Quacks and Snake Oil

Let us start with this illuminating video entitled Why Do People Keep Falling For Things That Don’t Work?
Here is some reasons why:

  • Confirmation bias – where you ignore evidence that contradicts your belief, and place more value on evidence that supports it. Here is Tim Minchin on confirmation bias.
  • Mis-attributing causation between two events that simply happened consecutively.
  • Novelty bias – Where a treatment or device is thought to be better simply because it’s new.

“The greatest deception men suffer from is of their own opinions” – Leonardo da Vinci

The demarcation problem – how do you differentiate between science and non-science? Karl Popper: “Science isn’t about what you can prove. Assertions within science must be falsifiable. For instance, the existence of God is not falsifiable, therefore it is not science.

Making an exact prediction that can be disproven or falsified is science. There is a vast array of non-science thought processes and belief systems which wear the clothes of science. Examples of this are:

  • the study of UFOs
  • the search for ancient aliens
  • Myers-Briggs personality tests
  • healing crystals
  • hypnotherapy
  • handwriting analysis
  • phrenology
  • intelligent design
  • homeopathy
  • chiropractic

Things like homeopathy and chiropractic are classic examples: they have their own textbooks, expert guidelines, they have all the trappings of clinical medicine, they call themselves doctors – yet both of them are complete superstition. Homeopathy uses the belief that “like cures like”, that small doses of something harmful can somehow help. Chiropractic is based on the belief that imbalances occur in the body that can be treated by manipulating the skeleton.

Pseudoscience is most harmful when it masquerades as science.

Bioplausibility can only be the beginning of drug or therapy discovery. Unfortunately, bioplausibility alone has been used to create and peddle therapies and supplements. Dr Rohin Francis lists some of them here. Randomized controlled trials is the only valid basis for therapies and supplements.

The Non-science of Chiropractic

Did chiropractic begin with a falsifiable hypothesis? Nope: Here is the strange origin of chiropractic. Subluxation syndrome is a legitimate, potentially testable, theoretical construct for which there is little experimental evidence. Data does not demonstrate that spinal manipulation is an effective intervention for any condition. Given the possibility of adverse effects, this review does not suggest that spinal manipulation is effective for anything. Chiropractic is not even effective for back pain. Additionally, there are many reports of stroke happening as a result of chiropractic neck manipulation.

As part of naturopathic manipulative treatment, your practitioner may apply pressure to your spine. This can damage arteries, nerves, bones, and spinal discs. In rare cases, it may lead to a stroke.

Chiropractic practice is beset by many of the same flaws that we’ve previously alerted you to regarding “alternative” practices such as naturopathy, rooted in a bunk pseudoscientific theory known as subluxation. Chiropractors are sanctioned by their industry to practice on the basis of woefully inadequate, largely unscientific training that is a pale mockery of the rigorous training provided in science-based medical schools. Shamefully, many chiropractors are also anti-vaccination.

Chiropractic adjustment does not realign the spine.

By seeking magical (chiropractic) treatment, you are delaying actual treatment, and therefore you are prolonging— and possibly worsening— your condition. Chiropractic “care” risks all kinds of complications. Chiropractic is a sham.

Do NOT trust your baby to chiropractic “care”.

Homeopathy was debunked in a double blind trial in 1835. This video explains it all.

Alternative and Naturopathic medicine

One of the main benefits of standard medical care is that it undergoes rigorous research. Through clinical trials and studies, scientists can determine whether certain techniques, medicines, and courses of treatment are effective and safe.

Along with being more educated and reporting poorer health status, the majority of alternative medicine users appear to be doing so not so much as a result of being dissatisfied with conventional medicine but largely because they find these health care alternatives to be more congruent with their own values, beliefs, and philosophical orientations toward health and life.

Keystones of naturopathic care, such as homeopathy and intravenous vitamin treatment, haven’t been scientifically proved.

The training of naturopathic doctors amounts to a small fraction of that of medical doctors who practice primary care. An examination of their literature, moreover, reveals that it is replete with pseudoscientific, ineffective, unethical, and potentially dangerous practices.

Naturopathic doctors are not qualified to practice medicine. They don’t have nearly enough patient contact. They don’t have nearly enough clinical training. They’re duping patients into fake medical treatment for cancer and many chronic illnesses with dubious therapies and IV treatments or some of these outrageous detox protocols for people who have never had toxic exposure to anything. The danger it poses to patients is they come into contact with ill-equipped and incompetent naturopaths who miss dangerous and important diagnoses.

The Dose: Cyborg Cockroaches - The Unbiased Science Podcast

Here are a few examples of popular beliefs and practices that have “stood the test of time”: astrology, voodoo, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, slavery, torture, oppression of women, persecution of homosexuals, female genital mutilation, and religious wars. It should be clear from this list that popularity and persistence are fallacious tests of scientific or ethical validity. These tests are, in fact, the logical fallacies known as the “appeal to the masses” and the “appeal to tradition,” respectively.

Alternative medicine can be very dangerous if it’s used in place of traditional treatments. It can even be life-threatening. That’s partly because you’re not getting proven treatments for your condition.


There is no valid scientific evidence that auras exist. Neurologists claim that certain brain disorders and effects may be responsible for those visual experiences.

Some researchers say that healers who claim they can see auras have a neuropsychological feature – something called, “synesthesia”. This phenomenon is a fusion of sensations of the five senses. This can happen due to an active connection between the parts of the brain responsible for processing stimuli. Thus, these people can feel or see the sound as well as associate people with a certain color.

Crystals are pretty rocks. There is no evidence that crystal healing works over and above a placebo effect.

Reiki, Energy Healing, and Theraputic Touch

Many highly theoretical mechanisms have been proposed to explain how hand waving could cure—I’m sorry, not cure but “help the body heal itself”—but none of these mechanisms make sense scientifically.

A test of theraputic touch: Twenty-one practitioners with theraputic touch (TT) experience for from 1 to 27 years were tested under blinded conditions to determine whether they could correctly identify which of their hands was closest to the investigator’s hand. They were unable to detect the investigator’s “energy field.” Their failure to substantiate TT’s most fundamental claim is unrefuted evidence that the claims of TT are groundless and that further professional use is unjustified.

Reiki treatment should not be used as a substitute for the consultation of a physician or a psychotherapist.

Reiki promotes relaxation, stress reduction and symptom relief to improve overall health and well-being. It can:

  • Bring on a meditative state.
  • Foster tissue and bone healing after injury or surgery.
  • Stimulate your body’s immune system.
  • Promote natural self-healing.
  • Relieve pain and tension.
  • Support the well-being of people receiving traditional medical treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and kidney dialysis.

Reiki therapy is useful for relieving pain, decreasing anxiety/depression and improving quality of life in several conditions.

Spiritual healing was tested on a petri dish of cancer cells and no effect was found.

The whole notion of “detox” is a pernicious, but profitable, lie.

Stem cell clinics are suspect.


Beware of (hidden?) corporate sponsorship infecting even otherwise trusted content creators.

By Otto

I am a health enthusiast, engineer, and maker.