Jul 25 2008

A Bit of Extreme Alternative Medicine Nastiness

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Comments: 62

All interventions have their risks. No medical treatment that actually does something is completely without risk. That is why the standard method for evaluating a treatment is to assess the risk vs benefit ratio, as applied in an individual clinical situation. Risks are therefore justified if they are outweighed by the benefit. It is therefore not reasonable to cite instances of bad outcomes in order to impugn a treatment or a profession, without putting such outcomes into the proper context of the benefit of such treatments.

Of course – if there is no benefit to the treatment because it is based upon abject pseudoscience, then any risk is unacceptable. Here are two recent tales of risk without benefit – otherwise known as malpractice and incompetence, euphemistically referred to these days as complementary and alternative medicine.

Detox Bullox

Dawn Page wanted to lose a few pounds so she consulted a nutrition therapist/life coach, Barbara Nash, who was trained at the College of Natural Nutrition. I can understand why this seemed perfectly reasonable to Page – she was seeing a trained professional nutritionist. That’s precisely the problem – the average citizen (lacking in honed skeptical skills) innocently seeking a health professional can easily wind up in the hands of an outright quack.

Nash prescribed for Page a hydration detoxification program, which included drinking 4 pints of extra water per day and reducing salt intake. There is no science behind such a program. The idea is to purge mysterious and unnamed toxins from the body. This is old-school quackery.

Any competent health-care professional should be able to tell you that such a treatment is dangerous. It is a prescription for disaster, a good idea only if you are trying to harm or kill your patient. It is designed to waste the body of salt producing dangerously low levels of sodium and chloride in the blood.

That is exactly what happened to Page. She began to feel ill, had nausea and vomiting, and became light-headed. She returned to Nash who told her that these symptoms were evidence that her treatments was working, so she upped the water intake to 6 pints per day and reduced the salt further.

This is the classic quack response – when the disease progresses or the treatment produces side effects, interpret that as a sign that the treatment is working. Before the germ theory was known, surgeons often interpreted pus in the wound as a sign of healing. Today it is not uncommon for homeopaths to interpret worsening symptoms as a sign that the illness is being irradicated. They even cite the Herxheimer reaction – a real phenomenon caused by the rapid killing of bacteria by antibiotics causing the release of endotoxins into the blood.

Quick tip – if you are getting worse after starting a treatment and your practitioner tells you it’s just a sign that their treatment is working – get a second opinion.

Page did not get a second opinion. She followed Nash’s advice until her sodium level dropped to unhealthy levels, causing a seizure. Details in the news reports are sketchy, but it seems that Page had permanent neurological symptoms following her misadventure with detox hydration therapy, and was recently awarded 800,000 pounds in a malpractice judgment.

Burned by CAM

Unfortunately, having an MD is insufficient guarantee of even minimal competence – making it even more difficult these days for patients to avoid nonsense in medicine. Family doctor Thuong Nguyen of Oslo decided to incorporate some alternative medicine methods into his practice – specifically cupping.

Cupping is another form of detoxification – cups are placed over the skin. Alcohol on the cups is burned to create a partial vacuum which is supposed to suck the toxins out through the skin. Yes – it’s that stupid. It is just another far-fetched treatment that is completely free of evidence or scientific rationale.

Odd-Inge Haagensen was seeing Dr. Nguyen as a patient when this treatment was offered. Instead of running from the room Odd-Inge submitted to this nonsense. According to Dr. Nguyen when he was rubbing alcohol on the patient it spontaneously burst into flames. I suppose he thinks that everyone else is as scientifically illiterate as he apparently is.

According to Mr. Haagensen, after Dr. Nguyen placed the cup on him he could feel a little of the alcohol dripping down his neck and back, and when the good doctor lit the alcohol Mr. Haagensen caught on fire. He has apparently suffered significant burns and will need treatment for about a month.

Conclusion

There is no such thing as legitimate “detoxification” treatment. Anyone claiming that a treatment detoxifies the body is a charlatan of one type or another. The concept has a psychological appeal – it is easy to imagine bad stuff being drawn out of or purged from our bodies. We evolved an emotion of disgust to help us avoid true toxins and harmful substances in our environment and food – so the detox scam is just playing off of this emotion. But there is no science behind it – so beware.

In the first case with the hydration therapy – the treatment itself was harmful. It was designed to cause direct harm, and only someone lacking basic medical knowledge would have prescribed it, and then doubled-down by increasing the treatment when the patient was harmed by it.

In the second case, the treatment itself is just worthless, but not necessarily directly harmful. It was only made so by botched application. But it demonstrates that even benign treatments may not always be so benign and can cause harm when things go wrong. If the treatment is without any benefit, and is pseudoscientific in its concept, then the risk of even quirky harm is not justified.

The harm done to these patients is a product of a deeper problem – the tolerance of abject nonsense in medicine because it comes under a friendly and marketable label of “alternative medicine.” It seems that in practice the label “alternative” is short-hand for – turn off whatever critical thinking skills you may possess.

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62 responses so far

62 Responses to “A Bit of Extreme Alternative Medicine Nastiness”

  1. Yooon 25 Jul 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Around where I live, it’s not rare for me to see people with multiple circular bruises on their backs. And the bruises aren’t thought of as accidents: the bruises are expected to form after cupping. I always wonder if they actually perceive any benefits from the “treatment”.

    While I might go through a “therapeutic” massage just because it feels good, cupping is something I’d never do because of the bruises it leaves. I don’t expect any actual health benefits from either, though.

