone talks about their experience with miracles and treating their own cancer and how the power of positive thinking has healed them? Of course, I think that a positive outlook can affect our immune systems; but when it comes to a systemic MRSA infection, give me the big gun of Vancomycin--don't tell me to fucking meditate and think positive thoughts! That shit can kill within a matter of hours, and "laughter therapy" just doesn't make the grade.

I was told that it was typical that I would say that they'll all find out the hard way. I made it clear that I had said no such thing, in fact, I said the opposite--that I hope their actions don't lead to them finding out the hard way, and especially their kids. That goes against my entire career in which I and my colleagues helped doctors diagnose the infections their patients had and how to treat them.

Specific questions were asked including a request for links to studies that showed the healing powers of meditation and "divine consciousness." Those requests were ignored, because both Darren and I were told that we obviously had closed minds and didn't want to have a true discussion. We were accused of being the type of people who burned witches at the stake, despite the fact that the people who actually burned witches at the stake were those who believed in magic, Satan, and demonic possession, exactly the opposite of the rational thought that both of us were trying to get across. We were also both accused of name-calling, but I don't recall any instance of that. Again, apparently just disagreeing means that you are slinging epithets and calling them names.

There was more, but frankly, I'm bored of the whole thing. Such irrational thinking gets tiresome. Oh, and I forgot to tell you! The qualifications of the person whose page this was on? Stand-up comedian. Yeah.

Although he chose not to answer some of the questions that I posed and Darren posed, he asked several of his own, and I will reply to them here. I was done with that thread; perhaps he'll read them here, and then I suspect I'll be defriended, which I would have no problem with whatsoever. This was all in a huge paragraph, but I took the liberty of separating it for clarity.

people like me or people who look to alternative methods have little to gain, except sharing wellness alternatives with folks who might be hearing it for the first time.. our goal is to assist others, so why attack that agenda?....

I have no problem with those who seek out alternative therapy, and think that there are probably some things that work. However, I think there are many vultures out there who would try to capitalize on the gullibility of people like this. Snake oil salesmen have been around for centuries, and there will always be people who fall for "miracle cures." When it comes to vaccinating children, I attack that agenda and I attack it HARD. There were comments about why do we need all these vaccinations in our hygienic, clean country? It's one thing for places like India where drinking water is contaminated, we haven't had polio in this country for years, and blahbitty blah blay blue. For fuck's sake, people...that alone shows the success of vaccinations! These bacteria and viruses have not gone away. We have vaccinated enough people that we have herd immunity (a phrase that was also ridiculed). It has protected us for a long time, but the drop in vaccination rates has resulted in outbreaks of diseases that we haven't seen for a while, or only rarely. Things like polio still happen in Africa, and in case you hadn't noticed, people travel a lot these days. This is such a profound lack of comprehension of the full scope of the issue that it just makes my head explode.

if it were true that we accept your supposition that "they" are after our best interest, then why is there such an increase in aliments, illnesses we previously never heard of and diseases?

By "they," I think he means the pharmaceutical companies. Of course, they want to make a profit. Every business does. I am not always in agreement with Big Pharma, especially about things like Restless Leg Syndrome and other such "aliments." (I'm guessing he meant ailments.) I think we, as a country, pop way too many pills; when it comes to antibiotics and other treatments for infectious disease, that is important. What illnesses and diseases are increasing? There are things that we haven't heard of because we're still doing research on them. That's how science and research work. There are certainly some infectious diseases that are increasing...because there are douchebags that are choosing not to vaccinate their kids!

why are we not hearing about cures, instead of being made aware of more drugs?

Cures don't happen overnight. It can take years of research to even find out what causes an infectious disease, let alone find a cure for it. As far as things like cancer or AIDS or Parkinson's...all these things are being researched. These are complex problems, and usually cures happen incrementally. Every piece of research, done by people all over the globe, contribute to our understanding of such diseases. Researchers build upon the findings of others. Again, this shows a complete lack of understanding of how medical research takes place. I liken it to archaeology: not every discovery is Tutankhamen's tomb. There is much more time spent sifting endlessly, piece by piece, through small discoveries in the hope that it will lead to the big one.

why are we bombarded with messages of what drugs can fix things (with half of the ad being warnings of deadly side effects), but hear nothing about the condition or chosen lifestyle that caused it to begin with?

You get messages about side effects because it's an FDA regulation. That's why. And bullshit that we don't hear about the "chosen lifestyle" that caused it. If you have half a brain, you know that your knee problems are partly because you need to lose weight; or like Christopher Hitchens, your heavy drinking and smoking led to your esophageal cancer.

when is the last time we poured money into finding a cure and heard about a cure or breakthrough?

