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Why is it you never see the headline "Psychic Wins Lottery"?

That would not appeal to their sense of morality. They make their money from fleecing the desperate, bereaved and gullible, which is highly moral.

BTW:
James Randi is brilliant at exposing these opportunists.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MFAvH8m8aI

I'm going to see Derren Brown in Cardiff in 2 weeks - so excited!!!. For those of you who don't know him, an example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtpbQls5Kpw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X56Kmbgn6dE

Edited by diafol

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I love James Randi (born and raised in Canada). One of my favourite quotes is from him, to wit, "No amount of belief establishes a fact."

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Let's take all those "miraculous" anti-aging face creams. Anyone should be aware that all face creams are basically just a moisturizer and a scent.

None of them claim to prevent aging that would be illegal they all just claim to "promote young healthy looking skin". And they aren't just moisturizer + scent they contain small amounts of acid or some other irritant which causes the skin to inflame slightly causing a slightly pinker appearance ("healthy glow") and slight swelling ("reduces the appearance of wrinkles"). Whereas good moisturizers should just be an oily cream.

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A while back, a researcher published a famous study linking vaccines with autism. This was an extraordinary claim which should have been subject to peer-review, verification and replication. It was not (at least not for a while). During that time untold numbers of parents withheld vaccines from their children with the expected results. Since then we have found out that the study was funded by an anti-vaccine group with a specific agenda. The study has been completely discredited but is still being touted by the likes of Jenny McCarthy as "proof".

1) Science is slow, replication studies cannot be started until after the original is published and a small-medium sized study can typically takes ~1 year to complete.
2) Wakefields paper was peer-reviewed. But some of the data was fraudulant which is difficult to check prior to publication and are generally only discovered after attempts to replicate it fail (which is exactly what happened).
3) All medical regulatory bodies were still strongly recommending vaccinating children so the only way more could have been done to prevent the anti-vax would be to legally require parents to vaccinate their children unless there is a medical reason not to.
4) I believe it was a rival vaccine company funding the study and which Wakefield had shares in not a total anti-vax group.
5) Everybody cherry-picks results to support their own beliefs (it is called "confirmation bias"). The more strongly committed one is to a belief the more one tends to cherry-pick.

The scare was a result of persistent anti-medical-establishment sentiments and media hype. An interesting comparison can be made to the 'faster-than-light neutrinos' which recieved similar media hype but since there wasn't an existing pro-FTL sub-culture to latch onto it when the error was eventually found that was the end of it (much faster because you don't need to recuit patients and get ethics approval for particle physics).

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Agreed - the creams have a few other ingredients to irritate the skin to cause swelling to hide the wrinkles. The point is that these "magical" ingredients that add fractions of a cent to a jar of cream can boost the price by tens of dollars. It is quackery, plain and simple.

If you watch Burn Notice you will have heard the axiom that when it comes to information, the more it costs you to get it the more highly it is regarded. The same holds true for cosmetics, and fashion, and apparently medicine regardless of the actual intrinsic value. A pill that costs $100 a pop must be much more effective than one that costs 20 cents. A few years ago a drug company discovered that a pill that was used for cattle (10 cents a pill) was effective for treating certain forms of cancer. The same pill was then sold (for human use) for $20 a pill. (I could try to find the actual incident but for now I am relying on memory).

Another site to check out is Quackwatch

Edited by Reverend Jim

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My experience: the women I know who use anti-wrinckle cream, seem to have more wrinckles, than those that don't.

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What is easier: have extra unnecessary labels & documents or adding myriad exceptions to the work place safety and food labelling laws?

an overload of rules and regs, labels and forms, just means people ignore them.
In case of the forms, there'll be a stack of prefilled forms somewhere, just add a date and name and stamp them.
Case of rules and regs, people just stop reporting violations because it's too much of a burden on them to comply with everything.

And yes, I've worked in such environments.

