Cancer cures in the baking aisle!

Today I learnt about a man named Dr. Simoncini. He is a Roman oncologist who has supposedly found the cure for cancer! What is his cure? Baking soda! Thats right, plain old baking soda! Way cheaper and easier than chemo and no side effects!

Too bad that the basis for his therapy is the idea that all cancer is caused by a fungus. He appears in the video below, watch his amazing powers of deduction that have led him to that conclusion…

Thats right… cancer is a fungus because it is white, and mushrooms are white. Wow. When you mush them up.. they look like cancer, amazing! Candida is the evil fungus he blames, claiming that the majority of cancer patients have Candida in their tissues. Which is no surprise since… “Candida are almost universal on normal adult skin and albicans is part of the normal flora of the mucous membranes of the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and female genital tracts which cause no disease.” -Wikipedia

Logically, it makes no sense. It is like saying “Cancer has water in it, most patients who have cancer drink water, therefore water causes cancer!”

Of course to cure the cancer you cant just eat baking soda, or rub it on your skin. No, you have to have it injected into the tumor itself. This is where the quackery turns tragic. Dr. Simoncini has been charged with manslaughter because of these treaments. The article paints a well researched picture of some of the people that have lost their lives after treatment by this man.

It is tragic, heartbreaking and offensive that someone can make these claims and take advantage of people who are dealing with something as horrible as cancer. Of course not all therapies are as obviously absurd as Dr. Simoncini’s, but there is no such thing as a cure all.


Keep my herd immune!

One of the unfortunate controversies that has come up in recent years is vaccination safety. There is so much information on the internet from both sides of the controversy, and tons of statistics and case examples that make vaccines look like a dangerous risk to take with a child. I have read quite a bit of information about it, and looking at it from a skeptical viewpoint, it is unfortunately one of the situations where a person making their own health decisions can have an adverse effect on those around them.

Vaccines are wonderful, let me begin by saying that. Thanks to vaccines I have not suffered from polio, smallpox, whooping cough, and many other diseases that were common in the recent past. Smallpox is of course the best well known example of the success of vaccines. I know I haven’t been vaccinated, yet I still don’t have to worry about this disease. The reason being is that it was labeled as eradicated in 1979 with the last known natural occurring case happening in 1977. This is what widespread use of vaccines accomplished. The complete eradication of a disease that historically killed 80% of children who contracted it. This would not have happened if a percentage of the population didn’t get the vaccines and the disease was allowed to spread.

The tragedy happening now is that there is a growing part of the population that are denying vaccination to their children. It is starting to have consequences. We don’t have to worry about smallpox because the only place it survives today is in tightly controlled research labs, where the workers who handle it are still vaccinated. In the outside world, polio still exists, so do measles, hepatitis and many other diseases that can be vaccinated against.  One of the reasons vaccines do so well when everyone who is able to is vaccinated is herd immunity. By having as many people as possible in the population vaccinated against a disease, it ensures a much less likely chance that those who cannot be vaccinated are never exposed to the disease.  This is why I think those who are against vaccinations are acting quite selfishly. They are both taking advantage of the herd immunity of those around them, yet are contributing to weakening it.

A perfect example is the current rate of measles in the United States. The average rate of cases over the last few years is 60. 60 cases in the entire country in a year, and most of those cases are people travelling and bringing it back into the country. Last year it was 222, with over 50 of those cases coming from children whose parents opted out of vaccination. By opting out of vaccination, diseases that are still around but rarely seen are able to once again start infecting the population. I do not have a child, but I would be very upset if for whatever reason my child was not able to be vaccinated, and relied on this herd immunity to keep them safe against disease, only to have it fail because some parents are improperly educated on the true risks of vaccines.

Presently it doesn’t seem like a very dangerous thing to not vaccinated your child, 222 cases of measles in all of the US is a very low number, and most people who opt out of vaccinations have not had direct contact with any of the diseases they are no longer helping to prevent. Polio is one disease that is almost eradicated, but still has some cases reported, although the current rates are the lowest in ten years. However if the vaccine were to stop being administered so aggressively there could be an increase of cases and children could once again become crippled by this disease.

