Tuesday, September 26, 2017

#1901: Thomas Lodi

Cancer woo is big business (just see the previous entry), and few things are more repugnantly ludicrous than pushing homeopathy for cancer – though we suspect that most people aren’t really aware of how amazingly ridiculous the magical pseudoscience of homeopathy actually is. Well, at the Oasis of Healing in Arizona, Thomas Lodi will offer you homeopathy for cancer. Apparently, Lodi used to be a real MD (remember that MDs aren’t necessarily trained in science and there is thus no particular reason to think that they are particularly immune to pseudoscientific nonsense), but apparently decided along the way to become a Homeopathic Medical Doctor specializing in “integrative oncology” instead (yes, the state of Arizona allows you to call yourself HMD, and they even allow you to perform surgery).

At the Oasis of Healing there are few limits on what kind of nonsense they’re willing to push (while, predictably, hinting at Big Pharma conspiracies). The guiding principle appears, predictably enough, to be a return to “nature” and natural remedies, though as far as we can tell they fail to explain precisely what makes homeopathic remedies more “natural” than conventional therapies – “natural cancer cures” is mostly an apparently effective marketing ploy. Well, cancer is itself natural, and Lodi seems to agree: “Cancer in fact, is the name that we have given to the extraordinary effort of the body to protect us against chronic irritation. Consequently, cancer has been termed, ‘the wound that wouldn’t heal’. And the term ‘cancer prevention’ is misused to include receiving vaccinations and diagnostic screening, such as mammograms. These and all others under this category of cancer prevention have nothing to do with the prevention of the development of the healing process that we have termed cancer.” Yes, according to Lodi, cancer is a “healing process”, like all disease: “It must be remembered that ‘disease’ is the body attempting to re-establish optimal functioning. Health is not the absence of disease nor is it the absence of anything. It is the presence of something. It is the ability to regenerate, rejuvenate and procreate. Health is the condition that results when one lives according to the biological laws that govern the functioning of the organism.” I hope even those with little or no medical background are able to see how insane this nonsense is (it sounds a bit like this).

So what does Lodi suggest for treating cancer? Intravenous vitamin C – a favorite among cancer quacks, and more or less completely useless – and Insulin potentiation therapy (IPT), which must rank among the crazier and more insidious types of delusional quackery out there. How IPT manages to count as “natural” is anyone’s guess – though, once again, “natural” is of course only a marketing ploy; it doesn’t really mean anything.

In short: Lodi’s suggestions won’t help cure cancer, but insofar as his patients also renounce conventional therapies that do, few of them will end up in any position to provide negative testimonials (Lodi’s got testimonials). He also recommends “massage therapy or acupuncture” to “…. assist with opening energy meridians and allowing the lymph to drain more freely reducing the toxic load on the body,” and “[f]ocusing on the power of prayer or meditation will help strengthen the spirit and mental well-being which will add another level to the success of a patient healing from cancer.” It won’t.

His main focus seems to be on cancer prevention. Lodi recommends: Living Foods, juicing, oral & IV supplements, chelation therapy, lymphatic drainage, structural integration, infrared sauna, EWOT and colon hydrotherapy. None of these will remotely protect you from cancer, but some of them, like chelation therapy, are actively harmful. Lodi’s evidence? Testimonials, of course. You really didn’t need to ask. He’s got not a shred of evidence. But lack of evidence has never stopped people like Lodi, who apparently travels around to promote his nonsense, as well; he appeared for instance at the 2013 “A Cure to Cancer Summit”, a New Age conspiracy quackfest if there ever was one – the kind of event where the organizers actually used the fact that it featured Robert O. Young in its marketing campaign; yes, that’s the kind of company Lodi keeps.

Diagnosis: We think it is important to emphasize that Thomas Lodi is not only a crackpot offering to treat you for serious illnesses his alternative recommendations won’t treat; he is also (for that reason) a really, truly shitty person. Apparently he is also one of the more influential characters in “natural cancer cure” schemes. Stay well away.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

#1900: Bob Livingston

Bob Livingston is the wingnut behind the website Personal Liberty Digest (and not identical to former congressman Bob Livingston). Apart from typical wingnuttery and survivalism stuff Livingston promotes a variety of woo and pseudoscience from a wingnut point of view, with a particular focus on supplements and “alternatives to drugs” that you – coincidentally – can buy from him.

According to his bio, Bob “had four heart attacks” between “age thirty-eight and age forty” but decided to forgo prescription drugs, which he judged to be “far worse than heart disease.” He was also “sure that he did not have a drug deficiency,” which is usually not the diagnosis for which drugs are prescribed. In any case, Livingston, motivated in part by his distrust in the government and belief that “organized medicine [as opposed to online stores selling supplements] is literally a killing machine” (note the delectable misapplication of “literally”), decided to do his own research, and currently “[t]hirty-nine years of research study in health and nutrition [at the University of Google] qualifies Bob as a nutritional expert,” in his own opinion. He has “volumes of information to share with his readers,” mostly concerned with various types of fallacious appeals to nature. Traditional medicine is not natural, in Livingston’s eyes; accordingly “Bob believes that the credibility of the medical establishment is eroding quickly and will soon collapse.”

