Alt Med guy whacked with Shorty end of the stick

By Phil Plait | January 23, 2010 10:46 am

shortyawardThis story is too funny, but it takes a little background.

Mike Adams is an alt-med pusher; he writes at Natural News, a website chock-full-o’ nonsense about vaccines, homeopathy, and so on. Regular readers may remember Mr. Adams from his particularly vile and horrific diatribe about real medicine after Patrick Swayze died. Adams claims to want to help people, but instead peddles all manners of treatments that are known not to work at all.

So that ought to give you a picture of how Adams operates.

The Shorty Awards are a popular new internet award for people who use Twitter. It allows tweeters to vote for someone in various categories like science, humor, celebrity, and, oh, say, health.

Adams, who tweets under the name HealthRanger, was doing well with votes in the Shorties last week, well ahead of everyone else. In second place was another alt-med antivax promoter named Joe Mercola. I’ve written about him before as well.

But then skeptic Tim Farley noticed something– a lot of votes going to Mercola and Adams were coming from brand new Twitter accounts with only one actual tweet: a vote for Mercola or Adams for the Shorties.


Now, someone who may be a bit conspiracy-minded might assume that either Mercola or Adams, or their followers, might be working a campaign to stuff the ballot box by setting up fake Twitter accounts for the sole purpose of making sure these alt-med public health threats would win the Shorty award in health.

So Tim tweeted about it, and a bunch of us started to promote our friend Australian Rachael Dunlop, who has been tirelessly fighting alternative medicine quackery for years. Within a few days Rachael had moved into first place. Yay!

But there’s more! Tim (as well as several others, including me) reported Mercola’s and Adams’ voter fraud to the people at the Shorty Awards. Today it was announced that Adams was being removed from the contest due to this fraudulent ballot stuffing.

Adams, of course, took this all in stride and has been gracious and self-deprecating about it all.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh my. Of course he hasn’t. Instead, he posted what can only be called a frothing rant about this, accusing the Shorty Awards and many of us reality-based people with all kinds of evil doing. You have to read his diatribe to believe anyone could post something so filled with rage, righteous indignation, logical fallacies, made-up transgressions, self-contradictions, and paranoid conspiracy mongering. It’s really a masterpiece of woo-based garment-rendering nonsense. He’s even threatened to sue!

Maybe he should win a Shorty Award for fiction.

To be fair, I actually don’t think Adams should have been disqualified; we don’t know who set up the fake votes for him. It might have been just one overzealous altmed fan. What should have happened was all the fake votes should have been struck from the count — a large fraction — and then let the most popular person win. It hardly matters anyway, since Rachael is so far out front that she’ll win anyway. But it would be the fair thing to do.

Not that this would assuage Adams anyway. Since he doesn’t deal with anything using facts and logic in the first place, he’ll just continue to post his nonsense as he pleases.

Orac posted a lovely satirical takedown of all this, which is worth reading. It’s always a good idea to keep yourself abreast of what these people are like. The alt-med movement talks a good game about the evil of Big Pharma and Western Medicine, and also claim they want to help people out of the goodness of their hearts… but when you actually get a glimpse of what’s in their hearts, well, it’s not exactly rainbows and unicorns.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Skepticism

Comments (90)

  1. Adam_Y

    Truth be told. I don’t think there was any ballot stuffing. It was something far worst. They are a bunch of idiots who didn’t read the rules. Go look at the comment section. There are tons of people who readily admit that they signed up to Twitter for the sole purpose of voting for either Mercola or Mike Adams. Then they are complaining that it doesn’t work without realizing that the rules prevent this from happening.

  2. PJE

    I like the fact that you need to subscribe and give your email address to read the rest of Adams’ article. I get enough spam already thanks.

    You also need to sign up for twitter to read the rest, which I won’t bother with

    Orac has the relevant bits from Adams on his article. It’s a good read


  3. Strengthofsin

    You know, I probably could have easily looked at Mike Adams’ arguement in a non-bias and contemplative manner, except for the fact that he threw out wild accusations that it was all corrupt and we were getting paid off by big pharmaceutical companies writhing with conspiracy. Now wouldn’t that be great?! I’d love to have some more income! Seems to me these days that ridiculous conspiracies have become an everday excuse for anything someone doesn’t like.

    I think it’s a massive conspiracy by my electric utility company and my internet provider to use mind control programming to wake me up at 4AM, unable to go back to sleep, in order to get more money out of me by using their services!!

    Whatever, come on people, use your brains. It’s called common sense. And for anyone who’s going to take serious my little conspiracy part, it’s not real, I don’t think that, and you sir or ma’am, are a moron.

  4. Dylan C

    Ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

    I’d also like to do the lame introduction as a long time reader, first time commenter. I have a great deal of respect for you Dr. Plait.

  5. Scott

    Something Phil left out – in the Shorty Awards rules, it states that votes coming from new Twitter accounts are invalid. A lot of the votes in question for HealthRanger were from brand-new, zero-follower, single-tweet accounts.

