Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Is Wikipedia Fake News: Can Wikipedia be Cured?

Is Wikipedia 'fake news'? Does Wikipedia contain 'fake news'? How would we know?  Well, first of all, we need to understand the concept of fake news, and distinguish clearly between fake news and lies, truths, facts, non-facts, and bullshit. Perhaps we should begin with 'bullshit'.  Harry Frankfurt's essay, "On Bullshit" explores that concept in detail, and also in a nutshell.  "Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about." Frankfurt distinguishes clearly between lies - the presenter clearly does not believe what they are saying, and bullshit, where the speaker is simply talking about which they know little.

Frankfurt does not actually define 'facts' nor 'truth', although he does point out that "It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth." and "The bullshitter ... does not reject the authority of the truth... He pays no attention to it at all...  bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are." Frank does not make the mistake of assuming that 'facts' exist, instead commenting that "One who is concerned to report or to conceal the facts assumes that there are indeed facts that are in some way both determinate and knowable." He ends with this phrase "sincerity itself is bullshit".

Maybe facts simply do not exist. What exists are beliefs. Dead things have no facts. Live things have beliefs. Beliefs can be accepted, challenged, even changed.

What we believe are facts are, in fact, simply what we believe. What we present as facts, might be what we believe - but they might not, as in this diagram.

Truths are what we believe. We speak truths when we speak what we believe. Everyone has their own truths, which can change over time. Lies are things we say that contradict what we believe. Lies are opportunistic, they change according to current situations. Bullshit is what we present as truth, when we have a need to extend our speech beyond our knowledge, beyond our current beliefs. When we bullshit, we sometimes know we are 'stretching the truth', but we don't consider it lying. Facts are irrelevant, not existing independent of belief.

But none of this is news.

News only exists when someone else reports what happened, or what was said.

Wikipedia, for example, does not want writers who tell us what they believe.  Wikipedia wants references. Wikipedia wants to know what someone in authority said, and who they are, and when and where they said it. Note: Wikipedia does not care if the authority was stating their truths, their lies, or simply bullshitting.  It's not considered important. Wikipedia is based entirely on news. Who said what, where and when. However, unlike many news sources, Wikipedia ignores 'why'.

Wikipedia is a news source, old news and new news.  But is it fake news?  Does Wikipedia contain fake news? What is fake news?  Well, we can ask Wikipedia, and read that "Fake news is a type of hoax or deliberate spread of misinformation, be it via the traditional news media or via social media, with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically." That's one definition. But it's not a particularly good one.  Fake news, according to Wikipedia is simply a lie, a deliberate, known untruth.

Much of the fake news currently on display is outside of the definitions of truths, lies and bullshit. The fake news stories that made headlines, that drove the news about fake news were not "with intent to mislead" in any real sense. In some cases, they are presented with intent to inform.

Satire is fake news.  It is a story, presented as fact, often written clearly as impossible or non-fact, but written to open our eyes. The purpose of satire is not to be funny, but to help us understand nonsense presented as truth.

But there is another, important type of fake news. We might call it 'fake news'.  Fake news is when someone writes a fake story, and presents it as news.  But, we need to ask, what is news?

News is simply what is presented to get money from advertisers. What advertisers will pay for, is news.  If the advertisers won't pay for it, it won't sell, it's not news.  No news source makes it's money from people buying the news. Money is made from advertisers. If you are not supported by advertisers - your news agency goes broke.

A 'fake news website' is a site that creates nonsense news to attract hits and sell advertising. In many cases, the fake news authors don't distinguish at all between truths, lies, and bullshit - because they simply don't care.  Many fake news websites only care about advertising and will publish anything they believe will bring clicks, possibly go viral, and make lots of money.

There are, however, other fake news websites, that actually care about their content. There is, like the gradient between truth, bullshit, and lies, a slightly different gradient for 'fake news reporters'.

Viewing the diagram above, it's not hard to realize that ALL news is, to a certain extent, 'fake news'. The news we get is deliberately written to sell ads.  If it does not sell ads, it's not news - except for the middle group, which are written to spread lies, and uses the news platform to present the fake news.  On the far right, we have nonsense news stories, written as clickbait, to sell advertising.

Where does satire fit into this diagram? In the middle.  Satire contains deliberate lies, ostensibly to make us aware of the truth. But satire, in order to sell, in order to be successful, must sell their lies well.

Is Wikipedia 'fake news'?  Wikipedia has no advertising. Does that make it exempt from fake news? Actually, no.  Wikipedia is written by 'well meaning' people, who want to sell their truths. But there's a problem. Most Wikipedia authors are simply not experts in what they write. They may be experts in research, or in writing, but generally they are not experts in the topics they write about. How do we know this?  It's actually against Wikipedia policy for an expert to write in their field of expertise. To quote Wikipedia, "Wikipedia articles must not contain original research (OR).... The prohibition against OR means that all material added to articles must be attributable to a reliable, published source, even if not actually attributed."

Is Wikipedia bullshit?  No.  But it certainly contains bullshit.  For one, a "reliable, published source" is not well defined. Anyone might claim to quote a reliable published source - and anyone else might claim it is not a reliable published source. Reliable publishers have been shown, many times over, to have published nonsense - aka bullshit.

Here, I offer evidence.  I have chosen a single Wikipedia article, to demonstrate the fake news, and bullshit potential present in Wikipedia.


Wikipedia has an entry for cure.  It has been entered and updated by hundreds of well meaning volunteers - and many interested parties. It might be updated again several times by the time you read this post. But with this entry, CURE, Wikipedia faces a simple problem. There are no experts on 'cure'. None. There are doctors who attempt to cure, and sometimes succeed. There are many people looking for cures, fund raising for cures, testing products and techniques as cures, and even many people finding cures, but there is not a single expert on the concept of cure.

Medical reference books, for the most part, do not define cure. MERCK, Lange's, and Harrison's treatment guidelines do not define cure and do not use the word cure consistently.  The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency that approves medical cures, provides a glossary of terms, but it does not provide nor follow any definition of cure. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also provides a glossary on their website - but it does not contain the words 'cure, cured, cures, nor incurable'. Most current medical dictionaries do not contain the word 'cure'. When they do, the definition provided is simplistic to the point of nonsense. Most medicines make no claim to cure, and cannot cure any illness. Many illnesses can be cured, but not by medicines.

So what is a Wikipedia author to do?  Make things up.  Bullshit. And proof that the authors are making things up becomes more obvious, the closer you look.

The first phrase in the current entry for 'cure' on Wikipedia says "A cure is the end of a medical condition;".  It sounds so simple, it must be obvious, right?  But read further.

Down the page, you will find the word 'incurable', and farther down, a link to a list of 'incurable diseases', Take note, the list of Incurable Diseases has re-appeared after being banished from Wikipedia because it contained too much nonsense.  It's back, with more of the same.

The list of incurable diseases says: "Common Cold - The common cold is a disease that mutates too frequently, and is rarely fatal,[3] for a vaccine or cure to be created.[4]". Now first of all, the use of English in this sentence is faulty to the point of nonsense if read literally. I think the author is trying to say "The common cold is a disease that mutates too frequently for a vaccine or cure to be created."

The first reference [3] - Wikipedians love references, is to the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, where it clearly states "Most adult Americans suffer from one to four colds per year,". but.... If an adult suffers more than one cold, certainly if they suffer more than one cold in a year - then the first cold, the first medical condition 'ended'.

Which contradicts the list of incurable diseases.  Either the list of incurable diseases is wrong, or the entry for cure is wrong, or they are both wrong.  They can't both be right. Now, as a serious student of the word 'cure', I can and will untangle this, but Wikipedia does not publish OR.

The second reference [4] is a link to a web article by "Business Insider", who describes themselves thus: "Business Insider is a fast-growing business site with deep financial, media, tech, and other industry verticals. ... the site is now the largest business news site on the web." Business Insider is NOT a medical authority, and certainly not an authority on cures, nor incurable diseases. The article does not state that the common cold is 'incurable', it does not use the word incurable at all, in fact, the web link to the article is "/how-to-cure-a-cold", although the article is titled "Why We Don't Have A Cure For The Common Cold".  It is written by a journalist, an editor, not a doctor. But in Wikipedia, it's a 'reliable source'. The author also confuses the concept of curing 'a cold' - which anyone can accomplish, with 'curing the disease we call the common cold', which no-one can accomplish.

