Monday, January 22, 2007

Catholic quackery



That's a coward's response: just what (sadly) I expected from you. You want to run everything down, so put up or shut up, and be consistent and fair-minded. Do you believe her or not, or is she a liar? Or perhaps she is mentally ill, so that her report can't be trusted? You characterized all the reports as "snake-oil testimonials". Does that include my wife's too? Or do you give her a pass? She has integrity and tells the truth because I know her (hence your convenient omission of her case), and these other people are all bald-faced liars and charlatans because they happen to be Chinese? Every last one of them?.. .That's not true. It's firsthand experiential evidence. Would you assume that a loved one of yours was lying if they told you they could now sleep after 13 years, or had far less back pain after literally a lifetime of it? Would you call them a liar to their face? On what basis? You deny them their self-report???!!! Would you laugh in their face and scoff, as you are doing with these other people, and care not a whit that someone you loved was feeling much better, because in your fertile, falacy-filled mind it "zero evidentiary value"? I highly doubt it.


Quite a few fallacies and absurdities to untangle here:

1.This thread operates on two levels. At one level is the inherent silliness of a man who defends aromatherapy and other miscellaneous quackery as hard science.

2.Then there’s the far more serious issue of serving up his overcooked quackery as a credible alternative to medical science when dealing with life-threatening illness like cancer.

In the first instance, Dave is simply being a buffoon. In the second instance, Dave is volunteering medically reckless and dangerous advice.

3. One also needs to distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable claims. To claim that a Jacuzzi can relieve joint and tissue soreness or stiffness is one thing; to claim that it’s a cure for terminal cancer, or spinal cord injury, or a coma, or a stroke is something else entirely.

4. Then you have his transparent and pathetic attempt at emotional intimidation: Who would dare call his wife a liar?

Well, several more issues:

i) Since he chooses to make this personal, the very reasons he gives for believing his wife are the very reasons I’d give for suspending judgment: he knows her and I don’t. Therefore, it’s perfectly reasonable for me, as a second party, to reserve judgment on his very own grounds.

ii) Likewise, emotional leverage only works with people we know and care about, or vice versa.

Since I don’t know Armstrong or his wife, his appeal has no traction with me.

iii) At the risk of stating the obvious, everyone is related to someone else. Everyone is a father or mother or sister or brother or son or daughter or friend or in-law to someone else.

If Armstrong’s wife claimed to be an alien abductee, would that oblige me to credit her claims? Not in the least.

iv) Notice that I haven’t said anything about his wife. That’s because I don’t know her. So I’m speaking hypothetically.

And, hypothetically speaking, why is it okay for Dave to call me a liar, but outrageous for me to call him or a member of his family a liar?

Note that I haven’t done so. I’m simply drawing attention to his double standard.

5.The appeal to “firsthand experiential evidence” begs the question in several respects:

i) What Dave has given us is not firsthand evidence, but a series of product endorsements via the very company which has a direct financial stake in the sale of the produce.

This is, at best, a secondhand source.

ii) Observe how, in the interests of lining his own pockets, Dave throws all evidentiary standards out the window.

I would judge these testimonials the way I’d judge the testimonials of Benny Hinn type “ministries,” or the psychic network, or Dianetics:

a) Let’s see an independent organization investigate these claims. Let’s see the organization interview the witnesses.

b) Let’s see medical records from a reputable physician regarding their prior diagnosis.

c) Let’s see medical records from a reputable physician regarding their subsequent “cure.”

d) Let’s see an outside organization interview *everyone* who was subjected to alternative medicine. Not just the ones who were “cured,” but the ones who were not. What are the percentages?

e) Let’s see a follow-up investigation a year after their “cure.”

f) Let’s see how much of the medical literature supporting alternative medicine is subsidized by a religious cult like the Unification Church.

g) Let’s see if the witnesses received any financial remuneration for their testimony.

In other words, like’s see some basic fact-checking from an outside source.

One can get personal testimonies for anything and everything, from astrology, ufology, reflexology, iridology, psychic surgery, magnetic therapy, crystal healing, pyramid power, psychic surgery, the therapeutic touch, and Scientology to recovered memories of ritual Satanic abuse and male enhancement products advertised on cable stations at two in the morning.

“Furthermore, it's exactly the same sort of evidence that Christianity itself is based on, in terms of how it spread at first, and the evidence that the first Christians presented in order to back up the gospel and the truth claims.”

Once again, this comparison disregards elementary distinctions and evidentiary standards:

i) The question at issue is not whether we accept all eyewitness claims or reject all eyewitness claims. Rather, the question at issue is whether we accept a credible report from a credible reporter.

ii) There are basic criteria for evaluating eyewitness evidence, viz. character, competence, corroboration, &c.