As most online promoters of woo, Livingston knows how to cure most diseases and illnesses, including cancer. Livingston’s “natural cancer treatment” is his “bicarbonate maple syrup cancer treatment,” which is a natural, effective alternative to chemotherapy wholly without side effects. Apparently it is similar to insulin potentiation therapy. That is not a good thing. Actually, the “bicarbonate maple syrup treatment works in reverse to IPT,” whatever that means. Then Livingston refers to Tullio Simoncini. Simoncini is the guy who thinks cancer is fungus (because tumors are white and fungus is white) and might just be the craziest crackpot on the whole of the Internet. Simoncini’s suggestion for treating cancer is to pump it up with sodium bicarbonate, which at least gives you an idea about where Livingston’s idea originates. It’s hard to describe in human words how stupid, wrong and dangerous the suggestion actually is. Apparently Livingston learned the trick from folk healer Jim Kelmun, whose “loyal patients swear by the man” and “say he is a miracle worker.” People who have cancer and who treat their cancer tumors with maple syrup and baking soda will quickly cease to be in any position to provide negative feedback, so marketing-wise the idea is very effective insofar as the only evidence you rely on is the testimony of your loyal customers. More here.

And Livingston is just getting started. According to Livingston, the “germ theory of disease is a foolish hoax created by Louis Pasteur. It is a notion of nonsense that has confused millions of people and made billions for the pharmaceuticals with vaccines and tens of thousands of drugs or over-the-counter preparations. If one person in society should die of a ‘contagious disease,’ the whole world population would expire.” Yes, Livingston denies that contagious diseases exist, and you really got to appreciate his reasoning: “Well, what about the flu epidemic shortly after World War I that killed 80 million people worldwide? According to the germ theory of disease, this flu should have killed everyone on earth. Of course, it didn’t and some people died in the same household where others did not. Why did this so-called ‘infectious disease’ not infect the entire world population?” Indeed. What’s the alternative theory, you may wonder? “The answer is that disease is born of us and in us. If our immune system is strong and healthy, we could sleep with people dying with ‘contagious disease’ and never even get sick.” Why you would need an immune system if there are no dangerous germs or contagious diseases is not entirely clear, but Livingston is adamant: “The germ theory of disease is nothing in the world but a commercial enterprise. Disease comes from within. When the body is overly fatigued with excess stress, toxins and malnutrition, there is a breakdown of immunity.” Immunity to what, you might then ask, but should probably realize that you may just as well give up at this point. “A person’s nutritional status and hydration level is the prime determinant of health. Disease comes from within!” since every time you repeat a claim you double its credibility.

His newsletter is (appropriately) listed here.

Livingston is also the author of various books in his series “A Survival Treasury”, including Surviving a Global Financial Crisis and Currency Collapse and Natural Alternatives for Diabetes and Blood Sugar Problems Drug Companies Don’t Want You to Know. You can probably make a cursory assessment of the quality of his advice on these issues, too.

Diagnosis: Oh, yes. Bob Livingston is a contagious disease denialist, no less. The Black Death was caused by people suddenly getting stressed out and dehydrated and malnourished in the same way at the same time. Though his audience is probably relatively limited, it would be wrong to say that he is entirely harmless.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

#1899: Bruce Lipton

Bruce Lipton is a former cell biologist, who abandoned science- and reality-based biology after having experienced a “spiritual revelation” about cells that led him to embrace creationism and decide that holistic medicine works. For the most part, he comes across as a slightly more science-focused Deepak Chopra, though what Lipton calls “science” is ultimately no less not than Chopra’s spirit-babble deepity (Chopra himself is a fan of Lipton’s work). Lipton is probably best known for the idea that your beliefs and thoughts can manipulate your genes and DNA by the power of choprawoo, as described for instance in his book The Biology of Belief – Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles (2005). That claim is incorrect.

