Monday, January 25, 2010

A Response to Mike "The Health Ranger" Adams

Once in a while I listen to a Truther radio show, and one of the host's favourite guests is this strange old woman who spews stream-of-consciousness rants about the perfidy of the FDA, the ADA, the CDC, and pretty much every other health agency on the planet. She reserves particular venom for Morris Fishbein, because he exposed the utter worthlessness of Rife devices (and the bogus goat gland implants of Dr. Brinkley). She expresses deep and abiding adoration for Mike "The Health Ranger" Adams, a frequent Jones guest who writes for Natural News (the home of all quackery). Listening to her insane childish bullshit this week, I suddenly remembered that I wrote a response to Adams' article "What Skeptics Really Believe", which was posted at Infowars earlier this year. Here it is. (Adams' words are in bold. He claims to have taken each and every one of the "beliefs" from actual skeptic blogs.)

• Skeptics believe that ALL vaccines are safe and effective (even if they’ve never been tested), that ALL people should be vaccinated, even against their will, and that there is NO LIMIT to the number of vaccines a person can be safely given. So injecting all children with, for example, 900 vaccines all at the same time is believed to be perfectly safe and “good for your health.” Wow. That is just wrong. Whoever believes this is not a skeptic, but a complete lunatic. Of course you shouldn't administer untested vaccines, or give a child 900 inoculations all at the same time (first of all, the poor kid would turn as swollen and purple as Violet Beauregard).

• Skeptics believe that fluoride chemicals derived from the scrubbers of coal-fired power plants are really good for human health. Only in very small quantities, and only for a specific reason (dental health). No true skeptic would ever suggest that you chug the stuff, because it is a toxic chemical.

• Skeptics believe that many six-month-old infants need antidepressant drugs. What?! Who the hell would say that? Where are the studies showing that children who can't even walk yet can suffer clinical depression?

• Skeptics believe that the human body has no ability to defend itself against invading microorganism and that the only things that can save people from viral infections are vaccines. Skeptics understand the value of natural immunity perfectly well, thank you, but we've also embraced these crazy newfangled ideas like herd immunity, public health measures, and not letting people die from preventable diseases.

• Skeptics believe that pregnancy is a disease and childbirth is a medical crisis. (They are opponents of natural childbirth.) Okay, skeptics, which one of you said that pregnancy is a disease? Step forward and confess, or I'll punish the whole class. Last I checked, method of childbirth was an individual choice. Skeptics don't hand out position papers demanding that women avoid natural childbirth, and non-skeptics can (and do) choose to have epidurals or C-sections.

• Skeptics do not believe in hypnosis. Generally, that's true. Or rather, skeptics believe that hypnosis has not yet been shown to have consistent therapeutic value. We do believe that you can hypnotize certain people and convince them that they're pirates or chickens for a few minutes.

• Skeptics believe that there is no such thing as human consciousness. They do not believe in the mind; only in the physical brain. Tomato, tomahto. I will admit, though, that human consciousness is a hell of a lot harder to define or examine than the physical brain, so skeptics often leave it to the philosophers and theologians to figure out. It certainly doesn't belong in the realm of hard science.

• Skeptics believe that DEAD foods have exactly the same nutritional properties as LIVING foods (hilarious!). Even as someone who avoids processed foods and doesn't eat meat, I have no idea what Adams means by "living foods". Food typically has to be dead - or at least on its last legs - before you can eat it. You could chew on apples while they're still on the tree, or dig your way down to a carrot to take a very dirty bite out of it, or cram a salmon into your mouth before it stops wriggling, but that's just not very convenient. Or hygienic. Or sane. I think we can all agree, though, that some foods are more "dead" than other foods; a deep-fried Monte Cristo at Denny's has been "dead" a lot longer than lightly steamed broccoli from your local farmer's market, and there's no arguing that these two things don't have the same nutritional properties.

• Skeptics believe that pesticides on the crops are safe, genetically modified foods are safe, and that any chemical food additive approved by the FDA is also safe. There is no advantage to buying organic food, they claim. While I do believe that GMOs could have huge benefits for mankind if handled properly, I buy organic and generally stay away from additives. Not because they're deadly or anything, but because they're not a necessary addition to my diet.

• Skeptics believe that water has no role in human health other than basic hydration. Water is inert, they say, and the water your toilet is identical to water from a natural spring (assuming the chemical composition is the same, anyway). Well, yeah, water is water. It has the same chemical composition all the time. It's the stuff you add to it that makes the difference. Spring water usually has fewer impurities than tapwater, but what if that spring is in Chernobyl? Well water may be "natural", but it might also contain more fluorine than your tapwater. As for "structured water", Kabbala water, "super-hydrating" water, Emoto water, and holy water - it's still just water.

• Skeptics believe that all the phytochemicals and nutrients found in ALL plants are inert, having absolutely no benefit whatsoever for human health. (The ignorance of this intellectual position is breathtaking…) Uh, yes, nutrients are indeed inert. But they are essential for human health nonetheless. They don't have to be "living" to do their job in the human body. It would be breathtakingly ignorant to say that nutrients have no benefit for human health, but I don't know any skeptics who would.

