Friday, April 29, 2011

Chiropractors are not real doctors

A number of people who email me about my blog want me to "take on" chiropractic "more" - and I can surely understand their reasoning.  I have blogged about chiropractors and the lack of evidence to support their claims and I have received a number of comments (from both sides) regarding those posts. 

First of all, there are "good" chiropractors out there - though, in Sarnia, the number is probably closer to how many you can count on one finger than on one hand. 

Chiropractors should NEVER EVER EVER be considered as your primary care "Doctor" - they aren't real doctors.  Most have received extremely limited science based training and most have never received any training in diagnosing disease.  They aren't doctors and the title "Dr" before their name is misleading to many.  I get that and I understand the strong desire for me to blog about chiropractors (let's not forget that YOU could easily set-up your own blog and explain the problems with chiropractic - I needn't be a lone voice in this) but I'm cautiously optimistic that people are coming to understand that Chiropractic (for the most part - and by most, I mean, MOST) is silly (and can be dangerous).

With all that said, this story is disturbing (not all that uncommon - we just don't have investigative press, locally, to expose the scammers in Sarnia): "We Were 'Duped' by Chiropractor's Ads".  When they try to hide the fact that they are chiropractors is another whole story.

Jeffrey Needham, in Sarnia, who is not a doctor, has made extremely dubious claims himself and has been forced to remove a number of claims from his website.  I have blogged about his "feature" in a book.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nothing fails like prayer

A recent article on shows another example of prayer doing nothing - or it says that the god he was praying to also wanted his father dead. 
"Confessed killer Ranjit Singh was convinced prayer could overcome the demons who told him to do bad things, a psychiatrist testified Wednesday.
But Dr. David Tano agreed with Crown prosecutor Gary Cornfield only modern medicine could cure Singh of the evil spirits which haunted him."
"Basically, medication is the only thing that would keep the disease under control, as opposed to his decision to pray?" Cornfield asked Tano.

"Yes," the forensic psychiatrist said.
And for those who will be offended, remember that I'm probably not talking about your god

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Confronting silly propositions where necessary

My wife and I were recently at a dinner party that involved some heavy discussions relating to weight loss, alternative medicine and the usual terms used by Alt med (toxins, balance, natural, wellness).

It is extremely disheartening (albeit somewhat laughable) that many of these 'certified' 'fitness experts' have little (no) understanding about weight loss and human physiology so I felt it important to explain some basic points to someone who was speaking, with conviction, rubbish.

After the evening conversation, my wife suggested that maybe I shouldn't have been so firm with my words when discussing another's profession. I asserted that nonsense, spoken as fact, needs to be confronted head on. I'm fine with people being passionate about and making claims about 'things' so long as they are prepared to explain why or present evidence for such claims. I'm willing to listen and I often learn from others - however, when the basis for a claim is clearly rooted in nonsense, I'm not afraid to suggest that they might be a bit 'off'.

During our drive home, I told my wife that I feel it is important to confront silly propositions especially when other people could be mislead by them. That evening was definitely one of those times. The truth matters and I believe that this person ultimately realized that maybe their position was based on bad reasoning. Others who were listening, however, benefitted the most. And that can often be the case - bystanders or witnesses to a discussion are potentially saved from accepting the proposition.

Yesterday, however, was a different case. While having dinner with our extended family, someone began talking about complete nonsense and I didn't even offer a skeptical comment. After they left, my wife reminded me of our conversation from a couple days earlier. I suggested that, because the person making the claims is one that regularly 'talks shit' and was in the company of people who would understand that little of what he has to say is based in fact, there was no need to point out the obvious.

I also find it difficult to introduce a logical explanation to people who are so simple that they could not understand it so I often don't even bother.

To put it simply, if you talk nonsense to me and I don't point out that it is silly, I likely think that:
1) You are probably thought of as a regular bullshitter and most people would see that
2) You seem so simple that I don't think you would understand how silly your claim is anyway
3) I think you are the only one who might act on such a belief and the outcome has potential to be truly funny for the rest of us

In other words, if you make a claim and I ask you why you accept/believe/claim such, it is because I feel that you are possibly intelligent enough and/or respectable enough to engage. If I don't respond it may be that I have reason to believe that you may be speaking of something resembling the truth but it could be that I have reason to believe that most people would hardly reference your claims to support their arguments for your lack of integrity.