  6. Sir Eccles

    I can’t wait until the US presidential election is by Twitter…

  7. Mike

    Hahah.. I was watching this go down on twitter live. Hilarious. I do agree he should not have been disqualified unless they were actually able to prove that he was responsible for the ballot stuffing, and just had the illegal ballots removed. I hope there aren’t any enterprising skeptics out there who attempted the same thing for DrRachie as well.. she deserves to win, and she can win honestly.

    That response post by the “health ranger” is really quite priceless.

  8. Big Fat Earl

    Sir Eccles: Then we’ll have Acorn signing people up for Tw

  9. TigerHunter

    I love how he doesn’t actually mention that he was already losing before he was disqualified. For someone who prides himself on bringing to light “what they don’t want you to know”, there seems to be a lot he doesn’t want his followers to know.

  10. Big Fat Earl

    #3: Then we’d have Acorn signing people up for Twitter instead of stuffing the ballot box the traditional way.

  11. Eliminating him entirely was definitely overkill and unfair. If the Shorty people are going to remain consistent about such matters, this creates a method for sabotage – just flood someone with “fake” votes until they’re booted. It would be more satisfying if he could remain in the contest to be trounced fair and square 😉

  12. He actually wants to sue… over a meaningless web award? On what grounds? That they hurt his precious little ego? He would get laughed out of court so fast his head would spin.

  13. Michel

    Got it.
    Adams[tm] = good
    Adams = bad

  14. RPJ

    Internet: Serious Business.

  15. Troy

    “He actually wants to sue… over a meaningless web award? ”

    That’s the bottom line for me… All these web awards remind me of the gobs of hollywood awards. Awards made up so people can pat themselves on the back. I think the fact that anyone cares about the fool thing says tons more about their personality than if they cheated to get votes.

  16. Mchl

    He’s even threatened to sue!

    Bring it on!

  17. That should be “garment-rending” rather than “rendering”.

    And, back on topic, I just don’t get how so many people could have broken BS meters. Mine goes off so quickly I don’t even have time to register what was said. It must have something to do with all those vaccines I had as a kid. 😉

  18. squirrelelite

    Maybe his garments should have been rendered into lard, but I wouldn’t want to eat any of the bizcochitos made with the result.

  19. I hope this Shorty award business ends soon. I’m getting tired of all the announcement tweets about people being nominated.

    As for “Health Ranger”… well… people who peddle BS usually can’t stand it when a) their BS is being called out, and 2) they know they’ve been caught out but don’t have a leg to stand on. That’s usually when they go from being all hearts and flowers to their Evil Twins and start using nasty language and frothing at the mouth.

  20. Tiny

    I find Phil’s constant attacks and sarcasm of alternative medicine to be bothersome. I know — if I don’t like it, then I can stop reading BadAstronomy. But I don’t want to stop reading BadAstronomy, because I enjoy reading Phil’s posts concerning Astronomy.

    But come on. All you need to do is go to and you’ll realize it’s not some evil organisation intent on insidiousness. It’s just information for people who want a wider spectrum of choice when it comes to medicine.

    For one thing, psychiatric drugs are known to be dubious. I’m not going to get into that right now, but the facts are out there. Many times, when people (and doctors) think someone is depressed, or has ADHD, it’s really just an issue of diet and lifestyle. That’s the main gist of alternative medicine.

    Yeah, I don’t agree with anti-vaccers. But just because the guy is skeptical of vaccinations doesn’t mean you should write off his entire site as trash, and mock it.

  21. DaveS

    Dennis, about the broken BS meters? Remember, half the population has an IQ below 100.

  22. Scottynuke

    Well Tiny, it’s not JUST Adams’ anti-vax crankery that gets Phil and Orac (and most any rational person) all worked up. All I can say is that if you don’t like what Phil has to say about Adams, don’t ever ever go to Orac’s blog. Your worldview will be subject to the harsh light of reality and demands for evidence.

  23. Tiny, all it takes is about 30sec reading to realise that it very much IS an ‘evil organisation bent on insidiousness.’ This cat Adams makes cash off of misleading people that the rubbish he promotes is safe and effective. Yes, the entire site is trash.

    There’s only one kind of medicine; the sort that works. What’s the alternative to something that works?

  24. Chris


    But come on. All you need to do is go to and you’ll realize it’s not some evil organisation intent on insidiousness. It’s just information for people who want a wider spectrum of choice when it comes to medicine.

    Except NaturalNews is Mike Adams. Looking at its front page I see items about an HIV/AIDS denialist movie, an article saying zero deaths from vitamins (which is not true, since children have been poisoned by iron in multivitamins, and there is such thing has dying from too much Vitamin A), and a Mike Adams doing a bogus challenge on the effectiveness of H1N1 vaccine.