  2. gocsickon 25 Jul 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Are you sure there isn’t a misprint somewhere 4-pints of water is not really that much. It is actually the so-called “recommended” 8 cups a day. I generally drink between 2 and 3 liters ( a little more than 4-6 pints) of water in a 24 hour period. Mind you I am not eating a lot of processed salty foods but I do cook with a reasonable amount of salt.

    How low of a sodium intake would you have to have for this to cause health effects.

  3. themightylearton 25 Jul 2008 at 1:59 pm

    I would like to suggest that any reference to CAM be preceded by (S) (thus making it into (S)CAM). That’s what I do on my blog (which I won’t plug here, that’s not the purpose of this comment). I just think it makes the point rather nicely that CAM=SCAM! What do you say Dr. Novella?

  4. deciuson 25 Jul 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Interesting, I had no idea that cupping was still in use to this day, albeit with different purposes. Not that I rejoice in it, but here is an extra bit of info.

    While visiting the ruins of Pompeii and the Archaeological Museum of Naples (where the best artefacts recovered from the excavation are preserved), some cup-shaped items caught my attention, and I was told that the Romans used cupping in order to facilitate blood-letting.

    When the bronze cups were disposed of, they would be recycled as signs – advertising the place of residence of a physician, or his availability.
    In other words, in the Greco-Roman world the quack-cups would immediately be recognised a health-care icon. I suppose their modern counterpart is the red cross.

    A quick search returned this picture of a carved sign.
    http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/Texts/Books/images/illus-240-1.jpg

  5. Jim Shaveron 25 Jul 2008 at 2:40 pm

    I second the motion of themightyleart, with the additional stipulation that the S in SCAM stands for “So-called”, which I suggest aptly describes the word “Complementary” in this context.

  6. Jim Shaveron 25 Jul 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Decius, those objects between the cups look like scalpels. Yikes!

  7. jonny_ehon 25 Jul 2008 at 3:18 pm

    How about simply:
    So
    Called
    Alternative
    Medicine

  8. deciuson 25 Jul 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Jim,

    thanks for pointing that out, it gives me the opportunity to rectify the wrong impression that my previous comment might have created. I owe it to the Romans (they are my ancestors). :)

    In spite of all the superstition involved, Roman medicine was extremely advanced for its time, especially the field of surgery.
    Cataract operations ( to this day a difficult procedure) were routinely carried out, and complex fractures reduced with competence.

    Roman physicians even understood the importance of hygiene, and although they didn’t quite figure out germ theory, some tentative speculations hinting at microbial activity were put forward.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicine_in_ancient_Rome

  9. Steve Pageon 25 Jul 2008 at 7:44 pm

    I think Mark Crislip of Quackcast fame already uses the term SCAM, as an acronym for Supplements, Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. Sorry, guys.

    In reference to Steve’s post, I think that there is an overlap with the more benign aspects of religion. If an alternative medicine isn’t harmful (like cupping, most of the time), it may not endanger the health of the beneficiary at that particular time, but in the long term, it encourages magical thinking and provides another advocate of ‘alternative’ therapies who will enable others to do the same. Their neighbour might be someone with an autistic child who decides that, since their trusted acquaintance has enthused that alternative therapies work, why not try that chelation treatment to remove the heavy metals that are (supposedly) causing the child’s autism?

    As far as I’m concerned, there is evidence-based medicine, and there is quackery. One type of quackery may be slightly less toxic than another, but at the end of the day, they still facilitate a move away from reason into woo. As such all quackery, no matter how benign, deserves to be challenged by those who use evidence as their guide, in order to stop this potentially harmful knock-on effect.

  10. Purpson 25 Jul 2008 at 8:45 pm

    This is absurb!

    I’m getting the feeling we, as a species, are having a though time progressing in technology and medicine because of this. That’s obvious but I mean it’s getting really significant.

    Seems like money and greed combined makes real doctors turn to alternative medicine for a quick buck. And people are buying it more then before. Specially when there is no other treatment for it, or it’s too expensive (in my opinion you can’t put a pricetag on your health but oh well).

    I’m starting to see this as a huge problem when I see it’s getting more common here in Norway aswell. Norway is generally copying what they see outside of it’s own borders so it’s bound to be increasing, unfortunelty.

    Is sceptisism the only thing that fights “SCAM” ? Love that acronym

  11. ticktockon 26 Jul 2008 at 12:21 am

    People get cupped all the time without being burned. I really don’t see the use of bringing up an anomaly when all you needed to say was that the premise is stupid.

    I would also love to know scientifically why cupping and moxibustion can’t work, if only so that it will flesh out my arguments against my TCM-loving wife.

  12. [...] From Around The Blogosphere 7.25.08 A closer looks at alternative medicine’s 2 most recent epic failures -Steven Novella talks about doctors weighing the risks against the benefits of treatments. But if [...]

  13. Simonon 26 Jul 2008 at 7:45 am

    “Are you sure there isn’t a misprint somewhere 4-pints of water is not really that much”

    Gocsick: Good point- what Dr Novella has not mentioned is that the patient (victim?) was instructed to drink these 4 pints ON TOP of her normal water consumption. I also think that the more significant quackery is the advice to cut salt levels simultaneously. I don’t know how much they were cut but if the woman was actively avoiding foods that contain even small amounts of salt, as well as flushing out her own reserves in the copious urine she would have been producing, hyponatraemia within a week is not impossible.

