Monday, May 21, 2007

"Believe"... It rhymes with "bereave."

A guest column, today, from Australian writer Neil Jenman. Any elaboration on my part would only diminish it:

"I wanted to share a personal story regarding The Secret.

"I am 52. Today, May 20, a friend of mine, Peter, had his 51st birthday.

"Last year, in 2006, by a strange twist of fate, both Peter and I were diagnosed with cancer within weeks of each other—me in August and Peter in October. My treatment began in September. Peter's began in October.

"At the start of this year, I appeared to be cancer free. Peter appeared worse. And then Peter discovered The Secret.

"He gave me a copy of the book and the DVD and said, 'This will save us both.' I remember how he hugged me; he was so thin. I said this was 'dangerous tripe' and that I was writing about this nonsense in my new book. He told me that he 'respected' me but to 'trust' him. I went home and watched the DVD. It made me angry.

"As I said, today was Peter's birthday. But he wasn't here. He died on April 26.

"I think The Secret is wicked and dangerous mumbo-jumbo."

Guest blogger Neil Jenman (orange shirt) with Peter George Loizides (1956-2007). "This was the day he handed me The Secret," writes Jenman, who is working on his third book; it's about "get-rich coaches," he says.

[Photo courtesy Neil Jenman. All rights reserved.]

46 comments:

Cosmic Connie said...

This is a sad story indeed, and my heart goes out to Neil Jenman. What he didn't specifically say in his post, however, was whether Peter decided to eschew medical treatment once he discovered "The Secret." Or did he continue his treatment as before, merely adding "The Secret" to his arsenal?

Also, Neil says that at the start of the year he was cancer-free but Peter appeared to be worse, and *then* Peter discovered "The Secret." Put this way, it doesn't seem that his belief in "The Secret" had anything to do with Peter's worsening condition, at that point anyway.

Believe me, I am the last person who would defend "The Secret." And in no way do I excuse the franchise for the facile and stupid ideas it has popularized. But I have to draw the line at calling it "wicked and dangerous," even though I can see how Neil, in his bereavement, would find it so.

Steve Salerno said...

You make a very good point, Connie, and one that I invite Neil to address on this blog, if he chooses to.

I do think that the post stands on its own merits, however, in more ways than you, apparently, do. And I'll tell you why. For one thing, I do not believe that Neil's closing remark ("wicked and dangerous") was necessarily intended as a particular, tight-focus conclusion to this anecdote--which is, as we often say on this blog, just one anecdote among many, good or bad. I think it's a more general reference to his experience with the genre, pursuant to his research for his forthcoming book.

Additionally, as far as Peter's untimely death, I don't think that Neil is contending that The Secret "caused" his death, per se, in the sense of encouraging him to forgo further treatment (though that may well be the case, and if it is, I'm sure Neil will tell us that). But I think it's more of a comment on the special tragedy of giving false hope to someone who, in truth, has little or no hope. People with terminal cancer are in sad enough straits as it is; they don't need to be made fools of, or played for suckers, besides. That, more than anything, is my gripe with the likes of The Secret: it preys upon the desperate.

Anonymous said...

I was about to write a criticism of this post along the lines of what Cosmic Connie says when I saw your reply go up and now it makes more sense to me. Still I would like to see a response from Neil that is more precise in explaining what exactly happened here. My condolences to him in any case.

Cosmic Connie said...

And I see your point too, Steve, regarding false hope and the way The Secret and similar products prey on the desperate. Obviously I was reading for a simple "cause and effect" message that more than likely wasn't there. My apologies to Neil if I misinterpreted him. I too would like to hear more from him and will be interested in reading his book.

I guess there really has to be a balance, where hope is concerned. Ron and I had a client (who had become a friend) who contracted pancreatic cancer. The prognosis was not good, and even after it was a pretty sure thing that she was terminal,she continued to subject herself to the tortures of medical treatment as long as she could. Towards the end she wanted to try some alternative methods, but she wanted her doctor to continue to monitor her. Her "life partner," who was with her through this ordeal, tells us the doctor flat out refused to have anything to do with her experiment. According to our friend's partner, the doc came out and said, "Look, you're going to die anyway, so why bother with this nonsense?"

If this happened as he related (and I'm saying "if," because, obviously, I was not there, and there may have been other factors too), I find it appalling. There's such a thing as being realistic, but there needs to be a measure of compassion. And for many reasons (which are in many cases not the fault of doctors themselves), compassion is sorely lacking in the world of traditional medical treatment.

And then there's always the question: where do you draw the line between hope and false hope?

S.H.A.M. Scam Sam said...

Everyone, who knows me, is aware that I think The Secret's "wicked and dangerous" and this is a perfect example of why:

Dead men tell no tales.

If Neil hadn't written anything, Peter could possibly still be dead, but with no one aware of The Secret's (even partial) role in his death.