• Skeptics believe that the moon has no influence over life on Earth. Pfft. We all acknowledge the Moon's magnetic influence on the tides and migration patterns, which are major factors for all life on the planet. So, yeah, we believe the Moon has influence over Earth. Skeptics might not agree that it affects human emotional states, though, because the evidence for such influence is dodgy at best.

• Skeptics believe that the SUN has no role in human health other than to cause skin cancer. They completely deny any healing abilities of light. Dude. Now you're just pissing me off. Of course skeptics acknowledge the sun's role in human health. Hell, not just health - life. Photosynthesis? Vitamin D? But unlike numerous non-skeptics (like Alex Jones), we also acknowledge that baking the shit out of your epidermis isn't healthy. Nor do we think that sunscreen causes skin cancer, as Jones does.

• Skeptics believe that Mother Nature is incapable of synthesizing medicines. Now that's just cute. I"m picturing Mother Nature in her calico apron, twiddling with flasks in a cozy lab full of roots, berries, and mushrooms. But seriously, there are some marvelous natural medicines out there - it's just that not everything packaged and sold as a natural product is necessarily good for you. Be selective.

• Skeptics do not believe in intuition. They believe that mothers cannot “feel” the emotions of their infants at a distance. They write off all such “psychic” events as mere coincidence. Generally, this is quite true. Skeptics aren't big fans of paranormal superpower claims that rely on anecdotal evidence. However, I know that if you caught a few skeptics off guard, they'd admit they secretly think there could be something to mother's intuition and other forms of nonverbal communication. I suggest buying them a few drinks.

• Skeptics believe that all healing happens from the outside, from doctors and technical interventions. They do not believe that patients have any ability to heal themselves. Nope, skeptics don't believe in faith healing. Not because we believe the body is just a machine that only a mechanic can fix, but because faith healing just plain doesn't work and we don't want people to die because they thought they could pray or visualize their way out of a life-threatening illness. For example, look at this list of people - including children - who have died from treatable conditions after they or their parents chose prayer over healthcare. Even God is probably wondering why they didn't just go to a damn hospital.

• Skeptics believe that cell phone radiation poses absolutely no danger to human health. Correct. It's just simple science. Well, alright, it's not simple, but it is understandable if you can grasp the basic physical principles of radiation.

• Skeptics believe that aspartame and artificial chemical sweeteners can be consumed in unlimited quantities with no ill effects. Dude, I don't think anything can be consumed in "unlimited quantities" without ill effect. You can't even do that with water. I only believe that moderate use of artificial sweeteners is not a health risk, provided you're not allergic.

• Skeptics believe that human beings were born deficient in synthetic chemicals and that the role of pharmaceutical companies is to “restore” those deficiencies in humans by convincing them to swallow patented pills. I have no idea what you're talking about here, Mr. Adams. Are you referring to Flintstone vitamins or something? If so, then I'll agree with you that children with nutrient-dense, varied diets probably don't need any supplements. And I also know that I don't know very many children with nutrient-dense, varied diets.

Skeptics believe that you can take unlimited pharmaceuticals, be injected with an unlimited number of vaccines, expose yourself to unlimited medical imaging radiation, consume an unlimited quantity of chemicals in processed foods and expose yourself to an unlimited quantity of environmental chemical toxins with absolutely no health effects whatsoever! That's just weird. Where did you find these skeptics, Mr. Adams? In locked-down psych wards?

• Skeptics aren’t skeptical about the corruption and dishonesty in the pharmaceutical industry. They believe whatever the drug companies say, without asking a single intelligent question. Whoa there! Who do you think got Ephedrin, Laetrile, Vioxx, and about a gazillion other harmful pharmaceutical products off the market? Skeptics, that's who. True skeptics go where the evidence leads, not where the pharmaceutical or alternative health industries want us to go.

• Skeptics aren’t skeptical about medical journals. They believe whatever they read in those journals, even when much of it turns out to be complete science fraud. You mean like Andrew Wakefield's discredited Lancet article on the nonexistent link between measles and autism, which was funded by mass tort attorneys looking to make mad money out of childhood disorders that have no known cause? Yeah, we're not skeptical about that stuff at all.

• Skeptics aren’t skeptical about the profit motive of the pharmaceutical industry. They believe that drug companies are motivated by goodwill, not by profits. Ha. Speak for your damn self, whoever said this.

• Skeptics aren’t skeptical about the motivations and loyalties of the FDA. They will swallow, inject or use any product that’s FDA approved, without a single reasonable thought about the actual safety of those products. No, but I certainly won't swallow or inject any drug or food item that's been rejected by the FDA.

• Skeptics aren’t skeptical about the safety of synthetic chemicals used in the food supply. They just swallow whatever poisons the food companies dump into the foods. Frankly, this is true of just about everybody. I've seen many a non-skeptic and skeptic alike stuff his face with Cheesy Poofs, brightly coloured candies, sugar-laden "peanut butter" on white bread, then wash it all down with an energy drink containing roughly the same amount of stimulants as an entire Columbian mountainside. You're right, Mr. Adams. It isn't pretty.