  14. Nitpickingon 26 Jul 2008 at 8:44 am

    “puss” in the wounds? They had CATS in there? (Pus)

    Sorry, but note my screen name.

  15. cuervoon 26 Jul 2008 at 9:46 am

    Is cupping my balls ok? It may not have any direct medical benefit but…

  16. droachon 26 Jul 2008 at 10:19 am

    Steve,

    As usually a very informative piece. Thanks for all your hard work and ridiculously copious output.

    Just wanted to be a nitpick and note that in paragraph 7 you wrote “…They even site the Herxheimer reaction…” whereas I think you meant to use the word “cite”.

    Regards,
    David

  17. Steven Novellaon 26 Jul 2008 at 10:45 am

    Thanks to the typo-patrol. Those and other typos are now fixed.

    Regarding the amount of water – the 4 pints was in addition to her usual fluid intake, not the total amount per day. It was forced drinking beyond what thirst would dictate. (I added the word “extra” in the text to help clarify this.)

  18. Skepticoon 26 Jul 2008 at 11:10 am

    It’s worth noting that the College of Natural Nutrition’s website is Nat Nut.co – truth in advertising?

  19. Niels Kjaeron 26 Jul 2008 at 11:30 am

    Trying to be constructive:

    “All interventions have their risks. No medical treatment that actually does something is completely without risk. That is why the standard method for evaluating a treatment is to assess the risk vs benefit ratio, as applied in an individual clinical situation. Risks are therefore justified if they are outweighed by the benefit. It is therefore not reasonable to cite instances of bad outcomes in order to impugn a treatment or a profession, without putting such outcomes into the proper context of the benefit of such treatments.”

    This statement is hard to misunderstand for me. Do all humans understand this statement?

    “Of course – if there is no benefit to the treatment because it is based upon abject pseudoscience, then any risk is unacceptable. Here are two recent tales of risk without benefit – otherwise known as malpractice and incompetence, euphemistically referred to these days as complementary and alternative medicine.”

    This statement is hard not to misunderstand: “Of course -” “Therefore I/somebody think/say/pray that” is a much more precise statement.

    Of course – When a doctor doesn’t know what he is doing, he can do many things and they are all based on knowledge. Whatever he does can still be positive and have some side effects. When my GP does not know what he is doing he says: “Trust us we are doctors, we know what we are doing.” Then I start playing with him like I am playing with this blog until he after several mistakes ends up doing what I originally asked him to do.
    This procedure is probably stressing my GP, making me giggle, and costing a fair bit of wasted effort. Should I just switch GP? A bad idea according to me: Then medicine will become even more polarized: Those who just do their job, and those who think they know everything and often end up doing nothing.

    Example: If a patient, unlike me, seems to like taking any type of medicine. What harm is there for a GP in prescribing the cheap wonder drug “placebo” The GP can quickly explain that he doesn’t think it works, but others do. This saves 10 minutes explaining that no cure exists, which only convinces the patient to find another GP, who then has to start all over…
    This is how quack medicine is nourished. Human beings being fed up with normal doctors saying quack quack quack.
    Hans Christian Andersen described what quack is and means in a much better way than I do.
    Shouldn’t it be easy to fix this quackmire.

    And no, quacking is definitely not unique to medicine!

    I trust other humans, but I believe in myself.
    I question other humans as I question myself.

    Why is it hard to trust other humans? Just question them and you will find out why you trust them.

  20. Steve Pageon 26 Jul 2008 at 11:44 am

    Niels, firstly there’s the ethical problem of a doctor prescribing something that he knows is bullshit. Secondly, even if the doctor were to lie (in the patient’s interest, of course), there’s the internet – there are a great deal of patients who would look up the ingredients of any medicine before taking it, and their trust in their GP would be sorely tested if wikipedia told them that there were taking the medical equivalent of a comfort blanket. Thirdly, there’s the fact that if the doctor prescribes, for example, a homeopathic remedy or some other alternative treatment, it gives support and credibility to the claims of the woo merchants; the knock on effect is that next time, the patient might have a serious ailment but bypass the doctor in favour of the local naturopath.

    I’m sure that there are more reasons, but they’ll do for starters. :)

  21. Niels Kjaeron 26 Jul 2008 at 2:52 pm

    I used to have the same opinion about homeopathy. But I am Niels, I change my mind.

    The doctor in question is after my definition not lying.
    What you define as lying is completely up to you.

    The doctor is saying to the patient, “If you really want some drug for the illness for which we have (not “there is” please!) no cure, there is a medicine called “placebo”. I, your doctor, think that “placebo” does not work, but other humans think it works. We all agree that it has small side effects.”

    It can only increase the belief in “placebo” if “placebo” really works. I know it sounds like spin, but it is honest spin.
    Where exactly is the lie you are talking about?

    Homepathy is “sort of accepted” in France, where I have lived for 10 years. It is a small business industry. When I asked a French doctor what he thought: “Sure we know it is BS, but it saves everyone a great deal of effort, and it has only increased the efficiency of normal medicine. And that has brought more confidence to medicine in general”. French medicine is quite well respected in europe. I do not know the situation in the US. You always seem to have a quite special relationship with France!?
    This relationship I personally haven’t had time to look at yet.

    Wikipidia is fun! It has many polarizations and changes constantly. It is the main battleground for world war III which started about a year ago. Don’t panic! Mostly virtual casualties.
    Well okay, oil and food prices, but that is what it is.
    I will for once be really rude: YOU DID NOT CHECK WIKIPEDIA! on “placebo” before writing your comment…
    Sorry Steve, I shouldn’t do this, I know, sorry sorry sorry….