    If you feel NaturalNews is a good source of information, make your self a calming cup of chamomile tea and then click on the link above to Orac’s blog. Then go to the upper left of the page and put “NaturalNews” (without quotes) in the search box. Check out the articles, like the ones that start “Mike Adams Brings Home the Crazy…”. Have fun.

  25. Chris

    Speaking of Adams bogus H1N1 vaccine effectiveness challenge, now I understand this weird blog entry by Mark Crislip here: dub dub dub dot sciencebasedmedicine dot org/?p=3547

    And Tiny, you would need lots and lots of chamomile tea if you listened to Mark Crislip’s dub dub dub quackcast dot com ! Also check out his Gobbet o’ Pus podcasts (link in the Quackcast index). Because the world needs more Mark Crislip.

  26. When I first started reading the “Health Ranger’s” ranting post, I saw a bunch of links in the article and thought, “Hmm, at least he provides sources to his readers”. Well, no. All of the links are simply to different pages on his site, none of which were relevant to the post itself. I assume this is some lame attempt at SEO?

  27. Daniel J. Andrews

    Tiny: Adams and his NaturalNews might not be evil, but how do you differentiate between evil that seeks to do harm for personal gain, and pig-headed stupidity that inadvertently does harm while selling products that don’t work and avoiding products that do work?

    There is something wrong with Adams. Whether he’s mentally unbalanced, evil, willfully ignorant, or just out and out crazy (but with a good heart) doesn’t excuse promoting dangerous nonsense. A wider spectrum of choices is useless if the wider choices do not work.

    While “big bad Pharma” is into making money, that doesn’t mean they’re trying to suppress natural remedies. If any of those natural remedies actually work pharma will start producing and marketing the hell out of them. E.g. digitalis, aspirin.

    btw, I can treat my headache by chewing on willow bark, but I’ll still pay a few bucks for a handy bottle of pharma produced Aspirin. Ever tried chewing on willow bark? First time I did it I decided I’d rather have the headache.

  28. I’d totally vote Mike Adams for the fiction Shorty, if such a category existed… unfortunately, there’s no official category for that. So in lieu, I propose that we all cast votes in the unofficial (or “community”) category of #fail for these alt-med pushers. Right now, the Detroit Red Wings are in the lead with 8 votes, so I imagine we can eclipse that pretty easily. Anyone up for it?

  29. Peter

    Tiny plz educate yourself before you promote quack.

  30. @Daniel J. Andrews,

    Exactly. The name for “Alternative Medicine” that is proven to work is “Medicine.” For example, a few decades back, I had heard a story that peach pits were the cure for cancer. Of course, “big pharma” was suppressing this and you had to travel to Mexico to get this wonderful treatment. (The conspiracy theory stated that since peaches were so cheap, big pharma didn’t want their expensive drugs competeing with something from the grocery aisle.)

    I didn’t dismiss out of hand that peach pits could possibly be a source of medicine (you never know where the next “wonder drug” will come from). What I did dismiss out of hand was that “big pharma” was suppressing it. After all, I doubt that you could have gotten enough cancer-killing substance from a few peaches. A clever pharmaceutical company would figure out the substance, figure out a way to manufacture a lot of it and market that drug.

    The drug company that discovers such a hypothetical “magic cancer cure-all” will become very, very rich!

  31. I agree that he shouldn’t have been kicked out entirely. There’d be too much room for abuse. Set up a bunch of phony Twitter accounts and vote for your opponent. Then report the fraudulent votes and your opponent is out of the race.

    Still, his claims of “no proof” are laughable. I took a look at the people voting for him and within less than 5 minutes, I had at least 5 examples of bad votes. Check out Twitter users lypoProtein and migun4you. Both only follow one user (shortyawards which is automatic upon voting) and both only have votes for HealthRanger and Mercola. (Well, lypoProtein also has a vote accusing DrRachie of cheating… when he’s one of the cheating votes!!!)

  32. Jon Hanford

    @29 TD,

    Are you referring to laetrile? According to the wiki for laetrile/amygdalin:

    “Beta-glucosidase, one of the enzymes that catalyzes the release of the cyanide from amygdalin, is present in human small intestine and in a variety of common foods. This leads to an unpredictable and potentially lethal toxicity when amygdalin or laetrile is taken orally.”

    So not only is it useless as an anticancer drug, sufficiently high doses will kill you via cyanide poisoning! Yet Mexican laetrile treatments were very popular at the time despite banning by the FDA( “quackery”) and condemnation of the American Cancer Society, among others.

  33. Joi

    Something even funnier…he kept whining about how he was prevented from getting top place due to the false votes, etc, etc (direct quote “I was set to take the top prize, and Dr. Mercola was in a solid second place”)…Top place in the nominations only means that you’re CONSIDERED for a win. The top 5 in each group are considered by a panel, and their votes are combined with the popular votes. So someone in the top spot in nominations doesn’t necessarily win.

    Apparently, actually READING the clearly-posted rules is just too difficult for him.