• Skeptics aren’t skeptical about the mass-drugging agenda of the psychiatric industry which wants to diagnose everyone with some sort of “mental” disorder. Again, speak for yourself, whoever said this. Skeptics and non-skeptics alike are highly concerned about the overmedication of the populace.

• Skeptics aren’t skeptical about mercury fillings. What harm could mercury possibly do anyway? If the ADA says they’re safe, they must be! Whatever the ADA's opinion on this, who the hell even has mercury fillings anymore? Besides, if you weren't so freaking terrified of your tapwater, maybe you wouldn't have many cavities to fill...

• Skeptics aren’t skeptical about the demolition-style collapse of the World Trade Center 7 building on September 11, 2001 — a building that was never hit by airplanes... Controlled demolition experts and the vast majority of structural engineers aren't skeptical about it, either. I'll go with their opinions for now.

• Skeptics aren’t skeptical about the safety of non-stick cookware, or the dangers of cleaning chemicals in the home, or the contamination of indoor air with chemical fumes from carpets, paints and particle board furniture. To the skeptics, the more chemicals, the better! Not quite. Some skeptics, like myself, are into "green cleaning", using natural products that we can actually recognize, like vinegar and baking soda. They smell better, they're less expensive than brand-name cleaning products, and you don't have to worry about your children and pets ingesting or inhaling them.

In short, skeptics don't have some sort of hive mind. Just like non-skeptics, we trust our own judgement - it's just that we usually have the facts in our favour.


Eugene said...

Sounds like the "Health Ranger" gets his "skeptic" opinions at the same store "Dr Dino" gets his "evolutionist" opinions.

One thing I would like to add regarding:
"Skeptics believe that the human body has no ability to defend itself against invading microorganism and that the only things that can save people from viral infections are vaccines."

Seems like the people who spend their lives railing against vaccines don't have a clue about how vaccines actually work. If your body didn't have the ability to defend against invading micro organisms vaccines wouldn't work!! Vaccines depend on a working immune system, it would be clear to anyone who knows the first thing about... Oh right, look who I'm talking about here!

S.M. Elliott said...

You're right, some of them really don't understand the basic concept of vaccines, much less the finer points. Rebecca "Ghandi with Breasts" Carley repeatedly referred to Tamiflu as a vaccine, and wondered why people would deliberately introduce germs into their bodies.

Pickled Bologna said...

As a confirmed non-cell phone user (but because I'm a Luddite, not because I'm scared of them), I'm far from convinced that they're safe. There's considerable evidence to the contrary, and not just in New Age magazines.

Highland Host said...

I'm a theologian (well, Evangelical minister), and I can tell you that most of us regard prayer as complementary to medical treatment, not opposed to it. In fact, should anyone in my congregation make the mistake of saying "I choose prayer, not medication", I will personally tell them that they are tempting God, who made the doctor and the treatment!

But of course this list of things 'sceptics' (UK spelling, because we know how to spell English words...) believe is a typical example of setting up a straw man and beating the devil out of it. Good fun, but pretty daft. I have encountered young men in Churches who have listened to Alex Jones, and somehow seem to think that he is worth listening to.

Anonymous said...

Do you not eat meat? Cause I'm a vegetarian (pretty darn close to being vegan), and I was under the impression (because of a skeptic I know) that skeptics generally are against veggies cause they become vegetarian for "ideological reasons". Which is funny to me, because I kind of feel people eat meat for ideological reasons.
But anyways, my point is, if you're a veggie and a skeptic- Hi, nice to meet you :)

SME said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SME said...

Yes, actually I am vegetarian (and would still be vegan, if soygurt wasn't so bloody disgusting).

I find it veeery interesting that with his fierce criticism of food contamination, fluoridated water and toothpaste, etc., Jones has almost nothing to say about the appalling state of corporate farms and the meat industry, which is one of the prime threats to public health. Jones thinks that SARS might not have existed and Avian Flu was a farce, but both came directly from meat and poultry.

But then, look what happened to Oprah when she talked about bad meat.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. Jones may have mentioned the horrors of livestock production a few times, but he should attack the practice all the time, if he wants healthy food for us all.....but attacking the industry could cause a backlash that he couldn't withstand, (probably), being in Texas cattle country and whatnot.

Anonymous said...

I'm not defending the health ranger, but in his article he states that he scoured the internet to come up with the piece.
Technically, when he says "skeptics this, skeptics that.."..he could be refering to just two people, since he uses the word 'skeptics' (plural), meaning two or more...On a planet with almost 7 billion people, two people can be found to conform with the Rangers statements. If he had written "All skeptics (or even 'most skeptics'..." , then he would be almost totally full of bull...I dont know if he misused(?) the phrasing on purpose in order to sound more dramatic and be more accurate at once, or what.

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