The fact that Peter told Neil "This will save us both" is damning evidence of how far people will go (risking their lives, while encouraging others to do the same) to believe. Look at The Secret's sales numbers and, then, ask yourself:

Even if this is happening to only 1% of The Secret's customers, that's one hell of a lot of people, going for broke - and coming up short, never to be heard from again - unless they have someone, like Neil, to document how these scam artist's played a role.

It's tragic, and there ought to be a law.

Rodger said...

This is a very biting twist to your blog, Steve.

I think it's a good twist - one that brings to light the dark side of self-help. And it's nice to see others on the frontline with you.

To paraphrase Jacques Barzun, a spark from a match, revolutions start small...

Neil said...

Sorry if I was not clear. Peter did stick with his traditional medicine. And, yes, he would have died anyway. [He had lung cancer from smoking. I had melanoma.]

They got me early and got him late, it's that simple (and sad), I suppose.

What makes me upset, though, is the false hope that Peter had after he saw and read The Secret.

His death, which came much more suddenly than he expected, was horrible. As his sister told me, "He felt cheated."

Had he not believed so much in The Secret he would have died more peacefully.

It's a long story (as is any life), but it was made oh-so-sadder because of the false hope.

And that's what I truly believe is wicked.

What's lovely, however, is the true compassion in some of these blog comments.

Now, that's the real secret in life, eh. We're pretty good on our own - without the mumbo-jumbo.

Neil

Steve Salerno said...

Once again, Neil, you expressed this much more eloquently than I could have. And you did it with the passion of the one who lived it. Thanks so much for sharing your story with SHAMblog's readers.

Cosmic Connie said...

And thank you for filling in the "gaps," as it were, Neil. I hope I didn't come across as lacking in compassion or defending "The Secret." That your friend felt cheated because "The Secret" did not save him after all is truly tragic. And I think his story needs to be told. I think it needs to be on every "Powerful Intentions" and pro-Secret discussion forum.

Still, there is the question about drawing the line between hope and false hope. The Secret clearly crossed that line in your friend's case. Other cases might not be so clear-cut. The Secret might just be harmless feel-good drivel for many.

And (in response to my pal s.h.a.m. scam sam), I guess it's the Libertarian in me that draws the line at saying The Secret should be outlawed (if indeed that's what s.s.s. was suggesting).

I really like what Neil said, though: "Now, that's the real secret in life, eh. We're pretty good on our own - without the mumbo-jumbo." Maybe someday THAT notion will sell a lot of books. We can only hope. :-)

Anonymous said...

Neil, I am very, very sorry for your loss of your friend. I think a story like that brings to light so many things that would otherwise take page after page of theory. No offense to you and what you've been trying to do, Steve. I eagerly wait the other personal stories that you've been collecting. Eagerly is a bad word in this connection I guess, but I mean that I think these stories of the "dark side" are stories that need to be told. They're the pictures that are worth 1000 words, literally in the case of Neil's bittersweet picture here.
Alicia Stavros, Flint MI

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve -
As you know, I am no fan of the Secret and its false promises, but allow me to play devil's advocate for a moment.

There are situations we face where all our common sense can abandon us, such as when we face impending death. At such times, some will retreat into the comfort of faith, even if that faith is built upon illusion. And in those difficult times, I believe that the illusory comfort we receive can be a good thing, so long as it is a complement to making intelligent choices as to action taken.

Just as Christians find solace in the belief that their suffering will eventually be replaced with the sweet milieu of a heavenly reward (another concept to which I do not adhere), perhaps Peter found some sense of peace in believing (or at least telling himself) that the Secret held the key to his healing. While I can imagine that his disillusionment upon realizing that the Secret wouldn't "save" him was devastating, I cannot help but wonder whether he might not have been just as devastated had he approached the hour of death never having heard of the Secret. We cannot know what was in the deepest corners of his heart at that time, and can only guess, based upon our own projections.

Those who suggest following a faith-based system from which they profit, in lieu of a common-sense approach are IMHO, profoundly evil. Yet looking to those systems when all other options have failed may offer a sense of peace that is quite worthwhile, if only to reduce the stress of facing the inevitable. And to be pragmatically dispassionate, I would offer that perhaps Peter's bitterness might have come from his ultimately having to accept a truth that he had attempted to deny: his own mortality. Blaming the Secret for that bitterness is understandable, but not really justified, IMO.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, I hear what you're saying, as always, and I applaud you for being able to present a "contrarian" argument, in an emotional context such as this, without seeming tactless or unfeeling.

I can only fall back on what I said some time ago about the way we deceived my father during his final days. (I agreed to the conspiracy in deference to my mother.) People have a right to know the score; beyond that, as you yourself seem to be saying towards the end of your comment, to "extract" money from people in exchange for supplying them with the false hope that you, as an entrepreneur, know they're desperate to have, is a sin of a pretty high order, in my book (literally). But finally, I come back to what Neil tells us about the sense of heartbreak or let-down that Peter felt upon realizing that The Secret was not going be his salvation after all. We have a right to die in peace, or as close to peace as we can get, and it sounds to me as if, in this case, invoking The Secret ended up depriving Peter of that sense of peace. "He felt cheated." Maybe that's the bottom line here. At the end of the day, this may be an eye-of-the-beholder situation: I am not so stupid or philosophically obdurate and entrenched that I would deny someone the right to hope, even false hope, for the price of a DVD. But if in the end the DVD is the very thing that leaves that person facing death, shattered and bitter...?