This post from one of my favourite blogs, Respectful Insolence, shows how pockets of the US population are already starting to lose the herd immunity, leading to potential outbreaks. At what point should the population allow opting out of vaccines if it going to threaten the health of more than those just opting out? I believe that vaccines are one of the greatest advances in modern medicine developed so far. Although we take it for granted now, it has saved millions of lives, and to allow that progress to be lost just because we don’t see the diseases anymore and its become “out of sight, out of mind” while we focus on imaginary problems that we think it causes is tragic.

The Most Astounding Fact

Although I hope to update this blog regularly, work and life will of course get in the way. So on days like this I hope to share some of the amazing work that has inspired me and motivated me to share my love of science and learning. From the eloquent mind of Neil deGrasse Tyson, The Most Astounding Fact, a short video about what is truly fascinating about the universe.

Diluted Duck anyone?

I am a member of the Center For Inquiry, which is currently involved as advisers in a class action lawsuit against Shoppers Drug Mart and Boiron Canada for selling Oscillococcinum, a popular cold and flu remedy. The lawsuit is happening because the remedy is homeopathic, and therefore is overpriced sugar with no medicinal properties. I have had quite a few friends and family use homeopathic remedies at one point or another, thankfully never for anything serious. I have even used them in the past, before I understood just what homeopathy was and how it requires the laws of physics to not exist for it to work.

I’m going to offer an explaination for just what homeopathy is and how its done using Oscillococcinum (which I am now going to call magic duck juice for ease of spelling) as an example. In order for a remedy to be considered homeopathic it must follow the two following rules:

Homeopathic Rule #1 : Like cures like – For example, if you have a fever, you take a very small amount of a substance that causes fever to help cure it. This likely made plenty of sense and was seen as a medical breakthrough when the other medical treatments of the time included blood letting and germs were not yet discovered.  The sheer variety of remedies available today though stagger the mind as to what needs curing and how to cure it. I guess if your feeling like shit, you take some shit! Yes that is a remedy using dog excrement as an ingredient!

Anyway, back to how magic duck juice is involved in this rule. A doctor by the name of Joseph Roy was involved in the spanish flu epidemic in the 1920’s, and when he examined the blood of patients with the flu, as well as those with herpes, chicken pox, and shingles, he found what he thought to be a small bacterium that caused all of these diseases as well as several others including cancer. Of course now we know that simply isn’t true.  So how did he decide magic duck juice was the answer? He looked for the same bacterium in several animals until he thought he found it in the liver of a duck. That is all you need to do to find a remedy in homeopathy!  Maybe next time I feel the sniffles coming on I’ll go buy some Foie Gras and really nip that cold in the bud!

Homeopathic Rule #2: The more dilute the substance the more powerful the remedy – Now here is where we go from slightly plausible to complete mind numbing you cant be serious!? The thought of like curing like and getting results from a substance you have taken could be plausible, assuming you have taken some of that substance to begin with. Not so with Homeopathy. The process of diluting in Homeopathy begins by taking one drop of the substance and diluting it into a hundred drops of alcohol or water. That is called 1C. You then take one drop of that and dilute it one drop in a hundred again, making a 2C dilution. 2C would be one part substance to 10,000 parts water. At 4C you have reached the legal limit for how much arsenic is allowed in US drinking water. Most Homeopathic remedies are sold at 30C. At 30C to get ONE molecule of the original substance you would have to drink enough Homeopathic solution to fill the entire earth 10 billion times! Thats a billion, with a B! 10,000,000,000!

Now here is where the magic duck juice takes it one step further! The magic duck juice is diluted to 200C! 200C means you would have to ingest 5 times more atoms than are observable in the entire universe to get a single molecule! There are 1080 estimated atoms in the observable universe, and 200C requires 10400  molecules to get one of the duck liver!