The first phrase, of the first sentence, of Wikipedia's entry on cure is contradicted by the rest of the article. Even though all are, in theory, supported by reliable references.  But, let's read on. What else does the first sentence say? Well, actually, it goes on for quite a while, and seems to say quite a lot.

The Wikipedia entry for cure continues with "the substance or procedure that ends the medical condition, such as a medication, a surgical operation, a change in lifestyle, or even a philosophical mindset that helps end a person's sufferings; or the state of being healed, or cured."

Seriously now. The first sentence in the Wikipedia entry for cure contains - (if my quick count is correct) forty-eight words. The first sentence of the Wikipedia definition for 'cure' contains two phrases, separated by a semicolon, which contradict each other. First, Wiki says that cure is "the end of a medical condition", and then it says cure is "the substance or procedure that ends the medical condition". The Wikipedia entry for 'cure' clearly mixes TWO different definitions of cure, and the article then mixes and matches the definitions, as various authors provide information from 'reliable sources'. Wikipedia does learn, and we might hope that someday there will be two  or more entries for cure. But I'm not holding my breath.

But wait, there's more.  The sentence, again, is nonsense. It clearly says, for example, that a cure is "or even a philosophical mindset that helps end a person's sufferings; or the state of being healed, or cured."

Read that carefully.  It says that 'a cure is.. something... that helps end the patient's sufferings'. Is a cure then end of a medical condition? Or is it just the end of their suffering?

Or perhaps, cure is "the state of being healed, or cured"?  Perfect.  If we want to define 'cure', we just say that a cure is something that makes a patient 'cured' and a cure exists when the patient has been cured.

I could go on.  I often do. The Wikipedia entry for 'cure' is simplistic nonsense.  Bullshit. The more the authors attempt to explain 'cure' the more tangle they become, in their own research and discussion. The Wiki article on 'cure' contains many statements that are simply wrong - at best, or lies at worst?  Some examples:

"A remission is a temporary end to the medical signs and symptoms of an incurable disease."
 - Therefore, it's not possible to have a 'remission' unless the disease is incurable?

"Inherent in the idea of a cure is the permanent end to the specific instance of the disease.[4][5] When a person has the common cold, and then recovers from it, the person is said to be cured, even though the person might someday catch another cold."
 - is the common cold curable? Or incurable?

"The proportion of people with a disease that are cured by a given treatment, called the cure fraction or cure rate is determined by comparing disease-free survival of treated people against a matched control group that never had the disease.[1]"
 - duh. the common cold is 'cured' without a given treatment. So there is no cure rate for the common cold?
 - duh.  The terms 'cure fraction' and 'cure rate' are terms used for 'incurable' diseases, like cancers, and other diseases where a cure cannot be proven.  If a cure can be proven, there is no need for the concept of 'cure rate'. The link in the phrase 'disease free survival' does not take us to a page for disease free survival, instead we arrive at a page "Survival Rate", which begins with this phrase: "This article has multiple issues." Try to not be surprised.
 - cure rate does not measure the cure rate of the patient, nor the cure rate of the disease, it measures the cure rate of the treatment. It's nonsense. We might, for example, treat an abscessed tooth with a punch in the jaw and then measure the 'cure rate' of punching abscessed tooth patients in the jaw, by counting the patients whose abscess goes away and are still alive.

The CURE entry goes on for some time discussing ''cure rate" as if it related to cure.  Frankly, cure rate is simply a highly logical rationalization for 'we don't know if it was cured'', which might be more accurately named 'cure wait'.  eg. Wait 5 years, count who is still alive and call that the 5 year cure wait.

Near the bottom of the article, the Wiki CURE entry lists a single example of a 'cure'. "The most common example of a complete cure is a bacterial infection treated with antibiotics." However, the link to the article provided is broken. It appears that the article was removed, or replaced by an article that does not contain the quote. The revised article on the site linked, if it is the same article, now says "Except for some infectious diseases that we cure with antibiotics, there are almost no diseases where we take them away and they never come back again." If we want to find real examples of cure, provided by trusted resources we can find them in two places.  First, medical reference books like MERCK, Lange's and Harrison's generally avoid the word 'cure', but the do occasionally use the word cure, and document how to test for a cure.  Second, although over 95 percent of medicines sold do not cure, and make no attempt to cure, there are a few medicines that clearly claim to 'cure' on the product label, and the claim has been approved by the US FDA.

But that, in a nutshell is the first true  statement about cure. The only diseases that can be 'cured' by modern medicines are diseases caused by parasites - bacteria, fungi, viruses, which are cured by medicines that kill the parasite.  There are no other cures that are scientifically documented in modern medicine, because there are no other cures that can be tested by a scientific technique. Science fails to find cures - even when they are present. Science often claims there is no cure for the common cold, but recognizes that the common cold is cured by health, that healthy people suffer fewer colds, and cure them faster.

There is another truth about cure.  We can use it to find cures, to test cures, to document cures. But you won't find it in Wikipedia,because you can't find it in any medical reference book today, nor in any 'reliable published source'.

The cure for any illness is to address the cause. 

An illness is cured, when the cause has been successfully addressed. If the cause returns after a cure, like the cause of the common cold - the patient gets a new illness, not a return of the old illness. 

The Wikipedia article on cure?  Simplistic.  Self contradictory. Does it contain 'lies'?  I have no evidence of lies. I cannot prove that any of the statements it contains are the opposite of the beliefs of the authors. But it is certainly fake news. Nonsense. Self contradictory. Bullshit, as defined in Harry Frankfurt's essay. People speaking or writing beyond their current knowledge.

to your health, tracy

ps. There are many useful articles on Wikipedia. I use Wikipedia a lot to find information and sources. But I am always aware that much of Wikipedia is fake news written by non-experts, and that expert opinions, also known as "original research" is forbidden. Many posts on Wikipedia are similar to the article on 'cure' - I suspect some are worse.

ps, ps.  The Wikipedia article on CURE, as well as the list of INCURABLE DISEASES, make no useful distinction between a disease (a class of illnesses) an illness - a specific case of illness, and a medical condition - a much broader concept which includes things like broken arms, gunshot wounds and amputated legs.  A disease - a general concept, cannot be cured. There are three clear and simple meanings of cure, which can be understood when we clarify what we are curing.  An illness, a specific case of a disease, is cured by addressing the cause. A medical condition like  broken arm can be healed - that's a type of cure.  An amputated leg can be healed to close the wound, but not cured.  Finally, we can cure disease before it happens, just as we can 'cure the cat of jumping up on the table'.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Death of Skepticism and The Rise of Fake News

Skepticism is dead.  Skepticism has been captured and converted to dogmatism. When I was young, I remember one of my cousins commenting "You are such a skeptic." It made me feel proud to be skeptical, to search for the truth.  But today's, skeptics don't search for the truth. Most claim to have found it.

Skepticism has become the new religion. It's not a religion of analysis, nor thoughtfulness, nor of skepticism.  It's the religion of dogma. Skepticism has been co-opted, in service of the prevailing dogma, the invisible dogma.

Perhaps, before we go any further, we might take a look at the dictionary definitions of skepticism and dogma, in the interest of knowing what the bleep we are talking about.

Skepticism Defined: 

Webster's dictionary:
1. a skeptical attitude; doubt as to the truth of something. "these claims were treated with skepticism"
synonyms: doubt, doubtfulness, a pinch of salt;
2.PHILOSOPHY - the theory that certain knowledge is impossible.

Oxford's Dictionary:
A sceptical attitude; doubt as to the truth of something. ‘these claims were treated with scepticism’
Philosophy :The theory that certain knowledge is impossible.

Dogma Defined:

Webster's:  something held as an established opinion;
Oxford Dictionary: A principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.

Punt SKEPTIC into google.  Take a look at these 'so called' skeptics:

Skeptic - magazine and website 'The society is dedicated to educating the public about controversial claims.'.
Skepti-Forum 'Keeping the Science. Removing the Fiction'.
Skepticalscience -'getting skeptical about global warming skepticism.
SkepticalaboutSkeptics: 'focuses on the people who fall in the dogmatic denier category because they present themselves as being the most truthful and objective, which they are not. '

Let's look at "Skeptic" first, at their manifesto, which says "Modern skepticism is embodied in the scientific method, that involves gathering data to formulate and test naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena. A claim becomes factual when it is confirmed..."