Cosmic Connie said...

"But if in the end the DVD is the very thing that leaves that person facing death, shattered and bitter...?"

That is precisely why, even though I don't think "The Secret" should be banned, I do think Neil needs to tell Peter's story in a way that will get the widest readership possible.

RevRon's Rants said...

I think that what is impossible for us to know is whether Peter's bitterness would have arisen, even without the Secret as a factor. I am certainly not attempting to minimize the pain he felt, or to excuse the cynical marketing of illusion. I am merely saying that it is not really our place to damn the Secret as the sole source of Peter's bitterness, when nobody - not even his closest friend - could really know the deepest workings of Peter's psyche as he approached his death, any more than we could condemn a religion in which an individual places his/her faith, only to be disappointed at the outcome of a given circumstance.

My feeling is that, having exhausted medical remedies, if an illusion offered Peter a sense of peace for a few days, weeks, or months leading up to his death, it was probably beneficial, even if the last hours or days were spent in anger and disillusionment.

The emergence from any illusion can be very painful, but does that painful final period offset the relief offered by the illusion up to the time the illusion is dispelled? I think the answer to that one is writ in the same place as the answer to "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin."

No matter the answer, I hope that Peter has found peace now, and that Neil finds his own, as well. If expressing the anger he feels for his friend's pain helps him, more power to him.

Cosmic Connie said...

Well said, Ron. And it's not just a matter of Neil working out his anger and finding comfort by telling Peter's story. If the story he tells opens the way to yet more dialog about the "dark side" of The Secret and other cleverly marketed delusions, he will have helped a lot of folks. Sometimes just telling the truth is far more effective than legislation or censorship.

I've chosen, for the most part, to handle my general disdain for the SHAM world with humor. But while I'm working so hard to be the class clown, I sometimes forget that there really *is* a dark side to this stuff. And it has nothing to do with the Devil.

BTW, Steve, I hope you do decide to make a book out of the "collateral damage" stories you've collected.

Steve Salerno said...

Connie...personally I think you're smokin' something. But I say that with affection. :)

Talk about "the definition of a book no one would want to read"! Can you imagine trying to get a book deal for something like that amid today's cultural (and publishing) ethos?? Or even if you did manage to land such a deal (probably for an advance of, oh, $1.98, give or take the dollar)--can you imagine trying to get booked on network TV?! A publicist's worst nightmare, to be sure...

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve - While I understand your reluctance to consider such a project, I have a feeling that the winds of change just might be starting to blow, and that you might well find yourself well-positioned if you at least had a proposal worked up & ready to submit.

And while Connie doesn't smoke, I'm taking the fifth! :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Twice today--once in an email, and once in a comment that some anonymous someone attempted to post on the blog--I've received thoughts that can only be described as unspeakably vile. I'd like to think they were from the same individual, because the notion that Neil's post could've provoked that brand of hatefulness from more than one person remains almost unimaginable to me, despite my advanced years. I don't care to be more specific than that--and I guess some would say that if I'm not going to be more specific, there is no point to this comment. But I'm really writing it for the "benefit" of the person/people who drew certain inferences from Neil's poignant story, then used those inferences as the basis for spewing a raw hatred I have seldom experienced in almost 25 years of covering the American scene.

So if you're reading this, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous Poster, I invite you to slither back to the venomous, intolerant milieu in which you apparently thrive. There is no room for you here. The people on this blog think.

Cosmic Connie said...

Re the potential marketability of the "Collateral Damage" project: I'm not a literary agent or a publicist, just a very interested observer of the literary scene. And it seems to me that anti-*religion* books aren't doing all that badly at the moment. Christopher Hitchens' "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" is currently number 7 on Amazon. Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" was way up there for a while and is currently #30. Given the similarities between religion and SHAM, it seems to me that a book that kicks some more sacred cows in the butt would be welcomed. I know, I know, you're going to say that SHAM hasn't done all that well. But I think that if "Collateral" focused on hard-hitting personal stories, it would attract many folks who might not have been drawn to SHAM.

"Collateral" could even satisfy those who want a "happy ending" or a "solution" (of sorts) if you ended the book with a story, or even a whole section of stories, about people who have found happiness and contentment living a life of realistic expectations.(Which we've discussed previously on this blog.) And I am sure you could find a few experts who would expound on some version of what Neil said yesterday, "We're pretty good on our own -- without the mumbo-jumbo."

And as Ron 'splained, I don't smoke. This is my natural nuttiness speaking. :-)

I would comment on the hate-mongering correspondent, but you said it pretty well. I hope s/he crawls back under the rock s/he came from.