  34. Darren Garrison

    Hm. “Tiny” and opposed to psychiatric drugs.

    Shouldn’t you be hanging out with your wife, Mr. Cruise?

    If not, can I?

    Phil. Phil, Phil, you don’t even– you’re glib.

  35. dustycrickets

    Horror stories associated with over reliance on some alt meds are commonplace.
    Real people suffer and die because of some of this quackery.
    Some of what has gone on is borderline (!??!) criminal.
    Mocking these idiots seems like the least we could do.

  36. “This was all done with legitimate votes from real people from all over the world who support our work.” [Adams]

    “The only reason my “Twitter” account was a “new” one is because I personally don’t have a Twitter account and voted for Mike anyway. What, now a person can’t even sign up and vote unless they’ve had an “account” for, like, months on end in order for it to be legit?” [N-News commenter]

    “Wow. I joined Twitter for the single reason of voting for Mike Adams…” [N-News commenter]

    Voters must be active Twitter users prior to the start of the competition. Votes originating from new Twitter accounts or accounts used mainly for Shorty Awards voting will automatically be disqualified and will not count toward the rankings [Shorty Rules]

    “They began to call for others to vote for this “pro-vaccine” candidate, even though most people had no idea who she was and had never even read her work.” [Adams]

    Twitterers are welcome to campaign and encourage their friends to vote for them [Shorty Rules]

    I’ve long wanted to write comedy but I keep finding that reality is much funnier than I am.

  37. Damon

    I am officially done with your website, Phil. This is not why I began visiting Bad Astronomy so many years ago and your constant alt-med cynicism is leaving a bad taste in my mouth. You’re preaching to your own private choir and I’ve never been much of a singer. Sure, the occasional astronomy updates are still neat, but if I wanted love mixed with hate keeping me on my toes I’d visit my mother. Enjoy shilling out your reputation for the sake of cheap mockery, Phil.

    I’ll try back in a few years. Take care.

  38. fred edison

    I did my duty and voted one for health and one for quackery. Easy peasy.

  39. This one just came in and is preceded by this blurb in the email to the subscriber base;

    What “skeptics” really believe about vaccines, medicine, consciousness and the universe.

    Do you know any “skeptics?” They’re an endless source of entertainment. They don’t “believe” in Vitamin C. (Since when did vitamins require belief anyway?)

    They ridicule people who use medicinal herbs, therapeutic touch or homeopathy. And they push their dangerous, unproven poisons like vaccines, mammograms and chemotherapy onto everyone.

    But I’ve found out something really bizarre about “skeptics” — something totally embarrassing that they don’t want you to know. And I’m revealing that (and more) in today’s article entitled “What “skeptics” really believe about vaccines, medicine, consciousness and the universe”

    Full article here:


  40. naw

    Well I do agree with Damon that Phil may need a 2nd blog for his quackery attacks. But seeing I would go there as well, I have learned a lot about the fools and what they are trying to tell the world with this.

  41. Chris


    Phil. This is not why I began visiting Bad Astronomy so many years ago and your constant alt-med cynicism is leaving a bad taste in my mouth. You’re preaching to your own private choir and I’ve never been much of a singer. Sure, the occasional astronomy updates are still neat,

    You must not have read Bad Astronomy before it was taken over by the Discover Hive Mind. I remember that there is where I learned about bad movies, about the moon landing deniers, Planet X, how balancing an egg does not just happen on the equinox and lots of fun.

    Much which can be found if you click on the link to the old blog under his picture on the upper right of this page. Actually if you click around on that, you will find lots of the old Bad Astronomy (dating back over a decade ago) was on pseudoscience. The alt-med is just another version of the pseudoscience. Now I must go back and see what he had to say about Marilyn Vos Savant in the Birdcage Archive of Bad News Articles.

  42. The be-all and end-all of alt-med quackaloon stupidity is the way they keep trying to peddle conspiracy theories about “Big Pharma” suppressing surefire natural cures. Of course, if any treatment was discovered to flat-out cure cancer or AIDS or Alzheimer’s or autism or what-have-you, the person or company making that discovery would be on their way to wealth beyond the dreams of avarice. So, by altie logic, “Big Pharma” are all about money, and yet they’re out there suppressing, rather than investing in and exploiting, cures that would make them more money than a Cray supercomputer could count.

    Makes perfect sense!

  43. Richie

    @ #39

    Uh…a disclaimer is needed to follow that link. My irony gland exploded, and my backup BS Detector has gone off the high end of the chart and self-destructed.

    This guy isn’t a “HealthRanger”….he’s a “HealthDanger”

  44. Rob P.

    42 – this is the same logic that allows people to think that the auto industry is suppressing high mileage vehicles. Of course, in the real world, if I could make a nice car that gets 100mpg, I would be able to sell the heck out of it and I would dominate the market. But in fantasy land, I know how to do that, but for some reason I keep it to myself so I can sell gas guzzlers. Yes, anyone who can cure cancer, or put a 100mpg car on the road at a reasonable price would do it in an instant, but somehow that seems to escape the conspiracy types.