Then, the hedging begins.. "to such an extent it would be reasonable to offer temporary agreement." 

and continues to waffle with "But all facts in science are provisional and subject to challenge, and therefore skepticism is a method leading to provisional conclusions."

Seriously? What is skepticism? Is it science? Is it "a method leading to provisional conclusions?" Is it the 'best results of science'? Or is it "all facts are provisional and subject to challenge"?

What does say about the Oxford dictionary definitions of skepticism?

"this position is sterile and unproductive and held by virtually no one (except a few confused solipsists who doubt even their own existence)" clearly states in their manifesto, that they don't believe skepticism is useful or productive, and that any real skeptics are "a few confused solipsists" - and then they get the definition of solipsist wrong. Look it up if you like. and Skeptic magazine pretend to find truth through skepticism. They are not about doubt,
they are about truth,
their truth, and
nothing but their truth -
they present nothing but dogma, and call it skepticism.

Is is actually 'skeptical'?  Sorry.  No. has very specific positions on may controversial questions.  They do not consider contrary positions valid or useful.  They will not tolerate skepticism of their truths, their faith.They will NOT consider, support, nor publish contrary positions. is simply not skeptical.

Skepticism, by definition, is doubt, not truth. At, skepticism is dead.

How about  Are they skeptical?  Sorry.  No they are not. Skepti-Forum's tag line reads "Keeping the science. Removing the fictions." Skepti-forum is not skepticism, it's scientism: "an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities)" (Webster's) - it's dogmatism. 

Skepti-forum is a confusing array of discussions of various items, pretending to be skeptical, but frankly, losing it by supporting much nonsensical illogical thinking. One simple example: "1,800 Studies Later, Scientists Conclude Homeopathy Doesn’t Work".  Fake and real skeptics often make the mistake of making negative claims, as if they were claims of fact - and this is a classic example. The research, 1800 studies, were studies of homeopathic medicines - not homeopathy.  There were no studies of homeopathy.  But the conclusion: homeopathy doesn't work.  Sorry, Skepti-forum.  You can't use studies of A to prove B. 


SkeptialScience is about global warming.  Tagline: 'Getting skeptical about global warming skepticism.'  So does that make them skeptical, or skeptial-skeptical (is that a word).  Does being skeptical about skeptics make you a skeptic?

Does SkepticalScience provide skepticism?  Nope. The sidebar on their website clearly states "MOST USED CLIMATE MYTHS: and what the science really says".  Skeptical science is about science? The science they want to support.

SkepticalScience is about the current scientific dogma, not about skepticism. It's about climate change. Maybe the science they present is correct and important - but it's not skepticism.


Skeptical about skeptics is an interesting site.  They list their mission thus: "Skeptical About Skeptics is organized by The Association for Skeptical Investigation to promote genuine skepticism – the spirit of enquiry and doubt – within science. This includes an open-minded investigation of unexplained phenomena, a questioning of dogmatic assumptions, and a skeptical examination of the claims of self-proclaimed skeptics."

They recognize - as I have pointed out, that most, perhaps all, of the websites claiming to be skeptic are actually dogmatic, not skeptical.  But this still leaves the question, is SkepticalAboutSkeptics 'skeptical' themselves?

If someone claims they are skeptical, and you believe they are not, does that make you skeptical?

Is SkepticalAboutSkeptics dogmatic in their reviews of pseudo-skeptics? Or are they skeptical? Or are they simply analytical, logical, sensible?  Are people who are analytical, logical, and sensible 'skeptical'?

If you study some of the posts on SkepticalAboutSkeptics, you might gradually learn that SkepticalAboutSkeptics is simply not consistent.  It is not consistent about research, it is not consistent about it's own mission, or goal - as stated on the ABOUT page: "It is the goal of Skeptical About Skeptics to show you the reasons why you’re only getting one side of the story."

Is that goal 'skeptical'?  Frankly, no, it is not.

If Skeptical about Skeptics is truly skeptical, they're not very good at it.

In conclusion:

“War is peace. 
Freedom is slavery. 
Ignorance is strength.”  - George Orwell, 1984

Skeptics are not skeptical.
Skepticism is dead.
All news is fake.
All your truth are belong to us.

to your health, tracy

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Freedom: Why all Our Bosses are Idiots

Did you ever wonder why your boss is an idiot? I mean, really.  It's a universal concept.  Do only idiots become bosses? Are bosses more likely to become idiots because of the pressures make them stupid? What's going on?

Actually, it's very, very complicated - but relatively easy to explain. Let's begin before the first boss, with the first sign of life.

Dead things, after all, don't have bosses.

A single cell. It is, in theory, totally independent. But theory doesn't last for long in practice. Cells grow.  When they grow, eventually, they grow too big for their skin, and they explode.  If the explosion is a failure, they die. But if it is a success - two cells emerge.

Each cell is no longer just an individual - it is part of a community. Cells in a community can compete, or cooperate. Actually, they do both. Every cell is still an individual, so it competes. But every cell also benefits from cooperation. A single cell could not cooperate with anyone.  Two cells can cooperate.  Cooperation is a new force, that did not exist for a single cell. The force of a boss has emerged.

What does this boss look like? Cooperation is an invisible boss. It does not need to tell anyone the rules - the rules lead to success. Going against the rules can lead to failure, or non-optimal success. Cells that cooperate do better, even when boss is invisible, they still follow the rules.

Cooperation, the first boss, provides benefits for cells in the community. Cooperation is the community.  If there is no cooperation, there is no community. When cooperation is strong, the community is strong.  Even in a strong community - there exist strong individual cells, they can develop many strengths that isolated cells cannot practice. Often, just being in the community provides benefits to individuals. Cells benefit from the warmth of friendly cells. In some cases, an individual cell might do better by taking advantage of the community, breaking the rules, stealing pencils, or eating other cells, for example. But overall, the community rules, because the rules are the community.

The cells are not aware of the boss, of the community.  Each cell is only making its own decisions, looking out for number one. If the cells were asked, they might reply "The boss (community) is an idiot.. It doesn't have any idea what's best for us cells. It's just looking out for itself." And it's true. But that's not all that's true. As the community becomes stronger, it forms a tissue - a higher level entity consisting of cells, in many cases, different types of cells working in cooperation.

These communities of tissues can compete with each other.  But, gradually, communities of tissues begin to cooperate as well. It happens entirely by accident, by coincidence - but it can lead to higher levels of success. When tissues cooperate, the result of this cooperation is a higher level entity, a higher level boss. The rules of this boss are rules that promote the community of tissues, which are communities of cells. Tissues, as bosses, have their own goals - higher level goals than single cells, or even communities of cells. Entities that are communities of tissues have still higher level goals.

Communities of tissues are separate living entities like lichen, fungi, plants, etc. These living entities are their own boss. Their bodies are boss of their tissues, boss of their cells.  The lower level tissue and cell entities have no idea. They are not conscious. Each is looking out for number one. The lichen, fungi, plant, makes its life decisions without any regard for it's cells, or it's tissues. Except that to succeed, they must succeed in some fashion.

Communities of tissues can develop limbs and bodily organs. And then another layer emerges. Limbs cooperate, in animals - even in simple insects, to facilitate locomotion. Bodily organs cooperate to create a healthier, more flexible body. With more capabilities, more opportunities.

The body is also an invisible boss.  Some organs, some limbs, fight for more, for their tissues, grow larger - sometimes so large they put the entire entity in jeopardy. The cells want to grow. The tissues want to grow. The limbs want to grow. But the body needs control. The body needs to be the boss, or it might fail, and die, or fail to reproduce.

We might imagine the cells in our skin, in our blood, in our liver, saying "if only the boss would X, we would be much better off" and believing that the boss would also be better off, if they were better off. Sometimes, they might be right - but often not.  The objectives of cells, go  grow and reproduce, are often in opposition with the objectives of tissues, of organs, of the body.

As the hierarchy rises, each new layer creates a new set of abilities and objectives, that are not available to entities lower down in the hierarchy. It also creates new vision.