S.H.A.M. Scam Sam said...

James Randi said, quite accurately, that to take on woo is to accept trying to empty the ocean with a paper cup. I don't know what the answer is - not with people like Bill Clinton working with Tony Robbins. All I know, for sure, is "the dark side" is real - and very dark. Sometimes over-whelming.

I don't know too many people who don't buy into some aspect of it - so I've isolated myself at home. I, aggressively, edit what I watch on TV, and most movies are out, too. Even shopping for groceries can be fraught with danger. I'm haunted. As Steve is arguing, there aren't many venues where clear-headedness is appreciated, so all I can do is watch as this evil winds it's way through society.

Now that my (few) friends know I can see through it, I get the occassional frantic call in the night ("What can I do about so-and-so's brother who is insisting on taking our elderly mother to this guru/quack/conman?") but all I can tell them is what I know - not what to do: If I knew what to do I'd fix it myself.

Don't take this wrong, but I hate life now. I used to be popular but, now, it's like I know too much. I'm the cultist who speaks a language very few understand. Until something goes wrong.

I, too, see signs the tide may be turning but America's a big country - and this is a big ol' world - and these bastards never sleep:

So, I guess, we're all going to need bigger cups.

Steve Salerno said...

SHAM/Sam, I kind of agree with you in a sense, but I think it's a bad idea to retreat into one's electronic cottage and "edit" what you see and hear. First of all, as Don Corleone said, the trick in life is to "Keep your friends close...but your enemies closer." You've got to keep tabs on what "the dark side" is up to. I get a kick out of conservatives who say they will only watch FOX News, or liberals who say they will only read the NY TImes. What good does that do you in the end? And really, what's the point? To simply feel good about having all of your developing biases confirmed day after day? I'm not so foolish as to think that I've got it all figured out. That's why I try to assimilate as much info as possible, from as many places as possible, up to and including such polar sources as the militia movement and Al Jazeera. Even when that info irks the crap out of me, I still think it's a valuable exercise.

I also think it's dangerous to paint all of society with a single brush-stroke, as you seem to have done here. When I whip up one of my typically cynical items--and the one that follows this one may actually be a better example--I'm pointing out symptoms of malaises that, yes, are probably rampant in our culture. But I don't believe these things necessarily are pandemic. Maybe that means I deserve to be lumped in with the masses who foolishly choose to "believe" that there's "hope."

Look, I don't intend this as a pep talk. That would be patronizing, and in any case, we're all allowed to come to the respective conclusions about life that work for us, "validate us," whatever. I'm simply saying that I don't believe that anything is 100 percent anything. In the early 1990s the country was rampant with Clinton-mania. Then suddenly the nation went right-wing in a big way. Now Bush has managed to discredit conservatives (even "compassionate" ones), and we're swinging back the other way. I don't really know what "the average American," if there even is such a thing, believes. Perhaps we're all just grasping at straws in our own way. That doesn't mean things are as dark as you seem to think they are.

To me, life is still pretty good, on balance. Even if you want to look at things through a purely "narcissistic" lens: You can order a pizza in, tonight, if you feel like it, then grab a Heineken, sit back and watch the NBA playoffs; maybe in-between you'll check and see whether America went for Jordin or Blake. (Myself, I think Jordin.) Then you can turn on the A/C, go to bed (alone or accompanied, probably at your own choosing), and thank God you weren't born in Fallujah.

S.H.A.M. Scam Sam said...

Steve,

Yea, from where I sit, you do sound kinda pep-talky and academic. It's like you just saw "Rosemary's Baby" and, then, you spoke to Rosemary and said, "Watch sports." It just doesn't work like that.

I do keep up on "the dark side". As a matter of fact, I had a small success today, reading that London's NHS isn't funding homeopathy any longer:

http://society.guardian.co.uk/health/news/0,,2085785,00.html

This quote affected me greatly:

"While it may be tempting to dismiss homeopathy expenditure as relatively small across the NHS, we must consider the cultural and social damage of maintaining as a matter of principle expenditure on practices which are unsupported by evidence,"

Will other countries - especially France - follow suit? I doubt it, but it's *something*.

I read everything (from the NYT to the National Review - and lots of stuff in between - I'm reading "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda And The Road To 9/11" by Lawrence Wright right now) but, no matter where I turn, it's usually there in one form or another. And talking to most people is impossible, because of it, so I've given up trying. I've lived an eventful life, full of Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'N' Roll, so I don't feel I'm missing much now. Hell, even thinking about sex just seems like a joke without my wife. That may change, one day, but, I'm sure, not anytime soon.

So, I'm a hermit, of sorts, now. I watch TV - turning the channel when Kaiser Permanente commercials, or whatever, come on - and I work the hell out of my library card. It's not as bad as it sounds, though it is a big change, for a guy who was known as a Rock Star/Celebrity. It's just the way it is.