Now if you actually believe that water has memory (it doesnt) that explains how this could work without having a single molecule of the original substances in the remedy. If you still think it works due to the water memory theory though, consider this. All the water we use has been around for millions of years, so how does the water know to remember the properties of a speck of duck liver, yet forgets all the toxins, poo, and general filth that it has been exposed to over the millenia?

If you are one of the many who have used Homeopathic remedies without really learning about them, I hope you reconsider. If you have a cold save your money, don’t help Boiron make $15 million of one poor duck, and buy yourself something like nyquil, chicken soup or rum. They still may not help, but at least you are getting the molecules you paid for!

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Science and pseudoscience in medicine

Today I was reading one of my favourite blogs, Science Based Medicine. A new post on there titled Stop Making Sense touched on just how much work goes into discovering new facts and theories in science, and how modern medicine has failed at allowing unscientific principles to spread while other scientific fields seem to dismiss them quite easily.

I came up for a few reasons this might be, based on what I have begun to learn of medicine and what effect I have seen alternative medicine have on those around me.

1. Most areas of science do not have a noticeable direct effect on your daily life and well being. Yes our understanding of things like electricity, chemistry and genetics have done amazing things to improve our quality of life, but few things so directly affects a person as a medical diagnosis that can drastically change that quality of life. A person confronted with that situation is going to do all they can to try and overcome or prevent illness, which leads to a personal vested interest in this particular field of science. It only makes sense that there is going to be more public interest in cancer than astronomy.

2. Everyone cares about health care, and everyone has a story or theory about what works to be healthy. This leads to millions of products, techniques or systems available for someone to try, and for science to systematically debunk each and every one of them would be a waste of resources on an epic scale! Of course every separate product or system has anecdotes or ‘science’ explaining why theirs is better than the others and will truly work. What really works… doing research and using critical thinking!

3. Money. Since there are millions of people disillusioned with science based medicine and how it works, there is an incredible money making opportunity there. Whether or not people actually believe what they are selling works, or are complete snake oil salesman, the money to be made by exploiting peoples misunderstanding or desperation for a treatment is huge!

4. Belief. Once you have tried one of these alternative therapies, and if you have had positive results, you are likely to believe it was the therapy. You are not as likely to admit it may have been the Placebo effect, having some relaxing time during the therapy or just having a practitioner give you a calming but ineffective treatment. If you are expecting a positive result you are more likely to get one, and once you believe in it and have resources and time invested in it, you are not as likely to be open to criticism as to what it actually is.

5. Distrust of science. People are more likely to trust those they know, a friend or someone you can actually meet. A scientist working in a lab developing a drug is about as far from personable as you can get! Whereas the energy healer or homeopath you can meet can engender much more trust. As well, the medical system is flawed. Of course it is, it is a human made and run system, but it is what we have. Science is still and will always be the best method for understanding the world around us and how it works.

Those are my ideas on why alternative medicine is so popular, I know there are plenty more out there, hopefully to be explored at a later time!

First post, hopefully not last!

I have decided to start this blog to share my passion for science and skepticism, so for a first post I figure I would talk about what caused me to become interested in these topics to begin with!

I’ve always been the questioning sort, wanting to know the why of something and not always been satisfied with the answers presented to me. I have done my bit at swallowing the mystical pill, believing in supernatural things and trying different spiritual searches and techniques. However I never wanted to stop learning, and if there is one thing that I have learnt, being open to education is the quickest end to belief in the supernatural. Science had all the explanations for the mysteries I experienced, and suddenly the magic wasn’t magical anymore. What was there instead was even more fascinating! Science and the way it allows us to interpret and experience the world around us is, to me, much more exciting! The passion for sharing this has come from my own views and experience in seeing the belief in supernatural and pseudo scientific ideas having a negative impact on peoples lives. This may be my little corner of the web, but in it I hope to help spread these ideas and support the people and organizations that have helped me in my own skeptical education.

I leave you with one of my new favorite quotes, and something I wish more people understood.

NDT Quote