As humans, as individuals, we each have many of our own bosses. Are we controlled by our bodies?By our minds? By our spirits? By our desires? By our communities?  When we look closely, we see the need for different individual bosses at different times.  Our short term boss wants to get fed, to get sleep, to enjoy life. These bosses are often not logical - they are driven by feelings and emotions. Our medium term boss wants to get ahead, to keep fit, to gain control of our lives - this boss is our mind, but it is not always in charge. Sometimes our desires and feelings override our mind.  Sometimes our mind overrides our feelings. Sometimes, our strength of spirit can put aside our feelings, and allow the mind to rule. Sometimes, a stone in our shoe takes control from the mind, the spirit, and the body - until we deal with it, and then we can pay attention to a different personal boss. Sometimes our family, or other community - the church, the government, the corporation, works as a boss, to change our plans or actions, to move us in a different direction.

But in truth, as an individual ,we cannot be free without making decisions. We cannot be free without creating our own boss, and changing who is boss, and the decisions made, as circumstances change, and as our life and our viewpoints change.

Now let's look at a human boss. A human boss is one step up the hierarchy from the individual. The human boss has a different viewpoint - different objectives. If the human boss makes the right decisions, sometimes those decisions will be good for the workers, but sometimes not so good. If the boss makes the wrong decisions, sometimes those decisions will be good for the workers, but sometimes - not so good. The workers are in a different position.  They usually can't see or know the boss's goals, whether those goals are perfectly aligned with the entire organization, only a part of the organization, or not at all.

There is another complicating factor.  The boss is also a human, with personal objectives. In some cases, for example, the boss's goal might be to get a promotion, to escape from those workers, or to retire wealthy at any cost.

In any case, the boss is often seen as an idiot - from the worker's perspective.

Then, it get's more complicated. The boss often works for a team of bosses.  That team has a boss. The boss's boss has different objectives than each lower level boss.  And different objectives than the workers. Sometimes, the decisions made by the boss's boss are good for the boss, and good for the man, and good for the team. Sometimes not. It's the nature of a functioning hierarchy, that different levels have different goals and objectives, and those objectives change over time.

When they are not aligned, it's easy to see that the boss's boss is an idiot too. Even when they are aligned, as much as possible, it's easy for some workers to see each layered boss as an idiot, not understanding the personal needs and objectives of the worker. And so it goes.

The higher the hierarchy, the higher the layers of idiot bosses. I once worked for a company that had 5 layers of bosses, and then a board of directors, and finally the owners. Each had their own objectives, which changed over time - even more so as individuals came and left. I was a first level boss.  My boss, was an idiot - a real idiot.  But when I went up the hierarchy to complain, I was made aware of the reality. My boss was the son of an owner. He got his job as a family 'perk'.  He was not expected to do his job well - it was my job to help pick up the slack. I resigned, but then I had to find a new job, a new boss... for better or for worse.

There is no doubt of one thing.  Every boss is an idiot - to the people below.  Many are idiots to their co-workers, and some even idiots to their superior bosses, who are deliberately planning to eliminate them.

On the other hand, we need to recognize that we all need bosses.  Our bosses and their communities give us more opportunities, more power than any single individual. They are what makes us stronger than plants and animals. We need our idiot bosses. They make us stronger and healthier - except when they don't.

That's how it is with health, and with freedom. It's never simple. Health benefits from multiple layers of hierarchy. Every new layer creates new opportunities for cooperation and for competition. There are lots of questions, and no easy answers, except this: all bosses are idiots.

To your health, tracy

Monday, January 23, 2017

How Healthy are Your Freedoms?

Are our freedoms healthy?  In healthicine, we say "Everyone has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of healthiness" because healthiness includes all freedoms and more, and is therefore superior to freedoms. We often think of freedoms with the phrase "life and liberty", but there is much more to freedom.
Freedoms begin with the body, rise into our mind, encourage our spirits, and are liberated and constrained by our communities.
We can look at life, at each life entity, as a hierarchy rising from body, to mind, to spirits, to communities, each existing in their environments. What about freedoms? Let's begin at the beginning, the body.
Our bodies have freedom to move.  When we are young, we don't often think about it. But, I'll never  forget the time I took an elderly friend to a clinic, and the first question the nurse asked was "can you clip your own toenails?". "No.", he replied, "not for many years."
It never occurred to me that someday I might lose the freedom of movement to cut my own toenails.  But there it is. I should live so long. Our bodies have physical freedoms.  Is it healthy to have 'more' physical freedoms? I'm not sure, but I know it's healthier to be able to clip your own toenails, even if you choose have someone else do it for you.
What types of freedoms does the body have? The body has freedom to move, freedom to stop moving, to rest, and even freedoms to change itself - to cut it's own toenails, if necessary. In summary, the body has freedom to change.
The mind has different freedoms. Don't think of the mind as the brain. The brain is part of the body.  The mind consists of the processes, conscious and unconscious, that happen in the brain components including sensory organs and nervous systems. The mind can make decisions. Not only that, the mind can make decisions, and stick to those decisions, or change them. It is free to remember what it decided, or to change what was decided. The mind can learn, but not only that. The mind can choose to teach itself, or to neglect what it has learned - consciously or unconsciously. Likes and dislikes are learned, and as a result, the mind has freedom to change what it likes, what it doesn't like; what it likes to do and what it doesn't like to do; what it wants to do, what it doesn't want to do.
A healthy mind has freedom to choose. Freedom to choose to change what has been chosen, to choose again - the same or differently.
Our spirits have other freedoms. Perhaps a moment to define what I mean by the spirits. Minds and spirits evolved together, so closely that it is almost impossible to state with certainty which came first.  There is no doubt that even the smallest animal has a mind, and also has spirits. Senses provide input from the outside world and also the internal states.  The mind remembers, forgets, and calculates. Working with the spirits, it decides. What do the spirits provide that the mind does not?  Fear.  Anticipation. Joy. These higher level emotions are not logical, cannot be calculated by the mind. They are not directly connected to our senses, they emerge from the complexity of sensory components. If they can be calculated, they are simple facts - part of the mind, and there is little need for emotion.  Why do we need emotions?  To make better use of the past to facilitate our future. To anticipate danger, to anticipate and enjoy success. To feel excited, or bored - so that we move towards excitement and opportunity.
What freedoms do our spirits have?  The freedom to change. If our spirits cannot change, then once we become depressed - we might stay depressed, even in the face of opportunity. Once we become happy, we might stay happy - even in the face of danger.  Healthy spirits are always changing, feeling what is happening, what might happen, analyzing what has happened in the past.  Unhealthy spirits are stuck. Healthy spirits have freedom to change.
When we normally think of freedoms - we might first think of community freedoms and constraints: parents, family, religion, the law, the government, corporations - are entities that restrict our freedoms. If we don't behave, as judged by a community, we get put in our room, in purgatory, jail, or worse. It is important to understand that communities also enable our freedoms. Communities provide opportunities for cooperation, which creates many things and opportunities an individual could never create by themselves.  Humans cannot live without the assistance and opportunities provided by communities. From paths to roadways to highways to jet flight paths. Created by communities, not by individuals.  It is possible for an individual to create a path, even a small road, but it's easier with a community - and with a community, it's much more useful. Sharing is an important aspect of freedom. Communities have freedoms too.  They have freedom to grow, to shrink, and freedom to change.  Over the long term, families, labour unions, companies and corporations, religions and governments grow and change.  Communities have freedom to change. When a community loses freedom to change, it becomes weaker, less healthy.
"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak", a common phrase about the differences between the freedoms of the spirit and those of the body.  Maybe the body is tired.  Maybe the mind is convinced that there is no time, or no logic to the action.  Sometimes, it's actually "the spirit is willing, but the mind is weak". In other situations, when the spirit is willing, the mind can overrule the body's complaints.  Freedoms, even individual freedoms are not simple, not trivial - are often in conflict. That's the way of health, the way of life.
When we look analyze in more detail at the relationships between body, mind, spirits and communities, we might see something like this. In this diagram we can see that mind/body (or body/mind) and spirit/mind, and community spirit are also important considerations. Body and mind compete and cooperate. Spirit and mind compete and cooperate with each other creating spirit-mind, or mind-spirit. Communities and individuals compete and cooperate.  This is how freedom works.  Not by absolute rights and absolute wrongs, not by complete freedom of individuals, not complete freedom of mind, nor of spirit, nor of communities.  The freedom to compete for attention, to compete with other layers, and also freedom to cooperate with other layers are essential to freedom. We need freedom to make better choices in complex situations.
Freedom is not about actions, not about thought. It is about choosing.
But for every individuals, choosing freely is not so simple. Choosing freely is simply not possible, unless we identify which layer is choosing, and I suspect, if we look closer, we will find more layers of wants, needs, goals, and objectives, of choices. Our bodies are, after all, communities of cells, which compete and cooperate freely to create communities of tissues, which compete and cooperate freely to create communities of organs and limbs, which compete and cooperate freely to create organ and limb systems, which compete and cooperate freely to create and maintain our body. Mind, spirits, and communities simply extend the cooperation, and the competition; the freedoms that bring life and health. Freedoms do not exist without constraints. Freedoms do not exist without the need to decide which freedom to choose, consciously or unconsciously.
Are our freedoms healthy?  Which freedoms are healthier? Which are less healthy? Freedoms that serve one area, be it body,  mind, spirits, or community, but detract from the other areas, are less healthy.  Freedoms that function in or assist more than one area are healthier.  Freedoms that limit freedoms, like community laws against individual or community actions -risk decreasing healthiness.  Freedoms that enable other freedoms are healthier.
Absolute freedoms are not true freedoms, not truly healthy, they are the freedoms that do not change, freedoms that are sickly, that lead to sickness in other areas.
The healthiest freedoms are freedoms that facilitate positive changes, that facilitate more freedoms.
to your health, tracy