The stuff under the new age umbrella never goes away, like politics swings, it just subsides a bit until a new twist on it (like The Secret) is found. And all the stuff I associate with it - self-help, post-feminism, environmental hysteria, "spirituality", multiculturalism, etc. - will all be taking their shots at the same time: there's really no escape for someone in my situation. I know too much.

But I'm a Big Boy. I'm not depressed (sorry if I gave that impression) I do have my friends, and I'm making more, online: I'm friends with doctors, skeptics, atheists, all sorts of folks I never knew, before now. My life, goals, dreams, loves - against my will - have been forced to change is all. And, while I wish they didn't have to, I have to get used to all this:

But, man, it was truly wonderful before.

Steve Salerno said...

SHAM/Sam, look, I didn't mean to sound insensitive or almost...glib? But this is all sort of cart-before-the-horse-y, because the folks "out there" are hearing, in this exchange, the epilogue to a book they haven't yet read. We'll talk...

S.H.A.M. Scam Sam said...

Nah, Steve, you're fine - it's me, not you.

Though I disagree with you about Bush (!) overall, I really like your style: you call nonsense "nonsense" and I'm grateful for that. And, without SHAM, I wouldn't have figured out as much of this as I did so soon. It's not your fault you sorted this out, as you did, and I had to 'get it' as I did. It's just how it happened, is all.

BTW, Jordin is a shoe-in.

Citizen Deux said...

Steve, once in a while a blog will reach out an slap me silly. Today you win the prize.

The article dredged up all the anger and derision I hold for the hucksters and con artists who drag people down hopeless corridors of delusion only to abandon them when their faith in "philosphy" fails them.

For me this includes religion, New Wage clap trap, homeopathy, anything with the word "energy" in it, pseudoscience, Emotional Freedom Technique (like the illegal activities of those such as Roger Callahan, Gary Craig, Walt Rodenberger Walt Rodenberger and a host of other "practitioners" who use the thin veneer of "ordination" as a minister to sidestep state regulations regarding practicing psychology without a license, taxes and ethical business practices.

Hope is a precious thing for we frail humans. It should not be constructed on lies and imagination.

RevRon's Rants said...

"Hope is a precious thing for we frail humans. It should not be constructed on lies and imagination."

I agree that hope built upon lies is destructive, but perhaps not quite as destructive as the complete absence of hope. And hope based upon imagination is a pretty good definition of faith - the belief in the existence of something wondrous, when empiric evidence is lacking.

I think we all need to believe that there is goodness just beyond the realm of our vision. Such unsupported belief is what inspires us to grow, to expand the range of our vision, and to be greater tomorrow than we are today. It is only when we abandon what we *can* see in favor of what we hope for that problems arise.

As I've said before, the ultimate answer is in the balance between the two. To wholly immerse one's self in difficult circumstances without acknowledging the potential to rise above those circumstances - even when we cannot perceive the means of doing so - has a clinical name: depression. While such depression might seem to be more consistent with "critical thinking," it is not a particularly enriching lifestyle, any more than immersing one's self in the giddy delusion of "woo" while ignoring reality. Either one is equally debilitating.

Citizen Deux said...

Ron, you may be my favorite two wheeled philosopher. And yet by my separating imagination (which could be loosely defined as wishing for what is not) - I pose that hope is based upon aspiration - desiring that which can be. A subtle difference, but far from the concocted tripe of so many "hustledorks" - man, I love Connie's work.

moi said...

After vowing to stop blogging because of a back problem, I read this thread and feel compelled to say something. It is disturbing to me that alternative medicine is being lumped together with fraudulent self help schemes. If I did not know so much about some of the things going on in hospitals, and if i did not know anything about the potential very harmful side effects of pharmaceuticals , I would not complain. I think it is important that more research rather than less be done on alternative medicine so that people have options that are safer than invasive surgery and medications with dangerous side effects. I also feel, regarding self help, that too much negativity is being attributed to it. People need some kind of hope to live, some kind of a system of belief. It has been so since the beginning of what we know as human life. It is necessary to subject claims such as LOA to critical scrutiny, but we live in an imperfect world. Invalidating all of new age beliefs and practices, homeopathy, and self help seems to me to be pointing the finger too much at others- projecting discontent. I agree that much of this stuff is sham, but as a general rule, I evaluate people by their actions rather than their beliefs. For example, I know some people who were heavily involved in Tony Robbins. Some of them are loving human beings while others are sanctimonious narcissists. The narcissist was already a narcissist before he went to Robbins, not because of him. I think the real "darkness" 'out there' has more to do with how people treat each other individually and culturally, and how we treat the planet. Spiritual systems will always be there and the best we can do is choose one that makes the most sense and does the least harm, and that does not lead to projection- (or not believe in anything at all- but for me, that is impossible)

Steve Salerno said...