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Let's take all those "miraculous" anti-aging face creams.

oh, apply it in a thick enough layer and it works like plaster, smoothes out all the wrinkles.
Until you wash it off of course :)

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A pill that costs $100 a pop must be much more effective than one that costs 20 cents.

Actually this is true more expensive sugar pills are more effective than cheap sugar pills. And branded sugar pills are more effective and have less side-effects than generic sugar pills (link). The colour of the sugar pill can also affect what it does (red = stimulating, blue = relaxing/depressing).

Just like food served on fancy plates tastes better than the same food served on cheap plastic plates. Cheap wine served from a bottle for a more expensive wine tastes better than served from its own bottle.

Edited by Agilemind

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fleecing the desperate, bereaved and gullible, which is highly moral.

A friend of a friend of mine visited a psychic after the mysterious death of her 30-year old son (unclear if it was an accident or suicide). She knew there isn't any evidence they really can do what they claim but it still gave her a sense of closure and helped her move on. Now consider the same amount of time with a psychologist/therapist could cost 2x or more and finding one that is accepting new patients can be hard - what was the best solution?

Of course the other option was they could go to a priest (who would just tell them a different set of lies in exchange for donations) but they were not religious and don't identify with any of the established churches.

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A friend of a friend of mine visited a psychic after the mysterious death of her 30-year old son (unclear if it was an accident or suicide). She knew there isn't any evidence they really can do what they claim but it still gave her a sense of closure and helped her move on. Now consider the same amount of time with a psychologist/therapist could cost 2x or more and finding one that is accepting new patients can be hard - what was the best solution?

Lies are lies - who are these charlatans to decide what the client needs to be told? They are opportunists who make money from vulnerable individuals. They may trample all over the abiding memories that a parent may have for a lost child. They are f****** scum.

My step-mother went to these idiots when my father died. She came back full of wild stories and horseshit about my dead sister. It led to a long argument that neither of us got over. She passed away two years ago having estranged most of her family with all that baloney. If I knew who the medium was I'd rip his still-beating heart out of his backside.

People like lies because they're easy. Truth is hard. I was brought up to tell the truth and my former career as a scientist revealed the real value of truth as opposed to the just the virtue of it.

Mediums are not therapists, they do not facilitate the grieving process as a professional therapist would. And let's be honest - there's never "closure" when a loved one dies - that's just one of those modern-day buzzwords that mean nothing. We learn to live with it, we get desensitized to the pain over time. I lost my wife to cancer last August. I will not be taking my kids to a medium. Could you actually do that to somebody?

Edited by diafol

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Well said!
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People tell each other lies all the time. People even tell themselves lies all the time, particularly around death -> eg. every religion ever invented.

Who are you to tell people the truth is better for them than the lie?

Coming back to homeopathy: if some-one gets relief from their chronic pain by taking sugar pills is it right to stop them from taking them?

Edited by Agilemind

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People tell each other lies all the time. People even tell themselves lies all the time, particularly around death -> eg. every religion ever invented.

This has been a focus of many a discussion on DW. I think most of us here were against 'religion' due to the 'lies' or at least the failure to be able substantiate claims of faith.

Who are you to tell people the truth is better for them than the lie?

Me? Nobody. Each to their own, but I'm putting forward my opinion as did you. You're entitled to your opinion, but I don't happen to agree with it. If you think that lying is better than telling the truth, then that is a matter for you and your conscience, however noble the intention.

In a world where we are battling for enlightenment following millennia of superstition, I would never encourage a fellow human to indulge in dabbling with the occult.

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if some-one gets relief from their chronic pain by taking sugar pills is it right to stop them from taking them?

The problem is not the sugar pills but the doctors who lie about what the pills really are. I understand about tests -- subjects can't know about who is taking placebos and how isn't.

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The problem is not the sugar pills but the doctors who lie about what the pills really are.

But without that lie the sugar pills would not do anything. The sugar pills are only an accessory or a token, the placebo effect is purely a result of the false belief that the patient is getting. If you give people sugar pills and tell them what they are, and that they shouldn't have any effect, then they won't have any effect.

