The Crackpot Continuum

Note: I am totally disgusted with trying to write this post coherently, and I don’t have time to do a rewrite, so I’m shamelessly posting this because I feel that there might be some worth to be found in this ramble – my apologies to the English language, as well as every English Composition teacher I ever had. – LCC

I’ve meant to write on this topic for a long time, but I haven’t gotten around to it.

I have long been – if not an actual member, a close follower of the ‘skeptical movement’. Among the things that these folks do, they debunk bad science, pseudo-science, and other ‘new-age’ BS that wraps scientific mumbo-jumbo around total nonsense and hopes no one notices.

There are a number of links for these groups – there are two magazines (at least last I checked – they might not survive the current economic collapse): – written in a ‘popular magazine’ style and accessible to the casual reader. – written in a more scholarly style. If you are used to reading scientific research, you won’t have a problem here, but it’s not light reading.

There are also other websites that I use as references:

These are both places where I go when I hear of new ‘therapies’ of any sort. I like my science ‘reality-based’ and there are a lot of ‘doctors’ out there that just don’t pass the ‘sniff test’ for their remarkable claims.

Why I bring this up in a blog about low carb is because low carb is frequently lumped in with this stuff – here’s the Quackwatch link on low carb:

I read this post BEFORE going on low carb. If you read my about page, I discuss the fact that I went on Atkins to prove to a friend that it didn’t work – and lost 80 lbs.

Does this invalidate these sites?

Absolutely not.

I’ve written about the ‘foundation of doubt’ – that I take a position where I am skeptical of all my conclusions – and everybody else’s. Someone said: ‘a conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking’. I think this is funny, but as I get older, I also believe this is more and more true.

I don’t believe everything they believe – obviously, if they think low carb doesn’t work, they haven’t met me.

I also don’t believe everything I read in the low carb community, because some of it is plain junk.

Here’s one example. I get Dr. Mercola’s Newsletter. He’s a doctor performing in the low carb arena, and a lot of his information is good.

Some, in my opinion, not so good, however. Here’s an example from his site discussing the eating of raw foods. Is eating raw foods good for you? I think it’s possible – certainly there are studies saying that high temperatures and blackened meats are BAD for you, so raw food as a health tactic seems reasonable. It’s also said that sometimes cooking is good for you – lycopene – the ingredient in tomatoes that supposedly has a myriad of benefits, is more bio-available in cooked tomatoes than in raw tomatoes, so again, another general rule bites the dust.

Dr Mercola outlines the benefits of raw food this in his article, which you can read here.

In the article, he brings up a number of reasons for raw food, then throws this one in:

Cooked food also contains no biophotons, the light particles or “stored sun energy” that exists in raw foods. Biophotons contain important bio-information, which controls complex vital processes in your body. The biophotons have the power to order and regulate, and, in doing so, to elevate the organism — in this case, your physical body — to a higher oscillation or order. This is manifested as a feeling of vitality and well-being.

Biophotons?!? Sounds impressive. Problem is, the notion of biophotons goes back to science done in Stalinist Russia in the 1920 and 1930s – this was a time in history where science was perverted in the name of ideology.

Dr. Mercola, give me a break – there is not a shred of science in this paragraph from your article – it’s a string of ‘new age’ nonsense. Where’s the real research?

Now…he’s a DOCTOR…I am but a schmuck. What do I base my conclusion on?

My interest in skepticism brought me to read a lot of ‘crackpot’ literature – readings from the truly unhinged. Here’s some fun reading:

Go surf those links for a while, read some of the gobbledygook that people attempt to pass off as ‘science’ – then come back and read that paragraph again.

See the similarities?

OK – you don’t agree with me. That’s OK – dissent is allowed here. You might want to go to this site and buy your own biophoton analyzer – only $1795:

Actually, I’d love to own one of these Biophoton analyzers – they would make a great conversation piece, or be great fun at a party. Read the specs for the Matrix 3 version:

  • The ABPA AM3 determines the amount of energy/information to send to the subject. This is determined by the ABPA AM3’s ability to lock onto the available mineral base of the subject. This allows the hardware to properly balance the subject without causing undue stress on the energetic or physical system.
  • Antidote setting. Used to analyze the substance in the Substance Well and create an energetic pattern that will eliminate the energetic effects of that substance with the subject.
  • Clone setting. Used to analyze and create an exact energetic copy of the substance in the Substance Well.
  • Neutralize setting. Used to analyze the substance in the Substance Well and balance the erratic and destabilizing aspects of the energetic fields of the substance.
  • Balance setting. Used to analyze the substance in the Substance Well and create a smoother energetic effect within the substance.
  • Sending Unit switch. Used to send the energy and information it creates over great distances. To date, we have found excellent results sending from the United States to as far away as New Zealand. This means the ABPA AM3 has the same reach and abilities as the SE-5.
  • Plant switch. While using the Sending Unit, specify the frequency for plants to make the ABPA AM3 even more beneficial.
  • Animal switch. While using the Sending Unit, specify the frequency for animals to make the ABPA AM3 even more beneficial.
  • Inherited Intrinsic Data Field (IDF) switch. This switch is turned on if a Miasm is present or suspected. The Instrument tags the Miasm so the physical body is aware of it and allows the body the time to properly deal with it. (A Miasm is referred to as being an inherited energetic pattern from your parents, grandparents or somewhere else within your genetic pool.)
  • Chemical Sensitive switch. This switch is used if the subject of your research is chemical or environmentally sensitive. This allows the ABPA AM3 to gently adjust the energetic patterns of the subject. (Our customers have seen some dramatic changes with the use of the ABPA AM3 and chemically sensitive people. Reports of changes within hours of receiving the ABPA AM3 are not uncommon.)
  • Dampening Field switch. Is used to eliminate any and all energetic interference from around the subject. Just imagine, no more interference from the energetic patterns that permeate our environment. For the Health Professional, this can be a most useful tool, as they know first hand the problems that they can pick up from their clients.