You see, Moi, while I appreciate your sentiments--and can clearly feel how important they are to you--your comment in itself embodies the fundamental problem with "belief systems" of any kind. Because, once you decide that you're going to believe in something for which there is little or no evidence...where do you stop? And who's entitled to point fingers, then? (I.e., who gets to make the call about whose "belief system" is absurd, and whose is OK--even though BOTH lack evidence!) For argument's sake, you can't simply say--because you happen to believe in homeopathy--that "homeopathy is acceptable...but therapeutic touch is nuts." Either they're all nuts, or none of them is. It's that simple. Until science steps forward and validates such therapies. And this would be a good place to point out that after 14 years, and billions of budgeted dollars, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has not managed to validate anything.

You chose to voice your parting thought parenthetically, but to me it's the crux of it all. You simply need something to believe in. So you create a belief system to support it. It's like when my wife (who is as devout a Catholic as there is these days) tells me, "I can't face the thought that there's no afterlife. I simply have to cling to that." That may be all well and good--but it doesn't make it so. "Need" has nothing to do with "truth."

moi said...

"For argument's sake, you can't simply say--because you happen to believe in homeopathy--that "homeopathy is acceptable...but therapeutic touch is nuts." Either they're all nuts, or none of them is. It's that simple. Until science steps forward and validates such therapies. "

Steve, I think therapies such as therapeutic touch and others are more preventative in that they help people to correct imbalances in body and mind. So, if this clarifies anything, I view them as preventative rather than curative. Once people have diseases, scientifically validated treatments are the way to go for obvious reasons. I would only recommend alternative in conjunction with or after traditional medical approaches fail. However, plants, from which pharmaceuticals are derived, have curatve properties, so why not go to the source rather than accept only chemically altered drugs? A for belief-I don't subscribe to an all knowing man in the sky, but you cannot deny that there is a consciousness in nature that defies explanation. I prefer to regard it as a mystery and preserve my sense of wonder.

Steve Salerno said...

Moi, you say you "think" that those methodologies are more preventative...but on what basis are you "thinking" that? That's my point. Where's the evidence? Where are the studies? I mean, this is people's HEATLH we're talking about here. We're not talking about wishing for sportscars or new girlfriends. We're talking about, in some cases, life and death itself.

See, here's the thing: If you're going to believe in these types of approaches--simply because you need to or want to--then what do you say when a Rhonda Byrne comes along and says the outlandish things SHE says? You certainly can't ask her for proof, because you've already said--in your own case--that proof doesn't matter; it's all a question of "what you want to believe in." So where do we draw that line? Or do we just not bother drawing it anymore...?

moi said...

"So where do we draw that line? Or do we just not bother drawing it anymore...?"
Steve, I consider myself to be a sensible human being. I have tried different therapies for certain physical problems that traditional medicine hasn't been able to help me with, such as nerve pain in my shoulder. I know that I can go to a surgeon, but for now, i would rather stick with massage and acupuncture, both of which scientifically trained physicians approve of. However, there are some skeptical fundamentalists out there who would even deny the efficacy of that because they think it is "woo". Back to your question, though- where to draw the line. I think the most we can do is find out, as much as possible, about how effective certain alternative therapies have been for other people, and see what research, if any, has been conducted, then decide using common sense. I have been burned several times, so I am by far not naive about this anymore. But it seems like what you are doing is throwing the baby out with the bath water, and taking an all or nothing stance, which I don't agree with.

Steve Salerno said...

Though I guess we'll have to agree to disagree (I've been using that phrase a lot lately, and I'm not pleased with myself, since it's sort of a cop-out), I can see how you'd feel the way you do, Moi, so I'll give you the last word. Unless anyone else wants to weigh in...?

RevRon's Rants said...

Sadly, Steve, the very "science" upon which those who consider themselves to be "critical thinkers" is itself quite flawed. Actually, not the science itself, but the corruption of science by collateral interests. Having worked in psych research for a number of years, I learned that quite often, studies were structured in such a way as to reinforce the arguments of those who stood to profit from a positive outcome. And our participation in the FDA breast implant hearings a couple of years ago made it quite obvious that dubious - even harmful - products can withstand the test of "research," so long as their producers are willing to exert enough economic pressure on the process.

Each of us has a "belief system" with which we guide our lives, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. And within each of those individual belief systems lies the potential for deceit and destructive behavior. The single element that keeps us from following our beliefs across a line into negativity is our individual sense of right and wrong, tempered by our ability to make common-sense decisions.

When someone discovers that the beliefs that have guided them are fallible (or even false), the first reaction is anger at ourselves for being deluded. Sometimes, that anger is projected outward, since it's much more palatable to blame an external component than to assume the responsibility for being fooled. When the "fooling" was intentional, or the result of our "teacher's" incompetence, the anger is justified. But we must each accept a degree of responsibility for our own mistakes, and even our having been deceived. Perhaps it would be more productive, after taking appropriate measures to ensure that others are not defrauded, to have a bit of a laugh at our own culpability, to learn from it, and move on. Better that than to make it our life's work to punish those who fooled us, thus relegating our lives to the quest for vengeance.

I believe that if we simply apply common sense in our journey, yet still allow ourselves to be open-minded enough to consider the viability of new processes, we won't go too badly awry. We will inevitably screw up from time to time (it's our job as humans), but will eventually return to our chosen path.

