Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

BMJ Group promotes acupuncture: pure greed

Posted in improbable science by Skepdude on November 11, 2008

Today brings a small setback for those  of us interested in spreading sensible ideas about science.  According to a press release

“The BMJ Group is to begin publishing a medical journal on acupuncture from next year, it was announced today (Tuesday 11 November 2008).

This will be the first complementary medicine title that the BMJ Group has published.”

And they are proud of that? What one earth is going on?   The BMJ group is a publishing company which says, of itself,

“Our brand stands for medical credibility.   We are one of the world’s best known and most respected medical publishers.”

Well perhaps it used to be.

They have certainly picked a very bad moment for this venture.  In the last year there have been at least five good books that assess the evidence carefully and honestly.  Of these, the ones that are perhaps the best on the subject of acupuncture are Singh & Ernst’s Trick or Treatment and Barker Bausell’s Snake Oil Science.  Both Ernst and Bausell have first hand experience of acupuncture research.  And crucially, none of these authors has any financial interest in whether the judgement goes for acupuncture or against it.

Here are quotations from Singh & Ernst’s conclusions

“Reliable conclusions from systematic reviews make it clear that acupuncture does not work for a whole range of conditions, except as a placebo.”

“There are some high quality trials that support the use of acupuncture for some types of pain and nausea, but there are also high quality trials that contradict this conclusion.  In short, the evidence is neither consistent nor convincing – it is borderline.”


It’s not just acupuncture; it’s laser acupuncture!

Posted in Respectful Insolence by Skepdude on October 15, 2008

Why, oh, why do I keep perusing

Why do I subject myself to wave after wave of neuron-apoptosing stupidity of a magnitude that even activation of NF-kappaB, Akt, and neuronal cell survival signaling pathways can barely keep the killing stupidity at bay? I guess it’s because it provides such good blog fodder for a skeptical blog dedicated to science- and evidence-based medicine. On the other hand, it often gives me a headache to read its contents. Really, it does. I mean, looking at how Mike Adams, the Woo-meister Supreme and Chief Tin Foil Hat responsible for the lunacy there, regularly serves up fare that alternates between the simply over-the-top hilarious (unintentionally, of course) and the truly vile (although leaning more towards the vile) that the alternating current of fun woo and dumb woo seriously stresses the electrical impulses flowing through my brain.

Perhaps I could use some acupuncture for that headache.

But not just any acupuncture. Oh, no. That would be too mundane, too boring, too…pedestrian. Needles? Stuck into the skin? Physically? How primitive! There might even be a tiny drop of blood! We can’t have that! No, I’m a 21st century kind of guy, and I need a 21st century form of woo. It needs to be high tech woo of the finest caliber. Just like Dr. Evil, I want my frikkin’ sharks to have frikkin’ laser beams.

That’s right: Laser acupuncture! Fellow woo-traveler of Mike Adams Dave Gabriele shows me the way right there on


An Acupuncture Debate

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on September 4, 2008

Recently I was invited to write my views on acupuncture for a website called Opposing Views. I pre-published (with permission) my side of the debate on “Does Acupuncture Work” here at NeuroLogica. Taking the pro-acupuncture side is Bill Reddy – his profile states that he is “currently serving on the Executive Committee of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.”

The format of the website allows for moderated comments, which are intended to allow for a written debate with the two sides. Here are my responses to the first round of arguments.


The largest “randomized” acupuncture study ever done: Why did they even bother?

Posted in Respectful Insolence by Skepdude on August 28, 2008

ResearchBlogging.orgBelieve it or not, there was one area of so-called “alternative” medicine that I used to be a lot less skeptical about than I am now. Homeopathy, I always realized to be a load of pseudoscientific magical thinking. Ditto reiki, therapeutic touch, and other forms of “energy healing.” It didn’t take an extensive review of the literature to figure that out, although I did ultimately end up doing fairly extensive literature reviews anyway. Then, the more I looked into the hodge-podge of “healing” modalities whose basis is not science but rather prescientific and often mystical thought, the less impressed I was.

Even so, there was always one modality that I gave a bit of a pass to. There was one modality that, or so I thought, might actually have something to it. There was one modality that seemed to have a bit of suggestive evidence that it might do something more than a placebo. I’m referring to acupuncture. No, I never bought all the mystical mumbo-jumbo about how sticking needles into “meridians” somehow alters or “unblocks” the flow of a mysterious “life force” known as qi that is undetectable by science. I did wonder if perhaps it worked as a counterirritant or by releasing endorphins.

Then I actually started paying attention to the scientific literature regarding acupuncture, including literature like this and this. The more I read, the more I realized something. I realized that there was far less to acupuncture than I had previously thought, and, even with my previous openness to it, I hadn’t thought all that much about it anyway. What I had thought about it was that it might have a very mild beneficial effect. What I know now is that acupuncture is almost certainly no more than an elaborate placebo. What I know now is that virtually every study of acupuncture claiming to show a positive effect has serious methodological flaws and that the better-designed the study the less likely there is to be an effect. What I now know is that any study without a true “sham” acupuncture arm is worthless, and that well-designed studies show “sham” acupuncture to be no different than “real” acupuncture; i.e., no different than placebo.


Skepquote of the day

Posted in Skepquote by Skepdude on August 25, 2008

Science requires unambiguous definition of terms and concepts. If acupuncture is said to be something scientifically then it must have some specific and unique characteristics. In medicine that means it should have a specific mechanism of action – and it is that mechanism that we would call acupuncture. Electrical stimulation is no more acupuncture than if I injected morphine through a hollow acupuncture needle and then claimed that any resulting pain relief was due to “acupuncture.”

“Why I am Skeptical of Acupuncture”-Steven Novella

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