And yes, in proper trial tests, the process is double-blind, meaning that neither the doctor giving the pills, nor the subject receiving it, know whether the pills are real or fake. Because if the doctor knew, he could be acting differently (wittingly or not) with the different subject groups, therefore invalidating the results.

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If some-one gets relief from their chronic pain by taking sugar pills is it right to stop them from taking them?

If the pain is being caused by some underlying condition that is getting worse because it is getting masked instead of treated then, yes, it is right to stop them and get proper diagnosis and treatment. And I would have the same advice to someone who was taking legitimate painkillers instead of seeking treatment. I had a friend who died of colon cancer because he thought he just had digestive problems.

Edited by Reverend Jim

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But without that lie the sugar pills would not do anything

Depends, experiments show that if you tell them there is no active ingredient in the pills but that they may still help them then the placebo effect still happens. Also in placebo-surgeries if you tell the person a few months later that it was a sham the benefits don't go away.

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a real physician prescribing a placebo does so for a reason: a fake cure the patient believes is real for a fake condition the patient believes is real.

Where things get iffy is when physicians prescribe placebos based on misdiagnosis, giving a placebo because they incorrectly believe the patient is not suffering from anything but rather being a hypochondriac.
That may have killed my aunt. She was a long term hypochondriac, always had some sort of rare and dangerous disease for which she'd go to a doctor who'd then give her something that everyone knew was a placebo with some impressive sounding name.
Then the one time she really was seriously ill, nobody, took her seriously even when she fell violently ill and collapsed on the kitchen floor, retching and vomiting.
By the time an ambulance arrived it was too late.

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Also in placebo-surgeries if you tell the person a few months later that it was a sham the benefits don't go away.

Do you mean like the "psychic" surgeons who pretend to remove some fake entrails? Then the patient goes away cured only to die of cancer?

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Do you mean like the "psychic" surgeons

No, I mean fake surgeries by real surgeons to test whether the real surgery actually works.

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a real physician prescribing a placebo does so for a reason: a fake cure the patient believes is real for a fake condition the patient believes is real.

That is a problematic stance. Salt water injections can substitute for morphine during emergency surgery or post-operative care. Hypnosis and anti-anxiety drugs are used for patients who are allergic to anesthetic. Does that mean surgical pain is fake?

Likewise, placebos are 'effective' at treating Parkinson's disease, stomach ulcers, hypertension, and depression among a host of other diseases/disorders. Again are these diseases just in their head?

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Homeopathy is in fact a placebo with a "story", so that it becomes harder to tell if it's fake or not.

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Likewise, placebos are 'effective' at treating Parkinson's disease, stomach ulcers, hypertension, and depression among a host of other diseases/disorders. Again are these diseases just in their head?

Well, of course some of them are. You mentioned a few neurological diseases - in the head - literally. Hypertension and ulcers can be brought about by stress. The reduction of stress and anxiety can lead to the alleviation of numerous symptoms all over the body. You give somebody something that they think will alleviate their symptoms and all of a sudden they feel better, stress reduced, actual symptomatic relief. That's one manifestation of a placebo, as we all know. How effective they are in general is a matter of opinion.

I would much rather be given a sugar pill by a qualified practitioner, who knows what he's doing than visit a homeopath peddling his magic water. The doctor has been trained to a high standard in order to diagnose conditions and to take the appropriate action. Homeopaths have not. Any idiot could become a homeopath. Of course doctors get things wrong - we all do, but if my child became ill with a thumping headache and a rash, I'd take him/her to the surgery.

Homeopathy is in fact a placebo with a "story", so that it becomes harder to tell if it's fake or not.

Depends what you mean by fake. If you mean more effective than placebo, then yes it's fake. If you mean that placebos are generally effective treatments, then I'd say homeopathic medicines are not fake.

Edited by diafol

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I think that that's the heart of the problem.