And we might want to look objectively at the things we deem to be "evil," yet which might be merely unpleasant. A favorite analogy of mine is that a forest fire is "evil" from the perspective of a tree, or from one who owns the forest. Yet from the forest's larger perspective, the fire is an essential part of the process of rebirth.

Hmmm... I see I've rambled more than enough. Have a great day.

moi said...

Ron, if you are still here--- wonderful comment. I think we are on the same page philosophically, in some ways at least.

As for you steve- I was just thinking of you after reading 2 articles in the NYT that have to do with this thread. One is a front page story about drug companies paying doctors to do testing: "After Sanctions, Doctors get drug company to pay". It shows the very dark side of "the corruption of science by collateral interests", as Ron puts it. Another article which should be of interest to you is: "Shark cartlage, not a Cancer therapy". This one addresses the issue of the necessity of doing more research on conventional treatments and alternative therapies, such as flax seed and ginseng in this case, to treat cancer patients. Research on both alternative and conventional therapies is in the interest of people's health, in both the curative and preventative senses, imo.

RevRon's Rants said...

I was saddened yesterday to see a glaring example of how a cynical marketer was willing to twist a revered spiritual principle in order to justify his own greed. In Joe Vitale's latest post (http://mrfire.blogspot.com/), he makes a claim that is completely contrary to the very religious teachings by which he claims to guide his life (and which he uses in his efforts to "guide" others. IMHO, this cynical willingness to misdirect the spiritual quest of others in order to fatten one's wallet is even more insidious than misdirecting their search for physical well-being.

moi said...

Ron, are you referring to the comment about Joe's car?:
"I let him start the car. As he heard the roar of Francine's engine, he seemed to radiate bliss.
Bonnie looked at him and said, "I haven't seen that look on your face in twenty-nine years."
Frank replied, "Get me a car like this and you'll see it all the time."

I guess that's the essence of his philosophy. Think positive thoughts, be happy, and bow down to the almighty red sports car.
And yes,misleading people spiritually to fatten ones wallet is insidious, but can we really separate the physical from the spiritual in such a clear cut way? Doctors who is use their patients as guinea pigs to fatten their wallets are doing both a spiritual as well as a physical disservice to humanity.

RevRon's Rants said...

What really got to me was Joe's contention twisting Buddhist teachings to suit his own purposes, ie: stating that Buddha didn't really believe that desire is the root of suffering, but rather, that desire is Divine, and Divinity is desire. His emphasis on acquiring more and more material wealth - especially when he does so by misrepresenting highly revered spiritual teachings - is beyond the pale, even for a hustledork like Joe.

Durga said...

After I submitted my comment, I realized it was the desire part you were referring to. I wonder what makes joe think he is qualified to make such statements about Buddhism. I doubt he has studied buddhist scriptures in any serious way. The people I know who have do not espouse easy solutions to life's problems.
moi

( I am having problems with my google account)

Cosmic Connie said...

Wow, this discussion took an interesting turn when I wasn't looking. I've been busy with some affairs Down Under... :-)

First of all, Citizen Deux, I can't take credit for "hustledork." That was the invention of Ron, your favorite two-wheeled philosopher (my favorite one too!). I just use the word a lot.

Second, as I've expressed before here and elsewhere, I'm a bit more tolerant of "alternative" stuff than your average skeptic. I don't even think that homeopathy (to give one example that is being discussed here) is the devil's work. Now, S.H.A.M. Scam Sam, I know you have a special hatred for homeopathy. I don’t really share that hatred, though I think the underlying theory, "like cures like" is pretty squirrelly. I never understood that. And the fact that the solutions are diluted so much as to be pretty much nonexistent also seems a bit silly.

OTOH... for years I've been taking zinc gluconate glycine tablets (Cold-Eze) at the first sign of a cold and sore throat. I used to get nasty colds/sore throats/earaches, etc., but the Cold-Eze seems to stop all that in its tracks. There are, apparently, a couple of clinical studies backing the efficacy of this remedy. Anyway, believe it or not, I'd actually been using Cold-Eze for years before I noticed the word "Homeopathic" on the label in small letters. I honestly don't understand that. All I know is that this remedy seems to have helped me.

OTOH, the nasal-spray version of a similar product, which has been pulled from the shelves, has resulted in people permanently losing their sense of smell. So this stuff is not to be trifled with. But the point is -- even though the label says it's "homeopathic," it obviously has *some* effect.

Should this zinc concoction be regulated by the FDA, perhaps even made prescription-only? For that matter, should all nutritional supplements be regulated and made prescription-only? That would make them more expensive. And for uninsured people (like me) who only go to doctors in a dire emergency, they wouldn't be nearly as accessible.

And speaking of the sense of smell... "aromatherapy" as it is touted by New-Wage hustlers is mostly nonsense, but there's some serious scientific research about the profound emotional (and, to a lesser extent, physical) effects of various smells. Could there actually be some therapeutic value in different aromas? And if so, should these aromas only be dispensed by a licensed physician?