Call things stupid that are stupid unless the people claiming such stupid appear to be as stupid as that which they claim. Sometimes claims made by crazy people will drive people to assume the opposite is more likely to be true. Not engaging pure stupid can often be just as (or more) successful than actually giving them the respect of a response.

(And, yet, I am driven to argue with homeopaths, reiki practitioners and others. Silly me.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Homeopathy Awareness Week

Now that Homeopathy Awareness Week has come to an end, I thought I'd let Homeopaths in on the big secret - people use homeopathy because they aren't aware of what it really is.

I see homeopathy awareness week, really, as counter-productive for those hoping, really, to avoid the truth.

Almost without fail, when you ask someone about homeopathy, they make reference to 'natural' and 'herbs'. I am not going to tackle the misapplication of the word 'natural' here (natural includes: influenza, feces, anthrax, lead, mercury) or what benefits might be derived from 'herbs' because homeopathy is not about that.

Often, homeopathy claims to use the very 'toxins' (don't get me started on that word) that the 'natural' 'pushers' are so against. I say 'claims' because almost all homeopathic preparations don't include even a molecule of the supposed active ingredients.

So, yes, I fully support homeopathy awareness week - we need to make people aware of homeopathy including:
- the active ingredient is diluted beyond the point of actually being present
- there is not a single large scale RCT that shows homeopathy to be any better than placebo
- it is just water
- it goes against almost all understandings in modern science
- to accept that 'water has memory' would require some evidence for such a claim (none exists but plenty of evidence exists to show that that is not the case)
- if water did have memory, how does it forget all the pooh it has had in it?
- a treatment that works also works whether or not you believe in it (homeopathy doesn't work even if you believe in it)
- just because it is sold (legally) doesn't mean that it has been tested for efficacy OR safety (ask Gary Null)

For more on homeopathy, see:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Magnet Therapy - A Closer Look

There was a booth at the recent Sarnia home show for Magnets 4 Health ( Joanne Caissie is the owner of Magnets 4 Health and someone who I have had conversations with. She readily admits that she is not a Doctor and that she isn't suggesting that magnets can cure anything - but only when you press her for the science behind what she sells/claims.

At her booth, if you just listened to what she was telling other potential customers, you would be left with the impression that magnets can cure, or offer relief from, all sorts of things. Calling her on such claims is about the only way to get her to become matter-of-fact about her products. "Many people report..." with a reference to a few different anecdotes is about as far as she would go with me. "Search the internet for yourself" and "I'm not a Doctor" was her response to "Where is the science?".

On Joanne's website, you will find the main body of the site stating "Experience relief..." followed by a list of maladies/diseases ranging from Acne to Epilepsy and Shingles to "Alzeimer's". Interestingly, Joanne would like you to believe, if you don't accept her anecdotes, that she's not claiming magnets can affect the natural history of any of those conditions but, if you aren't skeptical, it might just help you.

Remember, a therapy that actually works does so even if you don't believe in it. For example, antibiotics work whether or not you "believe" in them.

Not surprisingly, Magnets 4 Health also has a flyer that you can get at her shows and it matches her website very closely. One element, oddly, happens to be missing from her website that is listed on her brochure/flyer. Where it says "Experience relief..." on her website it says "Experience relief from..." on her flyer. I don't doubt that she took the word "from" off her website because it might be construed as implying that magnets can "heal" asthma, Alzheimer's, cancers, Multiple Sclerosis, etc - things that she can't back up with evidence.

If you happen to search for Magnets 4 Health in Google or view the source of her webpage, you'll notice the "Description" of her site begins with "Experience the healing and energizing effects of magnetic jewellery!". The same statement is found on her flyer. And the "Keywords" for her website include: "increase blood flow", "toxins removal", "pain relief", "reduce inflammation", "body healing" and "increase immunity".