  45. Steve in Dublin

    Ha ha ha. I love how the ‘Health Ranger’ gets his readers to sign up for Twitter accounts just to vote for him, being totally unaware that in doing so they are violating the rules. What a flaming idiot. He can’t even read. And neither can his readers.

    Though I do agree that Twitter should not have disqualified him. That could set a nasty precedent whereby it actually pays to have people vote for your opponent with new Twitter accounts, as other readers have pointed out.

    And Dr Rachie (*the* Dr. Rachel Dunlop, I presume?) @39, that link to the Health Ranger’s latest rant about skeptics is just *too* good. It shows the guy to be the raving, psychotic, nut case that he really is. And millions of people are taking *advice* from this lunatic?!

  46. Keith (the first one)

    His list of things he thinks Skeptics believe is quite disturbing. On the one hand he just plainly invents things, which of course makes us sound bad. Yet he also says a couple of (closer to) true things, and ridicules us for not believing in their magic, like the water comment, or hypnosis.

  47. Wow Dr Rachie, Adams sounds almost exactly like Ray Comfort and his “what atheists really think” rants. And just like Ray, he completely fails to reference any of his claims with actual links to sceptics who believe all those things. Has anyone ever seen Adams and Comfort together, in the same room at the same time?

  48. glubol

    OMG! LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! POWNED!!! AHAHAHAH very funny !…

    wait.. no it’s not… i don’t mean to be rude but i as much as i despise people promoting quackery it really bothers me to see you rant about some puerile fight over tweeter like a teenage girl … GROW UP! please…

  49. JasonP

    An article on natural news about what “skeptics” actually believe about health. There are of course no mentions of what web sites he pulled this information from (probably his own). It would be cool if Phil tore this article apart.

  50. Lawrence

    Quite a bit of “Modern Medicine” used to be “Alt-Medicine” before studies were done and treatments were found to be effective. When an “alt-medicine” treatment is found to be beneficial (by scientific studies) it is incorporated into “real” medicine.

    Of course, the vast majority of these alternative treatments aren’t effective & plain outright dangerous – people die every day because for one reason or another, they decide that doctors are wrong & their local “witch doctor woo” is right.

  51. Blashy

    What’s said about Mercola and Adams is they understand the basics of proper nutrition and when they stick to that, they make sense. But do they EVER go deeper than that without 99% of the time having no proof or science behind their articles, just supposition.

    They could do much good by preaching proper nutrition, but you can’t make much money off of that…

  52. Adams was at the front of the line when stupidity and hubris were handed out.
    Thankfully, evolution works, although a bit slowly for my taste, on those blindly bent on lowering their genetic fitness.

  53. Gary Ansorge


    The whole point of having a header lead-in to a post is to inform people what the post is about. If you’re only interested in astronomy and are offended by idiot bashing, READ THE HEADER.

    By the way, I hope your “nick name” wasn’t given you by your significant other,,,

    GAry 7

  54. North of 49

    If anyone would rather not register at M1k3 Ad@ms’ website to read the whole article mentioned above, there is a back door available right on the page. I’d rather not say explicitly what it is, lest they notice this comment and close it up, but just try clicking on the obvious button. Then for lulz, copy and paste it into your favourite text editor, just to preserve it for posterity.

    The free portion of his post is gobsmacking enough, but in its entirety it is a glimpse into a mind in a slow-motion train wreck, with sound effects.

  55. Michelle R

    AWwwwwwww look at ’em. Aren’t they cute when they’re angry? They think they’re SCIENTISTS! They think they’re FRAUD VICTIMS of T3H SYSTEM!

    Here’s a lollipop, boys… There there…

  56. Hilarious! One ballot served to the Altmed Jackass Hall of Fame.

  57. Counterglow

    The really annoying part about this whole thing is that “Big Pharma” has enough well-documented sins that there’s no need for these whack jobs to guild the lily. In fact, their efforts make it easy for the big drug companies to lump legitimate critics in with the loons. Adams and Mercola are beneath contempt.

  58. Steve in Dublin

    North of 49

    Got it! Thanks for the heads up. What a clueless tool this guy is.

    Speaking of which… my latitude is bigger than yours. It’s 53. Nyah nyah. The believers might *think* they have god on their side, but we have the Gulf Stream (and it’s a more tangible kinda thing). Until AGW screws it up, that is. Slainte.

  59. @Michelle R: Not ‘fraud victims of the system’ at all. Conspiracy theories are the domain of woo floggers, lest we forget the BIG PHARMA SHILL VACCINE PUSHERS!!!11! rants oh-so-mindnumbingly-common amongst your mob. The Health Danger was a victim of fraud, alright- by his own team. Evidence is right here, kiddo. Huge own goal, Streisand effect on stilts with its own marching band- thanks for your assistance. 😀

    @Counterglow: Bang on.