    Placebo can be explained as working the same way as jokes do. It eases stress. Stress is (Explained to a layman) a thermodynamical imbalance in the brain, which is difficult to treat with medicine. Living well, eating well, sleeping well, excersizing well, and having naughty fun is probably more efficient than any medicine offered by industry. If industry claims otherwise, ask for full non-linear cross-validation! Full non-linear cross-validation exists today, but somehow, well, ah, it is a little difficult to have it accepted by industry. Full cross-validation is an explicit part of SimeHealth, which I openly support. I will help the inventors if they ask, otherwise it is up to them.
    Clinical tests have been underway in Denmark for a year. The mindboggling results you will have to ask for.

    If somebody starts making money on “placebo” medication, I think it is easy to find somebody else to produce it more cheaply.

    Niels

    “Marketing is what makes marketing bloody expensive”

    My openness is actually complete, but please think twice before mentioning my name in quotes, because Niels is my human name. You may call me what you like.
    If you quote me as “Dr. Strangelove version 3.0″ or “Professor Newman version 3.0″, several humans will be temporarily cured from stress, by sheer laughter. I will remain Niels whereever I post information.

  22. deciuson 26 Jul 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Living well, eating well, sleeping well, excersizing well, and having naughty fun is probably more efficient than any medicine offered by industry.

    Sure, when you are in good health, that’s precisely what you need, and no medical doctor or “industry” will prescribe you a medicine.
    When you are sick, though, you need a treatment that works. No amount of placebo, good food, and shagging will cure you.

  23. Niels Kjaeron 27 Jul 2008 at 12:01 am

    Definitely, sure, I do it myself, agreed!

    We were discussing something in a context. The context is a hypothetical patient who has symptoms but no diagnosis is available. So it can be psychosomatic or real, but the GP can’t tell. If a diagnosis and a known treatment was available it would be close to criminal even to suggest alternative treatment.

    Some part of industry now a days prescribes cures even for cures. Marketing has a tendency of becoming a circular singlemindedness, thereby starting marketing itself.

    Be aware of “free” products that are expensively marketinged.
    This is how many danes think, and part of the reason why some businesses find Denmark such a unfreindly environment to do business in. Some say it is also due to our gray climate, some say it is due to our Jante law (remember wiki), and some say it is due to our hostility to strangers. It is most likely all of the above. We don’t like circular singlemindedness, which is why politicians appoint “spin doctors”. But the politicians still haven’t understood the point:

    The balance of bi-polarity and circular singlemindedness is a physical quantity which is globally conserved. This is why we all are stubborn. But one can manipulate this balance and locally use bi-polarity where it does most good and circular singlemindedness where it does most good, what ever good means.

    The measurement of the spectrum of bi-polarity and circular singlemindedness via the polarized Raman spectrum is what makes the SimeHealth technology so smart. SimeHealth is undergoing official Danish clinical testing at the moment.
    And it will be available for around 1200US$ in about a year, and the data analysis will be for free on WWW, and I have only academic interest in it (I’m debugging), and no expensive marketing is planned, and don’t believe what I am saying, and my IQ=[bi-polarity*single mindedness], and beware
    you have to use non-commutative von Neumann algebra to compute IQ.

    von Neumann most likely flip-flopped and became a conservative hardliner. That was the only way he could convince the world to think in terms of “MAD”, otherwise somebody probably would have used the damn things already in Korea. von Neumann was so clever that he covered most things in spin, so it is quite challenging to reconstruct history even for me.

    von Neumann did not know the method of assured cross-validation, which is probably why he made quite a few mistakes.
    The Kalman filter was only invented in the 1960′s by another Hungarian. If you put a bi-polar Hungarian, a singleminded American and a complementary Dane together strange things happen. But strange things are also happening in China at the moment.

    Trust but verify!

    (Sorry! Part of this MEME belongs to two presidental blogs, but I haven’t bothered looking for them yet. I am also still debugging myself.)

  24. deciuson 27 Jul 2008 at 8:31 am

    Neil,

    I have been reading your post twice and I found only the first paragraph to be coherent.
    Danish mentality, IQ computation, v. Neumann’s political affiliation and shameless plugging of dubious devices don’t appear to be even tangential to this discussion, as far as I can tell.
    Perhaps I am missing the fil rouge somewhere. Hopefully, the more intelligent readers of this blog will be able to pick it.

    As for the scenario where an hypothetical patient has symptoms, whereas no diagnosis is available, it seems pretty obvious to me that we need better diagnostic tools and not some quack remedy, to solve the problem in any meaningful way.
    If said patient were found to be a hypochondriac, then psychotherapy is readily available.

    Best

  25. Niels Kjaeron 27 Jul 2008 at 9:27 am

    Hi decius,

    “As for the scenario where an hypothetical patient has symptoms, whereas no diagnosis is available, it seems pretty obvious to me that we need better diagnostic tools and not some quack remedy, to solve the problem in any meaningful way. If said patient were found to be a hypochondriac, then psychotherapy is readily available.”