In her brochure and on her website she boldly states: "Our jewellery provides the same healing effects as the methods used successfully by physiotherapists all over the world". She also claims, "Exactly how magnets help alleviate pain is only now being scientifically discovered and understood. One main benefit is the increase in blood circulation in the affected areas. Acting like a heating pad, but not limited in time of use, magnets appear to relax blood vessels, allowing them to bring more oxygen-rich blood and carry toxins away from the affected site. It is also felt that a magnetic field helps to diminish electronic pain signals sent by nerve receptors to the brain."

Unfortunately for Joanne (and the people who are mislead by the claims), we know that much of what she is claiming borders on outright fraud.

Consider this ruling by the FTC against a company that marketed magnets for "healing" that states, in part:
IT IS ORDERED that respondents, directly or through any partnership, corporation, subsidiary, division, or other device, including franchisees, licensees or distributors, in connection with the manufacturing, labeling, advertising, promotion, offering for sale, sale, or distribution of magnetic therapy products in or affecting commerce, shall not represent, in any manner, expressly or by implication, that such products:

A. Are effective in treating cancer, including lung and breast cancers, diabetic ulcers, arthritis, or degenerative joint conditions;
B. Lower high blood pressure;
C. Stabilize or increase the T-cell count of HIV patients;
D. Reduce muscle spasms in persons with Multiple Sclerosis;
E. Reduce nerve spasms associated with diabetic neuropathy;
F. Increase bone density, immunity, or circulation; or
G. Are comparable or superior to prescription pain medicine,
unless, at the time the representation is made, respondents possess and rely upon competent and reliable scientific evidence that substantiates the representation.

The order deals, clearly, with claims similar to those made by Joanne at Studies have been done to see if magnets help reduce pain and they have been clear - there is no benefit of "real" magnets over "sham" magnets.

Let me also deal with other misconceptions about magnets (especially those used in Magnet Therapy):
  • They often are not even strong enough to present a magnetic field below the skin.
  • The iron in our blood is NOT magnetic - if the small magnets could affect blood flow, an MRI would kill every one of us.
  • We are subjected, on a regular basis, to far greater magnetic fields with no ill effects (and no benefits).
  • The claim that these magnets are not safe for pregnant women is a silly tactic to get people to believe that these magnets actually do something.
  • If magnets truly increased blood flow, why isn't erectile dysfunction at the top of the list of conditions they treat?
I don't doubt that Joanne is aware that much of what she claims is not supported by science and her attempts to distance herself from specific claims of healing and relief are nothing more than an attempt at avoiding litigation.

In saying that, I'm often left with wondering whether someone, like Joanne, is being willfully deceptive - the idea that they can know that the science doesn't support their product and the regulatory agencies have made judgements against people for similar claims yet they still will attempt to get the idea across that their therapy can cure something without explicitly stating it.

Magnet Therapy does not work, has no plausible mechanism of action and it definitely is not a replacement for physiotherapy and other treatments/therapies. Joanne is, as she claims, not a Doctor and has no evidence to support the idea that magnets elicit anything more than a placebo.

People often ask me if they should "talk to their doctor" about things like this. I think, "Yes, you should talk to your Doctor about magnet therapy. If she/he laughs at you, you've probably got a good Doctor."

Below is a scan of the flyer available at her booth at the recent home show: (click for larger image)

An email response from Joanne Caissie ( when asked about the evidence to support her claims:
You can go on Google and research Magnetic Therepy like I did. There are hundreds of pages on studies on magnets. I am not a doctor or anything like this. I do not cure people either. I have had great sucess helping people with their small aches and pains(*). Magnets will work on most people but there are some that it does nothing for them. Magnets have been around for many years. Hope this helps you. Thanks so much.

Joanne Caissie
(*Do I need to point out that conditions often not considered small aches and pains include (and this list is a DIRECT copy off of her site - spelling is hers):
Arthritis, Achilles Tendons, Acne, Allergies, Alzeimer's, Anxiety, Asthma, Back Pain, Blood Pressure, Bone Fractures, Bronchitis, Cancer, Carpel Tunnel, Chronic Fatigue, Cold Hands & Feet, Constipation Cramps, Depression, Diabetes, Epilepsy, Fibrosis, Fibromyalgia, Fluid Retention, Frozen Shoulder, Gastric Ulcer, Gastroentreritis, Gout, Headaches, Irritable Bowel, Lumbago, Menopause, Migraines, Muscular, Spasms, M.S., Neuralgia, Papilloma, Parkinson’s Disease, Prostrate Disease, Psoriasis, Repetitive Strains Injury, Restless Leg Syndrome, Rheumatism, Sciatica, Shingles, Stomach Ulcers, Stress, Tendonitis, Tennis or Gold Elbow, Tinnitus, Torn Ligaments, Travel Sickness and Varicose Veins.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Of course, psychics aren't self-serving - that's why I love them