  60. Steve in Dublin

    weez @ 60

    I think you had a sarcasm recognition fail there, regarding Michelle R. She’s on our side 😉

  61. John

    It doesn’t help that big pharma has Obama and Congress in the bag. I believe it was last week when the Democrats refused to pass an amendment to the health care bill that would allow the importing of cheaper drugs from Canada. Granted, it could be for other reasons than to prop up big pharma, but I can’t think of any other legitimate ones. There’s also much debate the surrounds big pharma, most notably the controversy over anti-depressants and how they don’t work. These are some of the biggest money makers for them and you see commercials for them all the time, yet why can’t we read all the studies used by the FDA to approve the drug? I remain suspicious of the relationship between Congress and big pharma.

    We also know the antibiotics are being overused here, which is causing new resistant bacteria, such as MERSA. It’s only a matter of time before drug resistant bacteria becomes more widespread, which is one purpose of alternative medicine and preventative care. I wouldn’t put such a hex on natural remedies, with the exception of obvious quackery like homeopathy.
    My grandfather taught me many natural remedies from his native Italy, such as using garlic or vinegar to treat some conditions, and they have worked for me (and yes I understand the placebo effect). Garlic, for example, has shown to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties amongst others. His family lived by them for decades in the rural mountainous regions of Calabria without Western medicine or a modern health care system and they’re currently in the their 80s with no past or present major health issues (could also be genetics? I think it’s their lifestyle as well). They worked fields all day, without sunscreen, and never had skin cancer, had wine and cheese almost everyday, yet never had a problem with their liver or heart. Nutrition is also a key to preventative care, for which many naturalists advocate. However, that’s pretty much common sense, fruits and veggies, lean meats, no processed foods, etc.
    Furthermore, I feel the need to defend Dr. Mercola. He is not the quacky witch doctor as so many here label him. However, I can’t say the same for some others like him. Don’t listen to such propaganda like the stuff you hear on these blogs and critics that latch onto a single thing he said (he was actually right about swine flu being over exaggerated by the media and traditional doctors have attested to that). I’ve never had a flu shot in my life either, yet I’ve never had the flu (maybe I’m lucky? maybe he’s right about flu shots being overrated?). Even the famous Dr. Oz, a well respected traditional doctor, didn’t get the swine flu shot for his family.

    Go to his site and listen to him speak about his experience and why he does what he does. He’s been a successful doctor for over 20 years, trained in both traditional and natural medicines. Therefore, he understands traditional medicine and has treated many patients successfully or he wouldn’t have such a following in the first place.
    Is it more plausible to think he’s fooled and continues to fool over 1 million people? It’s a conspiracy theory to think one person can fool so many people, he must be doing something right. He’s not even into organized religion, so you know he has some sense. It’s not like he’s recommending you treat cancer with baking soda. Focusing on the mind, as well as the body, is good for people as studies show that negative mental states do have an adverse affect on the body. The most notable being the fact that long term stress correlates to heart disease and other ailments. The traditional doctors I see, as well as most traditional doctors, actually agree with a lot of what he says about fish or krill oil and such.

    Learn for yourself:

  62. Michelle R

    @Weez: Yea! I’m on the winning team here! I mean, I’m taking antibiotics instead of overpriced water, you know!

    Stupid bronchitis.

  63. Chris

    John, it is “MRSA” and is pronounced “em are es eh.”

    Mercola is not Mike Adams. For one thing, he has not expatriated himself to Costa Rica. And another thing, he is not dispensing his form of advice for holistic reasons: Old-Time Sales Tricks on the Net. His website is a business.

    Of course, he can’t make up his mind on what causes autism, but for many people that is a “minor” problem.

  64. Ryan

    I think PZ said it best:

    Of course, he is a homeopath. Maybe to him, a twitter award is like an infinitely diluted Nobel Prize, and is especially potent.

  65. Chris

    What kind of conspiracy just allowed my comment to be published with not one, but two URL links! ?

    It must be the “Phil Plait working at home in his jammies” conspiracy.

  66. Rabs


    “It’s not like he’s recommending you treat cancer with baking soda. ”

    um…. yes he is? A simple search for “baking soda cancer” on his site turns up quite a few examples.


    If that’s the point of quackery for you, then you may wish to re-evaluate your opinion of him.

  67. Chris

    Screwing up false courage due to the allowing of my two URLs… I will now note that the great Orac has spoken yet again on the hypocrisy that is Mike Adams: A pyromaniac in a field of straw man or a black hole of burning stupid incinerating every straw man in the universe? Mike Adams attacks skepticism.

    Oh, please, Phil the Bad Astronomer, don’t hurt me!

  68. Chris

    I must say that Phil, the Bad Astronomer is absolutely awesome!

  69. John

    Typo there, MRSA is correct, stands for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, pronounced as “MERSA”.