    Yes fully agreed, but until we have the solution to everything, we could act as human beings and not force psychotherapy on every para-normal patient. An unknown fraction of patients labelled as hypochondriac are not hypochondriac, but stressed, depressed, having cancer, etc. etc. It is not easy to diagnose.
    Maybe the easiest solution is to ban the use of the word
    “hypochondriac” and replace it with three diagnoses:
    1) Medicine is clever on this diagnosis.
    2) Patient is clever on this diagnosis.
    3) Nobody is clever on this diagnosis.
    One can assign weights to these 3 diagnoses and take it from there. It might seem like a quack remedy but it is included in SimeHealth and the main reason that it works. It is called complete cross-validation by statisticians.

    This is the main reason that I am not upset by doctors.
    I am a little unhappy that doctors have to put so much effort into writing and reading blogs, instead of surfing around WWW finding the solution themselves. But that is life.

    The other paragraphs are very coherent, but nested. They just generalize the problem in question, and find that it is the same everywhere in nature. Also the solutions are the same.
    Just use wiki and google for the words you do not understand. When I write cryptically (like von Neumann) you will have a hard time understanding me. If I write clearly you will not want to understand me, because it is too simple and therefore embarrasing what I am saying. I am also embarrassed by the simpilicity, this is why I use the cat flap technique. But unlike von Neumann I am completely open about what I do.

    Read your own comment again and ask again. Or did I misunderstand and you really do not want to ask me a question? I see very few questions on these blogs. I see many observations and comments. Why is that? Am I really the only one to ask questions? Does anyone or everyone on this blog have answers to my questions?

    If you don’t want to answer or question it is also fine with me.
    I then just suggest you follow the links. If you do that google will recognize what is going on and make the linking much more efficient for subsequent surfers. I have published a paper on an exact solution to how random networks work, so I have some experience in this field. Having experience in a field often means that when I am wrong, then I am totally wrong.

    Niels

    “3 quacks for muster Mark!”
    “The name of my grandfather is mentioned in Finnegans wake”

  26. Fifion 27 Jul 2008 at 10:03 am

    It seems to me that the biggest market for “at home/online medical testing devices” would be amongst the “worried well” and hypochondriacs (apart from obvious devices for specific, diagnosed needs). I can see why Niels would want to reframe the definition of hypochondria (and be adverse to treating it) since it defines the primary market for these kinds of medical gizmos!

  27. deciuson 27 Jul 2008 at 10:40 am

    Neil,

    thanks for your kind reply.

    You say

    When I write cryptically (like von Neumann) you will have a hard time understanding me. If I write clearly you will not want to understand me, because it is too simple and therefore embarrasing what I am saying. I am also embarrassed by the simpilicity, this is why I use the cat flap technique.

    That’s handy to know. I will follow suit in the hope that it will helps to advance the conversation.

    If one examines von Neumann’s narrative, one is faced with a choice: either accept the paradigm of scholarly consensus or conclude that neural networks may indeed be capable of intentionality.
    A predominant concept, nearly hard-wired in public perception, seems to be the distinction between static and dynamic intentionality. However, some promote the use of a pre-dialectic blended compound of the two, in order to attack and modify a perceived intentional reality. My critique of such a post-conceptual approach suggests that the significance of the participant’s objective is eventually deconstruction, but only if narrative is equal to truth.

    The afore-mentioned paradigm of consensus suggests that the collective is fundamentally elitist, therefore any departure from its implications warrants a careful study, followed by cautious publishing.

    The characteristic theme underlying von Neumann’s works is a self-falsifying paradox. This in itself should be giving us pause. If we are to etch any conclusion in the mind of the lay person, unless we want to stumble upon self-determined failure, we should promote the use of subcultural material theory to read society first, and investigate intentionality later.

    In a nutshell, of course.

    Best

  28. Niels Kjaeron 27 Jul 2008 at 12:19 pm

    “If one examines von Neumann’s narrative, one is faced with a choice: either accept the paradigm of scholarly consensus or conclude that neural networks may indeed be capable of intentionality.”

    I think I understand your point. My answer is to apply the principle of complementarity. If I do that I find that computer brains can only be as clever as humans and only as stupid as humans. So if we humans fix our human problems, it seems impossible for any computer brain to undo this solution. Don’t believe me, the completion of von Neumann algebra (Haagerup 1987) and the observation that our universe is consistent with “SU(3)” is much more convincing than my rantings.
    The third ingredience is the concept of complete cross-validation. “COMPLETE” should be a rarely used word in science.

    The solution to all this is weird: It’s minimization of arrogance.
    This is where the Jante law enters. I have absolutely no plan of publishing my theories in the traditional sense.

    I am not elitist, I am Niels, I have IQ=100, I joke about myself.
    I don’t care too much about my safety, because there are more like me out there. THAT IS LIFE. I have fun doing this.

    “I shell nuts before eating them.”

  29. deciuson 27 Jul 2008 at 12:28 pm

    I think I understand your point.

    You see, that worries me a lot, because I said absolutely nothing, there.

    It was an exercise in post-modern obscurantism absolutely devoid of meaning with words randomly generated.

    Thanks for proving my actual point.

  30. Niels Kjaeron 27 Jul 2008 at 12:39 pm

    “It seems to me that the biggest market for “at home/online medical testing devices” would be amongst the “worried well” and hypochondriacs (apart from obvious devices for specific, diagnosed needs). I can see why Niels would want to reframe the definition of hypochondria (and be adverse to treating it) since it defines the primary market for these kinds of medical gizmos!”

    I think I completely follow with your reasoning.