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A True Placebo has No Effects

Do clinical studies lie? A true placebo has no effect. Is the Gold Standard of medicine, the double blind placebo controlled trial, scientific nonsense, based on "fools gold"?

A placebo effect, is defined by Webster's dictionary as: "improvement in the condition of a patient that occurs in response to treatment but cannot be considered due to the specific treatment used".

In other words, a placebo is not caused by a placebo. If it is a true placebo, then it did not cause the placebo effect. Only false placebos can cause placebo effect.

How can this be? Aren't placebos a gold standard tool of modern medicine? Actually no. Placebos are scientific nonsense.

The best known, perhaps first, serious medical consideration of placebo effect, was written by Henry K. Beecher, M.D. with the title "The Powerful Placebo". Beecher documented many situations where a placebo, given to a patient in a clinical study, had a powerful effect. But the placebo given, by definition, could not cause the effect.

But Webster's says the effect "cannot be considered due to the specific treatment used". How can a placebo have a powerful effect, if placebo effects are not caused by the placebo?

The Oxford Dictionary attempts to provide an answer with their definition: “A beneficial effect produced by a placebo drug or treatment, which cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient's belief in that treatment

This answer that has been used to support many medical research studies.

But, it's nonsense.

If placebo effect is "due to the patient's belief in the treatment",

then... if we treat the patient by modifying their belief and we successfully change the beliefs of the patient,

then...changing the patient's belief is a treatment. It's the that treatment caused "the beneficial effect" on the patient.

But, by definition, it's a real treatment, causing a real effect, not placebo treatment.

A placebo treatment cannot cause placebo effect. When a treatment causes an effect, it's not a placebo treatment. 

How can this paradox be resolved?  It's easy actually. We need to rewrite the definitions of placebo and placebo effect, with definitions that make sense.

Placebo Effect: a beneficial effect on a patient's illness, where we do not understand the cause. 

 - when we understand the cause, it is not a placebo effect.
 - when we don't understand the cause, it is placebo effect.
 - when we figure out the cause of a placebo effect, it becomes a real, known cause, and the placebo effect disappears. It's converted in to a real effect.

Placebo effects are like shadows, illusions, unknowns, caused by misunderstanding. As soon as we understand, they disappear.  They become real effects.

But... If a placebo effect is an effect where we do not understand the cause, then, what is a placebo?

Placebo: a treatment followed by a beneficial effect on the patients illness, where we do not understand the cause of the benefit.

We're not saying the placebo caused the effect.  Maybe it did.  Maybe it didn't. We don't understand.

What does this mean for the Gold Standard of medicine, the double blind, placebo controlled, clinical trial?

A double blind placebo controlled clinical trial pits a placebo against a new medicine or treatment. Sometimes, the medicine wins. Often, it's a statistical, technical draw. Once in a while, the placebo wins.

Let's look at all six cases.

Six cases? Aren't there only three possible results?  Actually no. There are six possible results for any treatment, depending on whether the treatment cures, or only makes the patient (or the doctor) feel better. When a treatment cures, the results have a different meaning.

When the Treatments cure:

1. If the cure is only produced in the medical treatment group, and never produced in the placebo treatment group, the medicine is clearly the best treatment.

2. If the cure is sometimes produced in the medical group, and sometimes in the placebo group, then - we really don't know what happened.

3. If the only the placebo treatment group produced cures, then we need to study the placebo treatment, and abandon the medical treatment.

NONE of the above situations occurs in today's clinical studies. Today's clinical studies don't cure. Almost never.  If the treatment cures, it is not necessary to test against a placebo.  Why not? There are two main reasons:

a. A cure is a cure. If we know how to cure, there is no need for a clinical study. We diagnose the disease - and prescribe the cure. The illness is cured.

b. Cured is not defined for most diseases. Cured is almost NEVER defined for clinical studies. There is no need to define 'cured' for a double blind placebo controlled clinical study. In the vast majority of clinical studies, if a cure is encountered, it is ignored. Cures are not defined for the purposes of the study, and it is assumed that any cure is not a result of the medicine being tested.

When the Treatments Don't Cure:

The clinical study might produce a beneficial effect on the patient's illness, or their symptoms of illness, (or not), but it cannot produce a cure for the illness. Most clinical studies have no intention to cure.

4. If the treatment group gained more benefit, than the placebo group, the treatment wins.

5. If a benefit results from the treatment group, and the placebo group also sees a benefit, then we really don't know what happened. This is the result of many, perhaps most, double blind, placebo controlled clinical studies.

6. If the placebo group benefits more than the treatment group - we should to pursue the placebo treatment, and discard the medical treatment.  But that never happens.  What actually happens? We dismiss the placebo treatment, and pursue a different medical treatment.

And the Winner is? 

Most, almost all placebo controlled double blind clinical studies today result in 5. The treatment group sees some benefits. The placebo group sees some benefits. We're not really sure what happened.

If the treatment group wins, the treatment heads to market.  If the placebo group wins, the results are discarded.

How can this happen? It happens because the goal of double blind placebo controlled study is to find a medicine that "does not cure" better than the placebo treatment "does not cure".

Double blind placebo controlled studies measure which treatment "does not cure better".  The result is predictably, nonsense, failure to understand.

We know that we don't know why the placebo treatment worked some of the time. But nobody cares, because they forget that a true placebo treatment has no effects.

The next time someone says "It's probably just placebo effect.", ask: 
"Was it caused by a real placebo, or a false placebo?"

to your health, tracy

Saturday, December 24, 2016

What's Your Christmas Happiness Score?