  70. Oh lordy.

    Reading Mike’s Rant about skeptics, he’s a 9-11 conspiracy theorist – Trade Center 7 was deliberately blown up :O (not to state that the building was on FIRE for several hours!)

  71. John

    By the rhetoric in articles like these against natural medicines, it’s equatable to hate mongering in my opinion. This type of rhetoric, filled with sarcasm that smears the opposing party’s point of view, is exactly the same technique used by the likes of Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly (whether they’re correct or not is another issue). It’s also the similar premise behind the point of view on Mercola’s business model posted by Chris, which is also an opinion piece (hardly hard evidence that proves quackery). Although, it’s obvious his site is a business (he said that himself and explains it in the link I posted), you must use your own discretion as you would shopping anywhere else, but the vast majority of products are the same things you can buy at any grocery or health store, nothing much that fits the “snake oil” stereotype. However, you should remain skeptical of product pitches, but don’t dismiss them completely simply because they’re trying to make some money to provide for their services, this is a hate mongering technique used by politicians against big business (business = evil because they want your money…of course they do, that’s why it’s called business!).
    Becoming a mindless drone to such polarizing rhetoric hardens minds to such ideals. Alternative medicine has been used in the East Asian countries for centuries for example, with real results. Simply because no studies have been done on them doesn’t necessarily mean they are pure quackery. However, I’m not condoning obvious quackery like chanting prayers to cure somebody. I’m talking about the use of herbs (although many are overrated), diet, exercise, and meditation. Being radical and dismissive to either side is not a wise standpoint and it seems that some here have become drones to the subject. Of course I could be wrong, but it certainly seems so.
    Don’t skeptics argue they’re the most open minded? Can’t be fooled by the masses? A healthy skeptical attitude doesn’t only question claims of others, but should remain skeptical of other skeptics as well. Becoming radical to either side of an argument goes against the core of being skeptical, unless valid proof has been presented. Therefore, without valid proof, it should not be confirmed, nor denied.
    I feel that Phil’s stern point of view against alt meds here goes against his view of active skepticism by generalizing that all alt med is quackery (or so it seems that way). By the way, great speech on active skepticism Phil. If anyone hasn’t seen it, the link for Phil’s speech at Gnomedex:

  72. @John:

    If natural medicine works, it becomes medicine.

  73. @Jon Hanford,

    Yes, that is what I was thinking of. I probably should have been clearer about my views on it. It wasn’t that I assumed off the bat that it was some magic cancer fighter which medical science would soon pick up on. Instead, I didn’t discount it solely because it “came from peach pits.” That’s no reason to discount something. Now, studies that show it to be useless (or even dangerous), that’s a good reason to discount something. As with much in the alt-med community, the curative powers of the treatments, when actually studied, turn out to be bunk.

    Had laetrile exhibited any cancer fighting abilities, however, I don’t think the pharmaceutical companies would have suppressed it due to “competing against peach pits.” Instead, they would have refined it and would have made a fortune (and saved a lot of lives) turning it into a drug.

  74. John

    I agree Kevin, that’s only for those have been subjected to study. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean all alt meds are pure quackery. It also doesn’t mean all traditional meds are safe and effective as the FDA would claim. Anti-depressants are a prime example of this, as are a host of other meds that have been pulled from the shelves over the years, which is why I remain skeptical of the political dealings of big pharma and the FDA. I remember reading this article in Men’s Health last year and found it on MSNBC. It’s a list of 8 meds that doctors won’t take. I even talked to my own physician about this and he agreed that there’s a number of prescription meds he would never prescribe his patients, most commonly anti-fungals used to combat nail fungal infections because they’re very hard on the liver and usually don’t work. He actually recommended vinegar to treat nail fungus, the FDA would never approve vinegar over some prescription. I was also prescribed pro-biotics by a gastro specialist for a digestive issue and it worked as well.

  75. Alt.Med.Loons

    I tried all the loony stuff, nothing made any good except for 1-2 hours of high heart rate exercise (I run with my dog & sons) a few times / week!

    Your genes ran across desert plains & mountain peaks only a few thousand years ago, you need to “respect that”..

    Seriously, “get active”, that is all.

  76. @John,

    The snearing and sarcasm are reserved for people who rant and rave about how “those skeptics” are “colluding with Big Pharma” to push their proven medicine instead of “perfectly good alt med” for the sole reason that studies haven’t shown it to be effective.

    Being used for centuries doesn’t mean they were really effective. Or, perhaps they were effective compared to other available treatments, but not compared to modern medicine. Either way, if a reputable, peer reviewed study comes out that shows exactly how homeopathy can work or how all disease comes from toxins and not bacteria/viruses, I’ll become a defender of such practices. Until then, seeing as every study is showing these things to be bunk, I feel safe calling them bunk.

  77. @John:

    The problem with alternate medicine is that they have been tested, and proven many times to do nothing. If a new remedy comes out, it should be subjected to testing. If someone says something works and I don’t see testing for it, I’m not about to go for it until I can see proven results.