    There is no (I hope! I have not directly asked the inventors) plan to first sell SimeHealth to the general public. SimeHealth is under the official scrutiny by the highest medical authority in Denmark. Otherwise, I would not have touched “SimeHealth”. So don’t buy anything from SimeHealth before the official approved results are made public. Everything goes through the official channels. What I am doing is just adding a bit of dangerous mercury to the process. Mercury has a tendency of speeding anything up. Let me know if you think that adding virtual mercury to a virtual process is unethical!

    To be very down to earth. If there is no interest in SimeHealth it will take up to 3 years before it reaches general market in the US. If somebody shows virtual interest things will speed up.
    Don’t use your money, think!

    My main interest is not SimeHealth, it is WorldHealth, and that, I tell you, is more difficult to sell for free!

  31. Niels Kjaeron 27 Jul 2008 at 1:00 pm

    “Thanks for proving my actual point.”

    “I think I understand your point” is a word play constructed in
    order to be less arrogant than saying “I understand your point”
    If I said “I don’t understand your point” I would also “prove your point”. Please grow up and drop the word games if you want grownup information.

    That is my real problem: I can prove anybody’s point. So nobody will trust me.

    But my problem is my life, and I enjoy it. You point in whatever direction you like.

    What matters is if it works. That is why complete cross-validation is important. Completion defines our universe.

    One completion is random words, others you choose your self. I minimize arrogance, so random words seem for appropriate to me.

    As usual, I am probably wrong.

    Why are nobody asking questions around here?

    I think decius can follow this rant. Don’t try to follow if you don’t want to. It only leads to submeta babbles. I am not sure if Temple is happy about such babbles. Temple never asks questions, Temple knows. I am not out to get anyone embarrased, except myself.

  32. Fifion 27 Jul 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Niels – Yes, I think we all understand that you’re trying to get people interested in a commercial product. It’s clear you’re trying to start a buzz. It’s a good marketing claim that the Danish government is considering buying the product but do you have evidence you can present that this is even true? (And it’s not surprising that SimeHealth would be interested in a large government contract and the cachet this would give them when marketing to others.) To be very down to earth, is this really the right place to be looking for funding and promoting an unproven gadget?

  33. deciuson 27 Jul 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Geez.

    I called what you said earlier “incoherent”. You objected to this.

    Then I deliberately posted something utterly and completely incoherent.

    My point was that I could be equally incoherent and it would fly right over your head.

    QED

  34. Fifion 27 Jul 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Niels – Refusing to talk directly and clearly actually seems quite arrogant to me if one is capable of doing so since it’s quite clearly self indulgent.

  35. Niels Kjaeron 27 Jul 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Niels – Refusing to talk directly and clearly actually seems quite arrogant to me if one is capable of doing so since it’s quite clearly self indulgent.

    I agree! Ask me directly any question please! If you don’t I will apply the ultimate self indulgent solution and simply disappear from this blog. In this way I make sure I can’t win;-)

    “In other words: Grow up!”

  36. Fifion 27 Jul 2008 at 1:30 pm

    It’s a good marketing claim that the Danish government is considering buying the product but do you have evidence you can present that this is even true?

    To be very down to earth, is this really the right place to be looking for funding and promoting an unproven gadget?

  37. Niels Kjaeron 27 Jul 2008 at 1:34 pm

    decius:

    What you say, Goedel proved more than seventy years ago. I concur with Goedel but I am not at as alternative intelligent as Goedel was.

    (blogowner: let me know when/if you want me back again)
    Fifi and decius might be imaginary. Niels is not, so I leave when I am not welcome.

    ;-)

  38. Fifion 27 Jul 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Niels – Um, are you really saying that you’re “minimizing arrogance” and then asking the blog authors to pay special attention to you?

    I have no issue with you participating here. You seemed to be promoting a product and wanting to use this as a venue to do so. You were honest about this, which I appreciate (even if it may not be the appropriate place to be trying to promote unproven medical devices). You said ask questions, I did. Now you’re proposing that I “might be imaginary” as a means to avoid answering the questions! Now that’s arrogance – assuming oneself to be real and others to be merely imaginary!

  39. Niels Kjaeron 27 Jul 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Sorry Fifi!

    language is not easy! Having to respond to two comment is not trivial to me. The blog-authors can do whatever they like, and I will be happy. Is that arrogance from my part? Maybe, but please lead me in a direction where you think I can be less arrogant. I am not selling ideas, I place ideas which we humans can ignore if we like to.

    I know I’m real, and I meet real people.
    On WWW, others have to show themselves as reals. So, I have a very strong inclination to think that Fifi is also real.

    But I am only the real Niels, with a bit of experience in WWW and reality.

  40. Fifion 27 Jul 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Niels – What seemed arrogant to me was the appeal to the blog authors to treat you as special. If it makes no difference to you whether the blog authors want you here or not, it’s an odd thing to do since as an action it contradicts what you claim for yourself.

    I have no desire to “lead” you, it’s up to you to be responsible for how your words and actions align (to have integrity). As a general rule, people only get conned by the same con they’re selling (usually to themselves) or an unrealistic dream/desire so you may want to consider thanking decius for pointing out an area where this may be the case for you. A bit of self honesty can go a long way in keeping us realistic about our own abilities (neither humility nor arrogance are particularly realistic), which is a good way to avoid false humility and arrogance.

  41. weingon 27 Jul 2008 at 9:58 pm

    This all sounds like something from “We’re all Bozos on this Bus”. Excuse, don’t excuse me, but you’re making, not making, me unhappy, happy.

