Punching bags

I want to start a new series, but I need your help.

There are bloggers and other individuals out there that just offer themselves up as punching bags. They are always antiscience. But I can’t find them all. For instance, my most recent punching bag, Neil, only came across my radar because of how wildly confused he is between the science of development and the subjectivity of “humanity”. Not everyone is that blatant in their misunderstanding of basic science. (Okay, so every single creationist is that blatantly confused, but I want to find some people more worthy of my time.)

So I’m not looking for people who raise legitimate scientific questions; I’m not about to get into a match with Jerry Coyne over how to define “species” (especially since I generally agree with him anyway). I want punching bags: people who mangle legitimate science for the sake of their point of view – a point of view they formed independently of anything to do with science. Alt-med quacks are always good, though creationists will work when the issue is topical, i.e., new hot-topic research. I don’t want the big names like Chopra for this series, but don’t be afraid to send me that sort of malarkey as well.

If you find something you think would fit these posts you can either make a post right here or email me at forthesakeofscience@gmail.com. Just be on the outlook for buzzwords like “quantum” or for people who draw nebulous connections between real studies and their worldview. Those people make up the most solid candidates.

Wendy Pollack the liar

I wrote about a quack by the name of Wendy Pollack almost two weeks ago. She has gone over to Tanzania in order to tell people with serious illnesses lies about the efficacy of homeopathic ‘medicine’. She is going to do no good.

But I wasn’t the only one who mentioned this quack. PZ made a post about her first. This resulted in a number of people going to her website and leaving comments. To my surprise, at least on one of her posts, many of the Pharyngulites were generally, dare I say…respectful. (Or at least as respectful as those of us on the side of science can be when faced with blatant anti-science nonsense.) Most granted that Pollack had good intentions – and I’m positive she does – but they all lamented the fact that she wasn’t going to help anyone. If anything, her presence will cause harm because people will believe they’ve actually been helped; good feelings are nice, but they’ve never cured HIV. One person even offered directions on how to contribute to people using real medicine. (Go here for a version of that post.)

But Pollack is a quack. And as any regular FTSOS reader knows all too well, alt-med quacks aren’t especially interested in open discussion. Take a look at the comment section of one of Pollack’s posts. Currently there are 4 comments. There used to be at least 20. The quack went through and deleted every bit of criticism (including the directions on how to make worthwhile contributions). Anything pro-malarkey, however, was left. Take a look at this post:

Gail said…
The human body and spirit has a remarkable ability to heal itself.Homeopathic meds facilitate this. I have first hand experience of being cured twice from conditions that conventional meds could not cure. In one I suffered for over 20 years & it was cured in days.As for the naysayers on this blog,don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

February 8, 2011 6:59 AM

Strange how someone would mention “naysayers” on a blog that doesn’t feature an ounce of criticism, no?

But maybe that isn’t good enough. After all, this is just based upon what I’m claiming to remember combined with some circumstantial evidence from a random person on the Internet. I could just be making it up, really. And I would agree with you. I need better evidence than just my word and plausibility. I need something like Google cache.

Gabe Ortiz said…
If you would research homeopathy with a truly open mind, you would understand that it does not work. A homeopath nearly killed my sister by treating her with ineffective, useless fake medicine when she needed real medical attention. This is exactly what you will be doing to these poor people. Your misguided intent WILL kill people, and you will have to live with that for the rest of your life. Please, reconsider.

February 2, 2011 9:00 AM

and

laura said…
I know you believe in what you do,but there is no evidence that homeopathy works.

One day,you will realise this,and you conscience will weigh very heavily on you. i feel sorry for you,i would not like to look back on my life and see how much harm i had caused others by my unsubstantiated beliefs …sad

February 2, 2011 2:14 PM

and

Just zis Guy, you know? said…
Hey, homeopaths for health! So, are you pooling your takings from peddling psychotherapy to the credulous and sending some doctors down there? Oh, no, wait, you’re going on a jolly and handing out sugar pills to sick people. Well that’s a bit of a bummer for them, still, I am sure you will show real empathy when they die of medically preventable (but homeopathically unpreventable) diseases like cholera, typhoid and malaria.

February 2, 2011 3:49 PM

Do your own Google search to find the cached pages and compare them to Pollack’s scrubbed versions. It’s almost fun to see how poorly these types of people react when challenged.

But I guess I’m not surprised that a quack would try and destroy the criticism on her site. I’m just frightened to know the other facts she’s going to try and hide while she’s “treating” people over in Tanzania.

Follow-up

I forgot to include a graphical representation of that god damned middle-aged person in class who won’t shut the hell up.

Notice this is not included under “Humor”.