In this, the Christmas season, we often take time to think about happiness. Some people are very happy at Christmas, some - not so much, even some who are happier all year round. Christmas happiness is different. How can that be?Measure your Christmas Happiness.
What is it about happiness? Sometimes, it seems the more we pursue it, the faster it runs away.  We capture it for a moment, and then it's gone. Some people never seem to be happy, while others appear always to be in the bliss of ignorance. Most of us, are floating, somewhere in-between.  Seeking happiness, sometimes finding it, sometimes not.
What is happiness? What are happinesses? Wiki offers "Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy." That might seem pretty broad - happiness can be a lot of things. But actually, it's too narrow. Happiness is a mental or emotional state, yes, but it can also be physical healthiness - or even community healthiness, community spirit. When you have a toothache, or arthritis, it's not just your mind that is unhappy - your body is complaining too.
This diagram represents the circles of healthiness of an individual. Each person has one body, but can be of several minds, has many spirits that ebb and flow throughout their days and their lifetime - and participates in many communities. The circles are fuzzy - actually fuzzier than the diagram. In team sports for example, when "in the zone", the line between body and community can merge completely.
Healthiness, and happiness too, exists in every circle - body, minds, spirits, and communities.
We might pretend that the happinesses of Christmas are about getting presents, extensions of the body, our physical self, but no.  The happinesses of Christmas are spirit and community happiness.
Christmas has an interesting effect on community happinesses. When Christmas comes, we have to choose which community to be with. By choosing, we must also exclude some of our communities. We can, if we try, find many ways to include more of our communities, by travelling and spreading Christmas across many days - but some people limit their communities at Christmas.  Some people deliberately exclude some, or a large number of their communities at Christmas - and their Christmas happinesses suffer.
We can each choose to involve more, or fewer of our communities at Christmas - but our communities, and the people in those communities, are choosing as well. When others exclude us, it's harder to work on our own community happinesses. There are two sides to any community happiness - one of which we cannot control.
The Oxford Happiness Questionaire is a set of 29 questions designed to measure happiness, or 'psychological well-being'. They are not sorted by body, minds, spirits, and communities - but clearly refer to each area. From them, we can create some sample groupings of their measures;
Body: feeling healthy, energy levels, rested, alertness, attractiveness,
Mind; rested, alertness, attractiveness, make decisions, get things done, good memories, able to find beauty, optimism, satisfaction, empowered, rewarded by life, and influence events,
Spirit: happy, pleased, laughter, joy, elation, optimism, satisfaction, empowered, rewarded by life,
Community: interested in people, cheerful, fun, warm feelings towards others, .
Note: there is overlap, or fuzziness, as in the coloured diagram. Many questions refer to different layers of happiness at the same time. The Oxford Happiness quiz appears to put the most attention on mental and spiritual happiness, with much less emphasis on physical and community happiness. On the other hand, painkillers are designed to improve physical healthiness, while we use alcoholic drinks can improve social healthiness.
The World Happiness Report measures and compares happiness of people around the world.  You can view their 2016 report on world happiness if you are interested in learning more. They define happiness as 'subjective well being', and their measures of happiness seem to be, like the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire, mostly based on mind and spirit happinesses. The Authentic Happiness website, managed by the Positive Psychology Centre, offers many quizzes and tools to measure different aspects of happiness, but does not distinguish well between body happiness, mind happiness, spirit happiness - and does not pay much attention to community happiness at all. Most of their focus appears to be on 'emotional' aspects of happiness - which in healthicine is 'spirit happiness'.
Complete happiness requires happiness in every layer: body, mind, spirit, community. Is it possible to feel happy if the body is unhealthy? Actually it is. Drug addicts sometimes work so hard to find happiness - that they can kill their bodies. To the outsider, it's a false happiness, but to the addict, it might be the best they can do at the time.
We can see false happiness when we raise one layer above the others artificially. However, this technique can be useful, and can - over a short period of time, actually make us happier. When we hurt our physical body, get a tooth pulled, or undergo a surgery, a painkiller, or a placebo, can provide relief and helps us recover.
On the other hand, sometimes a powerful happiness technique becomes addictive, leading to unhappiness that spreads throughout the entire person. Too much team spirit - community happiness, can lead to loss of self, loss of mental and emotional happiness. Constant attempts to find joy - emotional or spirit happiness can lead to seeking or purchasing more and more things - sacrificing other happiness of the body, mind, and community. Being too rational is a common road to unhappiness - it's always easier to criticize, and to rationalize criticism, than it is to understand, accept and be grateful.
Physical happiness comes from a healthy body. Healthy bodies come from healthy nutrition and movement. Dead things aren't healthy, they don't move. When you stop moving, you lose healthiness, and happiness too. When you move your body, happiness increases.
Pain resides in mind and body - and intrudes into our spirits and communities. Empathy includes community pain and community pleasure - community happiness. Pain can be real, physical, but our minds, spirits, and even our communities can create it, magnify it, and diminish it. Seeking happiness in painkillers - drugs - can lead to an empty happiness, that feels great, sometimes even as the body stops moving and dies. Sometimes, pain requires rest, to facilitate healing. But often, pain, and healing requires movement. When I walk my dog - I feel no pain. Life, health, and happiness are not simple.
The mind, like the body, is happy when it is active, happiest when it is "in the flow". "I'm bored!" is the classic adolescent expression of unhappiness, often expecting something from the outside to make them happy. But mental happiness comes from within. We can exert power over our mind, by planning specific actions. We can enjoy joy more - by anticipating it. Simple acts of gratefulness can create and improve mental happiness.
The line between mental happiness and spirit happiness is the line between your rational and your emotional self. Like all boundaries, it is fuzzy. Do you think you are happy (minds) do you feel happy (spirits). A reliance on one to the exclusion of the other leads to a happiness imbalance - and to unhappiness.
At Christmas time the happinesses and the unhappinesses that we notice most are those of community. Christmas brings families together, whether they are strongly religious or not. Those with strong religious beliefs return to our religious communities. Community happiness is a measure of the healthiness of our selves - body, mind, and spirit - in our communities, and also the healthiness of our communities towards each other and towards ourselves.
People with stronger, healthier communities, have more community happiness. Much of the year, we live independent lives, but at Christmas, we choose to make our communities more important.  It is perhaps ironic that Christmas is often all about getting gifts for the 'body', the personal self - but these gifts do little for community healthiness. Giving, on the other hand, can benefit community healthiness.  But not just gifts. The most powerful gifts for community healthiness are ourselves. When we give our time, our bodies, our minds, and our spirits to our families, and to other communities, we improve our own happiness and the healthiness and happiness of the community.
It is possible to use drugs to feel happy, but many drugs cause the person to retreat from community, from society - resulting in a physical and mental excess of happiness, but a severe loss of spirit and community happiness.  Others, like alcohol, can enhance spirit and community happiness, but if used excessively they result in poor physical and mental health, poor physical and mental happiness, leading to poor community happiness.
Is it possible to be 'too happy'?  Actually, yes it is. It is possible to rely too much on physical (body) happiness, or mind (rational) happiness, or spirit (emotional) happiness, or social (community) happiness, leading to happiness imbalances - unhappiness. If you are too happy, Pollyanna happiness, you have two problems.  First - the only way is down.  Every action you take might make you less happy. But perhaps more important, if you are too happy - you have nothing to strive for, and lose those aspects of happiness.
Analgesics, antidepressants, alcohol, and more. Sometimes, they are effective - especially in the short term, but in the long term they can easily lead to addiction, danger, and death.
What about placebos? Can placebos make us happier - better than drugs?  The main benefit of a placebo is no side effects. People are much less likely to become addicted to a placebo - and if so, what's the harm? But the definition of a placebo is weak, and many real actions that improve happiness might seem to be nothing but a placebo.  Being grateful is a powerful tool to improve happiness. It's not a drug. Is it a placebo? No.  A placebo is something that has no real effect. Prayer might seem to be a placebo, but it can lift the spirits - and in a church it can also feed community happiness.
Is unhappiness the opposite of happiness? It can be, but that's a simplistic view. Unhappiness can also be the absence of happiness, or a severe imbalances in happiness - caused by excessive happiness in one area. Unhappiness is opportunity for improvement in happiness - just as unhealthiness is an opportunity for improvements in healthiness.
By separating happiness, and unhappiness into body, mind, spirit, and community, we gain more insight into how to improve our happiness.  Happiness in the body is improved or gained by actions that improve the healthiness of the body.  A healthy body is a happy body.  Happiness of the mind can be improved by directed positive thinking, by removing mental roadblocks. Happiness of spirit is central - and can be improved by many techniques that improves happiness, from meditation to play.  Community happiness is improved by active participation in your communities, and by working to make your communities happier.
At present, there are no scientific tools to measure your level of Christmas Happiness, so I've created one in EXCEL, and you can download it here:
to your health, tracy
Founder: Healthicine

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

All your Truth are Belong to Us

The truth is not out there. The truth can only be found inside yourself. The interweb is full of lies, but the real truth can be found on the internet. The truth is obvious. You have to dig deep to find the truth. The earth is flat. Flat-earthers are idiots. The Twin Towers were downed by Islamic terrorists. The three towers were demolished by an evil government and business conspiracy. President Kennedy was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald. Kennedy was killed by accident, by a secret service agent. Elvis has left the building. Only alternative medicines work. Only conventional medicines work. Vaccines are safe and should be mandatory. Vaccines are dangerous and should be banned. Only a chiropractor can cure your illness. Chiropractic is a pseudo-science.

These truths are not valid, they cannot be validated.  The truth that "these truths cannot be validated", cannot be validated. The only truth: "There is no truth."