Again, cures do not come overnight. They happen with decades of study, with many people working on the problem. And again...complete lack of comprehension of medical research.

where is the modern day jonas slake?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that he means Jonas Salk. I'll tell you where the modern-day Jonas Salk is: he or she is in every research lab all over the world. Working hard to find cause, effects, pathology, cures, prevention...perhaps sometimes because they want their name known, but most likely because they care about humanity and want to help. Perhaps they've had a loved one affected by cancer, or a mentor devastated by Parkinson's. Or perhaps they just have the insatiable curiosity that most scientists have in trying to figure out how things work and what they can do to change the progress of a devastating disease, or how they can prevent it from even occurring. I still remember the thrill of something working the way it was supposed to, and doing trials to evaluate a new method and seeing the good results that meant that we'd found a better way to do a test. I wasn't a research microbiologist, I was a clinical one, but we still evaluated new methods to decide whether or not it was a better diagnostic tool. It was always a great thing to realize that a new method worked better than our current one, and to be a part of its implementation. I can only imagine how research scientists feel when they find something that will lead to a better outcome for patients.

why do so many reduce it down to "woo woo" with little to back it up by exploration of other holistic approaches that have had tremendous success rates in other cultures?

I question the "tremendous success rates" mentioned. References, please? Funny that he mentions “little to back it up,” when he backed up none of his claims. I’ll put facts up against “because I think so” every time.

and yes, how much do we hear about the all the laughter studies that point to evidence that changing your circumstances can change the outcome?....simply answer my queries, and try to do so w out more venom....

As I said earlier, if I've got a systemic infection, give me the antibiotics. I don't expect my doctor to come in and guide me in laughter therapy. I expect him or her to give me the antibiotic or drug that will hit my infection and get rid of it.

Vaccine chart I love that tactic of ignoring other questions, then posing your own and saying "simply answer my queries." My arguments throughout the evening were factual and based on my experience as a microbiologist, as well as extensive reading I've done on the subject. When you are presented with facts and ignore them, then fail to provide any of your own other than "I know what I see," your argument is invalid. Dude, you have no argument. I don't pretend to know everything about my profession; it was a constantly evolving thing, with new technologies and findings all the time. But I also don't pretend to be an expert on something I have no training in, and I don't ignore facts.

For me, it all boils down to a real lack of understanding of how medical research works and how conclusions are reached. It's not a matter of some Ph.D. working in his lab and shouting "Eureka! I've found the cure for cancer!" It's years of repetitive and difficult research across many areas of study, including biology, chemistry, genetics, and on and on, and many different researchers working on different pieces of the puzzle.

I honestly don't think I've ever had a discussion that was so frustrating and so absurd. On the upside, I think it may have cured me of anti-vaxxers pushing my hot button. I'm not going to waste my time on dealing with people like that anymore. It's an exercise in futility.

The other good thing is that it gave me a wonderful new phrase: "I'll pray for you to get your head out of your ass." That's gold, right there.


  1. I think the ironic thing is that he asked where the modern day Jonas Salk was. You know, the guy who came up with the polio vaccine.

  2. I wish this was a link on I'd upvote you so fast!

  3. The kind of logic used by those who disagreed with you and Darren is the kind of logic that actually let bad things happen. You do attract some of the more interesting folks, and why do so many of your followers seem to be so into religon?

  4. Loved this, my favorite is of course...
    "I'll pray for you to get your head out of your ass." It's my all new favorite phrase for the visiting Jehovah Witnesses. Bet they don't come around anymore. Nope! I'm not afraid to say I DON'T believe in organized religion along the lines of christianity. The better than thou attitude is a definite turn-off.

    The hilarious thing here, a comedian is pushing laughter therapy. Now don't tell me he doesn't have an agenda...(Hugs)Indigo

  5. I now understand why I kept coming to your blog to find you MIA. Great post! Trust me you not holding back is the antidote for some of the BS that is going. I am going through some hard times, which is taking me to reconsider strategies. At one point you and me did not agree on an issue but when you made your point, I listened. And I am glad that I reconsider.

    My point is that refusing to listen to others is a trap, I can no longer afford. I am certain you left your imprint. Let those that were incapable to listening digest the message. If they still believe in shit, let them it eat.


  6. Pseudo Science at its worst. Hate that "I saw it on TV" mentality.


I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?