    And yeah, medicine can be unsafe, there was a medicine for restless legs syndrome with side effects ranging from ‘increased sexual urges’ and ‘increased desire to gamble.’ I am of the mind that we are sometimes overmedicating. I was told I had ADHD as a kid and should be put on Ritalin for it. Truth is that I was bored and I have a short attention span. I still kinda have a short attention span.

    I think the most important aspect of skepticism is questioning. Don’t take something at face value. Research your flipping head off. If someone says something, ask for proof. Like TechyDad said above, if something proves alternate medication effective, I would be all for it, but I’m not about to start going out looking for crystals to center my chi if I don’t know if it does something.

  78. John

    I’d also like to add that my father had high blood pressure for about 20 years, which went untreated by traditional meds. His doctor recommended he eat a banana a day, along with whole grains, fruits, and veggies. These lowered his bp slightly and kept it more stable, but it still remained within prehypertensive levels. He began seeing a local optometrist, who is also holistic, and he recommended green tea and garlic. After drinking a few cups of green tea daily for about 6 months, his bp dropped to levels below the recommended normal of 120/80. He didn’t change his lifestyle at all during that period otherwise. The most exercise he gets is walking from his car to his office and he works an average of 60 hours per week. He continues to drink green tea daily and his bp remains at those levels. Hardly a scientific study, but I was surprised by the results. Although, studies on green tea continue to be popular and controversial.

    Techy and Kevin, I’m not trying to convince you that all alt meds work or that big pharma is part of some conspiracy theory. I’m trying to keep minds open that some natural approaches do work, even if the FDA doesn’t approve them because many of which will never be approved by the FDA (vinegar and garlic for example). I simply offered real world evidence suggesting that some FDA approved drugs and their studies are in fact bunk as well. Personally, after my experiences with alt meds I became more open minded to the idea and there’s really some good knowledge out there amongst the bunk that will likely never be tested and approved by the FDA. However, I will not stop listening to my doctors or abandon prescription drugs. My college roomate was skeptical of alt meds as well, but he went as far as to believe that prescription drugs are placebos and we heal naturally. I found his point of view quite comical.

  79. John

    I’d absolutely research the hell out of alt meds as well, but not outright dismiss the claims because someone else says they’re all bunk, this was the point I was trying to make. My experiences may not be the same for others, as is the case with any medical treatment.

  80. John

    On a related note, I just saw a segment on the news about a religious group in Russia that got sick after drinking “holy” water. The water was sourced from a local lake and they believed because it was “holy” that it was safe to drink.

  81. Ron

    Those who see a “Big Pharm” conspiracy everywhere frequently forget that “Big Alternative” is a problem. They want to be taken seriously, but they do not want “alternative medicine” to be required to undergo the same testing as Rx medications. I believe alternative meds should be regulated. They should not get a free pass merely becaue the are called alternative.

    More often than not advocates of alt meds react strongly to any questioning of their claims. Almost as if anything alternative should be considered sacrosanct. It drives them crazier when you point out that modern scientific medicine has saved more lives than all other forms of medicine combined over all of world history. When I said that to an advocate of homeopathy he demanded; “take that back!” We may not convince some of these advocates of alt meds, but I think we can be effective consumer advocates for the general population and I hope convince others to seek real help and I hope put a dent in the profits of Big Alter.

  82. Gary Ansorge


    You might find this article interesting. It’s all about how our subconscious is dedicated to following group think.

    Gary 7

  83. I love it. I’ve not seen such bad press generated by alt-to-health in a long time. They really are exposing themselves to be total trogs. Keep it up!


  84. ND


    “I simply offered real world evidence suggesting that some FDA approved drugs and their studies are in fact bunk as well. ”

    How does your *anectodal* evidence show us that the FDA studies are bunk? Your experience is based on one person, studies cover larger groups of people.

  85. ND


    Looks like I read only your very last posting and did not notice your previous ones. Please ignore my comments.

  86. Here is a sad reality. The scope of medicine is mind blowing. There are over 2000 years of medical TRADITION as the field was, until recent times, an apprenticeship. So we have the art (what to do when you have no clue); we have the science. Much of the science is “basic” and without practical tools of direct application.

    If we dump the art, we dump about 80% of medicine (my guesstimate). So medicine is NOT a science, but an art that respects and promotes science. Often our best inroads come from single cases with extraordinary circumstances. These feed the cue for scientific validation. In case nobody has noticed, the rate limiting thing is science, and the rate limiting thing within science is MONEY. Has anybody also noticed that the billionaires are not scientists?

    When Bell labs was flipped into Lucent, one of the new “managers” told my brother that he was irrelevant. People don’t care about single molecules of water in glass! They want new colors and shapes of telephones!

    He left Bell that day with the unspoken know-how still in his head as to how to fix the single biggest loss of light in fiber optics.

    The thing is to be sceptical and take deep comfort from Darwin.

    – ? rmn


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