Those are just two examples. I really think Moi and Ron have already made the other points in the argument more eloquently than I could. I recognize that western medicine does have the backing of scientific research, but it seems to me that many of those who passionately defend traditional western med (and attack alt-med) have as much of an emotional (or financial) stake as a scientific stake in their argument. This doesn’t invalidate all of western med, nor does it validate all of the loony alt methods. But I think we should be aware of the presence of bias where it exists. And it often exists in even the most rational, critical circles.

Okay, I’m done playing devil’s advocate for now. (Though I’m getting kind of confused about who’s the devil and who isn’t. :-))

Steve, I agree with you that it's sometimes hard to draw the line where alt-med is concerned. But I think there's a world of difference between Rhonda Byrne insisting that the Law Of Attraction is scientific law that you can use to prevent or cure cancer, and my taking a few Cold-Eze tablets to ward off a nasty cold.

PS - Re Vitale’s June 3 blog post: Moi, the part about the post that really stuck out for me – and, I believe, for Ron – was the PS about what Buddha said or didn’t say about desire. Now, it’s possible Joe really wanted to make a point about an aspect of Buddhism that has puzzled many people. However, the context in which he placed his comment – an afterthought to yet another brag session about his fancy car Francine – was very grating. It really seemed that once again he was trying to use spiritual principles to rationalize his own obsession with showing off his material goodies to others. Even more grating was the fact that he twisted Ron’s words and made it seem as if Ron was saying all desire is bad.

Steve Salerno said...

Geez, where do you folks--who are, after all, gainfully employed--find the time to compose 732-word blog comments? (Yes, Connie, I did a count. And what a sad comment THAT is on my life and sanity.) Then again, where do I find the time to write them? Oh wait, I forgot. I haven't been finding the time....

Also, Connie, whaddya mean, this conversation "took an interesting turn"? You mean it had to "turn" from the topic with which I began, in order to be interesting?!?!? (Just kidding. I'm in a saturnine mood, though.) Thanks again, all of you, for keeping this going in my absence.

moi said...

Connie, I agree, there is a world of difference between alternative medicine and the claims that the Secret makes. But I've already made my point so i won't go into it anymore.

As for Joe, his statement about desire and Buddhism wouldn't be so annoying if, as you say, it didn't come after his show offy post about his cool, fancy car. But if he is so worried about negativity and people spewing emotional toxicity, shouldn't he, being the spiritual guide that he is, be concerned with the toxicity he is spewing from his expensive car which probably gets 15 miles to the gallon? Maybe this is just a silly thought, but then again, i am a silly person.

Steve Salerno said...

You know, Moi, that is a very insightful juxtaposition: contrasting Joe's touchy-feely thoughts on all this psychic toxicity against the all-too-real toxicity of his car (and if he gets 15 mph, especially around town, then I'm a wildebeest). What a perfect comment on the Hypocrisy Factor--how so many of these folks will get all up in arms about imagined ills, while themselves being guilty of actual ones.

moi said...

Hey, we agree on something Steve! That's progress.

Cosmic Connie said...

According to the specs Joe listed on his page devoted to his car "Francine," (http://www.mrfire.com/francine/), the EPA Mileage Rating is 17 city / 25 hwy.

I kind of found it interesting that the name "Panoz" is pronounced PAY-nose (as in "pay through the nose"). :-)

The Secretrons and Law of Attraction fans all talk about the infinite abundance of the Universe, and they all seem to believe that everyone's desires -- material or otherwise -- can be met with no harm to the world, the Universe, or other people. "There's enough for everyone!" they love to say.

A person going by the name of Andrew commented on my blog about the "infinite abundance of the Universe" ideas espoused by fans of The Secret. He wrote:

"What worries me the most about this is that it is just another excuse for the rich West to keep up unsustainable levels of consumption as the ecosystem collapses because, well, everyone is creating their reality out of the infinite. The Secret seemed to imply that this beautiful earth was here for us to exploit. (Where were the pictures of cleared rainforest and polluted streams?)"...

Good points to ponder.

moi said...

btw, while we're still on the subject of the secret, I came across a little "secret" today in one of the books I am studying on 14th century wisdom lit. It is my medieval rejoinder to the LOA craze. (Bear with me, i know this may seem like a bizarre thing to post):
Sem tob ibn Ardutiel, an author from medieval Spain has this to say about suffering: "The fool does not understand/ who complains of the sufferings that the world often inflicts upon us all. He does not understand that such are the ways of the world: for vile men to be held in esteem, and for honorable men to be warred against by it. - Lift your eyes and consider: you will see that upon the high seas and upon their banks float only dead things, but in the depths precious stones lie buried."
Interpretation: Wealth and success have nothing to do one's inherent goodness, or 'alignment' with the cosmos . On the contrary, people who adhere to high standards of truth and justice are often the most afflicted. That is the real secret no body told us.