In his relatively popular video “The New Biology: Where Mind and Matter Meet by Bruce Lipton Ph.D” (good and comprehensive analysis here) Lipton lays out some core elements of his view:

  • The cell is a microcosm of the human body, and the workings of the cell reflect the workings of a body: “There is no new function that's present in your human body that’s not already present in every single cell. You have a digestive system, a respiratory system, etc, so does a cell.” Then notice: humans live in communities, and multicellular organisms are in biology sometimes described as “colonies of cells”. From that metaphor, Lipton derives his theory of cancer: “cancer cells have withdrawn from the community … Why would some cells get out of the community? And the answer is why are people homeless? … If their community is not supporting them at some point the cells recognize at some point ‘My God what do I want to be in this for’.” And then we get cancer – it’s a result of a breakdown of cell society. And note that Lipton is not intending this as a metaphor. This is Lipton’s theory of cancer. Science, anatomy and the distinction between poetic metaphor and literal description be damned.
  • The brain of the cell: According to Lipton, biologists think that the cell nucleus is the brain of the cell. But cells can live for months in a dish after they’ve had their nucleus taken out, whereas human bodies die without a brain. Therefore, scientists are wrong. Yes, the argument is precisely as inept as I make it sound. (And for the record: biologists do not think that the cell nucleus is anything like the brain of the cell, even when they’re being metaphorical; not that this is the most incompetent element of Lipton’s argument).
  • Instead, Lipton thinks the cell membrane is the brain of the cell (and yes: he has pointed out the similarity between “…brane” and “brain”, cuz that’s how he rolls). His evidence consists primarily of redefining scientific terms and by calling the chemical reactions taking place at the cell membrane “perception” and those that take place within the cell “behavior”, and when you have perception and behavior you’ve got further proof that cells are just like organisms (detailed critique of Lipton’s arguments here). Therefore, cell perception and our perception are linked, and since there is a link between perception and belief, there is a link between our beliefs and cell activity. Hence, your beliefs can control your cells, and therefore your DNA, and therefore heal any medical problem you may have that doctors say are of genetic origin. In particular, we can cure cancer with our beliefs. Or, in other words, Lipton is a complete idiot, and the people who listen to him – such as quacks like Joe Mercola – dangerously ignorant and delusional.

Lipton’s ideas have, of course, been ignored by mainstream science, and much of Lipton’s writings accordingly consist of attacking science; “modern science has bankrupted our souls,” claims Lipton, since they tend not to find support for his wishful thinking, metaphors and other nonsense (Coast to Coast AM has covered him extensively, though). Lipton rejects the “Newtonian vision of the primacy of a physical, mechanical Universe”, that “genes control biology,” that evolution resulted from random genetic mutations, and that evolution is driven by natural selection – mostly on the grounds that these ideas don’t quite fit what his intuitions have revealed to him. The Secret, on the other hand, is apparently worthy science.

As for evolution, Lipton finds it implausible that that we arose in this garden as a total result of accident, which, of course, is Hoyle’s fallacy and not what the theory of evolution claims. And note: Bruce Lipton has a PhD in developmental biology, despite evidently not grasping the most basic elements of what evolution is. Instead, Lipton plumps for Intelligent Design creationism – that it was purpose and design through the entire process – though without the Christianity part. Moreover,  [i]f you take Darwinian theory, make a ‘scientific’ principle out of it, put it into political action, then you have something like Nazi Germany,” says Lipton. Question: if you take the third law of thermodynamics, make a “scientific principle out of it” and “put it into political action”, would you get full-scale nuclear war? And what does that suggest to Lipton about the third law of thermodynamics? (No, it makes no sense, at any level). Anyways, freeing evolution from its moorings in science and reality enables Lipton to state that “humanity is on the brink of spontaneous evolution”. If you think there is a tension between the concepts “spontaneous” and “evolution” you shouldn’t, because quantum. And you know when the big change will take place, don’t you? Yes, that’s right: It’s 2012. Darwinian evolution is false because it fail to predict a 2012 apocalypse. Apparently, Lipton’s own theory suffered no such falsification misfortune when 2012 came and passed without relevant incident because only scientific theories are affected by falsification; pseudoscientific theories are protected from such misfortunes. Here’s a discussion of Lipton’s own theory of biology, which explicitly rejects the whole of genetics: “the genes, that’s all, that’s all wrong, that information,” says Lipton.

He is, however, fond of epigenetics, which seems to have become the new quantum in woo and pseudoscience circles (not that Lipton shies away from invoking old-fashioned quantum woo as well). Of course, Lipton appears to have no clear idea about what epigenetics actually is, but some popularizing descriptions using metaphors and analogies do give him some vague associations to the Law of Attraction, which he likes, so he runs with that. 

Other books by Lipton include:
  •       The Wisdom of Your Cells - How Your Beliefs Control Your Biology (2006)
  •       Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future and a Way to Get There from Here (co-authored with Steve Bhaerman) (2009)
  •       The Honeymoon Effect: The Science of Creating Heaven on Earth (2013)

Diagnosis: Tirelessly harnessing the power of nonsense, Lipton has emerged as a dafter but somewhat more sciency-sounding competitor to the Chopra itself. Complete nonsense, of course, which stands to science roughly as a balloon stands to mathematical logic, but Lipton enjoys a relatively substantial following number of victims among the scientifically illiterate.