  42. Roy Nileson 27 Jul 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Self-honesty is a rational form of emotional self-delusion.

  43. Niels Kjaeron 27 Jul 2008 at 10:22 pm

    Thanx Fifi,

    I wish to apologize to Fifi! I think I got trapped by trying to answer two questions at the same time. This is probably what complementarity is about. I try not to get trapped by doing the same mistake twice. I realize that I still have an infinite number of mistakes to make, but that’s life.

    I still wish to be so arrogant that I will let decius think what decius thinks. QED

    I think I will prefer going back and make theories on more realistic topics like Autism, ADHD, and how the brain really works. But they might not be real either, so should I only discuss complex measurements and cross-validation?
    I hope that many realize that my thoughts are not original, I just mix things taken from WWW.

    Niels, who can be considered to be a complex human being, like everyone else.

  44. MCRISLIPon 28 Jul 2008 at 12:44 am

    An interesting take:

    http://www.badscience.net/2008/07/blame-everyone-but-yourselves/

  45. tooth fairyon 28 Jul 2008 at 1:21 am

    YAY something different to autism :) not that i don’t feel that’s important but i was lacking the daily info fix i normally get.

  46. Niels Kjaeron 28 Jul 2008 at 7:06 am

    i think i am an Autist and a bad Scientist” !? ”
    i think You are Laurel and Hardy” ?! ”

    I do not like to write in a bad Scientist blog.
    I like to write in autistic blogs.
    ” ” “I am unintelligible in all languages!” “Am I stupid?” ” ”

    Look up Victor Borge on wiki.
    Nobody ever dreamt of calling Victor Borge bi-polar.
    Very few took a closer look to what “Victor” “Borge” means litteraly. It was simply to obvious.

    I think, grow up please!

    I can call myself Niels, but my real name is Niels Jørgen Kjær.
    My fathers name is Jørgen and I had a “crazy” uncle on my mothers side called Niels. My grandfathers name Hjalmar Kjær
    is mentioned in Finnegans Wake. My family name means something like “amenable” in Danish. Why don’t you change the name of your blog or your blogger? Then we could stop scaring humans interested in reading this blog.

    You may even call me Jørgen Niels if you like. I used to hate people who did that to me. Now I think I understand and giggle.

    My shortest name is ” ” “M” or “.0.”
    My longest name is WWW and MMM.

    You can misuse my name in any way you wish.
    I do not like to misuse names myself. But I am also a bit naughty sometimes, and my attention is worse when I do not take my ADHD medicine.

    If you want me to write on a mad scientist blog, just ask, and I will stop writing on your blog. I have danish blogs, but I don’t like to become restricted. The only thing I do not understand is how to create my own blog. I hope nobody will tell me how.

    On my own blog I would only discuss boring things like complicated measurements of the value of .0. and how to cross-validate that measurement. The name of my virtual blog would probably be something like “oring”. Not “one ring” “oring”.
    “ring” has many meanings in danish. All of those meanings relate to amenability. If something is good we danes tend to call it not too ring. Your blog is not too ring, What you call you blog is up to you.

    I bozo, can bozo as long as I bozo can.
    When feedback stops I leave this blog, giggling.

    Autistic ADHD medicine anyone?
    Speed?
    Dexamphetamine? (I take a tiny amount in the morning of weekdays)
    “Three quarks for muster Mark!”

    I can always go back and drive taxi as I have done before.
    There I tend to meet interesting people. But passengers are often stressed in day time and drunk in the evening. What vehicle does doctors normally use? oring normally prescribes a combination of small amounts of naughty power drugs and large amounts of sensible drugs.

    One of the important software (AI) parts of Simehealth is called SOUL, I think I will gently suggest that the inventors change that name. It could easily be misunderstood outside Denmark.
    Hopefully the inventors will be reluctant to make that change.
    “Sime” is healthy, because it is an obscure ancient viking name for duality and can not be misunderstood in indoeuropean countries. The Hungarians will probably refuse to give it any name and call it ” ” or vN. My family has ties to Charles Simoniy, and I am sure he has some very bright ideas, if we ask him.
    The arabs will give SimeHealth their own name, maybe “fichu” from french honoring Alain Connes and meaning crazy in French and another name for headscarf honoring El Naschie. “Headscarf” means dual protection in arabic. My understanding of arabic language is however extremely poor.
    The chinese will give SimeHealth their own name, something probably relating to Mercury and 888. Chinese are more clever to wordgames than I am. Otherwise they would not have survived.
    Marketing is unhealthy, branding is healthy.
    Branding hurts if applied to humans.

    Why are you branding you?

  47. Fifion 28 Jul 2008 at 7:55 am

    “Sure, understanding today’s complex world of the future is a little like having bees live in your head. But, there they are.” – Chester Cadaver.

    I’ll leave Niels to tend to his bees and promotional mission.

    “Self-honesty is a rational form of emotional self-delusion.” – Roy Niles.

    Yeah, that’s why I brought up the external measure of words aligning with actions. Self delusion is always possible (and probable), self awareness helps somewhat in practicing self discernment (as does the ability to hear and absorb what others are saying).

  48. Roy Nileson 28 Jul 2008 at 2:31 pm

    I am self-satisfied by that explanation.