Only the simplest of truths can be true. The simple truth is simply a lie. Simple truths are yes/no answers - with no room for variations, and no grey areas.  Real truths are perceived differently by every viewer, vary over time, are sometimes useful and sometimes useless,

The stronger you believe in your simple truths, the more complex it becomes to hold them, the less truth they contain, the louder you need to yell to maintain your belief. The people who yell the loudest have the strongest truths. The people who speak the loudest tell the worst lies. The person with the biggest stick has the most useful truth. The person with the biggest stick can believe the biggest lies. Truth is dead. If you don't believe - you might be too.

The true guru sees the absence of truth as the only truth. There are no true gurus.

Life is goal oriented. Health is goal oriented. Life is not truth oriented. Truths are goal oriented. We use truth to accomplish our goals. We pursue, use, and abuse our truths to further our goals. Your truths is not important to, not useful to your neighbor, your competitor, your enemy. Their truths are not valid, not useful to you. When you share truths, the result is not larger truth, the result is might be cooperation, and it might be competition.

I'm reminded of the famous teacher's quote: “We have not succeeded in answering all our problems. The answers we have found only serve to raise a whole set of new questions. In some ways we feel we are as confused as ever, but we believe we are confused on a higher level and about more important things.

We have not succeeded in finding all of our truths. The truths we have found only serve to raise a whole set of new questions about our truths, and about truth itself. In some ways we feel we are as confused as ever, but our confusion is a higher level and about more important truths.

Life does not find truths, it searches for truth.  But look closely. Life searches for 'useful truths'. Life does not care if the 307th tree in the jungle in northern Brazil is young or old, has root rot, or an insect infection, or a bird's nest, or 5 bird's nests and a monkey colony that is passing through, is covered with rainwater, or dew, or mold. These truths are not useful.  When they change, they are not useful. Truth must be useful to be true. Useless truths don't matter, don't make any difference.  Truths that are useless, might as well be false. Only when truths are used, do they prove themselves useful.

When truths are used, they prove themselves.

Can you find the truth? Can you find the truths in the opening paragraph? Can you find your truth?Can you find my truth?

What if you genuinely want to know the truth? What if you actually want to find the truth, to learn the truth, what can you do? Who should you listen to? Me. Of course, it's true. It doesn't matter if you believe or not.  It's true.

But seriously.  Let's take a look at the truths in the opening paragraph. There are some insights there. We can learn from them. A guide for the perplexed, the confused, the bewildered, those who are puzzled, troubled, uncertain. Ask the dreamer. Ask the Red King. It's the same.
"The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. 'Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?' he asked. 'Begin at the beginning,' the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end. Then stop.' (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

The Internet: The interweb is full of lies, but the real truth can be found on the internet. Of course the internet has lies and truths. Calling it the 'interweb', plants a seed, calls attention to untruths. But finding for the truth on the internet is like entering a web of lies, and searching for dead flies. No one cares about 'the truths' on the internet. They care about 'their truths'. The truth that sells. If you want to understand 'their truth', ask what they're selling.

The Flat Earth: The earth is flat. Flat-earthers are idiots. These truths are not mutually exclusive, they can both be true.  They can both be false. Flat earthers tend to be very intelligent people. Check them out. "But it's obvious the earth is not flat?"  Yes, that's true as well. Think about it.

X is true, Y is false. These truths are not mutually exclusive. Either can be true, both can be false. Situations change. Absolute truths necessarily ignore some aspects of reality. Simplification is the only path to truth. Simplification can only lead to false truths.

The earth is flat - the earth is not flat. Simple, boring truths. Only one can be right. Both can be wrong. The earth is flat; the earth is spherical.  Not simple, not binary, not mutually exclusive. Beware of complexity masquerading as simplicity. Complexity masks truths, presents lies as truth.

The Towers: The Twin Towers were downed by Islamic terrorists. The three towers were demolished by an evil government business conspiracy. I have no idea. You don't either. Maybe we'll never know. Maybe our great grandchildren will never know. Maybe nobody really knows. We can only search for better truths, not for the ultimate truth.

Who Killed President Kennedy? The official documents are out there. Locked in a box, like Schrodinger's Cat. We don't know who has the key.  We're not sure if the box still exists, or has been destroyed. We're not sure if the documents still exist, or have been destroyed. We're not sure if the official documents contain the truth or not. The truth is "out there". The truth is not out there. Does any government, or any business, have the ability to reveal their true truths? Or does governing and running a business require their truth, but not 'the whole truth', not 'nothing but the truth'?

Elvis has left the building.  True. It makes us sad too.

Medicines: Only alternative medicines work. Only conventional medicines work. Conventional medicines are not well defined. There is no official standard to distinguish between a conventional medicine and an alternative medicine. The US FDA only approves 'drugs', not 'medicines'. Therefore: Fact: every medicine, every treatment, is an alternative. Alternative medicines do not exist. The truths about alternative medicines and conventional medicines get more and more complicated, the wider your study, the deeper your search. We can only find faith, beliefs, and marketers. Lots of salesmen, on both sides. Salesmen need to believe their truths, their lies, because those truths feed them and their children.

Vaccines: Vaccines are safe and should be mandatory. Vaccines are dangerous and should be banned. A vaccine is a thing, a thing that exists. Vaccines are a class of things. You can't see them, our touch them. Vaccines are a thing do not exist, with regards to truth about safety and efficacy. Each vaccine is 'grown', not manufactured. Every batch is different. There is always risk. Every vaccine type is different.  Vaccine types change over time. Vaccine schedules change over time. Vaccines target living organisms. Living organisms change over time. Some vaccines have proven very dangerous. Some have proven very safe. Some useful. Some useless. Some have are safe some of the time, dangerous some of the time. Some are effective some of the time, useless some of the time. Some are a waste of time and money - but the salesman still makes a profit. There are no simple truths. And then it gets more complicated. Vaccines are given to people. People are different too. There are no truths to be found about 'vaccines'. That's the only truth to be found about vaccines.

Chiropractic: Only a chiropractor can cure your illness. Chiropractic is a pseudo-science. Chiropractors are more complex than vaccines. Chiropractic, the practice, is more complex than the sum of all of the people who practice it, and all of the patients, and all of their illnesses. Sometimes, chiropractors cure, forcing pseudo-callers to dismiss the truth. Most of the time, chiropractors fail to cure. But take note: most of the time, every medicine fails to cure. Sometimes, chiropractors cause damage. Sometimes, every useful medicine causes damage. That's how medicines work. We want to believe in simple truths, and get on with life. Simple truths do not exist.

We cannot judge every chiropractor as good or bad, any more than we can judge every doctor as good or bad. Truth requires acknowledging variations.

Real truth lies ahead. Real truths lie on both sides of every fence, both sides of every argument. Real truths lie quietly, silently, not caring what you believe.  Only lies need to yell.  Only lies need to swell their truths. Only lies need to sell.

There are no real truths. All your truth are belong to us.

Only health is true. Health is whole.  Health is slow and steady. Health is wide, and deep. Health is honest and true. - the Healthicine Creed.

To your health, tracy

ps. The title "All your Truth are Belong to Us" is a play on the internet meme "All your base are belong to us". Translation: "you're busted". It is interesting to note that "all your truth are belong to us" contains a English error that makes the phrase technically wrong, technically untrue. If they belong to 'us', they are not 'yours' any more. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Where can you find a Pseudo-Scientist?