I’m sorry – I could go on and on here. I love this stuff (I wonder if I could get one of these cheap on eBay?)

The point of this is, in my humble opinion, this is nonsense wrapped in some science lingo.

So – is Dr. Mercola a quack for blathering on about biophotons? To extend this: is Atkins a quack based on the Quackwatch article? Is my own personal physician – a very ‘by the book’ traditional western medicine sort of doc – a quack?

I think the answer to all three is ‘yes and no’.

Rocket Scientists Aren’t All That Smart

The term ‘rocket scientist’ is used to convey the notion that a person is very intelligent, but I once read someone comment that rocket science is relatively easy – especially in comparison with biology. Atoms are simple in comparison to the complex organic molocules that make up a living organism – and the interactions between all these complex organic molecules that somehow make us walk and talk and bitch about the weather are so unbelieveably complex that it’s almost pointless to even try to understand the whole.

The science of medicine is WAY harder than being a rocket scientist.

Medicine must be understood to be an art, rather than a science. Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, said himself:

“Life is short, [the] art long, opportunity fleeting, experiment treacherous, judgment difficult.”

Nothing has changed since this was written around 400 BC.

A more modern medical aphorism I’ve heard numerous times in different forms conveys just how hard it is to have inalienable truth in medicine – here’s one version I found in an article I found on the website of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA):

“The wonderful thing about medical school is that science progresses so fast that half of what we teach you will be disproved within three years of your graduation-the problem is that we don’t know which half!”

So we come back to the three doctors mentioned above: my personal physician, Atkins, and Dr. Mercola.

Fact is: each one of them is right about some things, wrong about others. This will always be so – about any doctor: the wise ones know this and are humble in the fact.

Some aren’t so humble. A lack of humility is a common human fraility, and can be forgiven – bad science shouldn’t be.

So What’s Your Point?

We’re all crackpots to some extent. We all lie somewhere along the ‘crackpot continuum’.

Problem is: most of us don’t know where we lie in this continuum. Some quacks know what they are doing is fraud – some genuinely believe in what they peddle.

I personally thought Atkins was a total crackpot when I started my low carb diet – then I lost almost 90 lbs. (at one point) and had to revise my notions of ‘crackpot’.

You don’t lose 90 lbs. due to some ‘placebo effect’.

I personally get the feeling from my current physician that he thinks low carb is a crackpot idea. I also have to live my life as described in my post ‘Crazy Uncle Larry‘ – people who know I do low carb show the same kind of curious wariness that an Amway distributor or a person who believes deeply in the healing power of crystals might get.

If I counted calories, or went to Weight Watchers, I’d be mainstream. Low carb is fringe behavior for most people.

But fringe doesn’t necessarily mean I believe in biophotons, OKAY?


2 thoughts on “The Crackpot Continuum

  1. Really, this kind of article is why I keep reading your blog and why I always loved it. I’m a skeptic and an atheist and have found success eating lower-carbohydrate – and it’s tough tough to figure out what filters to use for your information when they always have that one loopy idea that they promote.

    And then you don’t want to show their work to friends to try to show them evidence, because they’ll dismiss it all as quackery.

    All we can do is keep trying to look at *all* the studies with as critical an eye as we can and watch for our own biases. Tough to do sometimes.

  2. You needn’t have apologized for any of the above. When I saw the Mercola biophoton comment I thought to myself, “That’s about as lame as it gets.”

    If it’s OK to say this, I’m a skeptic and a believer. I’m especially skeptical of explanations made up out of thin air like hypotheses of origins. I refuse to call them theories because their veracity cannot be tested with any sort of science currently at our disposal.

    I’m inserting evolution into the discussion because it is a prime example of an explanation that is widely embraced as TRUTH. But if you pay close attention, you’ll notice the apologetic literature of evolution is heavily laced with speculation, superlative, and comment regarding consensus of opinion, authority, and weight of evidence; as if the number of people who believe something, their standing in the scientific community, and the amount of data accumulated were all that mattered.

    Another thing to watch out for is the word “obviously.” For example, the idea that consuming lots of fat causes obesity may appeal to our sense of the obvious, but it oversimplifies the matter as LCC’s experiment with the Atkins diet demonstrates.

    There are some interesting parallels between evolutionary commentary and literature produced by proponents of the low-fat approach. Daniel Steinberg’s writing is saturated with superlative and speculation.,M1

    A young friend, currently an atheist sent me this: So I sent him this:

    In my experience, people who try to resolve controversies are rare. And people interested in nutritional controversies, such as the low-fat/ low-carb war of words, are in extremely short supply. Guess that’s why I keep an eye on this blog.

    Two thumbs up for this post.

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