This is discussed in C. A. J. Coady’s Testimony: A Philosophical Study (Oxford 1994).

John Warwick Montgomery also discusses some of the evidentiary criteria for evaluating testimonial claims:

iii) There must also be a correspondence between the type of cause and type of the effect.

Natural effects correspond to natural causes, just a supernatural effects correspond to supernatural causes.

Science deals with the ordinary providence of second causes. There are things a Jacuzzi can and cannot do. A Jacuzzi cannot multiply loaves and fishes.

So the predicated effect has to be of a kind with the predicated cause.

For example, some pseudoscientific exercises may occasionally “work,” not because they’re scientific, but because they’re occultic. And when you dabble in the occult, you may succeed in getting in touch with agents who do have paranormal powers. Of course, that comes at a terrible price.

“The spa I am promoting involves strictly natural processes, all in turn, confirmed in some way by scientific research in reputable journals. You can quibble with the studies if you like.”

Yes, I “quibble” with the power of hydrotherapy to cure terminal cancer or spinal cord injury. I also “quibble” with the science of aromatherapy. Very backward of me, I know. How could I be so retrograde and unscientific!

“In any event, it has no relation whatsoever to claims of supernatural healing because it's not (DUH!!!!!) claiming to be a supernatural product in the first place! What about that is so difficult for you to grasp?”

Notice how Dave is trying to change the subject. The subject has to do with parallel claims of parallel cures, whether it’s astrology, ufology, Scientology, reflexology, aromatherapy, crystals, pyramid power, hydrotherapy, “miracle spring water”, or Benny Hinn’s healing touch.

“But you, of course, being fond of the cynical, often uncharitable behavior.”

Yes, I’m very cynical and uncharitable towards a man who advertises hydrotherapy as a cure for cancer.

Forgive my cynicism, but when push comes to shove, I’m more charitable towards the cancer patient than the flim-flam man.

“Because they are willing to hear any lie about a Catholic apologist.”

Actually, it’s going to be interesting to see if any other Catholic apologist like Jonathan Prejean or Art Sippo rushes to the defense of hydrotherapy or aromatherapy. I can hardly wait.

“Now if you cared more about people's well-being than you did about lying and putting others down without cause, that would make you rejoice, and be curious as to how this happened.”

Armstrong’s idea of “caring for the well-being of other’s” is to make money off of hydrotherapy by encouraging cancer patients and quadriplegics to believe that by buying his glorified hot-tub, they can walk again or overcome stage-four cancer.

Yes, David simply oozes with compassion.

“Make a fool of yourself and parade your ignorance if you must. I, for one, take science very seriously, and I am willing to go where it's confirmed results lead.”

I’m quite happy to “make a fool of myself” by failing to share Armstrong’s faith in the curative powers of aromatherapy. Shame on me for obstructing the stately progress of medical science.

“And it is an unscientific, irrational attitude that would dismiss all such finds of science.”

Yes, it’s irrational to dismiss a hard science like aromatherapy.

“Some logic there, Steve. But I'm not in the least surprised that a guy who thinks the universe is 6000-10,000 years old would thumb his nose at scientific findings, as well as reported health improvements en masse.”

Of course, this is a category mistake. Creation ex nihilo is miraculous rather than providential.

Therefore, it doesn’t operate according to natural processes. Dave is too theologically illiterate to distinguish primary causality (fiat creation) from secondary causality (natural forces).


  1. I see that Dave has retracted some of his ad hominem comments.

    That was after I did this post, so the current post doesn't reflect his retractions. Rather, it interacts with what he said at the time.

    His retractions are appreciated.

  2. My extensive reply:

    Response to Extreme Irrational Skepticism Regarding Alternative Medicine in General & Hydrotherapeutic Spa & Testimonials of Users, in Particular

    FYI, I don't plan on interacting with you any further on this or on any other topic, since there is clearly no dialogue taking place here.

    On a positive final note, I do thank you for providing the impetus for an important paper, dealing with the excesses of extreme skepticism. That will serve a very important purpose and clarify beyond any conceivable doubt my own positions on these matters of so-called "alternative medicine."

  3. hostus twinkius1/22/2007 9:54 PM

    If that was Dave's last comment here, I'll shoot myself out of a cannon over the Grand Canyon. Really...

  4. "I don't plan on interacting with you any further on this or on any other topic, since there is clearly no dialogue taking place here."

    We've heard this before.
    There's a better chance of me simultaneously being struck by lightning and eaten by a shark while holding the winning the Powerball ticket in my hand than there is of Pope Dave keeping this vow.