Did you hear about the scam called ‘pseudoscience’? 
I don’t mean things we call pseudoscience, I'm refering to the scam of ‘calling things pseudoscience’. I'm referring to the science of pseudoscience, and the witch-hunts that result from claiming something is a pseudoscience. It's the latest fashion, and it's a big scam. 
If you don’t want anyone to think about something, to discuss something, if you want them to ignore reality, just call it a pseudo science. There is no science of pseudoscience.
The science of pseudo science is a pseudoscience. 
How does the 'science' of pseudo-science work?  Start with an authoritative sounding website or company.  Something with 'science based' in the name. Calling yourself a 'skeptic' is a common technique. But don't worry, you don't need to be a skeptic, you don't even need to know what a skeptic is, to become a 'pseudoscience buster'. Calling something a pseudoscience works best if you cloak yourself in the guise of a critic. No one will notice that your pseudo scientist has no clothes. 
Next, pick something you'd like to criticize or dismiss. You can start with few common examples to get some experience. Pick something you can poke fun at (pick things you don't understand - probably nobody else understands them either) and poke fun at it. It's easier if you start with things that someone else has already said are pseudoscience. There is no shame for plagiarism in the science pseudosciences. Next take out a wide brush and paint the entire field with your criticism.  Call it a pseudo-science. Get serious about it. The wider you can extend your 'criticisms' the better.
If you need a list of pseudosciences to get started. Simply punt the word pseudoscience into Google where you'll find examples like: Welteislehre, N rays, Lawsonomy, Laundry balls, Specified complexity, Holocaust denial, Rumpology, Scientific racism, brainwashing, and more. 
Now, I know what you're thinking.  "What is he talking about?  I thought pseudoscience was about medical things like homeopathy, and chiropractic and stuff like that." Well yes, they are included, but the bar for being declared a pseudoscience is not nearly so high. In fact it's so low that "searching for Noah's Ark" is considered a pseudoscience, according to Wiki. Seriously. I'm sure there are people out there searching for Noah's Ark, but is there a science called 'searching for Noah's Arc? Nope. But there's a pseudoscience called 'searching for Noah's Ark'. No one has to think it's a science to be declared a pseudoscience. 
Pseudoscience is often used to dismiss medical systems and technologies. But take care.  It's not considered kosher to use pseudoscience science to dismiss 'western' medical technologies - only so called 'alternative' medical technologies.  For example, even though scientific meta-studies of cancer research studies have found that the 20 foods that 'prevent' cancer are also the same 20 foods that 'cause cancer' in different studies - that's science, not pseudoscience. 
Honestly, how then are pseudosciences defined? You just call yourself an expert  in something, and pick something you don't believe, and get started. There's no qualifications required. You might have a PhD of arachnology, or a grade school education from Afghanistan. It makes no difference. There are no qualifications required to pseudoscience.  And me?  I don't need any qualifications to pseudoscience pseudoscience either. There is no PhD of pseudoscience, not even a Bachelor's degree. 
What is the science used to define a pseudoscience? Faith. That's it. If you want to believe something is a pseudoscience, you only need to believe. You only need to say "X is a pseudoscience" and then start convincing people. The larger X is, the more ground X covers, the easiest it is to call it a pseudoscience, because you can find more things to criticize. You simply make a claim that whatever you name has no scientific basis, and proceed from there. 
Don't worry, there is no need to 'prove' anything is a pseudoscience. That's good, because it's generally impossible. 
There are no standards to prove something is a pseudoscience - and as we've noted, you don't even need to prove someone thinks it is a science, to prove it's a pseudoscience. 
The most obvious examples of pseudo-pseudo-science are in the medical fields. Anything considered 'alternative' is fair game for a claim of pseudoscience. 
One of the most famous, often cited ‘pseudosciences’ is homeopathy. Pseudo-scientists (typically geeks with high opinions of themselves and low opinions of everybody else) argue that homeopathy cannot work "because it cannot work". 
When you look closely at the arguments claiming homeopathy is a pseudoscience, they are simply pseudo-scientific. First of all, there is the ‘logic’ argument. That homeopathic medicines (a part of homeopathy) can’t work because of the dilution factor. But in real life, scientific tests, they work some of the time. What’s up? “Oh," the argument changes, "but they don’t work better than a placebo.” But there are clinical studies demonstrating that homeopathic medicines do sometimes work better than a placebo. “Oh, those clinical studies were not valid…” When practicing pseudoscience, it's important to be able to accept the research that supports your position, and dismiss any that is contrary to your argument. That way - the science always supports you.
Self proclaimed pseudo-scientists then leap to a second mistake. They say homeopathy should be banned, because the medicines can’t work. Duh. This is clearly a mixing of lines. If we want to know if homeopathy works, we need to test homeopathy, not their medicines. Surely you have met someone who claims to have been helped, or healed, or even cured, by homeopathy. Are these claims investigated by so called pseudo scientists? Nope. Nothing to see here.
The pseudo-science claimants don’t dare look too closely, because they might be forced to acknowledge a fundamental truth about most of today's medicines - which includes homeopathy.
Most medicines don’t cure. Most clinical studies, the Gold Standard of Medical Sciences, test medicines that don’t cure, to see which one ‘does not cure’ better. Sometimes homeopathic medicines do better. Sometimes prescription medicines do better. Sometimes placebos do better. 
What difference does it make if they don’t cure?
One clinical study that tested a homeopathic medicine vs a placebo, and reported that the homeopathic medicine worked better, but not by a ‘statistically significant amount’. Conclusion: the homeopathic medicine did not work better than the placebo. The catch? According the published research, the homeopathic medicine cured five patients (of 9) - the placebo cured only one (of 9). Duh. Homoeopathic versus placebo therapy of children with warts on the hands: a randomized, double-blind clinical trial.
Study conclusion: The homeopathic medicine showed no statistical difference in ability to ‘not cure’ warts. Of course they didn't use the word 'not cure', they used the word 'shrink'. There was no statistical difference between the placebo and the homeopathic medicine to shrink warts (when you ignore the cures). 
When the research was repeated 32 years later, the ‘does not cure’ results were identical. The conclusions of the researchers was identical. The only difference? In the 1998 study, ‘cured’ was not counted. Pseudo-scientists creates new pseudoscience to support nonsense pseudoscience.
Now, let me be honest, I don’t know if homeopathy works. I don’t know if homeopathic medicines work. But I do know that the pseudo-scientific geeks calling homeopathy a pseudoscience, don’t know what they’re talking about. And they don't want to know, to understand, they just want to be right. The goal of a pseudo-scientist is not science, it is simply to convince you to agree with their position. 
Acupuncture is often claimed to be a valid medical treatment, but many pseudo-scientific geeks refer to it as a pseudoscience. What’s happening here?
Acupuncture does not cure. It makes no attempt to cure. In a true scientific test, acupuncture can only be compared to other treatments that do not cure.
As a result, all of the scientific studies comparing acupuncture to other treatments is simply a test of which treatment “does not cure better”. Pseudo-scientific pseudoscience. If you punt ‘acupuncture pseudoscience’ into google, you will get statements like
- acupuncture doesn’t work because acupuncture results are only placebo effect.
The truth about placebos are that pseudo scientists don't even read the dictionary definitions, much less attempt to understand them. Pseudoscience pseudoscience. Pull out your dictionary. Turn to P. Scan down to ‘placebo effect’. It says “an improvement in the condition of the patient”. Does it work? Or not. 
Placebo effects by definition, are real, positive effects on the patient’s condition that as a result of the treatment, that could not be caused by the treatment.  Eg. We do not understand them. If we do not understand them, how can we call them ‘pseudoscience’? 
When we find 'placebo effects', we need to work harder to understand, not stop trying to understand. We need to study and learn what really happened, not dismiss the evidence. Claiming ‘placebo effects’ is just an excuse to not investigate further. 
But of course that's the goal of the pseudoscience of pseudoscience. To shame. To halt discussion. To halt learning.  To halt any attempts to understand.
Some pseudo-scientists cast the net wide, attempting to capture any unconventional belief in their net. Others stick to more strict guidelines, but all make serious mistakes in their analysis. Once something is declared a pseudoscience, the need for rational thought, for scientific thought disappears and the tone changes from science to witch hunt. Pseudoscience is an excuse to ignore real science.
Science, true science is about questions, not about truth. Science asks questions, attempts to understand. The answers found are seldom, if every ‘truths’. They are rather ‘interesting’, leading to different, more complex, perhaps more important. Scientific answers lead to more questions. That’s the way of science. That’s how science works.
Pseudoscientific questions and answers are designed to stop scientific investigation. They make nonsense measurements, using limited, nonsense assumptions, and produce nonsense results, which are often re-interpreted to create higher and higher levels of nonsense. The second homepathic wart study, in 1998, for example, was called “A double-blind, controlled clinical trial of homeopathy and an analysis of lunar phases and postoperative outcome.” Is this science? No. Is it an attempt to learn? No, it’s a blatant attempt to dismiss what we do not understand. It’s nonsense. But it’s scientific sounding nonsense, published by JAMA, available in PubMed, and often cited by other researchers.
Calling something a pseudoscience is not about science. It is a witch hunt. 
When we look closely at many ‘scientific’ treatment claims vs so called 'pseudoscience treatment' claims, we can see that both have some value, some danger, and some nonsense. We need to value the value, to avoid the risk and to dismiss the nonsense. Branding an entire practice as pseudoscience is simply a scam, an unscientific scare tactic, and a failure of science.
Calling things pseudoscience is a pseudoscience.  We can do better. 
to your health, tracy