  49. Fifion 28 Jul 2008 at 2:59 pm

    *hands Roy a tissue and looks away…..slides the whole box in Niels’ general direction while keeping eyes averted until everyone’s put their ego back in their pants*

  50. Roy Nileson 28 Jul 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Self-ego envy?

  51. Fifion 28 Jul 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Not at all, my ego self inflates to be much bigger than it looks in the cold light of logic. I swear! You don’t believe me? I challenge you to go head to head to sort out who’s got the biggest ego after all! ;-)

  52. Roy Nileson 28 Jul 2008 at 4:06 pm

    You mean two heads aren’t always better than one?

  53. Niels Kjaeron 28 Jul 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Thanx girls and guys!

    I owe you my complements.

    I did not reply because I have been too busy making non-sense of my own rantings. It is simply not enough just to have bright ideas to be in harmony. I plan to continue developing my intentional selfware. I know that intentional software exists, and it will hopefully be better than the XP my computer is nearly running on. WYTIWYG seems to contain too many letters.

    Nearly all egos are size 100, it is how they interact with other egos that counts. Flip-flopping from circular flip-flopping to bi-polar flip-flopping is what keeps my bees busy. My bi-polar ego just looks too big to my circular ego.

    Don’t forget that Kalman filters are so smart that they can keep track of themselves. I don’t think self discernment will be appreciated easily at CERN, unless CERN is known to play a part in the invention of MMM as well. So I thought that
    a Center which used to be European and which Researches N, where N stands for Neurons, Networks, and Numbers, might be brandable in the future.

    I’ll go and write Rainman version 3.0…

    There is no reason to stay incognito unless I already know you as a freind;-)

    Niels, this world’s smallest hub. Small hubs can even use outside viruses to grow even smaller. That seems to be a complex speciality of some sort.

    Niels living and breathing from complex feedback. I hope this is mutual.

  54. Roy Nileson 28 Jul 2008 at 9:01 pm

    Self-discernment can lead to self-deprecation that has no known limits in a self-organized quantum universe, cross-validation not withstanding..

  55. Diane Henryon 28 Jul 2008 at 9:39 pm

    So…Niels….WTF?
    Am I the only person who can’t understand your posts? I feel like I’ve crossed to a different universe…

  56. Niels Kjaeron 29 Jul 2008 at 2:08 am

    “Self-discernment can lead to self-deprecation that has no known limits in a self-organized quantum universe, cross-validation not withstanding..”

    I think it is a wordgame. If you are imaginary you are imaginary. And so what. Sure you can have your NREC, but I think NREC should fund itself probably using cupping technologies. That is my limit known to you.

    I made these games in high school when I got bored. My name Niels Jørgen Kjær reads Sjælen øjner krig. This is danish for “the soul eyeth war”, but already then I understood the nature of exponentation. You cannot tell if a word game is real or not. Therefore, it is non-amendable and so what. Sudoko is just as meaningful as word games. On the other hand, solving X-words
    is amendable as long as the author is. Therefore I only plan to be moderately bored by these wordgames, as long it is interaction with other non-self-discerned humans.

    Will noone never indigest this woman desert?

  57. Roy Nileson 29 Jul 2008 at 4:33 am

    What I was pointing out is that you can never split a hair so thin that there is nothing left of the hair.

  58. [...] Steven Novella, neurolog, har skivit ett utmärkt blogginlägg om episoden och för den intresserade kan jag även rekommendera bloggen Science Based Medicine [...]

  59. Niels Kjaeron 29 Jul 2008 at 3:41 pm

    OK Roy, you are right

    there is no reason to spilt when there is no natural reason to spilt.
    I will split from here and relax.

    Niels

  60. Niels Kjaeron 30 Jul 2008 at 7:37 am

    So…Niels….WTF?
    Am I the only person who can’t understand your posts? I feel like I’ve crossed to a different universe…

    I think you are the most sane person around here!
    And I do not wish to cure your sanity like most people around here seem to. In other blogs where I come very few listen at all to what I trysay. It seems like Danes have a tendency to create polarization where ever we go, which I do not find healty.

    One possibility is that it is due to wordgames playing a stupid role like:
    DNA = Do Not Ask or Answer (word create 1950)
    DAN = MAKE
    DAN = (D)judge
    AND = A non Dane

    Are we really reading this nonsense from words? But moving
    letters do change the CP symmetry of a PC word. Are polarized ghosts passing through our eyes as simply as that? And is it possible to disprove this nonsense hypothesis?
    I feel that humanity is getting stressed at the moment due to polarization effects, which I personally find dangerous specially if it spreads outside WWW to physical life. Real humans get really hurt.
    It used to be right-left bi-polarisation and now it is more up-down bi-polarisation. Circular polarization remains circular.
    In my view all polarizations are equally fine. It is what is called life I think.

    Steven Novella: Is it possible that a soothing moving pattern could have a similar polarization effect? I am trying to understand. At same time I am checking how the many D-vitamines affect our feelings. It looks to me that D-vitamine is a growth hormone which then should have a complicated spectrum of wave lengths.

  61. budduccion 31 Jul 2008 at 10:23 am

    Unfortunately this happens regularly among long distance athletes, the type that do Iron Man triathlons and run distances greater than the marathon. People die from this every year by accident in sporting events, we certainly don’t need quacks making this happen to people.

    It’s a very easy condition to prevent, but conversely very hard to treat. My understanding is that once diagnosed, the doctors can only try to keep you alive long enough that your body recovers.

  62. [...] quackery is made that there are no dangers or side effects from the treatment itself. As has been pointed out in other places a modality that affects biological systems is unlikely to be all benefit. If there is an effect [...]

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