Have you ever heard someone say "why don't you ever see the headline 'psychic wins lottery'?". It bothers me when I hear that - I think, to myself, "geez, educate yourself people - psychics can't use their powers for personal benefit."

Ask any psychic and they will tell you they don't do what they do for their own benefit, they just want to help people. If that truly is the case, you can understand why none have used their powers to win the lottery, predict the stock markets (for themselves) or even made life-altering decisions to protect/benefit themselves.

Let us remember that psychics, unlike the average population, don't have 'bad' members. Never has one abused their powers and secretly purchased a lottery ticket. It is for this reason that I absolutely admire psychics and their selfless acts.

Given their special gifts, you have to appreciate that they spend their time working with people and not benefitting from it themselves. Please, the next time you encounter a psychic, take some time and thank them for everything they do - especially with no expectation of personal gain.

Crap. I wrote the above blog entry because from what psychics have told me, they're awesome people. When my wife proofed it, though, she thought I left out some important information.

I'm left with quite a quandary. My wife pointed out that psychics almost always charge for their 'readings'. If that is the case, then the reality isn't that psychics can and do use their 'powers' for personal benefit.

It also occurred to her that, if it were true that they can not benefit from their powers, psychics can no longer get involved in solving crimes where rewards are offered. That would explain why there are countless unsolved cases on the books.

So, to accept that psychics exist we have to accept that:
1.) psychics have agreed not to use their powers for personal benefit
2.) of all the 'psychics' that exist, all of them have always been honest (and not used their skills to win the lottery, game the stock market, purchase life insurance to take advantage of an unexpected death, etc)
3.) everything we know about physics is wrong

Or we could apply Occam's Razor and accept that psychics don't exist.

Really, if psychics were such caring and selfless people, why would they be spending their time charging people to do parlor tricks when they could be alleviating substantial amounts of pain and suffering of others by solving cold cases?

There are three self styled 'psychics' in Sarnia that actively advertise their skills. Today I challenge each of them to stop just claiming selflessness and start living it.

The local news agencies have recently reported that CrimeStoppers is offering $2,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for the death of Karen Caughlin. Solve the crime, reduce the suffering and silence the critics OR you should be looked upon not as selfless and caring but fraudulent and heartless.

The three psychics I refer to are:
Darin James
Mary Young/Mary Demitro
Robbie Thomas

My challenge to Darin, Mary and Robbie: Solve the Caughlin case, collect the $2,000 and I'll write a public apology and publish it (full page) in the Sarnia Observer.

My challenge to you, reader of this blog, is this: make sure that Darin, Mary and Robbie are familiar with this challenge.
Darin James -, Phone: 519-542-7482, 519-402-0024, 519-491-6138 or twitter @the_darin_james
Mary Young - 519-337-8770
Robbie Thomas -, 519-337-8333, 519-337-2344

(Note: Robbie Thomas has, for years, publicly claimed that he worked with police on the Caughlin case. The case, as mentioned above, has not been solved and Robbie Thomas has inflicted substantial amounts of pain on the Caughlin family. Robbie Thomas is a liar and a fraud -

Friday, April 1, 2011

Excitement lies ahead (or excitement and lies ahead?)

Thanks to RealityInSarnia, I came across this site. I will have to set some time aside this weekend to wade my way through it. It is packed with some of the craziest ideas every dreamed up by crazy people.

I am reassured by the facebook 'like' button saying 'be the first of your friends to like this'. Though some of my friends are woo 'leaning', I think all of them would have a laugh at this site.

Take a look at the site. Laughs are no charge - everything else is probably a scam.

If I was in the country I'd be going to her Forest Health and Wellness Fair - that'd be excitement well worth the $3.00.