There is nothing wrong with a qualified doctor who diagnoses that particular symptoms are psychosomatic (which is the clinical term for the kind of things that placebos can affect, i.e., when your mind (e.g., stress, anxiety, etc.) causes the perceived (or real) symptoms) and then decides to use a placebo to treat it. And for that, homeopathy could be a useful... deception.

The real problem is when the practitioner himself has fallen prey to the deception. In other words, the homeopathic "doctor" who thinks that his remedies are actually effective against actual illnesses (as opposed to psychosomatic ones, but I don't mean that psychosomatic illnesses are not as real as others are). This is tantamount to quackery and could have serious consequences.

But that's really the dilemma here. If you want a reliable placebo that everyone believes is real, so that you can use it to treat psychosomatic symptoms, then you have to maintain this deception, which will inevitably lead to some people establishing a quackery practice or industry around it.

I don't know if there is much established practice in medicine (I mean, real medicine, the scientific kind) around the prescription of placebos for psychosomatic symptoms. If there isn't, there should be, with a more reliable method of deception (e.g., "fake" prescription drugs that a patient can buy at the pharmacy without knowing it's fake). With all these people who are convinced that there must be a drug to fix every problem, telling them just to relax, eat healthy, or something like that, won't fix their problems, so, maybe giving them a fake pill is the only thing that will work.

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For the record, I do not believe doctors should write prescriptions for sugar pills. Pharmacists are paid a dispensing fee for their expertise. I do not think they should be paid anything for selling sugar pills. However, if the doctor wants to try a placebo he should keep a stock on hand and supply them directly. Doctors often do that with samples anyway.

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if I were to get something directly from my doctor instead of a recipe for the pharmacy to supply, I'd be highly suspicious...
The reason placebos sometimes work is because people believe them to be actual medication, not a placebo.
One you start giving them a separate distribution channel, that belief goes away and with it the effectiveness of the placebo.

And no, doctors (here at least) don't get or give out samples. Only pharmacies are licensed to dispense medication.
Of course some doctors are also pharmacists, but most are not.
Even in hospitals, the doctor prescribes a medication, a nurse goes and picks it up from the hospital pharmacy, and administers it (or gives it to the doctor to administer).

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@Diafol Depends what you mean by fake.

I'd like to be able to express myself better in English. By fake I meant both are in fact fake.

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in fact fake

But what is fake?

If a doctor tells you a pill of inert material (aka a sugar pill) will make your back pain go away is that pill a fake? (Scientifically his claim is true).

If a homeopath-person give you the same thing but claim the pill has actual healing powers because of 'water-memory' or some such nonsense, is that it now a fake?

Another example:

If a doctor prescribes acupuncture to relieve your stress to treat your neck pain is it fake?

If the acupuncture-ist tells you they are re-balancing your energy which will heal your neck pain is it fake?

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Some 'psychosomatic' patients are looking for a crutch, be it religion, exorcism, physical or psychological therapy, medication or some New Age nonsense. The symptoms are very real, but their origin seems (obviously) to stem from the mind as opposed to local trauma etc. Placebos do not treat local traumas, so their use in such cases would be extremely dangerous. How is an untrained practitioner to know the difference - it's difficult enough to for a doctor. So the 'fake' here (maybe) seems to be in the intent and understanding - a doctor will prescribe a non-active medication/ active medication due to his/her understanding of your true condition. The mumbo-jumbo crowd practice their treatments in complete ignorance of that condition. Not much different to the old snake oil peddlars, although some may actually believe in what they practice.

I also think that we may have missed the point slightly too. When talking about fake and effective, it seems that this dicussion has centred on individual cases. If we look at how effective they are against traditional medicines at treating something like "heart murmurs", for example, then we may find that placebos/New Age treatments are effective 10% of the time. Their power is extolled by 'cured' patients and their pushers and so the myth is propagated. We don't hear about the 90%. It's akin to the 'hits' and 'misses' of the mediums. So for some people it cannot be fake because they were cured, but sadly for others, well...

Edited by diafol

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